Monday, November 30, 2015

Let's Put the X Back in X-mas

X-mas was a term we didn’t use at our house. I remember asking my mother about it when I saw it on some wrapping paper she was using to wrap someone’s gift. She told me that some people use X because they don’t want to write “Christ” and she made it clear that leaving Christ out of “Christmas” was something I was never to do. Since that time, all this talk of leaving Christ out of Christmas has much more vitriol. Try saying “Happy Holidays” to someone and you can expect a lambasting on Facebook. When a manager at Walmart told a Marine that he would have to stand outside to collect Toys for Tots, the Internet lit up with people angry at Walmart. When I made the comment that Marines are trained to dress for the weather conditions, strangers began to call my intelligence into question. Another person, commenting on the same post, used a made up word to describe the people at Walmart that is a cross between a word meaning to have sexual intercourse and to have a mental disorder. These are among the people we see fighting to “keep Christ in Christmas.” Something isn’t right, so let’s put the X back in X-mas.

When you look at where the X of X-mas originated, you discover that the X is actually the Greek letter Chi. It is the first letter of the word Χριστός, which is translated at Christ in English. But it isn’t enough to say, “Let’s put Christ back in Christmas.” The X of X-mas represents something else that is far more important. When many people talk about putting Christ back in Christmas, they seem content to have the word “Christ” in the name and to sing about the birth of a baby and some wise men who visited him. For many people, “Christ” is just another name for Jesus. As you go about your Christmas celebration this year, you may attend a Christmas program in which the names of Jesus are carried in on banners. You’ll likely see “Christ” on one of those banners, but “Christ” is not a name. That is why it is so important to consider the X of X-mas.

You see, X can be used for other things. It is used to represent death. In comic strips, when you see a character with X’s where his eyes should be, you know he is dead. X can also represent a cross. Without the cross, Jesus is not the Christ. The Christ is not just some baby born under mysterious circumstances. The Christ is not just some king worshiped by wise men. The Christ is not some thin version of Santa Claus. The Christ is God, who came as man, lived a sinless life, took on our sin, died on the cross, and rose victorious over sin and the grave, so that he could give us eternal life. That is the X that we need to put back in X-mas.

The unfortunate thing is that this talk of keeping Christ in Christmas is often just an excuse to criticize others for being less righteous than what we are. “That store owner is evil because he has his employees say ‘Happy Holidays’ instead of ‘Merry Christmas.’ I’m going to show that I’m better than him by not shopping at his store.” Isn’t that what we are saying? But let’s put the X back in X-mas. The Bible tells us that Jesus loved that store owner so much that he died on the cross for that store owner. The Bible tells us that Jesus loved that store owner so much that he instituted a church and commissioned that church to teach others to carry the gospel to the whole world, so that store owner would have the opportunity to be saved. Clearly, nothing fulfills that commission quite like the words, “I’m not shopping at your store because you didn’t say, ‘Merry Christmas.’”

Even in our gift giving, I think we get it mixed up. We consider our gift giving and decide that it isn’t focused on Christ. Some have decided that they will give Jesus a bigger gift than anything they have under the tree. So, they see they have a $200 gift under the tree and they give $201 to their church’s benevolence fund. It isn’t bad to give to benevolence. When you go to church, you may well be sitting next to someone who is enjoying the warmth of the building, because they know they can’t afford to turn up the heat at home. But should we be basing what we give to Jesus on what we give to others? We owe him so much more and yet, it is also true that he is literally the person who has everything. What gift would be suitable for a person like that? A dollar more than our most expensive gift? I think not. What Jesus wants more than anything is fellowship with the people of the world. If you want to give Jesus a gift, put the X back in X-mas by sharing the gospel with people. Tell them that Jesus came to die for their sins. Don’t just pay some money so you feel like you are buying Jesus a gift. Tell the story of the cross. Let’s put the Cross back in X-mas.