How do you greet a family member, good friend, or fellow church member? Do you greet them with a smile or hug? Often we in the south inquire either sincerely or by rote, “How are you doing?” (How ya doin?) or “Doing OK”? If you are sincerely interested in them, we listen attentively to their answer of happiness or illness. This shows we really care about them.
Is this different from how you greet a casual acquaintance? Do you really care about their answers? Are you interested in their health or life situation?
We have just ended several weeks of greeting one another with “Merry Christmas.” “Merry” means joyful, happy, celebratory; “Christmas” comes from “Christ Mass” or the Eucharist of Christ. This phrase was used as early as 1534 when John Fish used it to greet Thomas Cromwell. Charles Dickens in 1843 used this same phrase in “The Christmas Carol.” Also in 1843, the first ever Christmas card was produced for purchase.
“Merry Christmas,” although appropriate for all to use, is especially appropriate for Christians. What could be merrier than a time set aside in our calendar to celebrate and be joyful over the birth of the child sent from God to provide a direct bridge to our Heavenly Father? Unfortunately, it is possible to get so involved in parties, decorating, getting, and receiving gifts that Christmas becomes more of a secular celebration than a religious one.
As we wish each other a “Happy New Year,” are we thinking of parties and countdowns to a new year or decade? (Yes, I am aware of the controversy over when the new decade actually begins.) Are we reminded that this is a time to renew our commitments, to clean up our image/life, to turn away from bad habits, to search out the good that we have in ourselves, and to share this good with others. This is a time to concentrate on making others happy even if that only means to really pay attention to others and their needs and to share ourselves and our love for God.
In the Bible, Christians greeted other Christ followers in such a way as to affirm their mutual beliefs. Often salutations mentioned God’s grace and peace or His love and mercy. Second Thessalonians 1:2 says, “Grace and peace to you from God the Father and the Lord Jesus Christ.” Would it feel awkward or stilted to greet one another by saying “Peace to you” or “God share His mercy with you”?
Our pastor has a lovely way of combining the farewell to our church service with our re-entrance into our everyday world: “May you find hope in every day, joy in every moment, peace in every place, and the love of God in your heart. For it is in the name of Jesus Christ that we have met to worship, and it is in the name of Jesus Christ that we go to live and serve.”
On the front of our church’s order of worship we see our motto “Gathered to Worship and Scattered to Serve.” Driving out of our church driveway, we see a sign that instructs us to “go and make disciples of all nations.” (Matthew 28:19a)
May our greetings and farewells reflect WHO we were and WHOSE we are!