December 18, 2021
Current Events


In this age of political correctness and similar nonsense, the irony of the language used by the enlightened among us continues to amuse and baffle me.

             One phrase we are now to eschew at all costs is, “Merry Christmas!” as it may crack the brittle sensibilities of those who do not honour the One after whom the day is named. A far more appropriate greeting, we are told, is, “Happy Holidays!” This will placate the many other people, at least here in North America, who now keep the same traditions once regarded as alien and even dangerously heretical in the lands of their fathers (fathers being the hupeople, naively identifying as males, who assist in producing a subsequent generation of hupeople).  

             This phrase is ironic on several levels. First, the word, “holiday,” is the predictable contraction of two English words. In Cambridge University professor Walter W. Skeat’s ETYMOLOGICAL DICTIONARY OF THE ENGLISH LANGUAGE (Perigree Books), the entry for “holiday” is succinct, suggesting a fluent English speaker shouldn’t even have to look it up: “for holy day.”  

             Hence,  the irony of the phrase, “Happy Holidays!” In an attempt to secularize the season and take Christ out of Christmas to accommodate the masses, the language police have chosen a word that itself has been battered into submission as a substitute for a day off from work (i.e., “bank holiday”); a day that has no relationship to anything sacred or even religious (i.e., “civic holiday,” the first Monday in August here in Canada); or a vacation (i.e., “he’s on holiday in Sudan”).

             The irony for followers of Jesus is that 25 December is not a holy day. There is no biblical mandate for celebrating the birth of Christ, or surely we would know what day He was born. We are not even commanded to celebrate His resurrection, although we have done that every first day of the week since the day He walked out of Joseph’s borrowed tomb on the outskirts of Jerusalem. The only holy days in the Bible are Jewish: the Sabbath, Passover, the Feast of Firstfruits, the Feast of Weeks, the Feast of Trumpets, the Day of Atonement, and the Feast of Booths. (Did you notice how many of them are feasts?) All of these holy days prefigure the One who would be born in Bethlehem of Judea as Israel’s Messiah and the Redeemer of the world.

Jesus commanded us to remember not His birth, but His death, until He comes. Interestingly, the Jewish Shabbat meal begins with the recitation of the Kiddush over wine and bread (often, a traditional challah). The Passover Seder also includes unleavened bread and wine, and these speak very clearly of Jesus Christ, the Bread of Life, who shed His blood (pictured by the wine) on the cross at Golgotha to pay the price for the sins of all mankind. That awful payment guarantees eternal life to any who will trust Christ as their only Saviour, accepting His sacrifice on their behalf. Jesus drank the wine and broke the bread with His disciples on the first day of Unleavened Bread (theFeast of Passover). After He had explained that the bread and wine symbolized His own body and blood, He commanded them, “Do this in remembrance of me” (Luke 22:19).      

           The Apostle Paul instructed the church at Corinth how to observe the ordinance of the Lord’s Table and wrote, “For as often as you eat this bread and drink this cup, you proclaim the Lord’s death until he comes” (1 Corinthians 11:26). In a sense, the Lord’s Table is like Christmas and Easter all wrapped up in one simple rite. His death assumes His birth, and His coming assumes His resurrection.    

           There is more than commemoration in the Lord’s Table. There is also anticipation. We will only observe it until Jesus comes. When He does, there will no longer be any need to remember His death, because we will an eternal reminder of the cost of our salvation when we see the scars in His hands and feet. His death will have accomplished all the Father intended it to, and the only evidence in heaven that death ever existed will be on the body of the Saviour. Heaven will be all about life—life without sin, without sorrow, without end. 

           My French wife cringes at the phrase, “Merry Christmas.” In French, one wishes someone a Joyeux Noël--a “Joyous Christmas.” She says the word, “merry” connotes decadence in her mind—as in, “Eat, drink, and be merry.” Considering how many people celebrate Christmas these days, perhaps she has a point.    

           All this makes me wonder what I should say to people at this time of year. People who are wearing stuffed velvet reindeer antlers while they max out their credit cards on stuff they’ll be returning a week later.  

           How about, “Happy Holy Days?”

Rob Heijermans

Rob Heijermans (rhymes with “fireman’s”) is a church planter and Bible teacher who has served with Biblical Ministries Worldwide since 1979. He is a 1977 graaduate (B.S. in Bible) of Lancaster Bible College. His travels have taken him to forty countries on four continents, including detailed research for this book in Israel. He has three married children and ten grandchildren. He and his wife, Madeleine, live in Ontario, Canada.

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