QUESTION: I recently encountered someone who disapproved of the use of X-mas for Christmas. How should I respond to this?
ANSWER: The secular world is waging war against Christmas. The Christian majority in the United States seems to be shrinking. More people are not Christian. Christianity and things Christian irritate many of these people; our faith and its symbols irritate them.
Christmas has become the most prominent celebration of the faith. Because of traditions associated with the holiday, the secular world promotes Christmas. This column was written in September. Television commercials had already promoted Christmas sales. Retailers were preparing for Christmas sales. This Christian holiday is promoted for a great part of the year.
Every year, non-Christians make the news with their protests. This writer remembers when the Jewish mayor of the town in which he lived created a controversy by displaying a menorah with the nativity scene. So Jewish people need not feel left out, Hanukkah now is sometimes called the Jewish Christmas. Public school choirs replace Christmas carols with so-called holiday music. Lest they offend, many retailers instruct salespersons to greet customers with “Happy holidays” instead of “Merry Christmas.” In the public forum, the Christmas tree is called the holiday tree.
Christians’ reaction has Scripture and History in view. Christmas is a major festival in the church year. We celebrate the birth of God in human flesh, as St. Paul wrote: But when the fullness of the time had come, God sent forth His Son, born of a woman, born under the law, to redeem those who were under the law, that we might receive the adoption as sons. And because you are sons, God has sent forth the Spirit of His Son into your hearts, crying out, “Abba, Father!” (Galatians 4:4-6). Jesus was born to bring sinners God’s good will. By His life, He provided the unholy with the righteousness by which we have the status of saints. By His death, He appeased God’s anger at all sin. By His resurrection, God who became man earned for us the eternal verdict of “Not guilty” so that we are worthy to be God’s children by faith.
All of history in the western world revolves around the birth of God in human flesh. What could be more important?
Those who disapprove of the use of X-mas may understand it as a further attack on the season. They may see it as being too commercial. To know how best to respond, we would need to know the cause of disapproval.
Christmas means Christ’s mass (festival). Somewhere in most every Christian sanctuary, the symbol “X” is displayed, probably in the “Chi Rho.” In the Greek language, the X represents the first letter in the title “Christ.” “Christ” means Jesus is the One anointed to be our Savior. In His account of the Christmas story, St. Matthew wrote, And Jacob begot Joseph the husband of Mary, of whom was born Jesus who is called Christ (1:16). St. Peter confessed the faith in Jesus, saying, “You are the Christ, the Son of the living God” (Matthew 16:16).
X-mas does not take Christ out of Christmas. Christians have used the abbreviation for centuries. It need not be considered commercial or insulting. It has a healthy history in the Church. Our own ELS Logo might be just the tool you need to express this to a friend or neighbor.
Reverend Charles Keeler
Resurrection Lutheran Church
Winter Haven, FL