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Tuesday, December 24, 2013

Merry Christmas or Xmas?

 OR ??

I've heard some people (especially Christians) get upset about the abbreviation Xmas.  I've heard that it has a secular meaning which originated because people wanted to take "Christ" out of Christmas...and I've heard the wikipedia version that says:

"Xmas is a common abbreviation of the word Christmas . It is sometimes pronounced /ˈɛksməs/, but it, and variants such as Xtemass, originated as handwriting abbreviations for the typical pronunciation /ˈkrɪsməs/. The "-mas" part is from the Latin-derived Old English word for Mass,[1]while the "X" comes from the Greek letter Chi, which is the first letter of the Greek word Χριστόςwhich comes into English as "Christ".[2]
There is a common misconception that the word Xmas stems from a secular attempt to remove the religious tradition from Christmas[3] by taking the "Christ" out of "Christmas", but its use dates back to the 16th century."

I'm not one to base everything on wiki though so I thought I'd dig a little deeper. I decided to read through 10 reputable websites (by this I mean I look at the it .org, .com or .edu; who is writing the webpage and where did their research come from...) and see if they say the same thing as wikipedia...or, if, in fact, it is a secular term. Therefore, we can end the debate right here and now :) Personally, I'm hoping that it is NOT a way to blot out Christ from Christmas, but instead, a simpler way to write Christmas!

Here is what I found...

1. which is a site that advertises "Biblical and Theological Resources for Growing Christians" updated by the Christian Resource Institute has an article that says the following (rather directly and Christians for being misinformed)

"For example, around Christmas each year there are always those who loudly decry the use of the abbreviation "Xmas" as some kind of blasphemy against Christ and Christianity. This concern has been elevated recently with the public debates about manger scenes and the substitution of "holiday" for Christmas in stores and government venues. Among religious folks, the objection to Xmas is usually along the line that people have taken Christ out of Christmas and replaced him with an unknown (since the Greek letter chi, [C,c] which looks like the English letter x, is the symbol for an unknown quantity in mathematics).

For example, on the "Voice of Prophecy" web site is an article entitled "You Can’t 'X' out Christ."

You’ve heard the classic story about the little boy who noticed the huge red-and-green sign spray-painted on a department story: "Happy Xmas." And he wondered aloud about the X. Why was it X-mas? And finally, in a forlorn voice, he asked his dad: "Did they cross Christ out of Christmas, Daddy?" And the father had never thought of it that way before, but finally nodded. "Yes, Son, I guess they did." And it makes you think.

Well it certainly does make one think. It makes one think how uninformed or misinformed, and unnecessarily militant with that misinformation, so many Christians are concerning their own Faith. The story illustrates what could have been a marvelous opportunity to teach a child about some of the important symbolism of the Christian Faith. But it was an opportunity lost, in this story at least, because many Christians do not understand their own iconography and symbolism. The results are often battles waged against windmills while far more consequential issues for the Faith are neglected (a modern example of Matt. 23:23)."

2. Wow, point taken...number two is simply Merriam Webster's Dictionary that explains:

Definition of XMAS

: christmas

Origin of XMAS

X (symbol for Christ, from the Greek letter chi (X), initial of Christos Christ) + -mas (in Christmas)

First Known Use: 1551

3. This one I'm hesitant to share because I couldn't find the author, however, I'll add it to my list anyway because the site looked pretty cool ;) It's

'Xmas' - origins & trivia

Xmas is an abbreviation for Christmas. It is derived from the word ΧΡΙΣΤΟΣ, transliterated as Christos, which is Greek for Christ. Greek is the language in which the whole New Testament was written.

Originally, Xmas was an abbreviation where the X represents the Greek letter chi, which is the first letter of Christ's name. However, because of the modern interpretations of the letter X, many people are unaware of this and assume that this abbreviation is meant to drop Christ from Christmas.

4. That's 3 in accordance with wiki and Christianity :) This fourth one is a blog on the cambridge dictionary website. I wasn't going to use this one, but she cited all her facts so I thought it was legit (and also in accordance to what we've already read). And I liked her addition to the topic.

Ever wonder what this symbol was?  Now you know! :)

A common belief is that Xmas “takes the Christ out of Christmas” – that this is part of the so-called “war on Christmas” intended to suppress traditional Christian symbols. But this is a misapprehension, the result of not knowing the origin of the abbreviation. The X in Xmas stands for the Greek chi, the first letter of Christ’s name when spelled in Greek: XPIΣTOΣ (equivalent in Latin letters to Kristos orChristos). X and XP have been used as abbreviations for “Christ” for about a thousand years, either alone or as the first syllable of other words, such as Xpēn,christen; Xpēnned, christened; Xtian, Christian, and Xtianity, Christianity. The abbreviation also crops up occasionally in personal names; for example, Xpher, Christopher; Xene, Christine, and Xtina, Christina. In The Oxford English Dictionary, which tracks the development of words over time, the X as an abbreviation for Christmas is dated to 1551 in the form of X’temmas and to 1755 as the modern Xmas.

