Meaningful Advent or “Merry excessment”?



photo: harden

Sarah Palin, in her book “Good Tidings and Great Joy: Protecting the Heart of Christmas”, laments the fact that holiday shoppers are no longer greeted with a “Merry Christmas” but with the more generic “Happy Holidays.” To her, this is a sure sign that “zealot-like atheists” are waging a “war on Christmas” and are taking us down a road toward secularism and the loss of our Judeo-Christian heritage.

William C. Wood, local professor of economics at James Madison University and a member of the Beaver Creek Church of the Brethren, sees it differently. He believes our national celebration of Christmas has become so pagan and anti-Christian that we ought to just call it what it is, a “Merry Excessmas,” and name the original Christian celebration something else, like “Holy Nativity,” or “Feliz Navidad.”

Dr. Wood had a piece promoting this idea published in the Wall Street Journal a number of years ago, and has been crusading for this change ever since. Just separating the two celebrations, he believes, would make things a lot cleaner and clearer. Let the rest of the world have the greed-based holiday that Christmas has become, he says, and have the rest of us observe a true “Christ-mass,” an authentic “Holy-day.”

Of course, if we are really serious about observing Christmas, we should remember that according to the Christian calendar most of December was never intended be “merry” anyway, but a hopeful and prayerful time of waiting we call Advent. The Advent season ends with Nativity, which begins on Christmas Eve and then continues for the “Twelve Days of Christmas”.

So in keeping with that time honored Christian tradition, maybe we shouldn’t be greeting anyone with “Merry Christmas” anyway until it actually arrives, on December 25, at which time we celebrate with abandonment. But not necessarily with excessive quantities of soon-to-be landfill and yard sale “stuff”—manufactured in slave-wage Bangladeshi factories, wrapped in fancy packaging, and piled around our Christmas trees.

According to Dr. Wood, in defending today’s kind of “Merry Excessmas” we may be unwittingly waging a war on Advent, and miss what Jesus’ birth is all about.

What it’s really about, of course, is a promised child being born in the dark of a Bethlehem stable, forced to flee as a refugee to Egypt and then grow up as a son of a lowly carpenter. It’s about one whose life mission was to announce good news to the poor, bring healing to the sick, offer release to prisoners, bring an end to violence and bloodshed, and to sacrificially give his life for all.

Feliz Navidad!

Harvey Yoder is a family counselor and teaches parenting and marriage classes at the Family Life Resource Center. Questions relating to family concerns can be addressed to FLRC, 273 Newman Ave., Harrisonburg, VA 22801 or to . His blog can be followed at


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