Joy to the World

A few years ago I was in Kuala Lumpur (KL), the capital of Malaysia in late November. Malaysia is a “secular Muslim” country with some interesting political quirks. About two-thirds of the people are Muslim, and Islam is the official, constitutional religion. All ethnic Malays are by law automatically Muslim; any Malay that leaves Islam is no longer considered “Malay.” Muslims are under Sharia law, while non-Muslims constitutionally are under secular law, modeled somewhat after English common law. Evangelization of Malay Muslims by other religions, while technically legal, has resulted in persecution by the government. Most believers evangelize freely among the Chinese and other non-Malay peoples.

A friend took me to one of the leading shopping malls in KL. It would have passed for any American mall after Thanksgiving. There were lights, decorated trees, angels, garland – all the trappings of what we would call “Christmas.” Check it out at http://www.pavilion-kl.com/content/happenings_gallery_album.php?gid=87.  After the initial shock (quite honestly, I never expected to see so much “Christian” influence), I realized that this was mainly what it tends to be in some places in America – one more advertising blitz.

I love Christmas. I do not love the commercialization. I am unimpressed with the glitz. I am especially troubled by the political correctness of “Happy Holidays,” “Season’s Greetings,” and other similar non-Christmas references. If a store or business like ESPN wants to go “Jesus-less,” that is their choice. To be less than hypocritical, however, they should drop the “Christmas” decorations. If they are unwilling to make any reference to Jesus, then, in reality, they have no holiday to celebrate. When someone wishes me a “Happy Holidays,” I wish them a “Merry Christmas” right back. If a store chooses to ignore Christ, I choose to ignore them for my “Christ”mas shopping; if a store chooses to celebrate Christmas, then I am happy to spend my Christmas money with them. Herod sought to destroy the God-man but he failed, just as some today would love to destroy Christmas, but they cannot succeed. As long as there are Bible believers, there will be Christmas.

So I love Christmas. I love that fact that Jesus was born to simple parents in simple surroundings. I love the fact that He was genuinely a man of the people. He grew up with commoners. He loved people without regard for their social standing. He ministered surrounded mostly by ordinary people. He died at the hands of the elite, the intellectual, the powerful, but he revealed himself in his resurrection to the common people with whom he had spent his ministry.

What is most appealing about Christmas is the truth that God became man. A promise was given to Adam and Eve after the fall that a human being would solve the sin problem; this promise was reiterated in numerous ways and enlarged upon for the next 4000 years, until Jesus finally arrived, God yet man, to bring the final solution, to provide himself as the sacrifice for my sin and the sin of the world, to be my way of salvation and the salvation of the world, to bring to me and all the world the joy which we so purposefully celebrate at Christmas.

This Christmas make “Merry Christmas,” “Rejoicing in the birth of Jesus,” “Celebrating the Savior,” and other similar declarations a part of your vocabulary. It is truly “Joy to the World.”

  • Kirk E. Miller

    The constitution says, “Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof…” Because it provides religious tolerance, our nation by necessity is not a Christian nation. Therefore, I find it ridiculous that some American Christians are so bothered by phrases like “Happy Holidays,” which seek to generically incorporate the variety of holidays celebrated during this time of year, and legally so according to our constitution.

    I am not arguing that Christians should diminish their own celebration of Jesus’ incarnation. Nor I am arguing for religious pluralism–Christmas is good news even for those who don’t recognize or celebrate it. But when it comes to religious tolerance, we can’t have our cake and eat it too. By definition, if we want religious tolerance, we must be willing to recognize the political legitimacy of others choosing to practice other religions and their religious holidays, and correspondingly, choosing not to celebrate our Christian holidays. Likewise, we shouldn’t be offended by a business who wishes us a “happy holiday,” given the fact that they don’t know our religious affiliation. And we shouldn’t assume it’s a “war on Christmas” when people who aren’t Christians and don’t celebrate Christmas don’t want to be wished a merry Christmas.

    • rsied

      “The constitution says, ‘Congress shall make no law.’ ” however, i am not congress, nor am i making a law. religious tolerance means that citizens are free to not shop (or shop at) places they wish based on their own religious feelings. that’s the point. it’s not that “we the people” have to validate every religion; the government must tolerate all.

      i think the point of this article is that whatever elements an entirely muslim nation can freely adopt as part of their celebration are not inherently Christ or Christmas related. it does not appear to advocate a militant stance against “happy holidays,” but rather endorses giving people a reason to celebrate by offering them true joy.

      • Kirk E. Miller

        To your first paragraph — Agreed. But I was more critiquing the argumentation and attitude employed here and elsewhere.

        To your second paragraph — I get that. But in making that point Dr. Oats states the following, “I am especially troubled… [until the end of the 3rd paragraph].” I’m commenting on this section. Maybe I should have clarified that.

  • Guest

    The constitution says, “Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof…” Because it provides religious tolerance, our nation by necessity is not a Christian nation. Therefore, I find it ridiculous that some American Christians are so bothered by phrases like “Happy Holidays,” which seek to generically incorporate the variety of holidays celebrated during this time of year, and legally so according to our constitution.

    I am not arguing that Christians should not diminish their own celebration of Jesus’ incarnation. Nor I am arguing for religious pluralism–Christmas is good news even for those who don’t recognize or celebrate it. But when it comes to religious tolerance, we can’t have our cake and eat it too. By definition, if we want religious tolerance, we must be willing to recognize the political legitimacy of other’s choosing to practice other religions and their religious holidays, and correspondingly, choosing not to celebrate our Christian holidays. Likewise, we shouldn’t be offended by a business who wishes us a “happy holiday,” given the fact that they don’t know our religious affiliation. And we shouldn’t assume it’s a “war on Christmas” when people who aren’t Christians and don’t celebrate Christmas don’t want to be wished a merry Christmas.

  • Guest

    Comment.

  • Stacy

    Loved reading that! Every Christmas I am amazed by who (and where) I hear singing of Christ’s birth and love for us. May we all live purposely and let our celebrations be genuine and proclaimed and not mere tradition!