Yesterday I opened the mail and found to my pleasure a stack of cards wishing my family well during the Christmas season. Believe it not, this is one of my favorite things to do in November and December. I get excited to see family pictures of friends and clients and see how they are changing, how much their kids have grown, and the cool locations they choose as a background for the photos. My heart was warmed by getting to see at least 10 of these yesterday.
As I opened two of the cards though I was disturbed by the message of the greeting. Emblazoned at the top was "HAPPY EVERYTHING". Personally, I am a pretty happy guy as I'm a glass half full optimist (unless looking at business plans and small business projections for sales-they are always too optimistic). I'm not sure if I need someone to wish me to have a happy everything..... whatever that is. The Goat has a deep faith in Jesus Christ and as you know believes that Christ is my Savior. Given that, you can imagine that I feel strongly that the Christmas Season is really about the birth of risen Lord!
So, in this age of "everyone is offended", am I offended? No, Goat is simply just struck by the notion that we as a people and nation have become so sensitive to the overwhelming potential to offend others that we go out of our way to neuter anything special or unique in our own lives, faith, or identity. In fact, we are so cognizant of the fact that others might be offended that we censor and eradicate any outward signs of our very own lives, faith, or identities.
Now, I understand the motivations behind both of the people that sent the cards yesterday. In the first instance, the lady is a realtor and she is a very business savvy lady. Clearly her objective is to keep us in our minds and say hello, but since she sends that card to hundreds of folks, her strategy is to simply say "Happy Everything" to appeal to everyone. In my mind she frankly does the opposite. By appealing to everyone she appeals to no one.
Have you ever seen the movie the Incredibles? In the movie, the bad guy named Syndrome has a great quote. He is lecturing our super hero and says, "When everyone is special, no one will be". And in the case of the cards, I think the realtor is so bland and unoffensive, she becomes unspecial.
The second card I received was sent by a family of non-practicing Jews. I know that they are sending these cards and attempting not to offend anyone. But I personally would relish a card from them that proclaimed Happy Hanukkah, not because I'm Jewish, but it would suggest that they were truly ones that identified their faith as a core part of who they were and wanted to share a unique blessing with others. This special blessing is more meaningful as it were to come from them and would be a message that was truly special.
My family did also receive a neat text message from some old friends that happen to be Turkish Muslims. Guess what they sent in the text? You got it, "Merry Christmas". Can you believe that, one of the folks from one of these "minority groups" sent me a text telling me to have a Merry holiday and actually named it Christmas! I think that is the pure genius of their simple note. These people understand that this time is important to me and my family, therefore they sent me a message "in my language". Were they offended sending it? Absolutely not. Am I offended when I speak with my Jewish clients about Yom Kippur, or Hanukkah, what about my Arab clients when I ask about their fasting in Ramadan? No, I acknowledge their faith and celebrate that unique part of them that makes them different. My clients love it that I have an understanding of their beliefs and have an interest in them.
So ultimately my point here is that we Christians are entitled to hold dear our beliefs, traditions, and holidays AND express them. We have the right to proclaim our blessings and wishes just as every Jew, Muslim, Buddhist, or Atheist has to their own holidays. Many of our original 13 colonies were founded on the basis of the need to celebrate the expressions of our colonists' own religion without the tyranny of those that would suppress it. While there are forces in the United States that attempt to deny our public expressions of faith (ACLU, etc) while championing the rights of Muslims to pray and express everywhere, the biggest culprit is our own cowing to the loud demands of others to limit the outward signs of our beliefs. Unlike the colonists that suffered from kings that demanded a certain faith, it isn't a tyrant that is suppressing our religious beliefs it is our own fear of offending that causes us to omit the expression of our faith and our proclamation of it. Ultimately the eradication of the public expression will lead to the obliteration of the observance and belief in faith in all but the most devout believers.
So as I am off to church to celebrate the birth of Jesus, I wish you a Merry Christmas and I sincerely wish that you fully appreciate the love of the Father who gave His only Son for us as a sacrifice to atone for our sins. I pray that if you don't have revelation of this love that you ask Him for it. I have confidence that you will receive it!