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.
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.
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,