This was going to be a simple post: what do the words “Merry Christmas!” mean to you when/if you say them to someone and when/if someone says them to you?
But I decided to do some research first on the phrase, and came across an interesting article by one David J. Meyer called The True Meaning of Christ-Mass. Meyer says using the two words — Merry Christmas — together is blasphemous because they aren’t celebrating the birth of Christ. They are celebrating the opposite: his death.
Meyer cites various texts to back up his claims. Writes Meyer:
The World Book Encyclopedia defines “Christmas” as follows: “The word Christmas comes from “Cristes Maesse”, an early English phrase that means “Mass of Christ.” It is interesting to note that the word “Mass”, as used by the Roman Catholics, has traditionally been rejected by the so-called Protestants, such as Lutherans, Baptists, Methodists, Presbyterians, Pentecostals and so on. The word “Mass” is strictly a Catholic word and thus, so is “Christ-Mass.” … the word “Mass” in religious usage means a “death sacrifice.” The impact of this fact is horrifying and shocking; for when the millions of people are saying, “Merry Christmas”, they are literally saying “Merry death of Christ!”
In short, his argument is people are unwittingly celebrating the death of Christ when they think they are celebrating birth — even if everyone knows that Christ wasn’t born on Dec. 25 (and that the whole holiday is really about the winter solstice, but I digress).
But Meyer’s article got me to thinking about the religious connection to Christmas and about Christ himself: Some people celebrate his birth because of the message he gave us, but more important, perhaps, because of the way he would go on to die, supposedly as a sacrifice for our sins. Christmas is about celebrating a savior being born to die for our sins. Otherwise, we probably wouldn’t be celebrating his birth at all.
So, Mr. Meyer is correct, I suppose, in a certain context, but I’m not sure it is such a blasphemous thing to wish someone a Merry Christmas.
For me, the “Merry Christmas” wish is more about the peace and love message that Christ reportedly taught — in truth, I’m not even sure Christ existed. But the legend and its message is about brotherly love, and I see Christmas as a time when people remind each other of that message, and celebrate it — whether they believe in Christ or not.
In essence, to me Merry Christmas! means “I wish you peace and love, dear fellow traveller.”
How about you? What does “Merry Christmas!” mean to you?
I believe that Jesus existed, but I’m not a Christian (My religion is Wicca, but that’s another topic altogether). There is no reason to doubt that Jesus of Nazareth existed, but I believe he was a mere human who happened to have some great ideas. Someone liked those ideas, and after his death, stories were told about him, some of them true, some of them “tall tales,” i.e. the miracle stories. Some of the facts were altered in order to fit with Old Testament prophecy–for example, both Matthew and Luke give contradictory narratives of his birth, and in both cases a reason had to be invented to have Jesus born in Bethleham rather than at his family’s home in Nazareth.
If it were possible to sift through all the stories in the four canonical gospels and the non-canonical ones as well, and ascertain what is fact and what is not, we would most likely have a story about an ordinary man who had some great ideas on interpreting the Jewish faith. There would be nothing supernatural about him–and no rising from the dead.
A great book on the subject of whether or not the man existed is Bart D. Ehrman’s “Did Jesus Exist: The Historical Argument for Jesus of Nazareth.”
As for your final question, it rather depends on the context. Is it a cashier in a grocery store who you have just paid saying it? Then it’s just the holiday equivalent of “Have a nice day,” a statement forced on them by their employers which in most cases has lost its actual meaning.
Is it a person who honestly cares for you, or even a casual but friendly acquaintance? Then it’s much more meaningful. I can overlook the fact that they have forgotten, or perhaps did not know, that I am not Christian, and that therefore the literal meaning has no bearing on my life–and I can overlook it because I can recognize the fact that the sentiment behind it is genuine, even if I DON’T celebrate Christmas.
Nicely said, Brad. Thank you.
Jilllian, don’t spoil my enjoyment of saying ‘Merry Christmas’ to those unsuspecting sheeple. Being raised Catholic I did learn that a mass was said to help the departed go to heave n. But I don’t ever recall having a mass for a birth, or even anything joyous.
And what were the shepherds doing tending their flock of sheep at the winter solstice? No, the man Jesus was likely born in April when the scrub grass would be growing for there to be a reason to have the sheep out of the pens.
Smiles . . . Christmas means different things to different people. It seems silly sometimes, but I do tend to get caught up in the goodwill of it all.
So, don’t stop saying Merry Christmas to people, Steve. It means something!
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Works for me:
Pastor David J. Meyer was an oddball from his youth, and his early interest in the occult influenced his later years. He was a no-one from nowhere (not far from we live) with no following to speak of and of a splinter religious group. Is ‘crank’ ok to say here? Look it up. Look HIM up. A failed Billy Graham.
However, as we’ve pointed out often, sometimes the message is more important than the messenger. The question then is, is the message valid (as presented in this article)?
No. His suggestion that the Roman Catholic Mass is a ‘death sacrifice’ is misleading and incorrect. A Mass can take many forms, but each is a celebration of life over death. The Eucharist was established by Jesus Christ as a means to remember and continue the teachings which He brought. That’s common knowledge and only someone with little Biblical education and and an agenda to push to the ignorant and gullible could fail to know that.
The message that Jesus brought was caring for one another instead of taking from each other: an idea totally alien to a world just beginning to move beyond the Stone Age. Resources could now be managed for the benefit all if we had the DESIRE.
Human development had reached the point where, had we the will and desire (and a little voluntary birth control, JC forget to mention that!), by following those ideals we COULD have created a new Eden. Think about it. Love one another, that’s all.
Whether JC ever lived or not, let alone if he was some sort of deity. the MESSAGE is what caught on and though it has been a couple thousands of years and we have yet to embrace that ideal, it still inspires even those, like myself, who don’t buy the advertised beliefs of anyone.
Sometimes it’s not the messenger that counts; it’s the message. MERRY CHRISTMAS!
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Very nicely said. Thank you!
I would say that Merry Christmas has “a lot” to do with the Hollywood image that TV brought to the world. Yes, the Print media presented versioning in Europe,UK & America. Btw. I believe our image is from the celebration of St. Nicholas which is Germanic. What bothers me more is that Christmas is celebrated in many different ways(custom) in countries of the Christian world which we should know more about. (Thank god for the Internet) Eg. How it is celebrated in India is interesting! Considering that “globalization” is happening. Read: uniform branding across the globe which I think Hollywood will eventually subvert, if not all ready, most sadly. And where is it that I seem to understand the phrase: “Peace on Earth, Good Will towards men” is actually supposed to be written: “Peace on Earth towards Men of Good Will”?
Good points! Thank you . . .
I don’t, personally, get caught up in all the religious aspects of the holiday. Raised Catholic, I have my beliefs, my doubts and my own issues with the church but don’t delve into those with others because … I just don’t. Politics and religion … best left to oneself. It’s safer for everyone involved.
Christmas seems to be a time where you make time to get together with those you don’t get to most of the year. I have a large family. We are all busy with our lives, our kids, grandkids … Christmas time brings us together no matter what else and … I get to see my nieces and nephews face to face instead of on Facebook.
I don’t try and get too deep into thought about “what Christmas means.” It’s a fun time of the year. Family and friends coming together to enjoy each others company and a time to give a little extra of what you have … to others that have much less.
We are quite generous though out the year but even quite a bit more during this time.
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