Keeping Christ in Christmas and Christian
Tis the season, the season when Christians get worked up about how the rest of the world around us refers to this holiday we know as Christmas. I am not sure, but I must have received at least twenty emails encouraging me to only shop in stores where they say “Merry Christmas” or to correct those who say “Happy Holidays” or some other variety of greeting that does not specifically use the word Christmas.
This cultural battle gets fought every year on a couple of fronts. One is the Christmas vs. Holiday, etc. front. I’ll get to that shortly. The other is the Christmas vs. Xmas front. First, a little history. The letter X looks a lot like the Greek letter chi (pronounced “key” and written “X”). This is the first letter in the Greek word for Christ. Christians have used this symbol for centuries to refer to Christ. Examples include Xmas and Xian.
But the truth is that in our culture at large, and sadly in the church as well, few are conscious that the X stands for Christ. I have heard it proposed that in today’s culture, the x is more commonly seen in mathematical terms. X is the unknown factor. When you use the term Xmas, you are replacing Christ with the unknown. I am not sure this is a very strong argument for at least a couple of reasons. The first is based on observation. Look at society. Mathematics as a science is based on truth, reason, and logic. Do you really think our culture thinks in those terms? I think Christmas (as a day and an occasion) is so deeply ingrained into our culture that when people see the term Xmas they think of Christmas. They may not think of Christ, but they think of Christmas. The other reason I do not think the x factor argument is very strong is based on Scripture. In the book of Acts at Mars Hill, did Paul not use an example of the unknown to demonstrate and reveal the known? How about instead of becoming militant about the term Xmas we could start to use it as a starting point to tell our culture about the One the X represents.
The second front on which we seem to fight the Christmas cultural battle every year is in the Merry Christmas vs. Happy Holidays, etc. battle. From a purely pragmatic view, Happy Holidays is appropriate. In the space of about five weeks we have three fairly major holidays: Thanksgiving, Christmas, and New Year. In terms of using one greeting, this one holds up for quite a while.
It seems that most of the ones we rail against regarding their seasonal greetings are in the retail industry. The last time I checked, these are not generally seen as Christian religious organizations. Their job is to make a profit. It helps to not alienate your Jewish, Muslim, non-religious, etc. customers. Besides, if Christmas is at its core a Christian holiday, and a good many of the ones we deride for not using the word Christmas are not Christians, why would we expect them to use the word Christmas. Religiously, it does not mean anything to them. Why do we find it so odd that an unbeliever would behave like an unbeliever? Again, the truly Christian thing to do would be to gracefully use the opportunity to introduce them to the one the holiday is named after.
Look, if the word Christmas is important to you, use it proudly. Just do not be arrogant. Be graceful. This is a time of year when more people go to church than usual. Every kind of radio station plays Christian (Christmas) music. Many people are in a good mood and open to conversations because of the season. Lovingly take advantage of this witnessing opportunity God has given us. For the person who does not know Christ, the term Merry Christmas carries no more significance than Happy Holidays or Season’s Greetings. Without Christ, Christmas has no deep significance at all.
I agree that we should not take Christ out of Christmas. But more importantly, we should not take Christ out of Christian.