Adapted slightly from my church newsletter article archives of December 2010, wherein I offered the following modest proposal:
QUIT talking about putting the Christ back into Christmas! (please????)
Yes, that’s coming from this pastor, duly ordained as a minister of the gospel, Jesus Christ is my Lord and Savior and — before you ask — I do love Christmas. I love the Christmas carols, the wonderful smells, the delicious food, the colorful lights, the family gatherings, the decorated church and homes, the Advent wreath, the Bible story, and I love celebrating the birthday of Jesus. So, it’s not that I have one thing against Christ or Christmas! I’m asking you to quit fighting a “war on Christmas” and see the season in a new way:
- Be logical: Christmas (the word) always has Christ (the first syllable) in it. You can’t take the Christ out of Christmas, even if you try!
- Be historically informed: If it irritates or offends you to see Christmas spelled as Xmas, please know that X is not our letter X. X is really χ, the Greek letter “chi” (pronounced KIE, rhymes with “pie”) which is the first letter of the Greek word “Christos” meaning “anointed”. χ began to be used as a shorthand way to write Christ’s name in 16th century Europe by monks and scholars who knew the Greek origins of using χ. Xmas does keep the Christ in Christmas and is not a sign of disrespect. Remember that no one ever called Jesus Christ by his English name anyway!
- Be polite: When a server or a salesperson or a checkout helper says “Happy Holidays” it is not our cue to teach them a lesson by replying, with force, “Merry Christmas!” I heard a great quote recently: “Knowledge is knowing a tomato is a fruit and wisdom is knowing not to put it in a fruit salad.” As Christians, what we proclaim is not Christmas; what we proclaim is Jesus Christ. They’ll know we are Christians by our love, not because we put them in their place. If you do have people you must teach, then:
- Be accurate: The season we Christians celebrate before December 24/25 is not Christmas, but Advent. If we are going to teach Christian Christmas tradition, then we would teach that Christian Christmas (“Merry Christmas!”) begins on Dec. 25, or when the Christ candle is lit on Christmas Eve. Or . . . go ahead and be merry, not accurate!
- Be open: People celebrate a variety of holidays during this season. Some people celebrate more than one. We like to go ahead and celebrate Christmas (early!), so why not be open to the many celebrations (plural) of the season: Kwanzaa, Hanukkah, the day the boss gave you a half day off for the Christmas party, your Christmas vacation days from work. Expand! Jesus did. “Happy holidays” spreads the joy!
- Be doers of the word and not hearers (or talkers) only (see James 1:22 & Matthew 7:24-27): Let’s keep Christmas holy in the things we do. Attend worship regularly. Make celebrations more about love than things. Spend more time than money on loved ones. Make a gift to the mitten tree at church. Dust off your Bible and bring it to church. Come back to Sunday School again. Put the Christ back into everyday life, not just back into Christmas.
- Lighten up! Share the spirit of the season, which is full of fantastic things that Jesus himself did not ordain specifically. Enjoy the holidays, as many holly-jolly-holidays as you are offered or can take for yourself.
I look forward to Christmas Eve at our church (or yours!) as we celebrate Christmas together!