Merry Christmas mystery has once again struck the town of Redmond, Wash. courtesy of unidentified secret agents of holiday cheer at work to spread the joy and the message of Christmas. This is the third year in a row that signs reading, “It’s OK to say, Merry Christmas” have appeared around the town with no indication of who is responsible for posting the placards. Underneath the slogan, the text of Romans 1:16 appears, proclaiming no shame in sharing the gospel, making it clear that Christian motivations are behind the signs’ yearly arrival to quietly protest the annual conflicts over the suitability of Christmas celebrations vs. other winter festivals.
For the most part, residents are not bothered by the signs, although some express reservations about the motivations for doing this year after year. An anonymous resident questions the use of resources and money for the Merry Christmas project that could possibly bless others in a more practical fashion. This person seems to be concerned that the movement is growing with the addition of evangelical cards to take and share this year. He or she wonders why the secret agents going to all the work it takes to post the signs and what their ultimate goal is in displaying the message so prominently near public access places such as churches, schools and city hall.
A local pastor supports the sentiment and joy of the season and respect for religion as a part of the culture, but cautions people to not forget to give regard to people celebrating other winter festivals such as Hanukkah, Kwanzaa or winter solstice. Another resident points out that a person does not have to be religious to celebrate Christmas so the expression is fairly neutral on a larger cultural scale. Others are happy for the efforts to remind people that in spite of the secularization of the holiday, the origin of Christmas celebrations does stem from a desire to celebrate Christ’s birth. Mayor John Marchione takes no issue with the signs, holding them to be allowable free speech in the same genre as political signs. Therefore, the city does not plan to remove the signs.
Whoever the secret sponsor or agency behind the ongoing mystery, the signs do a good job of reminding viewers that Christmas is more than bargain shopping, vacation from work and holiday parties. Although some in the last several years have objected to various Christian Christmas displays around the country and retailers have clamped down on allowing employees to wish customers a “Merry Christmas” rather than a generic “Happy Holidays,”resident Janice Malone defended the rights of Christians to express their opinion same as any other group. The movement seems to have a website as well which tells the biblical story of Christmas but offers no further clues as to the identity of the instigators of the Merry Christmas signs. No matter who the secret agents are, they are pretty straightforward about their motivation: to encourage people to pause amidst the hustle and bustle of the holiday and remember that Jesus is the true meaning of Christmas.
Opinion by Tamara Christine Van Hooser
Image Courtesy of Eric Kilby – Flickr License