That question occurred to me recently. From a Google search, this is what I found: “The greeting dates back to at least 1534 in London, England. It was written in a letter sent to Henry VIII’s chief minister, Thomas Cromwell, from a Bishop Fisher. It is also noted that the phrase was used in the 16th Century carol ‘We Wish You a Merry Christmas.’”
“Merry” Christmas is directly associated with conveying to someone your desire that the “greetee” (my term) enjoy the Christmas season. Reference to “Merry Christmas” is so ingrained in most of us that “Happy” or any other facsimile of well wishes does not sound right. Furthermore, to say “Merry Christmas” to someone is usually reserved for when the Thanksgiving season is over.
“Merry Christmas” is a singular encouragement from others to keep certain seasonal things in mind. Foremost, it is encouragement to keep the primary “reason for the season” in mind. Nothing wrong and every right that we yearly need to remember to prioritize the Birth of Jesus Christ during this time. This is true because it is so easy to let our focus shift onto other issues that stimulate unnecessary stress.
A major source of stress involves having enough money to buy gifts. I can recall two seasons in which we three Branch brothers did not get gifts at Christmas. Our Dad obviously did not have funds to spend on gifts for us those two years. But, he did not seem to stress out about it. Overall, it served as an example to us for having the right priority for Christmas. My brother, Jeff, and I discussed that experience recently.
Deciding what gift to give someone is often problematic, too. Have you ever been asked in early June “what is it that you want for Christmas?” The three wise men did not pose that question to the Lord. They evidently gave what they considered was appropriate without stressing obsessively about it. That is a good rule of thumb for us. Having that in mind helps our Christmas to be “merry” if what to give is a constant annoyance
Having peace is a part of the “merry” formula, too. It is hard to be merry if you are not experiencing peace. Consider the tenor of the angelic announcement to the shepherds about the birth of the Savior. They called for men to have “peace on earth.”
Peace is such a precious commodity to have. When we tell someone to have a “merry Christmas,” we in fact are promoting peace. Two things about it: first, we may not be able to do much about the peace problems people are having today. We cannot snap our fingers for people to have peace in the troubled parts of the world, or for those city looters to have such peace that it settles the need to rob and steel and to promote violence, or that settles the myriad of manifested atrocities seen throughout, but we can at least promote the need for people to have peace. The angels did not expedite peace at that time other than to point out that The Peace had arrived. But, they at least verbalized the desire that mankind have it. We at the least can do the same with a “merry Christmas” to someone.
Second, it was the peace of God that was specifically cited. After all, if we do not have the peace of God and peace with God, we do not have much. Jesus Christ pointed out, “Peace I leave with you. My peace I give you, not as the world gives…” Promoting the spiritual quality of His peace is as simple as telling people to have a merry Christmas. It is the Peace of God that we are instructed will keep our hearts and our minds.
Such are the inherent and worthwhile qualities of saying “Merry Christmas” to people we encounter.
Pastor Ron Branch lives in Mason County and is pastor of Hope Baptist Church, Middleport, Ohio. Viewpoints expressed in the article are the work of the author.