In the last few years, in an attempt to be more politically correct and all-inclusive, one trend has been to shun the phrase "Merry Christmas" in favor of the seemingly more benign "Happy Holidays". And any time there is an attempt to be more politically correct and all-inclusive, there are Christians who choose to get offended. But allow me to present these phrases to you as equally meaningful. I believe they can be used interchangeably without cheapening the meaning of Christmas. You don't have to be strictly in one camp or another - a concept that seems lost on us in 2016.
A dictionary definition of "holiday" is pretty generic. "a day of festivity or recreation when no work is done." (Oxford) But if you dig a little deeper and look at the etymology we see that it comes from the Old English word haligdaeg which means "holy day". And holy days they are, starting with Thanksgiving. If you are expressing gratitude for anything in life, whether you want to acknowlege Him or not, you are thankful to God. He is the creator and sustainer of all things. 2 Peter 1:3 says, "His divine power has granted to us everything pertaining to life and godliness, through the true knowledge of Him who called us by His own glory and excellence." Everything pertaining to life comes from Him. Everything. Philippians 4:9 gives this promise, "And my God will supply all your needs according to His riches in glory in Christ Jesus." ALL YOUR NEEDS. Reasons to be thankful indeed.
Advent starts the fourth Sunday before Christmas and is observed as a time of expectant waiting and preparation for the celebration of the Nativity. Practices include keeping an advent calendar, lighting an advent wreath, doing daily devotionals and generally preparing for Christmas. To truly observe it is to make your heart ready for the King.
What about Christmas? Say what you will about the pagan origins of winter solstice or the obvious materialism and commercialization of our current cultural practices, the church has chosen to celebrate the birth of our Savior in this season. Psalm 22 teaches that God inhabits the praises of His people. So where even one is celebrating the baby Jesus, He is here. It is indeed a holy time.
I am typing this at 3:30 in the morning on Christmas Eve. I am like a little kid again that can't sleep for all the excitement. It is a beautiful time of the year. I hope you have looked for Jesus in it. He has come. And we celebrate Him. Merry Christmas AND Happy Holidays!