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Taking Christ out of Christ-mas

“Happy Holidays"—is what many greeting cards read, and most people say in retail stores. Why is it that in the holiday season about God sending Christ ("the anointed one"), so many are afraid to say a word that includes His name? I think it is because most are fearful of the outcome; they are worried they may offend someone by talking about a religious holiday. I don't know about you, but when my Jewish friends say "Happy Hanukkah," I am not offended. It is a Happy Hanukkah. I join my Jewish friends in celebrating liberty from the oppressive Roman rulers. So then why is “Christmas” and the “Christ” of “Christ-mas” taboo?

The answer is simple: Political correctness drives faith out of people. It is okay to believe in change, or have faith in America, but faith in Jesus is not.

The first time the problem of taking “Christ” out of “Christ-mas” became real to me was in fourth grade when a girl in my class shouted out, "I now know how I can remember to spell Christmas, it is just 'Christ' with 'mas' an the end of the word." My teacher replied, "Good job”; all the while I was thinking, "How did you not know that already?" But the girl wasn't dense, it was that she had never been taught the reason why we celebrate. Her Christmas was likely bleak and full of empty tradition because there was no “Christ” in it.

In the shopping mall, I see bags that say "Believe." But without something to "believe" in, the word is empty, and so is the season. Marketers and politicians love to talk about abstract “belief,” but what is the direct object of belief? Where is our belief heading? If it is not towards a belief in something higher than ourselves, at the end of the season, we will be left feeling empty once again. And worst of all, our spirits, the shelters, and the food banks will be left broken and hurting again.

So where is the "Christ" who is at the root of the word "Christmas"? I often hear people tell me that they can’t feel God, or hear Him, and therefore can’t believe anymore. I usually respond with, “Are you open to feeling Him? Do you listen for His voice? If God came to you, would you recognize Him?” For most people, the answer is "no."

It is not that God has stopped speaking; it is that we have stopped listening. It is not that God has stopped revealing Himself to us; it is that we are convinced we can’t feel His presence. We don’t recognize God in our world, because we have chosen to shut Him out.

Jesus isn’t Santa. He is not myth. He was a real guy, who really did walk the earth. No historian would deny that, they would just deny who He was, like many people in His own generation. The question you have to ask yourself is: What do you have to lose by seeking out Jesus? Are you worried you will look like a fool? What if you are making a fool out of God by not seeking Him out? What if God thinks you are being foolish?

This Christmas season, I have completely reexamined my life, asking in every situation, what is my motivation? Why do I buy things? What will this thing I am buying do for the world? How will it help the poor? I have realized just how far I have to go; just how far I am from being like the God in flesh that came to world.

Let's all make an effort to put the "Christ" back in "Christ-mas," this season by participating in what God did. Let’s try “belief” in the direct object “Jesus,” and in doing so witness change in our family and friends. Go ahead. Give it a try. God is waiting. He forgave me for my mistakes, and His Son is waiting to forgive you as well.

If you are curious about all of this, drop me a comment, or send me a private message through Conversant.

Let me know what you think.

Comments

I've got to be honest, the whole "keep Christ in Christmas" business is really beginning to annoy me. In my experience (and I don't necessarily think you are guilty of this) this whole thing has degenerated into a matter of words. We want stores to say the right words because to some extent we believe that saying "Merry Christmas" helps to keep Christ the reason for season. But is that really true? Is it really true that the slogan focuses our attention onto the reason for Jesus Christ?

Further, should this be something that Christians get all up in arms about? Is it Christ-honoring for us to get upset about non-Christians not paying lip service to him? Is this the best way to keep Christ the reason for this season ourselves, by campaigning for the world to simply say "Merry Christmas"?

Hi Jesse,

Thanks for your comment.

I agree, just saying "Merry Christmas" doesn't mean that "Christ" is now back in "Christ-mas," as the story of the girl in my class as a kid illustrates. There is so much more to it than just saying "Merry Christmas." Nonetheless, just how taboo the phrase has become in some circles does tell us a lot about the state of our society and culture. So taboo in fact that I know many Christians who will not use those words in public out of fear of offending someone.

I also agree that there are better ways to spread who Christ is during the Christmas season than trying to get those who do not know Him say "Merry Christmas." For example, helping the poor and the needy. I cannot tell you how many times I have had people want to know about Christianity because of the work I do with the hurting.

Our campaign needs to be about helping the widowed, the orphaned, the sick, and the poor; and for me, saying "Merry Christmas" will is a part of that campaign. What other people want to do with the phrase is up to them, although it deeply saddens me to see it fall out of use.

