Courier Herald column from the week of November 21st:
Let’s cancel this year’s war on the war on Christmas. Seriously.
The social media posts have long become trite, and have always been misguided and largely unnecessary. They range from the rather benign “In my house we observe Christmas” to calls to boycott retailers for using the world “holiday” instead of Christmas.
When I’ve written about this seasonal phenomenon in the past, I’ve generally taken a mostly lighthearted approach to the topic. More than once I’ve chided that “nothing spreads the Christmas message and the love of Jesus Christ like yelling at a teenaged store clerk for wishing you a happy holiday”.
No retailer is trying to stop you nor anyone else from celebrating Christmas. They are, instead, covering an entire holiday season that spans from Thanksgiving until New Years.
In between lie both Hanukkah and Christmas. It should go without saying that these are separate and distinct holidays.
Expecting a retailer or their employees to recognize which holiday(s) you and your family celebrate is farcical at best and arrogant at worst. This year, however, these calls require special attention and introspection. The events on October 7th demand it.
And by “events” – such a sanitized word – let’s be clear what we’re talking about. On October 7th, Hamas terrorists launched one of the most evil and barbaric attacks against the Israel in the country’s history. Jews were the preferred target, but Christians and Muslims were killed too. Most were Israelis, but Americans and citizens of other nations were also murdered, raped, or taken hostage.
The brutality didn’t stop there. Well organized protests immediately occurred in major cities and college campuses throughout the world, ostensibly to protest Israel, but the language – both written and chanted – as well as physical acts of intimidation have made it clear: October 7th and the events afterward have been about getting rid of Jews, by any means necessary.
Jews have spent the last couple of months watching institutions we all rely upon to put guardrails around our society fail them. College campuses went from a “no tolerance” policy on hate speech to asking Jewish students to hide in an attic because they couldn’t otherwise protect them from a protest.
The largest western news organizations spent weeks parroting Hamas propaganda under the guise of quoting the “Gaza Health Ministry”. The first question to President Biden’s Press Secretary about rising acts of anti-Semitism in the wake of October 7th was answered with concerns of Islamophobia.
Our Jewish friends are somewhere between uncomfortable and scared, as they watch group after group either aggressively turn their back on them, or remain silent. They have legitimate grounds to question whether there is an active movement afoot to disappear them, at least passively if not as barbarically as Hamas has demonstrated as possible.
Which brings us back to the holidays, and the disconcerted mood that many will be in as we move headlong into the season. Christmas, per usual, will be observed on December 25th. Hanukkah will begin earlier, with the first of eight nights commencing on Thursday, December 7th and continue through Friday evening, December 15th.
Jews this year don’t need to hear a defiant “I celebrate Christmas” response to the pleasantry of “Happy Holidays”. They need to hear “Happy Hanukkah to you and yours.” More importantly and well beyond the season, they need to hear “How are you doing?” and “What can I do to help?”
If you celebrate Christmas like I do, then I truly wish you the merriest of Christmas seasons. If you celebrate Christmas because you are a follower of Jesus, then I encourage you to reflect on his greatest commandment: Love your neighbor as you love yourself.
This message must be tied to that of the parable of the Good Samaritan, and the question asked as the story was told. “Who is your neighbor?”
Our neighbors are Christians, Jews, Muslims, Hindu. Others practice many other religions, and some practice none.
We all get busy during the holiday season. We need not so busy to be the priest of Levite who couldn’t be bothered with the person in trouble they encountered on their journey.
Right now, most clearly, our Jewish friends need to know that they are our neighbors. Please join me in wishing them a Happy Hanukkah, both in word and deed, throughout this holiday season and beyond.