Well, that time of year is once again upon us – the winter holidays! Holiday music resounds in my office! This time of year, I see a variety of emails and Facebook posts declaring that every Christian must keep Christ in Christmas by only saying, “merry Christmas!” not, “happy Holidays!” Additionally, they say remember that it’s Christ-mas, not X-mas – I’ll get to that in a minute.
First, if you are Christian, let me dissuade you of the notion that someone wishing you a joyful, “happy holidays,” is a form of persecution in any way, shape, or form. To persecute, according to Webster, is to, “harass or punish in a manner designed to injure, grieve, or afflict; specifically: to cause to suffer because of belief.” “Happy holidays,” persecutes no one – nor does wishing them a, “Merry Christmas.”
The Establishment and Free Exercise Clauses of the First Amendment to the Constitution ensures that civic, state, and federal governments may not pass laws establishing one religion. This means that people of many faith traditions may freely worship, pray, and practice their faith without fear of being attacked, harmed, or killed for their faith (persecuted). The government does not dictate our faith. For example, Jesus didn’t work through governmental powers, he opposed them. God worked through an unwed mother and a baby born into a stinking manger and announced his birth to isolated shepherds. Jesus served the outcasts – prostitutes, lepers, and all manner of sinners – without established government or religious approval. We Christians can keep Christ in Christmas by feeding the hungry, providing basic needs to the less fortunate in our communities, and advocating and voting in ways which benefit those in need rather than those in power.
As for that whole Xmas debacle? The reason that an X is used as shorthand for Christ in this context has to do with the Greek language. The letter we call X is the Greek letter chi, which looks like an uppercase letter X. Chi is the first letter in the Greek word, Christos, spelled Χριστός in Greek and means Christ. So, writing Xmas is little different than an English contraction or you calling me Pastor W.
Additionally, as we move into the holidays, remember that the very word holiday is a contraction of the Old English words which come simply from holy day or holy days. When someone wishes a Christian happy holidays, they wish you a Happy All Saints’ Day /All Souls’, Happy Christ the King Sunday, Happy Thanksgiving, Happy Advent, Happy St. Andrew’s Day, Happy St. Nicholas Day, Merry Christmas, Somber Holy Innocents’ Day, Happy Watch Night, and Happy Epiphany.
Other religions and cultures will celebrate such festivals as Hanukkah (Judaism), Kwanzaa (cultural celebration for African Americans), Guru Nanak Gurpurab, martyrdom of Guru Tegh Bahadur, and the martyrdom of Sahibzade (Sikh). The next couple of months include many holy days for many different religions and I am thankful that we are all free to practice our various faiths.
Rev. Willie Rosin