For several years now, many Christians have felt like Christmas is under attack. And it seems to just be getting worse! People are trying to change the Christmas you know and love into something else. Greeters at big-box chain stores are told to say “Happy Holidays” rather than “Merry Christmas” People are suggesting that maybe we should have Black Santa, or even Penguin-Santa. Really? Penguin-Santa? That’s almost as ludicrous as associating an egg-laying rabbit with the resurrection of Christ–almost.

But this doesn’t mean that people are trying to destroy Christmas. On the contrary, it means that they are trying to participate with you. Hasn’t it always been a cornerstone of Christian culture to try to convert bring people into the religion? Wouldn’t making them feel more welcome during your biggest celebration be a good first step in that sacred goal?

Dear reader, I hope this doesn’t lead you to immediately stop reading, but I am a jewish person (gasp!… Are you still here with me?)—and while I have zero interest in participating in the Christmas festivities, it’s obvious that my little brother (also jewish, in case that wasn’t obvious) does! He likes watching Christmas movies and TV show Christmas- specials. I think that one year he even asked if we could get a “Holiday Tree”.

Can you see how calling it a “Holiday Tree” made my little brother feel more inclined to participate in a Christian holiday? I bet when he grows up and moves out of the house he will get a “Holiday Tree”. Does that make you cringe? Do you think that my brother—a non-Christian—participating in a Christian holiday makes the holiday less sacred? Or does it fill you with joy? Do you see it as a sign that your religion brings so much joy into this world that it overflows to people outside of your immediate culture?

Likewise, does the idea of “Black Santa” make you shudder? Or does it make you happy that someone (in this case, a Christian) wants to more fully participate in, and feel a deeper, more personal connection to the holiday? And on the flipside: do you see how shutting the idea of ‘Black Santa’ down might make people not want to associate with Christianity?

I am not going to stand here and say that the way that we celebrate Christmas in America isn’t changing. It is. It’s expanding to be more inclusive. And this inclusion is a huge part of what makes Christianity what it is!

Christianity has a long, glorious history of including elements from other cultures as a way of bringing more people into the religion. Mistletoe, wreaths, and yes, Christmas trees themselves, have nothing to do with the birth of Jesus. They are part of ancient pagan winter holidays. Waay back in the day some Christian was like, “Oh hey, maybe if we want to get these other people to celebrate the birth of Jesus with us, we should include elements of their culture in the celebration”.

So rather than thinking of it as a “War on Christmas” try thinking of it as the “Expansion of Christmas”, because that’s what’s really happening here.

When a stranger smiles at you on the street and says “Happy Holidays” try to recognize that they are really saying “I care about you, even though I don’t know you. I hope that your life is full of joy, warmth, and love, especially this time of year.” Essentially, they are conveying almost the same thing as they would if they said, “Merry Christmas”.

The only difference is that this Happy-Holidays-Wisher is trying to be kind and loving to ALL people, not just Christians. Correct me if I am wrong, but doesn’t Jesus call for love and kindness towards ALL people?

Why not honor Jesus on his birthday and live by his words? If someone says “Happy Holidays” to you, recognize that this shows a desire to share love with everyone, the way that Christianity has ideally striven to do for thousands of years.