Thursday, December 6, 2012

Keeping the "X" in "Xmas"

It seems at this time of year that we often hear of people getting upset at the use of the word "Xmas" in place of the word "Christmas". The concern is that by using "Xmas" instead of "Christmas" that we are blatantly taking Jesus out of the season. To be honest this argument has always made me laugh, and so I feel compelled to explain why in this blog. 

The New Testament was originally written in Greek.  In Greek the word for "Christ" is Χριστός, which begins with the Greek letter (known as chi) that is basically the same as the English letter X. So, as I understand it, the original use of Xmas was simply an abbreviation of Christmas. Really there is no conspiracy here. 

But I know that we can't deny that there is a move to secularize Christmas in our culture. This should come as no surprise to us. The reality is that we live in a culture where most people are not following Christ and therefore their understanding of Christmas will reflect this. 

But I sometimes wonder if we as Christians aren't also complicit in Jesus being removed from the season. Have we as followers of Christ allowed all the other things about the season to crowd out the Christ-story in our own lives? I recently heard someone suggest that one of the ways that we can be ensuring that Jesus remains central in our own expression and understanding of the season is to make sure that for every time we (and our family) hear a secular Christmas story (i.e. Santa Claus, Frosty the Snowman, Elf...etc), that we should make sure that we take the time to also read, or retell, the story of the birth of Christ. In this way we would ensure that our culture's understanding of the season would not crowd out the significance of what the Bible tells us about the birth of Christ. 

I can't help but wonder if our way forward is to stop fighting the "keep Christ in Christmas" battle in the public forum, and seek to ensure that Christ is prominent in our own Christmas celebrations and then seek to live that out in tangible ways. 

Just a thought...

Also, I found this blog about St. Nicholas. Definitely worth the click! (click here)

Monday, December 3, 2012

When our escapes become all too real

I am a sports fan. I like watching sports. I like reading about sports. I like listening to sports talk shows. I even play fantasy sports. I recognize that for me that sports are an escape. When I engage the side of me that is a sports fan I am able to temporarily shut down other parts of my brain for a while - indeed listening to a sports show in the car can be a little mental getaway in between the other, truly important, things that are a part of my life.  

I say all this knowing that I am not the only one that views sports in this way. On some level we need getaways such as these. But I also know that sometimes sports as a getaway can become too big of a part of our lives and we can live in this place, forgetting what is real and meaningful and begin to believe that the entertainment is what holds substance. 

This weekend the divide between the getaway of sports and the messiness of real life has been crossed. Many of you know the story already that a football player killed his girlfriend and then killed himself, leaving a young girl orphan.  It is a truly tragic story that I believe will take a while to unpack and digest. 

This morning I find myself changing up my day-off routine of having sports on in the background of my day. My escape is no longer an escape. I am reminded that brokenness cannot be avoided no matter how I would try to. Real life includes chaos, anguish and injustice. Indeed it can look like death is winning. these places of darkness and death, we are called to point to the light of the true life. I am reminded that God is not okay with suffering, indeed God is on the side of life! As a follower of Christ, I am called to proclaim this good news to those who are without hope!

This week at youth group we looked at Ezekiel's vision of the valley of dry bones and were challenged by the imagery that God would breathe life into bones that seemed beyond resuscitation. As one of my students pointed out, it is like the Creation story all over again! It is God's desire that we live as those animated by his divine breathe. A life that disperses darkness, confronts evil and holds a great hope.

Going back to football for a minute. A friend of mine once suggested that fantasy football has made commodities out of people. I cannot argue that this is completely untrue. The reality is that by investing ourselves in our escapes (whatever they are) that we can  forget that we are dealing with real people who are in need of God's breathe of life in their lives. May we never forget this and may we always be striving to proclaim the good news of God's hope!