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'Merry Christmas' and don't be offended that I said so

By Joseph Cramer, MD

For the Deseret News

Published: Tuesday, Dec. 20 2011 4:43 p.m. MST

Ashlee Ward, store manager of the Orem Pebbles in My Pocket store demonstrates how to make Christmas cards.

Stuart Johnson, Deseret News

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There is a growing movement to obliterate Christmas greetings.

No, there is not a group, “donotsayChristmas.org." Heaven forbid closing down the malls.

Nonetheless, we are eliminating Christmas from our personal lexicons. We just don’t say it anymore. It is like we are denying our faith.

In our social encounters there is an increasing likelihood that we will say, “Happy Holidays” or we skip to “Seasons Greetings” like anyone really likes the cold and inversions. Often we forget it all together.

Unfortunately, this avoidance of the word "Christmas" further commercializes the holiday. We might as well greet others with “Merry Sales” or “Happy Bargains.”

Others have noted this verbal migration away from Christmas. Some blame this linguistic transformation as an infatuation with political correctness. The decline in the usage of the word "Christmas" is a false attempt to not offend. One can see why that is. If we were wishing someone “Merry Christianity,” he or she could be insulted if they were to focus on various parts of history. While the message of faith, hope and charity, and brotherly love are eternal, it is the lack of execution of these words over the centuries that could be upsetting.

There is also perhaps some embarrassment by Christians of their religion. It is understandable. Gandhi said, “I like your Christ; I do not like your Christians. Your Christians are so unlike your Christ.”

We didn’t get it right by killing the prophets or abandoning the truth; we blew it when we garroted and burnt the devoted who spread holy writ to the masses in their own language. We missed with Catholic and Protestant conflagrations; we failed with our embrace of slavery, apartheid and Jim Crow; we were wrong when priests or anyone abused children and then hid; we need to repent about neglect and inhumanity to man. Forgive us for our lame excuses for torture or offensive violence. We still don’t get it about accumulation of wealth, power and self-gain.

Perhaps that is the exact reason why we should shout out “Merry Christmas," because it is a reminder to Christians to start all over. Repent of our apostasy from “love thy neighbor." Push a reset button, and say we are going to get it right this time.

Hopefully, we are saying to all: the non-believers, the Jews, the Muslims, the Hindi, Buddhists, the Confucian, the Taoists, the pacific and more militant atheists and all who are out there, we are going to be more like the grown-up child through his redemption. We are going to follow the star like the wise men but this time we will act differently as we “depart to our ‘own’ country another way.”

Reverse the conversation. Would you feel offended if you were extended a salutation of “Happy Hanukah?" I would hope not. It would be a compliment to know that someone thinks well enough of you to include you in his or her celebration. I don’t know if Arabs go around and say, “Merry Ramadan," but if you were to fast all month, any greeting would be welcomed. Name any religious holiday and let a friend share it with you.

Instead of being considerate of others by withholding our merriest of Christmas greetings, we are excluding them from our efforts to be happy. We are suppressing our joy. Let them know it is not a crusade because we may want a Mulligan on those as well. It is not imposing religion on others but including them into our lives. We would wish the same of them. It is religious freedom to want to know of their faith as well.

Omitting Christmas we also ignore the billions of acts of individual Christ-like love. By shouting “Merry Christmas” we pay tribute to the countless silent actions of goodness as taught by the person of the shepherd adoration.

So this year I say, “Merry Christmas from the bottom of my heart.”

Joseph Cramer, M.D., is a fellow of the American Academy of Pediatrics, practicing pediatrician for 30 years, and an adjunct professor of pediatrics at the University of Utah. He can be reached at jgcramermd@yahoo.com.