Remember when folks used to gripe about those secular !$#@&*s literally Xing Christ out from Christmas? I wonder who was the first person to, perhaps sheepishly, point out that in fact, X works quite well as an abbreviation because it’s the symbol for “chi” in Greek (the primary language of the New Testament) and is often used (by Christian theologians) as shorthand for Christ. So… even though most folks were likely just abbreviating, to the handful who were intentionally trying to secularize the spelling of Christmas on greeting cards… joke’s on them.
Well, I haven’t seen “Merry Xmas” in a long time. I suppose the usage has gone out of fashion. What is in fashion now, of course, is the more pluralistic (and festively alliterative) “Happy holidays!” The implementation of this phrase very well might have been a more widespread intentional attempt to secularize Christmas, or at least de-emphasize Christ and Christianity, as well as an attempt to recognize that Christmas is not the only holiday Americans celebrate this time of year. And while de-emphasizing Christ as an end in itself is something we should mourn and work against in our own traditions and habits, recognizing and honoring “the other” is extremely valuable.
Interestingly enough, the word holiday does the work of pluralism (which in its best form is an others-oriented understanding that Christians are for) better than secularism because the word means “holy day.” It’s inherently religious. We can certainly “set apart” days for activities we do not consider religious or spiritual, but as Christians we believe people are spiritual beings and our habits and traditions and holidays, whether candlelight services and family prayers or shopping and football, all shape and form us spiritually (for good or for ill… including hard-hearted church goers and feel-God’s-pleasure football players).
In other words, as Christians, we believe everything is spiritual and secularization is a farce—a powerful deception perhaps, but a farce nonetheless. That being the case, it is our job to fight the farce not the fooled:
We’re not waging war against enemies of flesh and blood alone. No, this fight is against tyrants, against authorities, against supernatural powers and demon princes that slither in the darkness of this world, and against wicked spiritual armies that lurk about in heavenly places. (Ephesians 6:12 The Voice)
How do we work to undo the unseen? Well… not by huffing and puffing so to blow happy holidays down. If we keep reading in Ephesians, Paul has some very anti-hot-air tips that include proclaiming peace and begin and end with “Pray always.”
Jesus says when we proclaim that the Kingdom of Peace has come, we’re not to blow the trumpet (that comes later) or let out a battle cry, we’re to work behind the scenes where the real enemy is: “You’re going to be like sheep running through a wolf pack, so don’t call attention to yourselves. Be as cunning as a snake, inoffensive as a dove” (Matthew 10:16 The Message).
So when it comes to the fight against the very real agenda of secularizing… well, everything, we might do better to be the hands and feet of Christ to neighbors and strangers, embodying the love-joy-peace (patience, kindness, goodness, self control) of Christ(mas) in the corners of the world we inhabit.
Every time I hear some well-meaning Christian bluster a vehement, pointed “Merry Christmas,“ usually to other Christians they assume agree that “Happy holidays” is inexcusable, I think, Mmmm, yes, that’s the Christmas spirit. (I think this video from The Skit Guys pretty much sums it up: “Stuff Christians Say on Xmas.”)
I realize Christmas was last week and this is mostly a moot point (until this time next year), but what if we prayerfully make it our New Year’s resolution to take Ephesians 6 and Matthew 10 seriously? What if we reconsidered the so-called Culture Wars in general, from “Happy Holidays!” to Duck Dynasty, in the light of these passages? What would it look like to value wisdom and discernment over shouting matches and taking sides?
Let’s keep Christ in Christmas, and in our hearts, by being everyday messengers of peace on earth, good will toward men (Luke 2:14 King James Version).
(More articles at www.ThinkingThroughChristianity.com)