There are those who believe using the words “Merry Christmas” rather than the more secular “Happy Holidays” makes the season seem more religious or “the reason for the season.”

The problem is that simply using the term “Merry Christmas” often makes the “Bethlehem manger” an “object” of our celebration rather than the “subject.” There is a major difference. Being the “object” means we can talk or sing about it and then forget it. Being the “subject” means that the true meaning of the season must be lived in and through us. It is more than an event that happened 2,000 years ago.


I believe this is what my friend Haven Shoemaker, who called himself a “dabbler in politics,” did in his column, “Count your blessings instead of sheep,” Dec. 20. It has nothing to do with political correctness or being comfortable. In fact, Christmas should make all of us uncomfortable when we look at the world around us because we are called to be the hands and feet of our Creator.

To truly understand “Nativity” we need to focus on the “Nativity babe’s” radical message of love for all of humanity and his vision for a more caring human race. He broke religious laws because he put people ahead of legal rules. He blasted the wealthy for the way they treated the poor. He tore down walls and barriers of separation that humans had created and focused on bringing the kingdom of heaven to earth for all. He spoke of peace and oneness and not separation, division and hate.

Christmas takes on meaning not when we say “magic words” but when we work for the same things the “babe of Bethlehem” gave his life for. Writer Thomas Moore said, “It makes no sense to see [Christmas] exclusively as a ritual for Christians. It has meaning only as a plan for the entire human race — and therefore Christmas belongs to everyone.”

We all know that politics are partisan but that does not mean we should cause more division among our people than we already have. Haven calls himself “blessed” and, therefore, since he apparently feels he is on the “right side,” he can make fun of those in the wrong, call them names, attack the city for the serious problems they are having and make cheap shots at those he disagrees with.

My brother Haven sounds a lot like our president, leaving his politics aside, who in his tweets belittles people he disagrees with, makes fun of people by calling them names and while this seems funny to his followers it continues to divide Americans rather than bringing us together regardless of our political party or ideology.

The celebration of Christmas has to do with “peace on earth and good will” for all of God’s people. This is our challenge. Let the radical love of the season bind us together with cords that cannot be broken.

William Louis Piel is the pastor of Mount Zion United Methodist Church in Finksburg.