Wishing someone a “Merry Christmas” – What does that really mean?


It’s that time of year again!

Facebook is full of posts about saying “Merry Christmas” vs “Happy Holidays.”  We go through this scenario every year.  Christians judge people’s spirituality on what greeting they give and if anyone says “Happy Holidays”  – well – they must not be a Christ follower.

What are we wishing someone when we wish them a “Merry’ Christmas?

The definition of “merry’ is “full of cheerfulness, laughingly happy, hilarious.”  Synonyms for “merry” are

  • amusing
  • lighthearted
  • sunny
  • rip-roaring
  • jolly
  • cheerful

So when I wish for someone to have a Christmas that is full of cheerfulness or laughingly happy – what does that have to do with Jesus Christ?  Yes, He does bring joy, but the joy that is the fruit of the Spirit is much more than just being cheerful or lighthearted.  Having a sunny, jolly time at Christmas – is that really what Christmas is all about?

What about those who are battling sorrow or depression?  Does my cheerful “Merry Christmas” really bring Christ closer to them?  I seriously doubt it.  It probably feels more like a slap in the face.

If we really are concerned about keeping Christ in Christmas, perhaps we should be more sensitive to those we meet who are hurting or do not know Jesus Christ as their Savior.  Perhaps we should not rush through the line saying “Merry Christmas” and feeling so spiritual.  Perhaps we should ask God to make us aware of those we meet that might need a hug, a kind smile and a real message about what Christmas means.

So – I’m reposting my article from last year on this controversy.

I recently wrote about the controversy we have at this time of year over saying “Merry Christmas” vs. “Happy Holidays.” 

Standing in line to pay for my book at Barnes and Noble today, I heard the customer ahead of me complaining to the clerk because he had wished her “Happy Holidays!”  She proceeded to tell him in an irate voice that this was Christmas and he should greet her with “Merry Christmas!”

When he replied not every customer was a Christian and there are several religious holidays in December such as Hanukkah and Kwanzaa, she became upset and told him “We need to keep Christ in Christmas!”

I wondered as she finally walked away in a very self-righteous mood what would Jesus have done in this circumstance.  Her attitude was anything but loving and kind.

So – I began to wonder:  Are we as Christians supposed to be keeping Christ in Christmas?  Is that what the birth, death and resurrection of Jesus is all about?  A holiday where we spend so much time, energy and money baking, shopping, going to parties, putting up lights, waiting for Santa Claus to come?

Please do not misunderstand me.  I’m not suggesting these things are wrong – I miss the days when my children tried their best to go to sleep early so Santa Claus would come.  The days when we had a big, beautiful tree full of lights in our living room with presents.  Christmas is a fun-filled family time I appreciate.  But really?

When we talk about keeping Christ in Christmas – it seems to me we are making Christmas the big deal.  Somehow we need to make sure in all our busyness that we add Christ to this day.  So – we add a candle-light service to our list of parties, we put out a manger scene along with the other Christmas decorations and we insist everyone say “Merry Christmas” not “Happy Holidays.”  Then, we sit back and feel so righteous because we have fitted Christ into our Christmas routines.

The birth of Jesus – and its celebration – is much more than saying “Merry Christmas.”  The birth of Jesus shows us God’s love in leaving the glory and splendor of heaven to come to earth as a human.  It is a moment to be savored with awe and solemn reflection – not by a hurried “Merry Christmas” as we pass one another in the stores, at church or in our homes.  That night so long ago may well have not been a “Silent Night” as we love to think of it.  I earlier posted some thoughts on that “Silent Night” image we have of Jesus’ birth.   At our church service we recently sang “Away in a Manger.”  I was struck again by the words “the cattle are lowing, the baby awakes, but little Lord Jesus no crying He makes.”  Really?  He came to earth to be one of us – to experience our pain, our sorrow, our fears, our temptations.  So – when he awoke in the middle of the night possibly hungry and cold, He did not cry!

Christmas is only the beginning of the story of Jesus Christ.

  • There was his earthly life where I believe he experienced sorrow and pain – and I know at least two times when he cried – at the grave of Lazarus and over Jerusalem just before He went to the cross.  Somehow I believe he cried as a baby too.
  • There was his time in the garden of Gethsemane when he experienced such agony the Bible tells us he sweated great drops of blood.
  • There was the cross where He cried “Father forgive them, for they know not what they do.”
  • And, thankfully, there was the resurrection!

So – there is so much more to this story of Jesus Christ than His birth.  But unfortunately that seems to be the one we want the world to recognize and acknowledge.  We don’t seem to care that the celebration of the resurrection is overshadowed by the Easter bunny and the Easter egg hunt.  As long as the world says “Merry Christmas” and we keep Christ in the holiday, everything is fine.

Well – I think we need to be more concerned that the world knows He not only came as a baby, but He died and rose again.  And why?

Because He loves us.

So – we need to begin showing that love to others around us.

Jesus said they would know we were His disciples by the love we showed to others.

Your love for one another will prove to the world that you are my disciples

Christmas should only be a part of our life in Christ.  He needs to be recognized and honored by the world all year-long.  But the only way that will happen is if we stop being so judgmental and self-righteous and began to love people – even those who don’t say “Merry Christmas!”

I propose we don’t worry so much about keeping “Christ in Christmas” but rather make sure that our Christmas is in Christ – because He is so much more than the baby in the manger.  Let’s keep “Christmas in Christ” and make Him known to the world by our love for others.

3 thoughts on “Wishing someone a “Merry Christmas” – What does that really mean?

  1. I usually say “Merry Christmas,” and inadvertently say “Happy Holidays” sometime. I worked where one employee tried to lodge a complaint against our secretary who sent out a “Merry Christmas” greeting saying she was trying to push her religion on us. I said “Merry Christmas” more than ever that year. I caught myself saying “Happy Holidays” sometimes. I tried to never say that again. It is “Christ”mas to me. Christianity tried to replace the heathen holidays. The one that has been the hardest to get rid of is halloween. I am glad most of the heathen holidays were replaced, and I wish that halloween was replaced too. I appreciated this fact much more when I saw there were those who would like to take away our freedom to rejoice over Christ in Christmas and easter mostly. I am glad for every “Merry Christmas.” I am very sick, so can easily not want to rejoice, but I do because my total hope is in Christ. God bless, and Merry Christmas.


    • I certainly was not trying to say not to say Merry Christmas. That is what I always say – and I hope all Christians will always say. Just wanted to say that we need to not be so unkind to those who are not believers. We cannot expect unbelievers to behave as we Christians do. So – regardless of what greeting they give us – we need to respond in love. When someone says “Happy Holidays” to me, I always reply “Thank you and Merry Christmas to you.” Keep saying “Merry Christmas” – just please don’t be unkind to someone who wishes you “Happy Holidays.” So glad your hope is in Christ. Merry Christmas to you!


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