Merry Christmas! Feliz Navidad! Fröhliche Weihnachten! Joyeux Noël! Buon Natale! Feliz Natal! Mele Kalikimaka!
What!?!? Did she just say, “Happy Holidays”? That just won’t do…
Ok… so, just to be clear, I tell people, “Merry Christmas.” But, I’m not upset or offended when someone says, “Happy Holidays.” In fact, I do not assume that someone is a nonChristian if that person says, “Happy Holidays.”
What would happen if Christians actually talked with (and listened to) people talk about how THEY celebrated the “holidays” instead of responding in more negative ways?
I could imagine a conversation kinda like this…
“Happy Holidays,” she said as she handed me the receipt.
“Thank you,” I said with a smile. The story was almost empty, and there was no one in line behind me, so I continued, “Which holiday or holidays are you celebrating?”
She seemed a little surprised, but I stopped and made sure she could tell that I was truly interested in what she would say.
“ummm… What do you mean?” she answered with a question, obviously a little unsure of my intent.
“Well, different people celebrate this time of year for different reasons: Thanksgiving, Hanukkah, Kwanzaa, Christmas, New Years. Some people just enjoy this time of year by taking a break from work or school and spending time with family. Others recognize the change of seasons or the winter solstice. What are you celebrating during the holidays?”
She stopped for a moment, and looked at me funny again. “You know, no one has ever asked me that before. My family got together for Thanksgiving, and we have several different Christmas traditions…” She told me about some of her family’s plans including travel and parties.
For some reason, I’m always surprised, but I know that people love to talk about things that they care about, especially to someone who is really listening. So, I listened, and made a couple of comments about corresponding traditions or places that I’d been before.
As she stopped talking about herself and her family, I thanked her for telling me about her holiday plans, and started to turn away out of the store.
“What about you?” she asked. “What are you doing for the holidays?”
I turned back toward her and smile. I don’t know if she was as interested in hearing my reasons to celebrate or not, but she had asked. So…
The way I see it, this kind of encounter – any time of year – must be preceded by the following:
1) An earnest concern for the other person and a desire to hear what the other person has to say. (In other words, don’t ask the other person about her beliefs ONLY so that you can share your own.)
2) A willingness to walk away without sharing your own beliefs/plans/whatever if the person does not ask.
So, what about you? Have you ever had an interesting conversation with someone because you reacted in a way that showed you genuinely cared about them (especially when your response was different than what they may have expected from Christians)?