02 December 2007

Putting the X in Christmas

The sermon this morning was entitled "Get Thee Behind Me Santa" (sic). It was slightly muddled, and Debbie and I spent time after church discussing it, trying to figure out exactly what the pastor's point had been. We eventually concluded that he was really trying to convey, "Don't get all bent out of shape about the world supposedly taking the Christ out of Christmas until you make sure there is clearly a Christ in the Christian of your own life."

Debbie and I had some long talks about which of the traditional Christmas activities are mere cultural trappings (answer: most, and often with pagan origins), and which ones actually have anything to do with the birth of Christ (answer: almost none). If I see a sign advertising "Xmas Trees", why should it bother me? I don't care if people remove mention of the Christ child in their commercialization of a fir tree that is totally irrelevant to Jesus the Anointed Messiah. In fact, I'd prefer it. Feel free to leave Christ (who was probably not even born on or near December 25) out of your decorative traditions drawn from various ancient Europeans practices of pagan celebration of the winter solstice.

Please note: I am not against participation in culturally relevant festivities, even those with pagan origins. I am fully in support of having a good, solid festive atmosphere, celebrating the arrival of the winter solstice, leading to a new year while remembering the bounty of the old, etc. etc. etc. I am just opposed to the conflation of such traditions with the celebration of the commemorative holy Christ Mass. The pagan and Christian celebrations can (and do) happen simultaneously, and we need only to take care to distinguish between what is sacred and what is secular (which is not to say, bad), so that we as Christians can lead balanced lives of spiritual and intellectual integrity. It's okay, nay even good, to go a-wassailing, if you know what such activity does and does not entail, and if you are comfortable with the spirit that you are representing in your activity. You can accept that humans participate in human activities together, and embrace that aspect of God's creation of humankind. And you can know what it means that from darkness came a great Light, and a Child was born who is the Savior for all humanity, if we will accept Him. If there is Christ in you as a Christian, then your life will offer worship at a Christ Mass that lasts all year long, not just on one day. And you can feel free to light a menorah for Hanukkah, burn a Yule log or hang holly, pretend to believe in Santa, or do... well, whatever it is that people do for Kwanzaa, because your heart is right with God and you can enjoy all His good gifts to His people.

And that is why I don't mind if a non-Christian celebrates Xmas instead of Christmas, or refers only to "the holidays". After all, it's only natural that he would be seeing only the human side of the party season. It is not our duty as Christians to press such a person with criticisms and accusations about something he doesn't even recognize. Rather, we should present him with an invitation to go to the heavenly party, as well as displaying to him a clear reason why he would want to join us. Show an unbeliever Christ, with actions and words.

6 comments:

Willow said...

Good thoughts. I know what I celebrate and if I want a nativity scene I can put it on my front lawn (if I had one). Actually, I want to be authentic in my worship at Christmas as a Christian so I choose to not put Santas up in my house. Did you ever notice?
my word verification letters are, in part, XMES

Ben said...

Is an Xmas tree as bad as as a Holiday tree? I've seen stores now advertising holiday trees for sale instead of Christmas (or Xmas) trees.

Mama Mia said...

I really enjoyed your post, sis! You articulated perfectly some of the things that have been bumbling around in my head recently. Because we have to say 'Happy Holidays' at work, it got me thinking and, honestly, made me laugh! People might get mad if I say Merry Christmas, but I have no issue if they tell me Happy Kwanza or something else. I just think that 'tolerance' issues are funny, since everyone is a hypocrite in some way or other.

Mama Mia said...

One more random thought-- the only thing I don't really like about the whole Santa thing is deceiving one's children. I know it is all for fun and festivity, but I don't think I would want to purposely deceive my child, especially about such a silly thing.

Random, I know. But that's how I feel about it.

Graf Spee said...

Deb,
I agree with you on all of it. One point, though. Remember that using X for Christ probably predates the celebration of Christmas. (IXThUS)Ancient Greek abbreviations and all that...

Kiti said...

Dan, of course, the use of X in Xmas is not actually "crossing Christ out of Christmas". It is abbreviation of the Greek: IS XS, but in Greek font, is an abbreviation for Iesus Christus, common in inscriptions, mosaics, etc.