It’s tomorrow: for many people, December 1 marks the transformation from fall to winter, as Christmas carols play, decorations go up, and festivities begin. (If you’ve been jamming to Jingle Bells since Halloween, no judgement.)
It also seems to be a time of year when people become unusually touchy about how other people greet them. I’ve been surprised to hear complaints about being wished a “Merry Christmas” AND complaints about not being wished a “Merry Christmas.” I hear complaints about “Merry Xmas” and “Happy Holidays,” too. So as you pull out the stockings and belt out Joy to the World, here’s a few thoughts about holiday greetings:
Did you know that the word “holiday” is a contraction of “holy day” — in other words, it’s a catch-all word for religious holidays. Christians alone will recognize St. Nicholas Day (Dec. 6), St. Lucia Day (Dec. 13), Christmas Eve (Dec. 24), Christmas Day (Dec. 25), St. Stephen’s Day (Dec. 26), and the Holy Innocents Day (Dec. 28) during this month, and that’s not counting any other religion’s celebrations. That’s a lot of holy days! When someone wishes you “Happy Holidays,” they’re wishing you many happy days, not deleting Christmas.
And speaking of deleting Christmas, what’s with Xmas? Is it a sneaky plot to cross Jesus out of Christmas? Not at all. You know that the New Testament was first written in Greek, which uses a totally different alphabet. Well, in Greek, the first letter of Christ is X, called Chi. X has long served as an abbreviation for Christ, and the “mas” part is yet another abbreviation. Anyone who’s been to a Roman Catholic congregation knows they call worship “mass.” Christmas (or xmas!) is the worship service of Christ, the day we celebrate his birth.
Simply put, there are a ton of ways to greet people during this time of year. As Christians, we should always assume the best intentions of the person offering us a seasonal greeting. After all, they didn’t even have to greet us in the first place!
Sometimes, people say that we can’t use “Happy Holidays” because we need to “keep Christ in Christmas.” Well, I’ll be honest, I really don’t think there’s anything we can do to get Christ out. Jesus has come into the world, into our hearts, and no generic wintery greeting is going to change that. Jesus was so determined to come into a world that had no room for him that he was born among animals and laid down in a feedbox.
Christ is always with us. So when someone says to you: “Happy Holidays!” you can reply, “Thanks, you too!” If someone sends you a card that declares “MERRY XMAS!” you can thank them for the Christmas card. When you hear, “Feliz Navidad!”, be reminded that our savior is for all people and nations. Most importantly, remember in all your holiday celebrations that Jesus Christ came to Earth to live and die and rise again out of love for us, so that we too may live and die and rise again.
Christ my savior, I know that you are always with me. Thank you for coming to Earth to live like me. Help me be gracious and kind to all people during this holy season. Amen.
By Pastor Beth Wartick
Trinity Lutheran Church