By Jaime Jo Wright, Crosswalk.com
Let's be honest. Celebrating a religious holiday in the workplace has become more of a challenge. It's the whole don't talk religion or politics thing, and to a degree, it makes sense. However, for those of us passionate about our faith and the true meaning of Christmas, it's virtually impossible not to incorporate the birth of Christ into our celebrations at home and, yes, at work.
Different workplaces have varying degrees of tolerance for incorporating Christ into Christmas. Some places are particular that there are to be no religious elements to décor, music, etc., and even your greetings must be modified to eliminate the word "Christmas" in order to be neutral for all who hear and exchange greetings. Others aren't so discriminating and instead allow for a balanced mix between the two.
So how can you celebrate Jesus in a secular workplace? Especially if you've read the policy on how not to mention Jesus' birth?
There are so many opinions on how to handle this potential crisis of faith. From approaching HR to outright ignoring instructions, there are definitely more extreme avenues, and those are ones that this article isn't equipped to address.
Instead, let's talk about ways that may not be as assertive but are ways that you can still be a witness without being comprising or watering down your faith and without being outright confrontative for change—although an argument that one must stand for one's convictions can still be easily made.
1. Look for ways to work around the bias.
This isn't always easy, but in some places where "Merry Christmas" is frowned upon, phrases such as "have a blessed holiday" or "have a beautiful Advent" can be more acceptable. While in many ways, it means the same thing, it's a way to skirt the outright verbiage you've been instructed not to say while still incorporating hints that you mean something more than just a "happy holiday"—which frankly, in any religion or background is a pretty blah way to greet someone for a festive occasion.
In other words, look for other words that you can say that also support an element of faith. Unless you've been given one specific, non-negotiable script to say, there are many ways to be more meaningful in your Christmas greeting to customers and co-workers.
That being said, I was greeted the other day by a cashier who told me, "Happy holidays! But I really mean the other thing I cannot say!" We both had a good laugh, and then I walked away, being firmly reminded of the words "Merry Christmas" without her ever actually saying them!
2. Personalize your workspace.
Many workplaces put a limit of tolerance on religious decorations when it comes to the public eye and or an employee-shared workspace. But these same companies will often offer leeway regarding your personal space—if you have that. For example, your cubicle or office is a place you probably already decorate with photographs of your children, spouse, family, or dog. There are perhaps pictures your kids colored on the wall or filing cabinet. You brought in a house plant. A painting. In other words, you're allowed some leniency to personalize your workspace.
This means you very well may be allowed to do the same if you incorporate personal Christmas décor. For example, I worked in an office space that exploded with Santa Clause, but I had a small nativity scene on my desk. So many co-workers noted it and commented on it—some blatantly stating they weren't fans of the nativity and didn't see the point, but it was nice I had something of my own to look at. Because it was my personal space, it was allowed. It also opened doors for conversation when asked about it.
3. Christmas cards.
This is a personal extension of holiday congeniality; oftentimes, cards are exchanged within the workplace. Because it's something you're offering from yourself, the workplace more than likely will not censor your personal Christmas greeting.
You can be as subtle as giving a Christmas card with a general Christmas greeting or be more overt with a clear nativity message in your card. Perhaps your Christmas letter is filled with stories of how you and your family are celebrating the Christmas season and the remembrance of the birth of our Savior.
This could even be an outlet for you to put invites into your cards to your church's Christmas Eve service or Christmas morning service. Or perhaps a small tract that retells the Christmas story. Be creative. This is your opportunity to show your faith as a personal conviction but also an invitation to celebrate the birth of Christ with others. If nothing else, you may find more camaraderie within your workplace than you realized existed.
It's sad that what was once splayed in business window fronts, adorned the city square, was part of a simple and communal greeting, is now being carefully tip-toed around. Even fifty years ago, it was generally accepted that most had a religious background with some Christian roots. Therefore, the birth of Christ was a generalized part of Christmas, if not a belief.
This is no longer the case. The backgrounds of those around us are as diverse as they are critical, and finding ways to celebrate Christmas with the true intent of its historical importance to our faith, is difficult. So, while you go about this holiday season, keeping in mind the importance of not compromising on our faith, we must also keep in mind the effectiveness of sharing our faith and when and when not to speak out.
Sometimes these subtle ways are good opportunities to keep Christ in Christmas without going to combat over it. The time may come for you, but for some of us, we just want to recognize the soft simplicity of the quiet birth of Christ. His coming heralded much more turbulent times, and it wasn't long after His birth that that turbulence began to visit. But for now, in the silent night of his birth, perhaps we can find our own quiet ways to re-introduce Christ to a world that simply doesn't notice the importance of the manger in a stable in a small town.
In a way, it's not much different than the times in which Jesus was born. Herod sought his blood and slayed many infants in order to silence Jesus. The unwed mother, Mary, faced criticism and harsh judgment for a child she bore with an unbelievable tale of conception. An innkeeper offered a stable which was more than likely a cave filled with dirty straw and manure—not to mention contentious animals vying for space.
And yet, in the turmoil, the resistance, and the outright preference to ignore His coming—Jesus still came. Quietly. For a moment. Into the stillness. A beacon of light and hope.
May you spread that light and hope into your workplace this year, and may the Christ child give you the guidance and the voice with which to speak and with which to remain silent for another day.
Jaime Jo Wright is an ECPA and Publisher’s Weekly bestselling author. Her novel “The House on Foster Hill” won the prestigious Christy Award and she continues to publish Gothic thrillers for the inspirational market. Jaime Jo resides in the woods of Wisconsin, lives in dreamland, exists in reality, and invites you to join her adventures at jaimewrightbooks.com and at her podcast madlitmusings.com where she discusses the deeper issues of story and faith with fellow authors.