--John

John
Thanks for putting this out on the table for some (hopefully) rational discussion. I can see this from both your point of view and Jesse's. When I was in 4th grade, 50 years ago, we made plaster of Paris nativity sets in class. The one Jewish student was given different molds to make another project. I am nostalgic for that era and feel our society has gone down hill since then. But I can sympathisize with my later classmates, whose families passed through Manzanar in WW II or suffered through de jure segregation in the South, that this era doesn't hold a lot of nostalgia for them now.
Having worked in a Muslim country for a number of years, I'm happy that I have the privilege of greeting people with Merry Christmas without worrying about what greeting they return. I believe that our American society has an increasingly anti-Christian bias and an increasingly immoral culture, but we do not yet compare with conditions in many parts of the world or that of Imperial Rome in New Testament times. It is instructive to see Paul's attitude toward the government and culture of his time. He tells us to pray for and respect governmental authority, even though he could see his own fate coming at the hand of this same government. He was not outraged or indignant but asked that Philippian Christians would pray for him and he himself appealed for help from the Spirit of Jesus Christ (not that political solutions to repression and public immorality would be achieved but) that Christ would be honored whether by Paul's life or by his death.
I do think that we should take advantage of the freedom we have and the increased opportunity we have at Christmas and Easter to communicate our faith. Of course with James we should be feeding and clothing the needy and be able say, "...I by my works will show you my faith."
doc

Doc,

Thank you for these thoughtful and insightful words. I think you have made many excellent points. You brought some things to my attention I had not thought about before.

As you have pointed out, the Paul and James theological convergence in the canonical New Testament sheds great insight on how we should approach our (dare I say, sometimes Imperial and anti-Christian) culture. We, like Paul and James, are faced with ministering to a culture that views Jesus as nothing but a man, and the Christian faith as un-American, in the sense that it demands one truth and way, over the other ways on offer. Despite what some want to say, Christianity cannot be politically correct. After all, they crucified Jesus and most of his apostles, because they were anti-Empire and anti-comfortable truth.

It is our job, like Jesus, Paul and James to not oppose our culture by attempting to tell everyone they should worship on a Christian holiday like a Christian, but by trying to educate our culture about our risen Lord by demonstrating good will towards humanity with our actions. We must teach both by what we do and what we say.

--John

John,
The Greek "Ixthus" or "Icthus" uses the letters "IXOYE" meaning Jesus Christ God's Son Savior. Knowing then that "X" stands for Christ, can we assume that those who try to take Christ out of Christmas by calling it Xmas, have not taken Him out at all?

Hi Crash,

Thanks for the comment.

I actually talked about the Greek meaning of "X-Mas" in my original post (prior to edits), but decided to save that discussion for another time. Nonetheless, I am glad you brought it up. As you pointed out, the "X" in "X-Mas" comes from the first letter of the Greek word Christos, chi. ("Christ" in Greek is spelled XPIETOE, and pronounced christos). And yes, this same principal is at work in the acronym "IXOYE" (pronounced, "ichthous"; of course, the third letter in the acronym is a theta -- the closest look-alike I could find quickly in HTML, without typing in Unicode is an "O"). Thanks for bringing up an acronym many are familiar with to explain this concept.

So, in spite of many people's attempts to use X-Mas to take Jesus out of Christmas; they are actually still talking about "Christ"-"Mas."

--John

Do your Christmas shopping in stores that acknowledge Christmas.

Merry Christmas,
John Finucane

John,

Thanks for the comment.

I could do my shopping only in stores that acknowledge Christmas, but that is not really the point of my post. (And just for the record, I do shop in stores that don't acknowledge Christmas.)

For clarity's sake, here's what I was getting at: The lack of acknowledgment of Christmas and what we are to believe in (which in my opinion is Jesus), tells us something about our culture and where we are heading. I was further pointing out that each of us should seriously evaluate why we celebrate Christmas and attempt to look at it from a different angle.

--John

The world is only as strong as the individual.
as is the nation, as is the government, as is the state, as is
the city, as is the family. The strength of the individual is only as
strong as his/her Faith in God and any hope their God brings.
After many studies, the only God who brings Hope is the God
of Abraham, who claims redemption by the means of His Only
Son, who was without sin, for the soul of the individual,
through the mediator Jesus Christ. When the individual who
can't see the importance of keeping Christ in his affairs, or
keeping him/or herself in God's affairs, then that is the problem
and magnified by how many individual's have those issues.
So as for me, an individual, I will stand for keeping Christ in my
own personal life (my thoughts and intents of my heart) and
because of that, it causes me to tell others not to be silenced.
Have a great eternity...it starts by asking Jesus Christ to forgive
you, and live for Him, not for yourself in His name.

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The Infinite God is everywhere, are you looking? I am dedicated to finding God in all aspects of life – the Bible, the news, and the arts. Because I find that the most fulfilling journey of all is searching for heaven here on earth.