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Tuesday, November 29, 2011

Black Friday and the Spirit of Christmas

Around this time of year, it isn't unusual to hear some Christians complain about the use of "Xmas" rather than "Christmas," arguing that it is a secular attempt to remove the religious aspect of Christmas by taking the "Christ" out of "Christmas." Such complaints, however, are misplaced. According to the Oxford English Dictionary, the letter "X" was used as an abbreviation for "Christ" as early as 1485, long before the term "Xmas" was used. It comes from the Greek letter Chi, which is the first letter of the Greek word Χριστός, which is translated "Christ." It is also found in the labarum (see example at left), often referred to as the Chi-Rho, and is a Christian symbol representing Christ.

Another problem is that Christmas has not always been a terribly pious holiday. In fact, contrary to the conventional wisdom, it is a far more "religious" holiday now than it was back in the 17th and 18th centuries. Back then celebrations got so out of hand that the Puritans attempted to ban it (that's right, they passed a law making it illegal to celebrate Christmas) and led one Anglican clergyman to remark that we do more to dishonor the name of Christ during the 12 days of Christmas than we do in the other 11 months of the year. This is all wonderfully documented in The Battle for Christmas by Stephen Nissenbaum.

Nevertheless, putting a little bit more Christ into Christmas strikes me as a good idea. The recent happenings on Black Friday being a case in point. No doubt, most of you have heard about the individual who on Black Friday pepper-sprayed her fellow shoppers in her quest for an X-Box. She reportedly was looking to gain an advantage. Gain an advantage? Is "gaining an advantage" what Christmas is all about? I have a hard time imagining Jesus condoning such behavior. In fact, he might even call it sinful. I know I do.

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