Keeping X in Xmas

Nativity scene on the 2001 Christkindlmarket in downtown Chicago. Wikipedia

Nativity scene on the 2001 Christkindlmarket in downtown Chicago. Wikipedia

It’s the Christmas season and stories about the “War on Christmas” are as plentiful as the After-Thanksgiving-Black-Friday-turned-Black-Thursday ads were a few weeks back.

Yesterday afternoon, WRVA’s new afternoon host Jeff Katz was talking about this story: Newton Christmas decorations cause controversy

In short, a family received an anonymous letter from their neighbors complaining about the family Christmas decorations.

And we’ve heard the school stories about kids who can’t say Santa or sing Christmas carols or, in one moronic case, were told they couldn’t even wear red or green at Christmas. At least that’s the story.

There are so many stories and so many variations; it’s hard to put this all in perspective. My own feelings are a bit mixed.

I wrote years ago that I didn’t feel threatened because the ACLU didn’t like my plastic Baby Jesus. But, so far, they haven’t told me I can’t put it up. In fact, I actually bought the whole set when stories started popping up about manger scenes being removed from public property.

Truth be told, those stories were less about the “separation of church and state” (which does not, I repeat, does not, exist the U.S. Constitution) than they were about someone with an agenda and a burr up their butt.

Whatever. I’m not being persecuted because there’s no manger scene on the courthouse lawn. Tell me I can’t have it in yard and we will have an issue.

Actually, you’ll have the issue. But that’s another story.

What is supposed to be the most joyful, peaceful, wonderful time of the year is riddled with stories that spread across the Internet. Whether it’s the President refusing to say “Christmas” (I’m not aware that he has) or so called holiday stories that distort the meaning of the savior’s birth we have a tendency to get all worked up and forget the whole “Peace on Earth and Goodwill” parts.

Let’s be fair though. There’s enough hysteria on both sides. Each year I contend with people who want to point out that “Merry Xmas” somehow “takes Christ out of Christmas.”

Um…no.

Once again, let’s learn the lesson. R.C. Sproul explains it rather nicely.

First of all, you have to understand that it is not the letter X that is put into Christmas. We see the English letter X there, but actually what it involves is the first letter of the Greek name for Christ. Christos is the New Testament Greek for Christ. The first letter of the Greek word Christos is transliterated into our alphabet as an X. That X has come through church history to be a shorthand symbol for the name of Christ.

No, I don’t say “Merry Xmas” or write that on my cards. Okay, actually I haven’t sent cards in years. But just because I don’t use it doesn’t mean I’m offended by it.

It’s not offensive to me. It’s Greek to me.

See what I did there?

I am often puzzled by the whines from the Christian community about persecution. Talk to 1st Century Christians about persecution.

Yes, there is a growing antagonism towards Christianity and the Church. That’s undeniable. But what puzzles me is why folks complain and don’t realize that indeed this is what Jesus said would happen. In fact, it’s a sign of things that will happen before he returns.

Jesus said:

Blessed are you when people insult you, persecute you and falsely say all kinds of evil against you because of me. Rejoice and be glad, because great is your reward in heaven, for in the same way they persecuted the prophets who were before you.
~ Matthew 5:11-12

Seems like, instead of complaining we should be saying “God bless us, every one.”

Not to mention the fact that having someone gripe about your Christmas decorations is far, far less severe than what some of our brothers and sisters face in countries where there’s real, militant opposition to Christianity.

That day isn’t here yet, but perhaps someday it will be. What I fear most of all is that the American church isn’t ready for the challenge. With the exception of those who left our borders, there aren’t many Americans who have literally had to defend their faith in fear of their life.

But here’s the thing about the “War on Christmas.” As I wrote last year,

The hatred and lawsuits and hysteria over Christmas displays really have nothing to do with the First Amendment or “Freedom from Religion.”

In the most basic of evangelical terms, it’s about conviction.

John Newton, who wrote the words to Amazing Grace (and as quoted in the movie) said, “Although my memory’s fading, I remember two things very clearly: I am a great sinner and Christ is a great Savior.”

Those who can’t, or won’t, admit that don’t like to be reminded.

In that post, I quoted Doug Giles who said “Transgression was the reason for the season.”

Indeed.

Look at it this way. It doesn’t matter that some of the Christmas traditions started out with other religions (or lack thereof). It doesn’t matter that December 25 was not the “real” date of Jesus’ birth. It doesn’t matter that people say “Happy Holidays” instead of “Merry Christmas.”

I could go on, but the point is this; all of the commercialism, all of the decorations, all of the controversy, each and every Christmas card or sappy Christmas song, all point back to the birth of a baby.

However we got to the commercial conglomerate that we now call Christmas (or nondescript name of your choice) we got there because of this:

She will give birth to a son, and you are to give him the name Jesus, because he will save his people from their sins.
~ Matthew 1:21

So, have yourself a merry little Xmas.

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