Putting the X Back in Xmas

Reposted from The Cripplegate.

I’m all for putting Christ back in Christmas. And there is no doubt that our secularized culture is working hard at surreptitiously ushering the Baby out, without losing the murky bathwater of gift-giving and commercial celebration. But I’d like to address the misinformed concern that the use of “Xmas” as a placeholder for “Christmas” is part of the conspiracy to excise Christ from his holiday.

First, Christmas is not a biblical holiday. There are no New Covenant feast days; besides communion, there is no recurring remembrance that is mandated. The Catholics came up with the Christ Mass feast, and global retailers and consumers alike hopped on the bandwagon. So, if Jesus becomes as absent to the secular mindset from Christmastime as he is from Halloween, there is no loss to the New Covenant.

Second, and this is my main point, using “X” to replace “Christ” is not necessarily an indication of anything sinister. I have used Xmas and Christmas interchangeably with a clear conscience ever since learning about the history of its usage.

Some Christians shun the use of “Xmas.”

In an interview Franklin Graham opined on behalf of evangelicalism:

For us as Christians, this is one of the most holy of the holidays, the birth of our savior Jesus Christ. And for people to take Christ out of Christmas. They’re happy to say merry Xmas. Let’s just take Jesus out. And really, I think, a war against the name of Jesus Christ.”

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Technology, tradition and the invention of Christmas in 19th-century New York

Given this lead, New York City seminary professor Clement Clarke Moore cemented the connection. On Dec. 23, 1823, the Troy Sentinel published Moore’s “A Visit from St. Nicholas.” Beginning with the now-famous words, “’Twas the night before Christmas…” - RNS

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The Skill of Celebrating Christmas

Celebrating Christmas is a skill. I’m not particularly good at this craft, but I have at least figured out that you must handle the holidays with a measure of prowess. Just letting Christmas happen to you is a recipe for trouble. Like sailing a ship, Christmas is an opportunity requiring keen attention at the helm.

Every year, it seems, I gain a lesson in what not to do and resolve to do things a little better the next time around. I do not pretend to offer anything like a comprehensive word on the subject here, nor to speak with authority. But after many tries at it, a few reflections may at least stimulate thought as we reflect back on this past season and look to the future.

The first skill in navigating Christmas well is to renounce idealism.

This is harder for some than for others; but it is vital never to permit tradition or fantasy to overwhelm reality. Fulfilling traditions and meeting expectations is not evil; but unrestrained dreams can quickly morph into vampire-like nemeses that suck the joy from our souls. Have a long talk with your head (rather than your heart) at the outset of the holiday season: “Some preparations will fail. Unforeseen complications will arise. Some things will not go well. And all of that is okay.” Do not expect to hit a home run every Christmas; hitting a single now and then is acceptable. Moderate expectations can brighten the season considerably.

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