I received several invitations to join a group on Facebook. I’m always getting invited to something on Facebook. They have a group for everything. I try to take a look at each one and see what it is doing and whether or not I really want it to have control of my user name and my friend lists. This one was called “Putting CHRIST Back in Christmas”. I thought that was a good idea. As an English major, I’ve always disliked people contracting “Christmas” down to “Xmas”. It always seemed to me if it was going to be reduced to anything, it should be “+mas”.
Well, it turned out I was mistaken about a couple of things. First, my personal Roman historian explained that crucifixes came in many designs. They could be cross-shaped, “I” shaped, shaped like a “T” or “Y” or even an “X”.
Second, the group wasn’t concerned with the word, but rather Christ Himself being taken out of the Christmas holidays. There were a number of web links that claimed there was a vast anti-Christian movement specifically targeting Christmas, dedicated to replacing Jesus with Santa and “Merry Christmas” with “Happy Holidays” and so on. Frankly, I don’t believe it. I’d be annoyed to find out there was a left wing conspiracy planning to expurgate Jesus from Christmas. I think I lean more to the left than the right and no one has mentioned a vast conspiracy to me. I’m not on the mailing list. I haven’t even been invited to join the conspiratorial Facebook group.
I am not a Biblical scholar by any stretch of the imagination. When I think of Jesus, I think of a gifted teacher, educating the world about kindness and love. When I look at Christmas in that context, I can see beyond the façade. I see our Christmas tree not as a pagan symbol, but rather a beacon of warmth and hospitality that can be seen across the frozen landscape, guiding weary travelers along the proper path. Santa Claus may be a bastardized symbol of the Saturnalia for some, but in our tradition he rewards virtue. He symbolizes hard work and personal sacrifice to make children happy around the world. I see a long line at Wal Mart, but the sentiment behind the gifts and the food are gestures of kindness. People use this time of year as an excuse to do good works. There was a box at the front of the store for donations. Even in this rotten economy, it was filled.
When someone wishes me “Happy Holidays”, I don’t take it as a snub. Rather, I see it as an offer of inclusive happiness. Personally, I celebrate Christmas. But many others are finishing up the feast of Abraham or are in the middle of Hanukkah. Perhaps atheists are gearing up for Boxing Day, Festivus or a bowl game on New Year’s. I may not share their beliefs, but I wouldn’t hear of excluding them in my good tidings; not on any day and especially not at Christmas. For those who profess outrage might feel better if they put Christ back in their own hearts and minds and wore it less on their sleeves.