This Greeting I Give Thee

Christmas! What a glorious, awesome season! A day full of dedication and glorying in the Christ-child of Bethlehem! To this Child we render prayers of thanksgiving for that salvation which is ours. We, His people, do this – for the world can never really praise the Holy One. They are separated from Him, from the love of God and from that wonderful salvation which is for only His elect. And yet, of all the seasons, this one ironically is filled with the trite sayings and mottos of “brotherhood of man,” “peace for all,” and “goodwill toward men.” For does not everyone know about Christmas and its general celebration? Even if the Christ IS omitted (and then there is only X-mas!) isn’t there still a time of gaiety, rejoicing and merriment? Witness not only the brightly colored stores, counters and advertisements, the gaily decorated homes and lawns, but listen also to the oft-repeated, time-worn, soon-wearying phrase, “Merry Christmas!” On everyone’s lips, the message soon loses its significance, ceases to inspire spiritual response, and becomes a cold, formal verbalism – expressing nothing regarding the true meaning of Christmas. Whether written or spoken, the Christmas greeting is rarely given or received in the spirit of Christ.

Soon the mail carriers will be working overtime. A special crew will be recruited to make two or three deliveries of mail a day – mostly seasonal greetings. Some will be sent across the entire continent, others from state to state, from city to city, and some pass from neighbor to neighbor.

Taking as an approximate figure for the total population of the United States 130 million, we can safely estimate on the average of three per family, that there are some 43 million families in the U.S. Each family receives at least 10 cards, making a total of at least 430 million cards. At five cents a card and two cents for postage, we arrive at the staggering sum of thirty million, one hundred thousand dollars, spent annually to send the season’s greetings from house to house.

And that figure is conservative.

What is the prompting behind such an influx of well-wishing? Certainly the whole movement would mean nothing unless the purpose were true, the motive sincere and the outcome would warrant such an outlay! Just what ARE some of the motives which prompt this activity?

Many people send greetings only out of custom. It has been done year after year – it is almost expected of one. Too, it is the accepted thing to do; the approach is one of social obligation which must be fulfilled. Since the Jones family remembered the Browns last year, it is only proper that the Browns remember the Jones this year. Mailing lists grow over a period of years, often to people from whom nothing has been heard or seen for several years. Some will send cards to friends to inform them that they still are in existence, a sort of “Hello, I’m still here” – without feeling the obligation to write a long letter; the Christmas card takes care of that neatly. And then there are the many cards sent to those whom one meets frequently – members of the immediate family, relatives, church members, classmates, friends, bus drivers, milk men, grocery men, garbage collectors, ad infinitum. No matter if this person is given a verbal greeting a day or two before Christmas, a written one is often necessary to complete the list. Lastly are the many greetings which are made in the form of advertisements: calendars, newspaper “ads,” specially printed company cards, etc. And thus the list grows.

Should one not be happy that Christmas is so well-known, appreciated and celebrated? Is this matter of Christmas greetings, either by card or verbally, so very serious? No, this would not be serious – if it were not for the fact that Christ’s Name and the commemoration of His Holy birth are associated with all of the above motives. One thinks of the third commandment: “Thou shalt not take the name of the Lord thy God in vain.” You realize that the Name of Jesus, the Son of God, is included in that Holy Name of our God; that as part of that perfect, Holy Trinity, He is one with God the Father. Consider the wonder of all ages, the incarnation of the Holy One as the lowly Babe of Bethlehem. Listen to the heavenly choir as their voices echo and re-echo through the ages, “Glory to GOD is the highest and on earth peace to the men of His goodwill.” Then compare, if you will, the greetings sent out far and wide, in His name, in the so-called “Spirit of Christmas.” What a mockery it becomes! The Perfect One is brought down to the level of common use, is become a trade name, a lure for advertising, an excuse to persuade men to join into the spirit for “peace for the world.” See then the silly, meaningless cards and greetings on display – sparkling scenes and brightly colored figures, all in some way connecting their message with that Holy Name and Event! How obvious it then becomes that a wicked work desecrates every sacred thing with which it comes in contact! Twisting the Scriptures, desecrating the Sabbath, they now dishonor the very name of Christ with their seasonal greetings. It apparently matters not if the holy and profane are indiscriminately mixed – Santa Claus on the cover and the words of Scripture within. One cannot help but paraphrase the third commandment as: Thou shalt not take the Name of Jesus Christ, God’s only begotten Son, and the wonder of His incarnation, in vain.

And God will not hold him guiltless who does.

Because of the abuse by the world, must we find seasonal greetings therefore wrong? If not, how then should they be used?

First of all, we must take the stand that any greeting can only rightly be made by a Christian, because it is in any form, really invoking God’s blessing on the object. This is so much so, that a greeting, by kiss in oriental fashion, is, in Scripture, referred to as “an holy kiss.” A Christmas greeting then, can only be made by the children of God, because it is set in direct connection with Christ. None but the righteous understand the joy of His coming, the happiness it brings, the praise it invokes. Only they can express the wonder in a true “Blessed Christmas” greeting – to those of the same household of faith. Thus full of praises and thanksgiving for the wonder of Bethlehem, can His own look forward with gladsome mind to the yearly celebration of His birth.

It is almost CHRISTMAS! Keep it CHRIST-centered, a living dedication and a hope for the future – a future which sees Him coming from heaven as He was seen going to heaven: on the very clouds, to call His elect home. Then and then only may we confidently sing, paraphrasing the angels’ song: Glory to God in the highest and on earth there is peace for the men of His goodwill.