It is not uncommon these days for followers of Jesus to get caught up in the battle over whether we should be wishing people “Merry Christmas” or “Happy Holidays.” Of course, as followers of Jesus, we do well to remember that Christ is the reason for the season. However, since we do live in a pluralistic culture, I think that more generic holiday greetings also have their place; and in fact, are far to be preferred over giving no greetings at all. What’s more, since “holiday” derives from an Old English word meaning “holy day,” I wonder if we actually miss something when we allow “holiday greetings” to slip from our Christian vocabulary.
Today’s New Testament lesson (1 Peter 1:13-25) issues a passionate a call to holiness:
Therefore, with minds that are alert and fully sober, set your hope on the grace to be brought to you when Jesus Christ is revealed at his coming. As obedient children, do not conform to the evil desires you had when you lived in ignorance. But just as he who called you is holy, so be holy in all you do; for it is written: “Be holy, because I am holy.” (1 Peter 1:13-16)
What would it look like, I wonder, for us to make our “Christmas holidays” a season of “Christ-centered holy-days”?
If these verses are to be taken seriously, a goal like that might require a bit more attention than we’re accustomed to investing. As Peter points out, after all, we live in a world in which it’s perilously easy to “conform to the evil desires we had when we lived in ignorance.” And as a result, holiness requires that we be “alert and fully sober,” so that we can set our hope on the grace that transforms us. What’s more, holiness invites us to consider not only what we need to be “set apart from” — like lust, and materialism, and a divisive spirit — but also what we need to be “set apart for” — like serving the least of these, and being messengers of reconciliation, and extending to others the grace on which we, too, rely.
“O worship the Lord in the beauty of holiness,” the Bible says. (Psalm 96:9)
Maybe we Christ-followers need some “Happy Holidays” after all.