Putting The X Back Into Xmas

 

Well, it’s that time of the year again.

No, I’m not talking about the holiday season.

I’m talking about the fact that it’s called the holiday season and not the Christmas season. That’s right, I’m talking about the war on Christmas!

Funny thing about the supposed war on Christmas. It’s been going on, or at least fears about it, for a lot longer than cable news or the internet might lead you to believe.

How long?

Well, as I was combing through an old newspaper I found amongst a collection of my late grandfather’s old books, I found an article urging the faithful to stand up and fight against the war on Christmas.

That paper dated from the 1930s.

So why the continued furor and outrage today?

I think it stems from at least two places. The first, is the need to sell ads on television and rack up hits on internet sites. Controversy sells. Literally. And when you can prey on people’s ignorance it becomes very, very easy to sell ads, I mean “the news.”

For example, I’ve always been rather entertained by the uproar over the term “Xmas.” As any good Christmas zealot will tell you, “Xmas” is a liberal attack on Christmas, an attempt to remove “Christ” from Christmas, so that the holiday will be more politically correct for the killjoy atheists out there.

Except, “Xmas” isn’t a liberal atheist attack on Christmas.

Not at all.

If anything, it’s a clever Christian spin on Christmas. You see, the “X” in “Xmas” represents the Greek letter “X” or “chi.” Along with the Greek letter “P” or “rho” these two letters are the first two letters of the word “christos” which, (surprise, surprise,) means “Christ” in Greek. Together the two letters combine to form one of the earliest symbols of the Christian faith, the chi rho.
So, Xmas isn’t an attack on Christmas at all.

If anything, it’s a clever way of “putting the Christ back into Christmas.”

But we tend to ignore such things, like we ignore the fact that we live in a country which affirms the freedom of religion, whereby all religious holidays have the right to be celebrated. So then, when they come together around the same time of the year, the phrase “holiday season” isn’t an attack.

It’s just a statement of reality.

That being said, I think there’s another reason, a deeper, unspoken and unacknowledged reason many of us get so upset about the “war on Christmas.” While I’m sure some of us are truly bothered by the vernacular issue, I think on a deeper level we’re upset because when the word “Christmas” is stripped away from all the banners at the store, it leaves bare the reality that it was not the stores that took Christ out of Christmas.

It was us.

We took Christ out of Christmas a long time ago when we turned a holy day where modest gifts were exchanged as a sort of sacramental reminder of God’s gift to humanity, and turned it, instead, into a consumeristic orgy of materialism, excess, and greed.

A war on Christmas terrifies us because it reveals us for who we really are.

Imperfect.

Broken.

Greedy people who save up (or go into debt) in order to heap more stuff on ourselves or others who don’t need it in hopes that they will in turn give us stuff in return. It’s not a holy-day.

It’s a competition in materialism, greed, and pride.

What we have created for ourselves is the very antithesis of the nativity moment we are supposed to be celebrating, when God gave himself as a gift to people who could never give a gift back in return.

The scene in the stable that first Christmas wasn’t a gift exchange. It was a moment in which God gave freely, out of a heart of sacrificial love so that the world could be made new.

Imagine for a second if we took this same approach to Christmas.

Imagine if the criteria for buying gifts at Christmas wasn’t whether or not something appeared on someone’s wish list, but whether or not the giving of the gift could, even in just a small way, change the life of someone in need.

Imagine if Christmas wasn’t a time for retailers to break new sales records, but a time in which charities, soup kitchens, food pantries, and homeless shelters had their yearly needs covered because the people of God gave freely, out of a heart of sacrificial love so that the world could be made new.

If there is a war on Christmas, it’s because we started it with our greed, materialism, and pride.

But we can also be the ones to end it.

If we can begin to reimagine Christmas as a season for changing lives, rather than a time to change out our old TV for a new one, then not only will Christ find his way back into Christmas, but the kingdom of God will be incarnated on earth, just as it was in a manger so long ago.

 

Grace and peace,

Zack Hunt

  • http://jamiejamison.com Jamie Jamison

    Thank you so much for this one, Zach.

  • http://twitter.com/RealThndrMonkey George Mitchell

    You pretty much nailed it.

  • Sharon

    Well said.

  • http://markcaudill.me/ Mark

    Yeah I got fed up with that whole x-mas confusion last year: http://markcaudill.me/blog/2011/12/merry-xmas/ It blows my mind that this is never discussed and totally gives credence to the idea that we’re being hyped up solely to generate more revenue (offering). How else can you explain so many facts being conveniently glossed over.

  • http://wastelandwarrior.wordpress.com/ Heath Capps

    Pretty awesome. Thank you for sharing. Merry XMas

  • Lee Anne

    Agree…wholeheartedly.

  • http://www.ramblingbarba.com Ken Hagerman

    My only regret about this line–“consumeristic orgy of materialism, excess, and greed.”– is that I didn’t write it. BRILLIANT

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  • drednaught

    Can you give us a citation for the 1930s article you mentioned?

    • ZackHunt

      I can…as long as I can find it. :)

      But if I can dig it up, I’ll try to do you one better and post a picture of it.

  • http://www.facebook.com/people/Lorenza-Morris/1044116307 Lorenza Morris

    I like this article, but I’m skeptical that the “X” was a re-introduction of the Chi Rho. It was the retail industry that pushed this in adds and such. I don’t recall an organized church, or group of Christians pushing this through as a nod to old symbols. Other than that, I agree with you on this.

    • ZackHunt

      Here’s an etymology of Xmas from dictionary.com: http://hotword.dictionary.com/xmas-christogram/

      Take it for what it’s worth.

      At the risk of sounding pompous, as a grad student in the history of Christianity (along with a couple of other degrees in theology) I can assure you that “X” does have a long tradition as short hand for “Christ” and is not the creation of modern secular/pc media/marketers.

    • http://www.facebook.com/people/Jennifer-Edwards/1196313106 Jennifer Edwards

      My priest has vestments with the Chi Rho (XP) symbol on them. I’ve seen it in church as long as I can remember. This is not a “retail” thing.

  • roger p milne

    Your sentence “Literally” is redundant because “Controversy sells” is already a literal statement. At least, I can’t think of a single figurative interpretation for it.

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  • Tiburga

    Lovely. Thank you.

  • Super

    The whole celebration and giving of gifts was not for Christ’s birth or message, but propaganda to encourage pagans (who worshiped trees and gave gifts to celebrate the Winter Solstice) to accept the rule of the Anglicized church.

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