The phrase “Merry Christmas” seems to be more of an issue every year. Perhaps it is the multiplicity of social outlets. It seems that, the more “they” oppose the phrase, the more Christians attempt to force adherence (to the phrase, anyway). I have not been able to pin-down who exactly “they” are, but “they” appear to have an opinion on everything! Are there folks who wish to remove anything and everything concerning Christ from the traditional date that His birth is celebrated? Certainly! Is this based on a probability? Certainly not! As long as there are Christians then Christ will be celebrated. Let us be sure about the facts, though, before we have any knee-jerk reactions over this subject.
Certainly there are folks who use “Xmas” rather than “Christmas,” relieving themselves of Christ in the holiday. However, Christians in the primitive church used the Greek letter “Chi” (“X”) as a symbol for Christ. It is the first letter of the Greek word “Xplotos,” transliterated into English as “Christ.” The symbol was used as a cryptic sign (drawn in the dirt, for example) that Christians used to help identify one another or clue one another to a meeting or gathering. Similar cryptic symbols were the sign of the fish and the sign of the cross (sometimes combined with the “X”). Now, the ancients never utilized “Xmas” simply because there was no such thing as a “Christ Mass” (a later Roman Catholic invention). I am of the opinion that “X” does in fact keep “Christ” in Christmas, logically, traditionally/historically, and linguistically speaking.
Another point to consider concerning “Xmas” is that of the electronic age in which we find ourselves. In the age of electronic mail (email), instant message (IM), private message (PM), texting (TX), Facebook (FB), and Twitter, etc. others with much more wit than I have invented acceptable acronyms, if you will, in the attempt to reduce the amount of typing in any one communication. Is Christ offended because “Xmas” is shorter and easier to type than “Christmas?” Is “Christ,” here, really being removed from “Christmas?” Are we sure that this isn’t simply another example of our golden calf being smelted?
The debate concerning the term “Happy Holidays” can refer to my first point. I still do not understand the outrage of many Christians concerning this term. After all, we are dealing with two “holidays,” Christmas and New Year’s Eve/Day. Based on my third point, is it easier to say, “Merry Christmas and Happy New Year” or “Happy Holidays?” Again, the point is not lost on me that some wish to remove Christ from the “Holiday,” but that issue cuts far deeper than terminology; at best the issue is ideological and at worst it is irrational. On the other hand, attempting to force someone to use the phrase “Merry Christmas,” rather than “Happy Holidays,” does nothing to express the “Good News.”
Another heading we must briefly mention is the actual date of the “holiday.” The ancient church did not celebrate the birth of Christ, but His death, burial and resurrection. Once again, the Romish church initiated the celebration of Christ’s birth. While history proves that the date to celebrate the event was debated, the Winter Solstice (a pagan holiday) was settled upon as the date of the celebration. Thus, tradition holds that Christ’s birth is celebrated on that specific date, and there is nothing wrong with that in and of it-self. It only becomes a problem when Christians either ignore or are ignorant of history.
Finally, my last point concerns “the reason for the season.” I understand both the history and the tradition of the “Holiday.” And for me personally, the “reason for the season” is “peace on earth for all humanity.” I’m reminded of stories from WWII (short-hand) of how American and Germans troops – sworn enemies – celebrated Christmas together across battle-lines.
No, in spite of efforts to the contrary, Christ can never be removed from “Christmas,” regardless of certain words and phrases (or the lack thereof). The “Christmas Spirit” lives out life in all creation, regardless of the day of the year or any particular phrase.