Keeping Christ in Christmas

Thanksgiving has come and gone, we have survived the national scrum we call Black Friday, and now December is here. Soon, if not already, we will hear the annual refrain, “keep Christ in Christmas.” It happens every year and we will see it on sweatshirts, pins, billboards, Twitter, Facebook, and even websites devoted to the expression.

The point of concern seems to center on three activities that many see as a “war on Christmas.” Specifically they are the use of “Happy Holidays” rather than “Merry Christmas,” replacing Christmas with Xmas, and the blocking of crèches in the public square. For many, there is a real attack on Christmas. Even today I read of a particular campaign this year that is, and I quote, “designed to oppose secular and commercial dilution of the true meaning of Christmas.”

Some things strike me as odd about the campaign’s purpose causing me to raise questions. For example, why should believers expect non-believers to be the purveyors of the holy aspect of Christmas? Do we really think compelling a cashier at a retail store to say Merry Christmas rather than Happy Holidays in any way sanctifies that exchange? And is it not somewhat hollow if the cashier is Hindu, Muslim, or in any way non-Christian? Shouldn’t we cut the retailers some slack? After all they are trying to attract and serve a diverse population, some of whom celebrate other holiday traditions or none at all. And while we are talking about commercial dilution, dare we look at our checkbook stubs, credit cards, and all the loot under the tree and think the dilution it is the fault of the retailers. Then there are those who wouldn’t think of telling someone about Christ during the previous eleven months and all of a sudden will get all indignant about the use of His name in December. Quite a few of these never think twice of saying “O my God” or “Jesus” in a less than reverent way or as a thoughtless exclamation. Which brings us to Xmas.

Just to clear things up, Xmas should be read as Christmas not exmas.  The Merriam-Webster dictionary in part defines Xmas as, “ X (symbol for Christ, from the Greek letter chi (X), initial of Christos Christ) + -mas (in Christmas).” As Dr. Dennis Bratcher puts it, “Understanding this use of Christian symbolism might help us modern day Xians focus on more important issues of the Faith during Advent, and bring a little more Peace to the Xmas Season.”

Perhaps to some I am sounding like an apologist for those who do not put much stock in the holy part of Christmas. Not at all! I just think that we who are believers would be better served by lighting candles rather than cursing the darkness. Would it not be better if we doubled-down on keeping Christ in Christmas? What if in response to “Happy Holidays,” we say something on the order of, “Thank you and may Jesus who is the Christ of Christmas bless you abundantly.” What if we invited more non-Christians to dinner during this season, baked cookies and delivered them to our neighbors just to thank them for being good neighbors, or stuck a twenty dollar bill in an envelope with a Christ honoring note and gave it to a waiter in addition to a tip. What if we Christians made sure that we kept Christ in Christmas in all of our dealings with others? What if we continued the practice throughout the year? That just may lead to the societal transformation we are not achieving by getting our dander up once a year.

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