Church in Bethesda Blog
Putting the "X" Back in Xmas!
It may be a silly post for our first ever, inaugral blog in the newly redesigned website, but I was asked to blog about this, so here we go...
Earlier this week I was caught using the shortened version of Chirstmas, namely the infamous "Xmas," and the response was jokingly along the lines of, "Really!? You're a pastor, you can't do that!" In the insuing conversation it was brought out that many of us were raised believing that the use of this abbreviation was "taking Christ out of Christmas." Indeed, the Reverend Billy Graham is quoted to have called it "a war against the name of Jesus Christ." Although in his defense, I think he was also speaking about a larger movement to celebrate Christmas without the religious aspect.
But that holds it's own ironies... the church tradition in which I grew up did not believe that Christmas should have a religious element, because it wasn't to be found in the Bible. So we were taught that Christmas was NOT Jesus' birthday. We said "Merry Christmas" and did all the fun stuff with presents, but no one was ever caught wearing a "Happy Birthday Jesus" button. (Those things still make a little uncomfortable, lol.)
No, in fact this week was not the first time I heard someone state the opinion that using "Xmas" was a departure from a pure, orthodox Christmasanity. But really, the arguent just underscores the wholefully shortened view of history in general under which most Westerners labor in their day to day lives. And evangelical Xians are usualy the worst... at best, the acceptable evangelical church history only goes back about 500 years before, well, we'll leave it there.
"X" is arguably one of the oldest traditions we have for writing the name of Christ, especially among the mostly illiterate masses who lived more than 500 years ago. Dates vary and the usage has had it's own ebb and flow, but some scholars claim to trace the use of "X" (or the Greek letter Chi, hehehehe) all the way back to the First Century! Whoa! That's like there, man!
I've used Xians and Xianity and Xmas for quite a while. Really, my attention span was that short even before Twitter came to dominate our communication patterns. The truth is, I figured that if Paul says we can choose any day of the week to be set aside as special for gathering and worshipping God, we can probably use our choice of ways to spell Christmas, too. (Yeah, I did just say that, lol. And so did Paul in Romans 14.) Paul actually makes a great argument for diversity and the idea of us having different ways to think about a host if issues.
And let's be real, like friends. We live in a pluralist society, and that's a gift. Yes, Xianity was right there at the start, in the hearts and minds of many if not most of those whom we call our Founding Fathers, along with many other great women and men who shaped our nation's early years. Still, even as Xianity was the religion of choice for the vast majority of our citizens in our country's youth, they still crafted founding documents which set the stage for our greatness in diversity today. I think it was the liberating ideas of Xianity which opened the door for such meaningful diverisity in our country. So, what else are many in our society to do with a holiday like Xmas today, if they don't self-identify as Xians? They'll engage it as much as they can, and probably fashion something of their own that's very close to what you and I associate with Xmas, but not quite. And that's OK. Someone's non-religious practice of Xmas does nothing to lessen the meaning of our practice of the season. But X's have nothing to do with it, at least not historically. History is on X's side.
Here's my point... the reason someone uses "X" for Christ is a more a matter of taste than orthodoxy. And in this richly diverse, pluralistic society in which we live today, we need to remember the humility of a Savior who came to us in weakness and grace. In the interview we previsouly quoted the Rev. Graham also mentions that people [Xians] "are fighting back now," but that's a problem, not a solution. This season, of all seasons, is not about domination, winning and deafeating, even in an argument about the meaning of the season.
Jesus came annoucing his intention to free, to help, to heal and to share some good news with his neighbors. And we have the same opportunity. (That reference is about Jesus in Luke 4:16-21 using the words from Isaiah 61:1-3 to present himself and his ministry in his hometown Synagogue in Nazareth.)
So, put a big X in the box! I choose X! For me, it all comes full circle... I am of the infamous Generation X, I self-identify as a Xian, and I LOVE XMAS! And when people get knocked senseless in cartoons they have x's for eyes, and that's cool, too!
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