Okay, so I said I was going to find 10...but honestly, there aren't any more reputable sites that I could find with more info. I even looked at secular posts, an interesting "tolerance" site that explained everything from Buddhism to the Koran and 3-4 blogs...but found nothing different from what I've written above. So, my conclusion? Don't rant about something until you understand it ;) Looks like this is not something to get upset about. True, many stores and secular organizations use it as a way to shorten the word and possibly even take out Christ...but now you can share your knowledge to anyone who asks or comments and say, "X is the Greek letter for Christ! Jesus is still the true meaning of Christmas!" :) Oh, and if you hear someone say "Merry Xmas!" you can tell them, "Actually, the correct pronunciation is Merry 'Chi-mas'" ;)

Merry Christmas and Merry Xmas everyone!!

laurie j.

Sunday, December 1, 2013

Santa vs Jesus

"But the angel said to them, 'Do not be afraid; for see—I am bringing you good news of great joy for all the people: 11 to you is born this day in the city of David a Savior, who is the Messiah, the Lord. 12 This will be a sign for you: you will find a child wrapped in bands of cloth and lying in a manger.' 13 And suddenly there was with the angel a multitude of the heavenly host, praising God and saying,

'Glory to God in the highest heaven,

    and on earth peace among those whom he favors!'”
Luke 2:10-14

I have been struggling with this since my first little monkey was born.  For some Christians, this poses a dilemma - me included.  As someone who wants my child to know what Christmas is really about, bringing up Santa is hard...because he can overshadow Jesus in a blink of an eye.  So, what to do?  My opinion follows and I'd love to hear yours...but please don't disparage anyone else's opinion :)

I never brought up Santa in front of my kids when they were little.  My little boy (the oldest) heard about Santa for the first time when he was in his Christian 3 year old prek class.  He didn't really seem to care. The teacher even went as far as to send a little letter to each child from Santa, which was a very sweet letter and I should've been happy with it...but I wasn't.  And I didn't even read it to my child.  Why?  Good question.  I think it was because I didn't want him to get excited about Santa and create an atmosphere of anticipation of him coming...why? Well, because I wanted him to have that attitude about Jesus.  Maybe that's asking too much, but that's what I wanted (and still want).

I have a Christian friend who is also a mother of young children and she made a good point.  Children hear a lot about Santa and Jesus at Christmas - both are abstract and live somewhere abstract.  We can't see them - except in pictures - you pray to one, write letters to the other.  To children, the two aren't very when they eventually find out that Santa isn't real...where does that leave Jesus?  Will He seem less real as well?  Possibly - He'll seem more as a mythical, magical type character than someone who actually lived and died for us.  I don't want that.

35 In everything I did, I showed you that by this kind of hard work we must help the weak, remembering the words the Lord Jesus himself said: 'It is more blessed to give than to receive.' "
Acts 20:35  

I realize Santa is a harmless, fictional character that creates magic in the lives of children and makes Christmas eve and Christmas morning so amazing.  I just wish we could create that type of amazement with just Jesus.  Doesn't that sound sad?  Just Jesus.  Like Jesus isn't enough?  Jesus is more than enough - and we have to figure out how to make it that way.  I'm not saying do away with gifts :)  The Bible tells us over and over to give to others, we use the mantra at Christmas - "It's better to give than to receive".  It's a wonderful concept to teach children - to use the whole season as a teaching tool of how to give to others...including those less fortunate, hurting and sad.

37 Then the righteous will answer him, ‘Lord, when was it that we saw you hungry and gave you food, or thirsty and gave you something to drink? 38 And when was it that we saw you a stranger and welcomed you, or naked and gave you clothing? 39 And when was it that we saw you sick or in prison and visited you?’ 40 And the king will answer them, ‘Truly I tell you, just as you did it to one of the least of these who are members of my family,[g] you did it to me.’ 
Matthew 25:37-40

I don't want to do away with gifts and living in Peru helped me see that as well.  Christmas, for my husband growing up in Peru, was church and family.  They spend Christmas eve at the church with their families and at midnight have paneton and hot chocolate.  They also have a big meal for Noche buena (Christmas Eve).  Its a beautiful tradition.  On Christmas day, they just hang out - no gifts, no big meals - just time together. stress ;)  I like the idea, but I think part of Christmas is helping those that are less fortunate and giving to others to show your love for them.  That doesn't mean buying expensive things - you can even make stuff, create a card, draw a picture...whatever.  Just something to show you care.  But I think we can overdo it.  I know I have...

