Oftentimes I hear folks lamenting that one should not use Merry Xmas. Instead we should only write Christmas. At other times, I hear frustration because now we are to say Happy Holidays instead of Merry Christmas. We get frustrated that Christmas comes too soon as retailers want us to buy on Thanksgiving evening instead of Black Friday. And what are those Christmas decorations doing up in Target in October?
My advice. Stop complaining.
I give this advice to you…and I shout it at myself.
If you don’t want to shop on Thanksgiving, don’t shop on Thanksgiving. But when you do shop, or craft, re-gift, or provide service or presence for your Christmas gifts, let’s think instead, “What a wonderful blessing it is to give and to receive.”
When you say Happy Holidays remind yourself of the wonderful privilege in which you dwell. You have neighbors who are Muslim, Jewish, Hindu, and on and on. Each tradition has stories of how light has overcome darkness, how hope has overcome despair. Is this not the message that we hope for the world? Is this not our Christmas story? Happy Holidays cannot diminish our Merry Christmas. It can only show the vastness of God’s love for the world. Let the happiest of all holidays spring, for you, from the merriest of your Christmas.
And the X? It is, actually an amazing part of our faith history. As you are likely aware, our stories of Christ were first told in Aramaic, then written in Greek. Thus Jesus’ name in Greek would is written Χριστός (pronounced “Christos”). The first letter is Chi (starts with a “k” sound, rhymes with eye). So though Chi looks like our X, it is a completely different letter, pronunciation and meaning. Around the fourth century, we see X became a notated abbreviation for Christ. Papyrus was expensive, some folks couldn’t read, familiarity, there are a number of theories why X was used for Christ. Regardless, it was a familiar, accessible abbreviation for the Messiah. Accessible not only to those scribes who could read and write, but also accessible to shepherds, the poor, the prostitute, the leper, the outcast.
So, no complaining. Instead, enjoy this season.
As we enjoy, let us recognize the blessings of Ramadan, Hanukkah, Diwali, and the many ways that hope surrounds us. Let this hope guide us toward the Messiah we claim as our pathway to God, leading us to our happiest Christmas. Let us find blessing in giving and receiving understanding that the most profound gifts we have received are from God and, for us, understood through Jesus Christ. Finally, let us be so familiar with Jesus, his stories, his call to us that the frustrations of any season will always be met with comfort and joy; making even the October/Target/Christmas decoration thing a reminder that Christmas, Christ, hope, light, God cannot be confined to one season.
Enjoy God, always. Merry Xmas.