The war on Xmas

Published 12:06 am Friday, December 16, 2011

Take the word apart and you have “X,” which is the Greek letter Chi, and the first letter of the Greek word that translates to Christ. The rest, “-mas” means “Mass.” That’s Old English derived from Latin. Put the word back together again it could be roughly translated to “a service celebrating Christ.”

There are references to Christ being symbolized by the single letter going back as far as A.D. 1021. The Oxford English Dictionary first mentioned “X” or “Xp,” the first two letters of the Greek word for Christ, as early as 1485, and the labarum, a symbol used in most Protestant Churches, consists of those same first two letters, Chi and Rho.

Yet many argue that use of the word Xmas is akin to “taking the Christ out of Christmas,” and is a secularization of one of the highest holy days of Christianity. Given the origin of the abbreviation, it’s a flawed argument. The use of the word doesn’t make the holiday any more secular. It’s all in the observance.

In the early 20th century, Christian writer C.S. Lewis wrote a satire in which a traveller observes two holidays taking place in a town on the same day: one celebration, “Exmas,” is all about compulsory commercialism and indulgence, lots of money spent on useless gifts, eating food in mass quantities; the other, “Crissmas,” is a service, well, a service celebrating Christ. Both on the same day.

This holiday season, if you’re having trouble finding the perfect gift for the person who has everything, doesn’t need or want anything, perhaps the gift of your service would be far more appreciated than a sweater your loved one may or may not wear, a book they may or may not read.

How about the gift of your time? For an elderly relative, that could mean helping with yard work, perhaps planting some flowers in the spring that he or she can enjoy through the summer. For your son or daughter with their own brood of children, why not give them the gift of a “date-night,” babysitting once a month for the next year?

What about giving for others? A donation to Eagle’s Wings food pantry is always appreciated, and it will send a card acknowledging your gift to the person in whose name you donated. Whatever you choose to do, write it on a card, put a big bow on it, put it under the tree. The gift of your service — your time, energy, skill — truly represents the “reason for the season” regardless of whether you spell it Christmas or Xmas.