This is the time of year when I always used to say, “Merry Christmas.” I never thought of those as fighting words, but as part of my heritage, even though I am a lapsed Christian. It is my family’s way of greeting the season that celebrates the renewal of life and, yes, peace on earth – which in our tradition is embodied in the image of a small child born to a 14-year-old virgin in a stable in Bethlehem in Judea. I was offering my tradition to others, not to be offensive but to be open, offering it in the spirit of Scrooge’s nephew in Charles Dickens’s A Christmas Carol:
"But I am sure I have always thought of Christmas time . . . as a good time: a kind, forgiving, charitable, pleasant time: the only time I know of, in the long calendar of the year, when men and women seem by one consent to open their shut-up hearts freely, and to think of people below them as if they really were fellow-passengers to the grave, and not another race of creatures bound on other journeys.”
But that was before I learned about the War on Christmas and the ensuing call to arms that has weaponized “Merry Christmas” and admonished us to shut our hearts against those fellow-passengers to the grave who have different traditions and different beliefs. I hesitate now to say “Merry Christmas,” lest it be misunderstood as part of that cultural war being waged in the name of the prince of peace.
But I can’t suppress my exuberance. Children arrive today from distant parts. We’ll go and cut down a (Christmas) tree, and in three days we will open stockings by the fire.
And so I say with Tiny Tim, “God bless us, every one!”