Well, except that it isn’t.
Hang on for a little lesson in etymology here. See, the New Testament was written in Greek, (not in King James English, believe it or not,) and in Greek the word for Christ is Χριστός. Hundreds of years ago, scribes began to abbreviate the word Christ as X, not out of disrespect, but both as a way of simplifying the copy of texts and of bestowing honor on the name. (You might compare it to Jewish use of the word God, which they will often write as G_d out of respect for the sacredness of God’s name.) The name of Christ was honored and revered in a way not common among Christians of today, so to imply the X was used casually or disrespectfully is not at all accurate.
Now I understand that we’re English-speaking Americans, for whom X may mark the spot, denote something obscene, (XXX,) or take a picture of our innards with electromagnetic radiation, (X-ray.) But more often we may use an X in algebra, to mark something as incorrect, or to mark it out altogether!
But the point is, “Xmas” was not designed to remove Christ from Christmas. And 9 times out of 10 when people do use the word, it’s to abbreviate it, not to insult us or our Savior. I find myself doing the same when I’m texting, though I generally use Cmas instead than Xmas, rather than unintentionally offend someone.
Which brings me to another point.
Sometimes as Christians we feel disrespected. I get that. Really. And there is no question our beliefs are often distorted, mocked, and criticized.
But sometimes I fear we follow in lockstep with the same world we criticize for its political correctness and hypersensitivity. And that may be more true at Christmastime than at any other time of the year.
Listen, not every advertisement, holiday decoration, or change in store policy or logo is a personal attack upon Christianity or a threat to our religious liberties. Sometimes we reveal our own Christian chip on the shoulder by crying foul every time somebody isn’t being Christian enough for our liking. It’s so bad at times I’ve actually heard Christians call for rude, disrespectful behavior toward nonbelievers in order to set things right.
Really? It’s okay to insult someone because they say Happy Holidays rather than Merry Christmas? Or because the design on the cup of overpriced coffee they’re handing me is more secular than I find acceptable at Christmastime?
I’m sorry. I don’t get that.
Granted, we’re Christians, and so separating Christ from Christmas is impossible for us. But that doesn’t change the fact the holiday is completely secular for some, a fact that may actually be more the fault of Christians than of nonbelievers, for getting just as caught up in the greed and commercialism of the season as everybody else.
Honestly, if Christianity is not perceived as a decidedly Christian holiday, maybe there’s no one to blame but ourselves.
When a cashier at the local department store wishes me Happy Holidays instead of Merry Christmas, I really find no reason to be offended by that. For one, it kind of makes sense when you think about it — Thanksgiving, Christmas, New Year’s — there’s a lot going on this time of year, so sometimes Happy Holidays can take care of all the well-wishes for the season in one fell swoop, even without any consideration given to Jews or Muslims or whoever else might not celebrate Christmas! But I also consider the fact that I now have several devoutly Christian friends who choose not to celebrate Christmas for one reason or another. Though we choose to do things differently in our home, I nonetheless have tremendous respect for those Christians and the way they have chosen to live counter to the culture. Happy Holidays may actually be the more appropriate wish for them as well.
Regardless, I’m not going to jump the case of some poor, stressed-out single mom cashier who’s just trying to finish her shift so she can go home, all because she followed her manager’s directive and said Happy Holidays instead of Merry Christmas. And I’m also not going to go bash the manager when he only issued the directive after he took horrible grief from a grouchy atheist whose delicate sensibilities were bruised by a vague reference to a God he doesn’t believe in. More than likely, the poor manager wasn’t trying to take away my God or infringe on my religious beliefs. He was just trying to get through his workday without major controversy as he did the impossible job of trying to please every customer and every employee.
So should the manager stand up to said atheist, refuse to back down to the pressure of a godless world?
Maybe, but I really don’t think less of him if he doesn’t. We’re talking about a closing remark in a checkout lane, not someone trying to pass a law that says I can’t celebrate Christmas. Or I can’t go to church. Or I can’t teach my children about God.
There are battles that are worth fighting. There are others, however, that may not be. Sometimes we need to be careful in weighing out the two. How we handle them does much to reflect upon Christ and to affect our Christian testimony.
Some things I’ll die fighting for. Truly. But, honestly, Xmas and Happy Holidays aren’t two of them.