Sunday I touched on what has become one of the annual angst generating debates in our nation, a so called “War on Christmas” where many insist that all good devout religious folk should demand we be told “Merry Christmas” by store clerks and that public displays have Christmas trees instead of the horror of mere Holiday trees or a more generic Happy Holiday greetings.
The irony, of course, is that such a stance overlooks that there are more than one Christian Holy Days in this season. That the days of Advent – a time of prayer and preparation, are themselves, Holy Days – and that Christmas lasts 12 holy days after the 25th, well into the secular calendar’s New Year. Further – the word Holiday itself derives from these Holy Days! So yes, a “generic” greeting is in part an acknowledgment of other faith traditions – but that very generic greeting itself shows how large an influence Christians have had on our culture – to be offended by that is the height of irony and a lack of historical insight. Further, if we’re seeking Jesus in the secular, cultural, shopping frenzy, then we’re looking in the wrong place.
A few years ago there was similar faux outrage over using the term Xmas. It was, I’m told, yet another way “they” – whoever “they” are – were trying to “take Christ out of Christmas!” Nevermind that the “X” comes from the Greek letter Chi, which is the first letter of the Greek word Χριστός, which means… “Christ”. Using the first letter of a word was, and is, a common shorthand – not a removal. Xmas is ancient, and valid.
Instead of being offended, these are opportunities to expand our own focus and awareness of the holiness that surrounds us, and that we are called, always, to share through our every word and action. The Christ many easily offended folks seek to honor was God’s anointed one, God become flesh, Emmanuel – God with us. I think we should learn from the life Jesus led – he was a person who easily crossed divisions, was gracious to those different from him, included the outsider. He certainly did not tone down or diminish his own faith, but he didn’t insist others honor it with lip service – instead he invited others to see, hear, and experience God’s presence in and through his life. In my opinion, that is what Christ followers today should be doing to. If we want to “keep” Christ in Christmas we ought to BE Christ this Christmas – and all the year round. Blessings on your journey.