The thing I resent most at this season is the naked predatory greed and lust for power that some cynics display as they futilely attempt to cloak their true intentions with a mantle of phony piousness. Bad enough if they just mouthed these empty phrases, but these bat-rastards use their not inconsiderable media and market clout the make others feel guilty and afraid for not allowing themselves to be exploited yet again by these frauds. Want a text book example of invoking the Lord's name in vain? This is it. To this particular caste of blasphemer I say this: Hell Awaits.
I roll my eyes and feel more pity than disgust for the bulk of their victims. These are people who -- through lack of intelligence, education, curiosity, intellectual courage, individual initiative, or reflective meditation -- either allow themselves to get caught up in the false moral panics of the blaspheming class or through sheer inertia allow themselves to be swept along with the mob. Many of these people believe they are sincere -- and I will say at the core of their being there probably is some desire for goodness -- but by refusing to engage their brains they become the handmaidens of evil.
There are any number of curmudgeons out there who use the two above examples to excuse their own personal rudeness. It's no skin off their noses, no hair off their collective posteriors if someone wishes them a Merry Christmas. Smile and wish them a Merry Christmas right back, the same way you'd wish a Happy Hanukkah, a Rollicking Ramadan, or a Momentous May Day to the followers of those particular creeds. It is never wrong to wish someone has a good holiday even if one is not personally participating.
As has been observed elsewhere, do we really need to give presents to anyone over the age of 12? The gift giving aspect of Christmas should be limited to young children who can't go to the store or online to acquire what they want. Everybody else, give cash or gift cards, or donate to a medical or hunger charity in their name. (Indeed, it could and has been argued that we shouldn't give any gifts at all, that it only encourages the cynical exploiters of the holiday, but human nature being what it is, I don't see this happening.)
I enjoy the fabulous and folk theology aspects of Christmas: I seen no harm in telling children fairy tales about jolly fat men sliding down chimneys with bags of toys, flying reindeer, magical snowmen, or condensing approximately two years worth of Biblical history into a single one-night event. Those are stories / fables / parables / metaphors for the true meaning behind the holidays. Non-believers can enjoy the stories on a plain text level, believers can find deeper content. And let's put the krampus back in Christmas!
Seriously, you got any idea how many contemporary Christmas traditions are pagan in origin? What the early church did brilliantly was to incorporate popular / local culture into their belief with a patina of Christianity. That Germanic warlord with the pagan wife found his home life a lot easier when the local priest signed off on yule logs, she felt less threatened when the church allowed her to continue using traditional symbols (albeit with a patina of new meaning).
Folks, we have absolutely no idea what month or day of the week Christ was born. There's a 1-in-365/6 chance we got it right. It's not a celebration of His birthday, it's a celebration of His birth.
Emmanuel = God is with us. The name had been used before, but only in a spiritual / symbolic / metaphorical sense. God was there, He just wasn't...here.
But the birth of Christ tore apart the physical veil separating God and humanity. Emmanuel now means "God is among us". He came to fulfill all that needed to be fulfilled in order for us to be finally reconciled with him.
The story of Christ is one of two great peaks of joy, the Nativity and the Resurrection, with hills and valleys of every other human emotion in between. To those of us who believe, there should be no threat, no fear that can mar the holiday (the holy day) for us.
For those who do not believe, we say: