“It’s on the internet and so it MUST be true!” I was recently at a luncheon when the man next to me sarcastically voiced this cliche to his companions. My first reaction was an internal giggle, but because I am who I am, it was a simple statement that got me thinking about how much “fact checking” I do whenever I am going through e-mail and social media (which is A LOT). I would say that at least half the time I spend on the internet is spent fact checking. This leads to checking the fact-checkers and questioning the agendas therein.
Add to that the many articles written about “fake news” generators and the difficulties involved in differentiating truth from fiction. Mark Zuckerberg, the CEO for Facebook, along with other social media experts have been dealing with ways to combat or, at least, make “fake news” more obvious.
The veracity of the internet and the abundance of fake news led me to consider the current political battle taking place on social media. No, I’m not talking about the the Democrats and Republicans. What I AM talking about is the “Merry Christmas-Happy Holidays-Season’s Greetings” debate.
My social media and email have recently been overrun by memes and graphics that insist the TRUE greeting should be “Merry Christmas” and any other is wrong. Yes, for Christians, Jesus is the reason for the season. Still, I believe Jesus would be a bit disappointed with the anger and hatred that is being promoted in an effort to honor Him. A hymn comes to mind, “Where charity and love prevail, there God is ever found.”
Yes, the truth is that in our current time and among many cultures, the reason we have days off from work, collect holiday pay, decorate our homes, and make major changes in our schedules is because, since the fourth century, December 25th has been the traditional date to celebrate the birthday of Jesus. I am a Catholic-Christian and therefore I say “Merry (or Blessed) Christmas.” However, I rejoice when someone takes the time to smile and wish me happiness and peace, no matter what words they use. I am also glad that, even for non-Christians, this time of year calls us all to ponder the goodness in life and extend our hands in generosity.
History tells us that fourth century Christians used the winter solstice (the astronomical observance of the shortest day/longest night of the year) to teach others about Jesus as the “coming of the Light.” It is important to note that scripture never tells us the date of Jesus’ birth. Using the lengthening days to teach theological concepts makes sense to me for educational and evangelization purposes. Still, I wonder if the pagans of the fourth century were upset that the early Christians were raining on their parade by using the solstice in this way. If the internet was active in the fourth century, I suspect there would be dueling memes about “Happy Winter Solstice” vs “Blessed Christmas” greetings!
Another truth is that for centuries before the Christian Era, Hanukkah had been celebrated by Jews in the month of Kislev on the Jewish calendar, which translated to late November thru December on the Gregorian calendar. I can only hope that, when I say “Merry Christmas” to someone, who just happens to be Jewish, that they accept the good will that undergirds my greeting rather than berating me for not wishing them a “Happy Hanukkah.”
Still another truth is that, since the 1960s, African-Americans have felt the need to honor their African heritage by using this time of year to celebrate Kwanzaa. So, do I wish every African-American “Happy Kwanzaa”? Do I just keep my mouth shut and wait to hear their greeting? I opt for extending a greeting from my own heart and my own experience, “Merry Christmas!” Thus far, this approach has served me well.
To me the heart is more important than the head in these matters. When my heart is overflowing with love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, and self-control, I am honoring the ongoing life of Jesus. At those times, I have confidence that the words that come out of my mouth will be promoting peace on earth and good will. It is at those times that I am the best conduit for the spirit of Christ alive among humanity.
With all of this in mind, with complete sincerity and veracity (no fact checking necessary), I use this little part of the internet to extend greetings and prayers for blessings and joy in your life throughout this holiday season, whether you call this time Christmas, Hanukkah, Kwanzaa, or the Winter Solstice!