I did a little last minute holiday shopping this morning. As I checked out at one of the stores downtown, I asked the clerk if she and her co-workers had been instructed not to say “Merry Christmas.” “Oh, please!” she groaned, rolling her eyes, “I just say ‘Have a nice day.’ ” I asked if that was OK with her and she shrugged and replied that she didn’t want to offend anyone. So, in the midst of silver and gold sparkly garlands, velvet-clad Santas, fake holly and faker mistletoe, and jingle music filling the air, she was smiling and wishing people to “Have a nice day.” The store in which she worked was going for the big Christmas shopping bucks but could not give it a name. Someone might be offended.

The topic is hotter than ever this year. News reporters compete to come up with the most outrageous tale of Christmas white-washing, such as kids being sent home from school for wearing Santa Claus garb. Even more ridiculous are the Christmas believers who do want the clerks to say “Merry Christmas” instead of “Happy Holidays.” They’re talking about boycotting stores that don’t allow the Merry Christmas wishers. They could stand together on a protest line with the Christmas wishers and the Seasons Greeters. Guaranteed one thing: Nobody’s going to be happy and everybody’s going to be offended.

Remember when we had small Christmas trees at school and decorated them with colored chains made out of construction paper, maybe a little popcorn and cranberries? It wasn’t a religious thing; it was tradition. And it’s been eliminated.

Is the world a better place because we’ve watered down Christmas holidays that we used to share?

When Scrooge saw the light and gave Bob Cratchitt a holiday dinner and the day off, he didn’t say “Have a nice day. “ When Santa “filled all the stockings and turned with a jerk” he didn’t say “Seasons Greetings and to all a goodnight.”

You never heard Bing Crosby singing “I’m dreaming of a White Holiday.”

This madness is reaching fever pitch. And it’s all in the name of not offending anyone. Well, you know what offends me? Hurricane victims living in squalor because their government has let them down big-time; bright young men and women being shipped off to fight a war that no one has a clue how to end; my country refusing to address global warming because somebody might have to pay a lot of money to clean up the mess we’ve created. I’m offended that earthquake victims in Pakistan received magnificent pledges from all over the world, including the U.S.A., and are still waiting for the money. I’m offended that poor people in my own area will be cold and hungry this winter.

If we can’t share holidays that only require a little goodness in the world, the light of joy will only flicker.

There’s a man in our church who sometimes says “Shalom” when it comes time to offer a sign of peace. I love that!!!

And so I say to all my friends of every belief, or no belief, Merry Christmas!