The Origins of “Xmas” And Why It Isn’t An Attack On Christmas

chirhojpgI wrote a few years ago about how I don’t mind the phrase “Happy Holidays,” and even prefer it.

This was in response to a slew of “I’m outraged” posts showing up on my Facebook feed during the Advent and Christmas seasons. I finally had enough of people complaining without thinking about the facts involved.

Well, another battle that many Christians seem happy to fight in the present “Christmas War” is the use of “Xmas” instead of Christmas.

While it is a little early, I know soon I’ll start seeing Facebook posts by Christians getting worked up over the use of “Xmas.”

Clearly, so say the Facebook posts and memes, replacing the word “Christ” with the letter “X” is a liberal conspiracy designed to attack Christ (probably led by Hillary Clinton), right?

Why would anybody replace the word “Christ” with an “X” unless they had bad intentions? How dare someone “X out” the name of our Lord? Or at least people using ‘Xmas’ are being lazy, right?

Actually, the opposite is true. Using “X” for Christ isn’t some modern liberal conspiracy. It goes back to an ancient Christian practice of abbreviating the name of Christ as “XR.”

The Greek word for Christ is “Christos,” which in Greek is spelled XRISTOS. The word starts with the Greek letter “Chi.” A very popular early Christian symbol for Jesus (way more popular than the cross even) was the “Chi-Rho” symbol, which looks like XR.

Xmas likely developed from this. While it may be slightly lazy, it isn’t an attempt to remove Christ from Christmas.

Seven Reasons Christians Get Cranky At Christmas (And Why I Don’t Like It)

santatackChristmas is a time to joyfully celebrate the birthday of Christ. Yet, it is also a time for Christians of all stripes to get really cranky and nitpicky. And, of course, I have to read it all on my Facebook and Twitter feeds.

It seems as if some people (including many Christians) aren’t happy unless they find something to be outraged over every day.

Below are some reasons people get cranky about Christmas. I provide links to more scholarly things related to each topic, since this article is more tongue-in-cheek.

1. Jesus Wasn’t Born on Christmas

Well, he could have been born on Christmas. There is a 1/365 chance at least. While he may have been born on December 25th, no Catholic that I know of has ever insisted the Christmas holiday was about Jesus’ actual birth date. In fact, his actual birth date doesn’t matter.

So, yeah, Jehovah’s Witnesses may be right: Jesus could have been born in the spring. Either way, his birth is celebrated on December 25th. And, most Christians are content to relax and enjoy a day set aside to commemorate his birth, even if we can’t produce the birth certificate. Maybe Donald Trump can us help find it. But, until then, December 25th will have to do, and billions of Christians throughout history have reverently done so on this day.

2. Don’t Call Christmas “Xmas!”

I address this is another post, but people need to relax and not get bent out of shape over a little “X” in a word. How dare liberals try to “X” out our Lord and Savior by removing his name from the word “Christmas?” How do you know it’s true? Well, your great aunt shared a meme on Facebook, that’s why!

As I mention in the link above, Xmas is a perfectly Christian abbreviation, and is in no way an attempt to take Christ out of Christmas. Now, if someone calls Christmas “Christlessmas,” then you might want to get a little outraged.

3. Happy Holidays Subverts The Celebration Of Christmas

I can’t imagine how it must feel to get emotionally worked up over being told to have some happy holy days in your life, but some people see this as a chance to get angry and worked up. I can’t see Jesus getting too worked up over something like this, since he would have celebrated Hanukkah, so Happy Holidays seems appropriate.

I mention in this post that “Happy Holidays” is actually more reflective of the Catholic understanding of the Christmas and Advent seasons than is being told “Merry Christmas.” However, calmly realizing this fact is much less fun than getting worked up and sharing an outraged meme on Facebook about the subject.

4. Christmas And Its Customs Are Pagan.

Every so often I hear of people who refuse to celebrate Christmas because it is “pagan,” as if a day of the year can somehow be “pagan.” You better throw away your calendars, stop having bonfires, and take off your wedding rings if you are afraid of having “pagan influence” in your life.