One positive of the Peruvian tradition is that there is no confusion of what Christmas is all about.  For us to do that here, we are going to have to work harder and be more creative.  I don't stress Santa, I don't bring him up, I don't label any gifts from Santa, we don't write letters to Santa and I have never told my children that he exists.  We've never even visited him in the mall.  They have asked about his existence - and I always throw it back to them - "What do you think?"  In contrast, I've also never told them that he doesn't exist...why?  I don't know.  I guess I like the magic a little as well...or maybe I don't want my kids to be the ones to tell all the other kids that he doesn't exist!  I would feel horrible.  I simply just don't bring him up.

So how can we make sure that Jesus is the center of this month and not Santa?  A few ideas that we do and/or I have seen done or things I would like to do...

--make your advent calendar religious - advent calendars are awesome.  It creates an air of anticipation that we all enjoy.  Just make it religious.  I have one from when I was little and each day is another animal or person or thing from the manger scene.  It sparks a conversation of where and how Jesus was born.

--limit your presents-  if you don't want Christmas to be all about Santa and gifts, then don't overdo it.  One thing I heard and have stuck with is - you get three gifts on Christmas just like baby Jesus.  Since I don't label any gifts (I just put their names on the gifts, I don't even put a "from") they literally have just 3 gifts.  Think that sounds like plenty? - you'd be surprised :)  It's so hard to not go over that.  I do give them stockings but have vowed to not put anything in them this year that either won't be eaten or played with later on.

--Find a nice child friendly advent devotional.  Our family does a devotional every morning before we all head our separate ways - we do it over breakfast.  It's not always meaningful, sometimes it's rather quick, but it's done every morning and I love that the children will call us on it if we forget :)  I found a free app on my iphone that is an advent calendar and each day has a short bible story (with pictures).  We did it today for the first time and it was pretty neat.  It was about the prophet Isaiah and how he told everyone about Jesus coming.

--Make sure and take advantage of any activities for children at your church - you know those are Jesus centered :)

--There is a neat tradition circling pinterest to wrap 25 christmas books and let the children open one per day until Christmas.  We did this last year and the kids really liked it - and today they were very excited to unwrap the first one :)  But I try and make sure that every other night (or at least every third night) the book is about Jesus or at least something that alludes to the true meaning of Christmas.  If you need some ideas go here.

--Get involved in an organization or church activity that feeds or clothes the homeless or sick, goes caroling at a nursing home, buys gifts for kids in need (just make sure it's legit), rings the salvation army bell (so fun with kids :) or takes homemade gifts to shut ins or people/children in the hospital (like advent angels).  Looking for something on Christmas Day?  Our church has a few volunteers that want to cook Christmas breakfast for the homeless in the area and people who may be alone this Christmas.  They would love help!  Just make sure and talk to your children about why...why are we helping people?  Why is this important?  What does Jesus say about helping others? etc

-- Go to or participate in a Live Nativity (shouldn't be any Santa's there ;)  Sometimes churches even tell the story while you watch.

--If your church has a Christmas program, then make sure your child has a part!

--Don't just watch the traditional Christmas movies - try some of the religious ones as well.  A few that we will be showing at our church on the big screen in the next few weeks - The Night Before Christmas - A Mouse's Tale and Hermie and Wormie's Fruitcake Christmas.  The mouse movie, if you haven't seen it, is about two mice who climb a Christmas tree to find out what Christmas is - some answers they get on their journey - singing, food, dancing, presents - but, to my surprise, the angel at the top directs them to the manger scene while she sings Silent Night.  Very nice.  Hermie and Wormie are a creation of Max Lucado and those are all very cute :)  Of course, I can't leave off Charlie Brown's Christmas - the best Christmas movie ever!  A national treasure...and it's religious.  Awesome :)

I'm not saying that we should do away with Santa and I'm not saying he's bad...I'm not an extremist who is anti-Santa and thinks Santa is "Satan" with a few letters out of place (SNL flashback :)  I just want to make sure, that in my house, Jesus is said more than Santa, that the Christmas story is read more than the Night Before Christmas and that Jesus is "real" to my children and not abstract. I don't want Jesus to be the background...I want my kids to answer the question - "What is Christmas all about?" with "Jesus' birth".  If you have more ideas on how to help me do this - I would love to hear them!!

God Bless and Merry Christmas...