“We wish you a Merry Christmas,” says the old carol, and many of us echo that traditional greeting. But as we journey through this Christmas Season, we have come to think there are better Christmas greetings to offer. (Totally apart from the graciousness of wishing “happy holidays” to those who might observe other religious holidays.)
“Merry,” according to Merriam-Webster
, means “full of gaiety or high spirits: mirthful.” Now we're all for a good time, but when it comes to Christmas, “merry” seems a little ... trivial. Certainly, God coming to earth in human flesh should count for more than a little fun. My friends, we wish you so much more!
Merriam-Webster also notes an archaic meaning for “merry” – “giving pleasure: delightful.” That seems a better fit. “Delightful” means “highly pleasing.” Yes, we wish you a highly pleasing Christmas season. That certainly takes us a little deeper.
Still, we all know that delight is usually transitory. Offer ice cream to a child, and they are very likely to be delighted, but the delight might fade even before the ice cream melts.
In this season of Christmas, we wish you more than merriment, more than delight. We wish you a wondrous Christmas. Rabbi Abraham Joshua Heschel wrote
, “To pray is to take notice of the wonder, to regain the sense of the mystery that animates all beings…. Prayer is our humble answer to the inconceivable surprise of living.”
And joy – deep, abiding joy – should be our response to the wondrous, inconceivable surprise that God has chosen to dwell among us; that God has, amazingly, found our fallen world and our faltering lives worthy of the divine presence. As Kathleen Norris has written, the incarnation “reveals the ordinary circumstances of my life to be full of mystery, and gospel, which means, ‘good news.’”*
So, we do not simply wish you a merry Christmas season. We wish you a delightful Christmas, a wondrous Christmas, a Christmas of great joy.