It is funny how people who claim to want nothing to do with paganism are actually giving ancient pagan practices extreme power and authority. How? Well, let’s take the suggestion that a decorated evergreen tree can be pagan. By saying that, you are suggesting that once a pagan does something, nobody else can possibly do that thing ever again.

That’s like saying you can’t have a Caesar haircut because a pagan popularized it. Of course, now that I mention it here, some articles might soon be popping up about the “pagan origins of the Caesar cut.”

5. The Bible Doesn’t Mention Celebrating Christmas

The word “Christmas” doesn’t appear in the Bible, but the story of Jesus’ birth is definitely in there. And while, sure, the Bible doesn’t tell us to celebrate his birthday, it doesn’t tell us to celebrate a guy running an oblong leather ball into a big square on a painted field either, but I celebrate that every time the Cleveland Browns score a touchdown (which, of course, doesn’t happen often).

6. You Can’t Think About Christmas Until Advent Is Over

Starting in November, Christmas lights start going up and the local radio stations start playing Christmas music. Some Catholics get bent out of shape if you even mention the “C” word before December 25th, when Christmas technically begins.

While I think it is important to recognize Advent, in the United States especially, you can’t escape the reality that for most people, businesses, and homes, the celebration of secular Christmas is in full swing during Advent.

I tried locking myself in my home for nearly four weeks, or alternatively closing my eyes every time I drove by a house that had Christmas lights, but honestly, both ended badly (and painfully – at least for that mailbox).

7. Christmas Is Too Secular

Christmas is pretty secular. Most people celebrating it in America right now are likely do so in a way that focuses on presents, lights, and parties. However, in a society that is rapidly becoming non-Christian in its outlook, I can’t help but be grateful that at the very least people are celebrating Christmas, as opposed to just forgetting about it completely.

For at least one day a year, the majority of Americans and Europeans are celebrating something related to Christ. While this isn’t perfect, it is still something.

Besides, Catholics throughout history haven’t exactly kept every festival free of secular influences. There is nothing inherently wrong with enjoying lights, giving and receiving presents, and going to parties. In fact, some of the best parties I have ever been to were thrown by Catholics.

So, the bottom line of this post is that I don’t like it when cranky Christians try to take the joy out of a joy-filled season.

Happy Holidays!

Is Christ The King Sunday Oppressive?

Jesus carrying the cross by El GrecoToday Christians in many churches celebrate Christ the King Sunday.

When I was in Theology graduate school, some students didn’t like the imagery of Christ as “king.” They felt the idea of Christ as king was outdated and even oppressive.

However, that is totally missing the point of Christ as king. Christ is not an oppressive, earthly king. He didn’t establish an earthly kingdom supporting a particular nation, race, or class.

No! The good news of Jesus is that he came to establish a spiritual kingdom for everyone: Jew, Gentile, slave, free, rich, and poor. Christ is a king who is on the side of the poor, oppressed, and outcast.

It is this radical image of king which we celebrate today. Have a great Christ the King Sunday.

A Lenten Reflection: Keeping Lent Simple

Image of Jesus on the crossWhen I was younger, I approached Lent like the new year. I made a series of “resolutions” I would carry out during the season, such as reading the Bible more, reading through the Church Fathers, putting money in a jar for the poor every time I swore, or avoiding eating any meat, or all four. I remember when I first discovered Lent as a non-Catholic in 2000, I gave up meat for all of Lent, and I was very concerned because I thought the fine folks at the Ohio University Dining Hall accidentally gave me chicken nuggets instead of my requested fish nuggets (good thing I didn’t give up trans fats for Lent!).

I found that these disciplines were good, and that my list of Lenten goals and “giving up” did usually get accomplished, but I didn’t necessarily come out of Lent closer to God for it. I maybe came out a little healthier, or perhaps more familiar with the Church Fathers. Both are good things. However, in the last few years I have thought about the value of keeping my Lenten discipline extremely simple. Picking one theme, something that brings me closer to God and neighbor, and just focusing on that, giving something simple all of my attention.

This year I have decided on generosity. The entire life, death, and resurrection of Jesus demonstrates the generosity of God, who became one of us to save us, even though throughout all of human history we humans turned our back on his efforts at reaching out to us.

