This is the time of year when people seem to argue over pleasantries, as if saying “Happy Holidays” is offensive to anyone celebrating Christmas. The majority of Americans do celebrate Christmas and it has become a secular holiday, celebrated in some form by a lot of different people. So, what’s the harm in wishing everyone we see, in every space we go, and throughout the month of December, a “Merry Christmas”?
When we use the phrase universally, we fail to see the humanity of the person standing in front of us.
The deconstructing process very often begins because we suddenly begin to see the person standing in front of us differently and it triggers a crisis of faith. We always thought our faith was rooted in a deep compassion for the marginalized, but as people of the majority, they had always been “others;” until one day, they weren’t. We begin to identify with the marginalized, whether a loved one or ourselves, even sometimes strangers.
When we recognize that the pronouns we use matter, our eyes are suddenly opened to see how our simple greetings matter, too.
It never really occurred to me that the Muslim woman at Target might be offended if I casually wish her a Merry Christmas. For the most part, I expect she isn’t deeply offended, but instead feels unseen. It hurts to be unseen, and it is hurtful to intentionally choose not to see people.
It seems that those who fight to keep “Christ” in “Christmas” are ignoring what Christmas is all about.
The word “Christmas” literally comes from the “Christ Mass” – a worship service; it is a service of the eucharist, or Holy Communion. And it is the time to celebrate that God chose to be seen, and that God chose to reveal that the marginalized of this world as the ones who are blessed.
As part of the Catholic mass (and most mainline Communion services), there is a time of reconciliation when we “pass the peace.” Congregants take a moment to say, “peace be with you,” to one another. This greeting is found throughout Scripture.
Back in early April of 2020, I wanted to put a message out to my neighbors on their daily walks. Our house backs up to a sidewalk; foot traffic was high during the stay-at-home order, and morale was low. My daughter and I threw around a couple of ideas and settled on, “peace be with you.” It covered everything that could be said on a back fence in those days.
In fact, it covers everything that needs to be said just about every day.
“Peace be with you,” is the phrase of reconciliation and recognizes the humanity in each person, whether they are Christian or Jew, Muslim or Hindu, atheist or Buddhist.
And so, peace be with you in this season of Advent.
Peace be with you in the seasons of Christmas and Epiphany.
Peace be with you during Lent.
Peace be with you in Easter and Pentecost.
Peace be with you during Hannukah.
Peace be with you during Ramadan.
Peace be with you during Diwali.
Peace be with you on Wesak.
Peace be with you in all the ordinary times.