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Tuesday, November 11, 2014

'Tis the Season

It's that time of year again: Although Thanksgiving's two weeks away, ABC Family is starting to play holiday movies, malls are being trimmed with Christmas decorations, friends and family are sending out invitations to holiday parties, and radio stations are starting to play Christmas music. And that is why it is also that time of year when many of us launch into our annual complaints about the "commercialization of Christmas," start clamoring that we need to put the "Christ" back in "Xmas," and remind anyone who will listen that "Jesus in the reason for the season."

I get it. I understand peoples' frustrations. In fact, I've bemoaned the commercialization of Christmas before ("Black Friday and the Spirit of Christmas"). But, I have to confess that I love the Christmas season. I love watching the movies. I love listening to the carols. I love walking through malls bedecked with tinsel and stars and lights and kids climbing onto the laps of Santas. And I'm clearly not alone. Most of us appear to crave the holiday season. We can't get enough of it.

I think the reason why is because it evokes in us a desire for something more. It taps into our longing to be better people and live in a better world (Aristotle might say that it evokes in us our longing for eudaimonia). It recalls the sense of magic that Christmas had for us when we were kids. It engenders feelings contentment when family and friends gather to celebrate life and one another other. It elicits images of a world in which the lion and the lamb lay down together and nations don't train for war anymore (Isaiah 2, 11). And isn't that world in which most of us want to live? I suspect so, and if I'm right, that might be why the Christmas season begins a little earlier every year. And while at first it may seem like a bad thing, I'm unconvinced that it is. It isn't only for the money (although that's part of it). It's also because we long for a world where it's Christmas year round. And I think that's a good thing.

Note: Complaints that the use of "Xmas" rather than "Christmas" is a secular attempt to remove the religious aspect of Christmas by taking the "Christ" out of "Christmas" are somewhat 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 an example of it to the right), which is often referred to as the Chi-Rho, and is a Christian symbol representing Christ.

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