Every year Twitter feeds, Facebook pages, blog posts, newspaper articles and television news reports are teeming with stories about (mostly) Christians decrying the “War on Christmas.”
In malls across America, store clerks wish customers a "happy holiday" and in some places, Christmas trees are now referred to as holiday trees.
Christians with platforms urge other believers to take a stand-to defend the sanctity of Christmas.
And a few have even suggested that being wished “happy holidays” is a form of persecution.
As we head into the Christmas season, here are some things Christians should consider before fretting about the “War on Christmas” or complaining when wished “happy holidays” by the mall worker.
1) It Diminishes the True Nature of Persecution
As we know from recent news reports, ISIS has slaughtered countless believers around the world for their faith in Jesus Christ. Just last month, The American Center for Law and Justice (ACLJ) reported that possibly a dozen Syrian Christian missionaries were beheaded and crucified, and that the women were publicly gang-raped by ISIS members.
When we cry persecution at the sight of a "happy holidays" sign or hearing the words from someone they encounter, we diminish the suffering that other believers endure because of their faith.
Instead of feeling offended or complaining when Christians see or hear that phrase this Christmas season, what if we used it as a prompt to pray for the brothers and sisters around the world who are jailed, beaten, raped or otherwise endangered because they represent Christ?
2) It Places Undue Expectations on Nonbelievers
When we expect Christmas to have the same spiritual implications on the world around us as we do ourselves, we are being unrealistic-and unfair.
Of course, it's a given that we should want everyone to have the hope that we've found in Jesus. That's a good thing.
And while we should be evangelists, we should also be realists. We should not expect someone who doesn't see Christmas through a spiritual lens to avoid saying "happy holidays," or for a Jewish person to wish you a "Merry Christmas.”
Instead, use this as an opportunity to understand people outside your Christian circles. When we cluster together with only people who believe the way we do, we remove ourselves from the places true ministry begins-and avoid any opportunities to show the love of Jesus to those who need to see it the most.
Besides, a snarky "Merry Christmas" reply to someone who says "happy holidays" is not likely to open the door to ministry.
3) It Makes Our Faith-and Our God-Seem Powerless
When believers say that culture has declared a war on Christmas, we imply that our faith cannot thrive in the face of secularism.
To put it more bluntly, we tell the world that our God is small and powerless.
In Matthew 16:18, Jesus Himself said the church will prevail. And when we feel threatened by secular Christmas language and relics, we express doubt. And we also unnecessarily demonize snowflakes, Santa Claus and the phrase "happy holidays.”
These things don't determine our Christmas joy-our relationship with Christ does.
4) It Steals Our Joy
Complaining about "happy holidays" steals more than the joy of those around us-it steals our own joy.
This is a time to spend with family, and to be thankful for earthly and eternal blessings. There are many aspects of Christmas to enjoy, whether it is something spiritual-such as observing Advent or attending Christmas Eve services-or trivial, such as trimming a tree or watching Christmas movies.
But when we focus on what's wrong with Christmas, we injure ourselves. Only we are responsible for our attitudes.
And often, a self-righteous attitude can rob us of what was given to us for enjoyment-and take the focus off what's most important.
5) It Removes Our Focus from the Gospel
The biggest danger of placing any focus on the alleged war on Christmas is that it takes our personal attention away from the actual reason we celebrate this season-God became Flesh to rescue us from sin, death and ourselves.
This Christmas, don't spend mental and emotional energy fretting over secular phrases and relics. Instead, use that energy to reflect on the gift God has given us-Emmanuel, God with us.
God is with us, despite a secular society, amid real persecution, and regardless of our circumstances.
And if the world can see that our God is bigger than political correctness and Christmas trees, perhaps they can begin to turn their attention to Him and hear what His people have to say.
Joy Allmond is a writer based in Charlotte, N.C., where she lives with her husband, two teenage stepsons and two dogs. Follow her on Twitter @joyallmond.
In need of some motivation from the Word? Check out this devotional!