According to Andy Williams, "It's The Most Wonderful Time Of The Year." It's that time again. The Winter Holidays. Christmas. A time that runs the emotional gamut from the unhinged glee of the suicidal shopper to the desperate desperation of the suicidally depressed. A time when shoppers' faces are all a-glow with cheer and drivers' faces might as likely be a-glow with road rage!
Yes, Christmas is quite a paradox; a holiday loved by both Santa-esteeming sons of fundamentalists & money-lusting moguls of corporate America, and loathed by both left-leaning liberals who hate the sound of Jesus' name & "ultra-conservative" Christians who take the New Testament as their only rule of faith and practice. It is a holiday that carries the name of Christ but has more than its share of secular and pagan symbolism and history. During this holiday carrying Christ's name, Kwanzaa songs, Hanukkah songs and "Granma got run over by a reindeer" may be considered beneficial to the well-rounded education of a public school student, while "Joy to the World" might well damage their psyche!
Whacky political correctness run amuck
Students at Unity Drive Elementary School in Centereach, New York were given an assignment by a teacher to decorate a Christmas ornament which would be displayed in the hallway. "Here’s a Christmas ornament -- please have your child decorate it and have it back by Wednesday," the assignment note that was sent home read. One student decorated his ornament, including a cross symbol and the words "The Reason for the Season" and "Jesus". When this particular student brought his decoration to school the next day, the teacher refused to display it, claiming it was "too religious and it cannot be put up." Whoever are making these kinds of decisions need to get more sleep, eat right, stop watching too many horror movies, and/or drop their membership in the ACLU! Purveyors of such ideas often cite separation of church and state. But this is actually state-sponsored viewpoint-based discrimination, in which the state approves and disapproves of viewpoints of its students based on religious criteria. This type of discrimination violates the First Amendment and the Supreme Court's interpretation of it -- that public school students "do not shed their constitutional rights to freedom of speech or expression at the schoolhouse gate." (1969, Tinker v. Des Moines Independent Community School District)
On the other hand, you might be surprised that I would agree with the ACLU when they filed a lawsuit to have a Wiccan symbol included on a deceased American soldier's headstone. The U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs has a policy that allows many religious symbols to be included on headstones in military cemeteries. This policy excludes Wiccan symbols. Is not this the same state-sponsored viewpoint-based discrimination, in which the state approves and disapproves of viewpoints based on religion? I'm not keen on seeing Wiccan symbols in military cemeteries, but freedom of religion is freedom of religion regardless of whether I like the religion.
For the Christian American*, there are at least two sometimes opposing ideas that come into play -- politics and religion (both of which are not supposed to be the subject of polite conversation!).
Political -- For us U.S. citizens (it is different for some of my readers), freedom of religion in the First Amendment of the U.S. Constitution secures the citizens' right to celebrate or not celebrate Christmas or any other religious (or secular) holiday. Some confusion clearly exists, though; we discuss whether the "government" should support a religious holiday, yet Christmas is a national/federal holiday and has been since 1885. As Christians, the religious/biblical considerations should trump the political.
Scriptural -- Clearly there is no New Testament command, precept or example that indicates Christians are intended to celebrate Jesus' birthday. We are given by Jesus Himself a celebration of His death, but not of His birth. That being true, any complaint we have about the "treatment" of Christmas versus Hanukkah, Kwanzaa, Ramadan, or whatever must be tempered with the knowledge that these things do not cause us to disobey God -- since there is no obedience demanded or expected to engage in such a celebration. The New Testament teaching, so far as I can tell, is to obey the governmental powers that be unless they require us to disobey God.
What about private schools, employers, businesses, etc? Some "Christmas Christians" are ready to cry foul (and boycott if necessary) should someone not share their enthusiasm for "Merry Christmas" and merely wish them "Happy Holidays". A private entity or person is under no obligation to use a particular greeting, or any greeting at all, in this regard. Of course, the "offended party" is also free to not shop at a store that doesn't use the particular greeting that he or she wants to hear. I guess I have a problem getting too enthusiastic about "boycotting", seeing that Paul didn't even have a problem with buying meat for sale in the markets that had previously been used in some kind of idol worship. It was only meat, after all.
* I write here as a U.S. citizen who feels to have some understanding of our system, but with little of how other nations approach "freedom of religion".
** I had a little to say about Christmas songs, but since this is running long, I'll wait till later.