Like many others I found myself at the department store this weekend looking to buy some gifts for the family. It was so packed with people that I considered turning around and going back home before I even parked the car. I think I lost three pounds just walking from my parking space to the store entrance just from the distance. This was my third stop of the day on my shopping excursion and my last. I walked around erratically about the store with no clue as to what to get anyone. Once in a while I would eye an equally lost shopper and our gazes would meet and acknowledge silently our futile attempts to find that perfect gift. We would smile a bit and shake our heads as we continued forging new ground in the hunt.
I expected to be jostled around carelessly in this throng of people as someone reached for this and that unaware that someone was at their elbow. Not this time. People seemed to be more considerate of those around them this year so as not to be offensive in act or word. Actually the shoppers seemed subdued, not with the fatigue of shopping, but from some underlying feeling that things were different this year. I can't put my finger on it as to why it seemed like this, but it was.
More often than not a 'Merry Christmas' was heard from one shopper to the next. I helped one woman get an item she could not reach and as we parted she said 'Happy Holidays' to me and I replied with a smile 'Happy Holy Days'. She looked at me for a moment and replied 'Merry Christmas', also with a grand smile. This was turning out to be a day I hadn't expected. No frenzy, no dour faces and above all a seeming gentleness towards other shoppers.
I've made a point of saying Merry Christmas to people even if they wish me Happy Holidays and I find that there is a kind of sigh of relief when they hear it and repeat it to me, especially if they are employees of the department store. I'm sure they've been made aware to wish people a Happy Holiday rather than Merry Christmas for fear of offending shoppers. Maybe that's it. Perhaps people are tired, but not from the shopping but the fear of offending others with their own belief and celebration of Christmas.
I look at it this way. People are offended by all kinds of things, legitimate or not, and I will not let my life be controlled by overly sensitive people simply because they do not believe as I do. If in wishing someone Merry Christmas I encounter someone who tells me that they do not believe in Christmas I have a ready answer. I will tell them that I DO believe in Christmas and what it means to me and I wish them the peace that I have found in this celebration of His birth. If they are still offended by that then there is nothing I could ever say that will please them. I move on.
If we are to evangelize then Christmas shopping is the perfect place to start. After all, we are buying gifts not just to reciprocate with another for buying one for us but to represent the gift of His son to us and this ultimate gift can be given to others with a kind act or word said with a smile. We are being coerced to keep silent in our faith. That is the PC thing to do we are told. God tells us to go out and teach all nations. He never said it would be easy or that we would have an attentive audience but just go out and teach the Good News. I did that yesterday.