This year I got to hear their pastor talk about standing up for beliefs and defending Christian values by saying "Merry Christmas" to people when they wish him "Happy Holidays." He told a story about his visit to Starbucks that morning.
Congratulations, Pastor L, on making a complete stranger uncomfortable! I'm sure Jesus would be so proud! Actually, I'm pretty sure Jesus would be ashamed, and so am I. When I wish someone well during the last two months of the year, I am not wishing myself well and whatever I am celebrating doesn't matter. I wish my Jewish friends a Happy Hanukkah.
If I wished them a Merry Christmas, they would probably feel a bit left out, insulted, or unappreciated.
When I wish them a Happy Hanukkah while not celebrating it myself, I am also telling them that I love and accept them for who they are. Loving people without reservation? Sounds a little like Jesus, right? Now, when I go out into the world and interact with total strangers, I don't know what holidays they celebrate. I would also like to avoid making these strangers feel left out, insulted, or unappreciated. Instead, I would like to extend the same unconditional acceptance I have for my friends. Didn't Jesus love everyone without reservation?
Saying "Merry Christmas" to everyone without knowing what they celebrate is like snubbing your nose at everyone while saying "My holiday is the only important holiday and everything else doesn't matter!" It's a selfish and small-minded attitude that ignores not only other religious holidays, but also Thanksgiving and New Years. There are a whole lot of reasons for people to celebrate during the holiday season, and the most Christ-like way to wish people well is to acknowledge anything and everything by saying "Happy Holidays". You can still say "Merry Christmas" at church and at Christmas parties, to your family and to anyone you know who celebrates it. Saying it to strangers is just obtuse and potentially unkind.