Note to Self: Be Merry, Stupid!

(Writer’s note: This Disciplehood entry was penned and pre-posted in early January 2013, when I could look back on the Christmas season with fresh hindsight and vow to do better this year. Here’s hoping the December Disciplehood Dude thinks I’m as wise as the January Dude does.)

Sometimes I think my eggnog mug is half-empty. Other times I remember that it’s half-full.

Sometimes it bugs me that season celebrating the birth of Christ has been highjacked by commercialism and greed. Other times, I remember to be grateful that for one month of the year, Christian themes and messages have a place in mainstream society.

Often, I get mad that during the month leading up to one of the holiest days in the Christian calendar, my local Christian radio station plays less Christian music than it does during the rest of the year. You’ll hear Santa Claus is Coming to Town on Shine FM in December just as often as (or maybe more often than) Joy to the World. But occasionally I remember to rejoice that secular stations actually play some worship music during the last month of the year. You’re as likely to hear O Little Town of Bethlehem as Silver Bells on many Calgary radio stations.

Sometimes I get sucked into the pervasive anger that we ‘can’t’ say Merry Christmas in malls anymore. But other times, I see the upside of being required to separate secular midwinter commercialism and the holy celebration of the birth of Christ. (See Exce$$mas for more on this line of thinking.)

If I choose to be grumpy, there are more than enough reasons to get my stockings in a knot during the Christmas season. And I’m not the only one.

If there were a Passive Aggressive Hostilometer on Facebook, I think it would have set an all-time record in 2012. Try to be inclusive by using the term ‘holiday tree,’ and you risked getting your e-head bitten off by a rabid anti-secularization crusader. More noses were out of joint on all sides of the annual Christmas controversies than I’ve seen before on social media.

I largely stayed out of it, but mostly because I was too busy to come up with anything I felt was clever enough, that hadn’t been said already.

pagan christmasEarly in the Christmas season last year, I came across this clever little graphic on Facebook, and was initially pretty miffed about it.

It felt like Christian bashing – a not-so subtle assault on us for condemning all other religions as pagan with our left hands, while stealing their best traditions and passing them off as our own with our right hands.

And maybe that’s exactly what the authors of the e-poster meant to accomplish. And maybe they had a point.

But as I looked through my half-empty nog mug, I was tempted to retort with a multi-pronged argument that would have utterly refuted the implied anti-Christian overtones of the message, and entirely justified Christians’ use of the previously pagan traditions to advance the cause of Christ. But as ironclad and irrefutible as my position was, I chose not to share it in mid-December 2012, simply because I was tired of all the arguing.

Near the end of the month, I took another look at the last line of the text (“All you need to enjoy these winter festivities is to be merry. Merry Christmas!) and was glad I didn’t carve up the heathens with my rapier wit. I think I might have initially missed the point of this e-poster.

So for this brief moment that I’ve noticed my eggnog mug is half-full, here’s what the pagans have taught me:

Whatever the origins are of these traditions, they’ve come together to form something that’s pretty awesome. Let’s celebrate it!

Whatever you call this season, and whatever it means to you, it’s supposed to be an excuse for all of us to be merry! To be nicer to each other. To find enjoyment in whatever we’re doing and whoever we’re doing it with. To try to look past our differences, not to put extra emphasis on them.

Whatever the authors of this Truth Saves e-poster intended, I see it as an invitation for all of us (maybe especially us Christians) to fight less and love more. Let’s let God fight His own battles, and try harder to simply love Him by loving His children every way we can think of.

Let’s help people to know we are Christians by our love, not by our ability to win arguments. And when I say ‘our love’, I mean our love of people, not of our holiday terminology.

“Glory to God in the highest heaven,
    and on earth peace to those on whom his favor rests.” – Luke 2:14

(That’s everyone.)

Peace be with you.


About robpetkau

Communications professional by day, amateur musician by night, worship leader (at Holy Trinity Anglican Church in Calgary) on weekends and aspiring Bible teacher in my dreams. Grateful husband to the woman who completes me. Doing-the-best-I-can dad to the son and daughter who keep me on my toes. Striving disciple of the GodMan who came, taught and died for me. Thanks for stopping by!
This entry was posted in Christianity, Christmas, Church, Evangelism, Faith, God, Love, Politics and tagged , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink.

4 Responses to Note to Self: Be Merry, Stupid!

  1. I am glad I read your post in its entirety prior to commenting, however i am intrigued about your boost of being able to justify Pagan traditions being used by Christians. If Pagans are heathens as Christians often refer to us, then why in the world would you feel that continuing practices we started and used to honor our idols and Gods would be a honor to yours? I am not trying to argue here, just to hear your view on the question that was raised in my mind reading your post. My God would feel disrespected I think if I were to offer up something made to honor yours.. just saying.

    Proud to be a PAGAN
    (Don’t try to convert me just as I won’t try to convert you – I studied world religions and theology, am ordained and even attended xtian church for a couple years on my quest to find my path… I know who I am and who I serve)

    • robpetkau says:

      Hi, Flash.

      Thanks for reading, and for taking the time to comment. I also appreciate that you read the whole post before replying to it.

      Please accept my apologies for the delay in getting back to you. It is a delightfully busy time of the year for my family and me. Lots of visiting and celebrating, as I’m sure you understand.

      You pose an interesting question – ‘If Pagans are heathens as Christians often refer to us, then why in the world would you feel that continuing practices we started and used to honor our idols and Gods would be a honor to yours?’

      The answer might seem a bit dismissive of your beliefs and for that I’m sorry. But you did ask…

      My belief that repatriating Pagan traditions for Christ brings honour to Him is based largely on the fact that I see all Gods but the Trinitarian Father-Son-Spirit as figments of human imagination. Odin, Neptune and Dagda are no threat to Jesus, because they don’t exist. And the rituals and talismans used to honour them are therefore not offensive to God, but merely meaningless and empty. If the practices are not sinful in and of themselves and people are already in the habit of doing them, what’s the harm in allowing them to continue in those practices but have them do it for God’s glory? The parched, meaningless rituals then become soaked with meaning.

      God is in the redeeming business, you see. In His economy the first is last and the last first and the master is servant of all. He redeems pathetic, wayward people who turn to Him, by using the very same attributes, inclinations and skills that they’d previously used for self-gratification, for Godly purposes.

      He redeemed the cross – a hideous instrument of torture, a symbol of earthly (Roman) might and power, of oppression and fear – and turned it into a symbol of peace, hope and love. Compared with that, redeeming a Saturnalia Tree is child’s play.

      Anyway, I hope this answers your question. I saw from your note that you’re ordained. I’m not. Therefore, I don’t presume to speak on behalf of all Christians, or even my own denomination (Anglican). These are just the ramblings of a well-meaning aspiring disciple of Christ who flatters himself to think he knows which end of a computer keyboard is up.

      Flash, may the Lord bless you and keep you and cause His face to shine upon you. The Lord bless you and keep you and turn His face toward you and give you peace. (Numbers 6:24-26)


  2. xeribunni says:

    What I think: No matter what you believe, or do not believe. Just be nice to each other. I see so much hate towards non-Christians this time of year. People need to learn actual history and understand that other religions exist and God is God, no matter which name he or she is called. Some people believe there is no God. Some people believe in multiple. Let them. I knew someone that thought the little green men were watching him when he wasn’t looking. Sure, whatever made him happy, I’m no going to judge. So much death and destruction has happened in the name of religion and the whole point of it is to just be nice to each other. Do no harm. Help those in need. etc.


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