Matthew 1:18 Now the birth of Jesus Christ was on this wise: When as his mother Mary was espoused to Joseph, before they came together, she was found with child of the Holy Ghost. 19 Then Joseph her husband, being a just man, and not willing to make her a publick example, was minded to put her away privily. 20 But while he thought on these things, behold, the angel of the Lord appeared unto him in a dream, saying, Joseph, thou son of David, fear not to take unto thee Mary thy wife: for that which is conceived in her is of the Holy Ghost. 21 And she shall bring forth a son, and thou shalt call his name JESUS: for he shall save his people from their sins.
See also: Luke 1:26-33 and 2:9-13
Our culture’s most common advent greeting is “Merry Christmas.” A furor has arisen over the last several years about our holiday greetings. Political correctness has forced many in the workplace and in schools to offer the “Happy Holidays” wishes so as to not offend people of other faiths, or no faith.
Tonight, my daughter’s public school’s winter concert will include the Hallelujah Chorus of Handel’s Messiah, in which hundreds of attendees will rise, honoring the long-standing tradition started by England’s queen its first performance. I will raise my hands in humble adoration to Him Who reigneth forever and ever as I yearn for the coronation day when the kingdoms of this world will become the kingdom of our Lord and of His Christ.
I can only imagine the consternation of the atheists and agnostics present and the bewilderment of the Muslims in attendance who will be befuddled by the overwhelming corporate reverence shown to a Figure over which they thought their tolerance and inclusion law suits had relegated to the church services in houses of Christian worship. Truly, we wish no offense to man, but all honor to God!
I digress. I actually personally prefer ‘Happy Holidays” over “Merry Christmas” having a choice between the two, though I am careful not to make a big deal out of it.
(Christ·mas – Origin - Old English Crīstes mæsse or, Christ Mass.)
Surely you see the problem. Many of those who spend Facebook space trying to keep Christ in Christmas by requesting “likes” and “Shares” for one greeting over another in advertising and personal interactions, probably don’t care much for what the Mass represents.
Holidays, on the other hand, comes from Holy Days, which I find much more palatable considering my own religious sensitivities.
Now, if we were Spanish speakers, the greeting “Feliz Navidad” is a wonderful expression used by the faithful. It means happy or merry nativity. Or, to the French, “Joyeux Noel” does no theological harm. It means joyous birth. Noël comes to us from the Latin verb nasci, meaning “to be born.” These terms succinctly express our holy day wishes without reference to the mass, which technically is simply the prayer or song for the dismissal of the liturgy, but what we commonly consider the sacrament of the re-crucifixion of the Lord, wherein wine literally turns to Christ’s blood and the wafer to His body, ingested by participants in order to receive grace.
But in the long ago and far away, none of these greetings held a candle (sorry for the allusion) to the simple repetitious greeting of the angels, “Fear Not!”
Heaven had been pretty much silent for 400 years. Jews went about their days hoping for a deliverer but feeling forsaken by heaven because of their backslidden ancestors. A few miracles transpired during those silent centuries: Chanukah and the Maccabees; troubled waters at the pool of Bethesda… but no real continuing works of God as seen in the olden days. Angelic visitations were not welcome in those times. The appearance of an angel usually meant death or disaster for a lot of people.
But now, as Heaven speaks and angels visit, as shepherds quake and virgins give birth, as wise men journey and espoused husbands fret, miracles occur once again. But there is only good news. Mary would be the first one to (literally) carry the Gospel, the Good News that Christ was to appear on earth. It was in the fullness of time that God would send His Son, made of a woman, made under the law, to redeem them that were under the law, that we might receive the adoption of sons. Galatians 4:4-5.
The holiday greeting of the day was Fear Not! Fear not Mary, that which is born of you is holy. Fear not Joseph, your wife is of child by the Holy Ghost. Fear not shepherds, unto you is born a Savior, which is Christ the Lord. Fear not people of the earth, the peace Child is born, goodwill to men.
So, Merry Christmas, Happy Holidays, Feliz Navidad and Fear Not!