This week it finally happened. While taking care of some last minute Christmas shopping. I had made my selection at the store, took the merchandise to the clerk, and completed my transaction. After she had bagged the items, she handed me the bag across the counter, and out came those dreaded words, “HAPPY HOLIDAYS!” It was a split second in time that required an immediate judgment call. Should I reciprocate with a “Happy Holiday” of my own? Should I simply say “Thank you” and walk out the door? Or do I drop the M-C bomb on the clerk and watch her squirm?
Well, I took what was behind door number three. With as much kindness and with the biggest authentic smile that I could muster, I said “Merry Christmas!” Thankfully, the magnetrons at the door didn’t start going off. The sprinklers didn’t turn on. The manager didn’t call security to have me escorted out of the store. Nor was I subpoenaed on the spot by the ACLU. Instead, the young woman smiled and quietly said, “Thank you. Merry Christmas to you as well.”
I was thinking about this whole showdown between the “Happy Holidays” and the “Merry Christmasses” this week. Is there a way to redeem “Happy Holidays” from the secularists who simply want to combine the Christ of Christmas, the lights of Hanukkah, the culture of Kwanzaa, the turkeys of Thanksgiving, and the resolutions of New Years?
Our journey through Mark’s gospel may give us some further insight in our ongoing effort to keep Christ in Christmas. The Triumphal Entry, found in Mark 11, is a passage more comfortably considered near Easter. We’re still looking at poinsettias and pines; palms are better suited for a Sunday in the Spring. However, the Hosannas that rang out in Bethany that day, as Jesus rode into town on a donkey, may give us hope for the holidays as well.
A little Hebrew secret will make this all very clear. The word Hosanna and the name Jesus come from the same word, yasha, which means “to save.” This is why Matthew 1:21 says, “She will give birth to a son, and you are to name Him Jesus, because He will save His people from their sins.” The name Jesus describes the action of God on our behalf to provide salvation. Hosanna describes our prayer to God for salvation. The two are explicitly and implicitly connected. The incarnation of Jesus is just the beginning of God’s answer to the prayer of Hosanna.
So, if you really want to mess with the store clerk who tells you “Happy Holidays,” put on a great big smile and look them in the eye, and say, “Hosanna Holidays!” And when they look at you and say, “What’s that supposed to mean?” You can offer them the greatest gift that they could ever receive!