My dad jokingly calls me “Betty,” the name of my grandma, who was tight. She grew up in the Great Depression and this affected her view of giving to others. She didn’t exactly have an abundance mentality. They probably haven’t found a gene for tightness, but if there is one, I may have inherited it.

I am naturally frugal. Even now, I keep the heat in my house ridiculously low, preparing my daughter to comfortably tolerate any future ice age or apocalypse that lacks heat. I have set a goal to do an act of generosity a day that I normally wouldn’t have done. It could be giving extra time to a student or even playing with my daughter when I have a lot of other work to do.

And, I am praying the Prayer for Generosity of Saint Ignatius Loyola before bed.

Sometimes simple things can have a large effect. The effect for me so far has been for me to see how great generosity feels, and how much a little generosity to others can have a big result, in their lives, and in mine. One person’s generosity of time or money can spread through a community and impact it positively. I am not saying a few extra minutes with my daughter, or extra patience with a student will transform my community to become more like Christ, but it will definitely help.

What Are The “O” Antiphons of the Advent Season?

Lone Purple Advent CandleToday is December 17th, which means for Catholics and many other Christians in the Western world, it is time for the “O Antiphons” of the Advent season to begin.

The “O Antiphons” are antiphons. An antiphon is a short prayer, Scripture excerpt, etc, used before a psalm or canticale.

The “O Antiphons” are used before the Magnificat (the song of Mary from Luke 1:46-55) at Vespers (Evening Prayer) during the last seven days of Advent in the Catholic Church.

They are called the “O Antiphons” because the title of each begins with the address “O”.

Each antiphon is a title of Christ, derived from attributes in Scripture.

They are:

December 17: O Sapientia (Wisdom)
December 18: O Adonai (Lord)
December 19: O Radix Jesse (Root of Jesse)
December 20: O Clavis David (Key of David)
December 21: O Oriens (Dayspring)
December 22: O Rex Gentium (King of the nations)
December 23: O Emmanuel (With Us is God)

In the Catholic Church, they are used during Evening Prayer from December 17 to December 23 inclusive.

If you are interested in these Antiphons, we have them all listed on our Advent Prayers page.

Some New and Exciting Stuff Is Coming

This is just a post to say some new and exciting things are coming to ChurchYear.Net. Stay tuned and have a happy Summer and Ordinary Time!

John Paul II and John XXIII Canonization Today

Divine Mercy imageToday, Divine Mercy Sunday 2014, April 27th, John Paul II and John XXIII have been declared saints, in a ceremony at the Vatican.

John XXIII was pope from 1958-1963. Despite being elected as a “caretaker” pope, he called the Second Vatican council, which greatly shaped the Church that Catholics know today.

John Paul II was pope from 1978-2005. He was pope when I became Catholic in 2004. His charismatic presentation of the faith, along with his fidelity to Apostolic Teaching played a big role in my becoming Catholic.

Saints John XXIII and John Paul II, ora pro nobis.

Make 2014 A Great Year With Prayer

A grave marker with a woman prayingBy many accounts, the world was pretty depressed in 2013. Wars, the still “recovering” economy, government spying, natural disasters, and more have created a general attitude of “blah” for many in the world.

I am not dismissing the negative impact the world around us can have. Despite years of economic and technological progress, human problems still remain. Nonetheless, I think as Christians we are called to not lose hope and remember our ultimate goal is to become more like Christ and develop a closeness to God.

I am not advocating a retreat from modern life. I am saying that the best relief from the troubles of the modern world is to spend time in prayer (including the sacraments).

Prayer is a deep connection to God that is available anytime, anywhere. When I was little at a “Vacation Bible School” event, the leader told us children something that impacted me spiritually more than just about anything I heard as a child. She told us that we could tell God anything. I remember feeling liberated to know that. The same is true as an adult.

I would add to this that we can experience the presence of God anytime as well, anytime we enter into prayer (whether it be vocal, meditative, or contemplative). It is a delight indeed to be able to experience the presence of our Lord “at will,” if we take advantage of it.