A Prayer for Christmas

O Lord Jesus Christ,
as you humbled yourself to be born among us and laid in a manger,
bring us with the shepherds and wise men
to kneel in awe and joyful thanksgiving
and to follow the steps of your blessed life;
that rejoicing now in your peace,
we may come at the last to eternal glory in your presence,
where the angels ever sing your praises.
– Amen.
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Xmas: X-ing Out Christmas and the War On Intelligence

There is no such thing as a “campaign” to X-out Christmas by writing the word as Xmas.
 
If you believe that, stop your complaining immediately and take stock of what it is that you are complaining about, and check your own attitude on “…good will to all humankind.”
That Xmas = Bad idea was around in popular cultrue decades before the conservative faction went radical and started calling everything from Disneyland to wedding cake as a “war on” Christianity. It’s older than all such non-theological, ignorant ideas, and just as dumb. It leaves the impression with those outside this self-blessed inner circle of so-called Christians that the “war” they speak of is actually one against any person and any idea outside their own. In other words, it’s perfectly ok for them to bad-mouth anyone else in the name of their religious beliefs, but if it comes back on them, then it’s a “war” against them and their off-track ideas.
Xmas is the perfect example of preachers just being flat-out dumb.
 
The fact is that the X in Xmas is an abbreviation that has meant “Christ” for many centuries, going back to the days when Gutenberg printed the first Bible. Looking at the Greek word that was translated as “Christ,” the X is the Greek letter Chi in the word:

ΧΡΙΣΤΩΣ

Hmm… That first letter looks like… Oh. An X. The word “CHRISTOS” above is Greek for “anointed.” Unless your preacher called in sick on the day that they covered THE GREEK ALPHABET in seminary, they should already know this well-known fact: the spelling of Christ’s name in the original Greek texts.
chi rho candle xmasIf you look at the first two letters of the word, what looks like an X and a P, those two show up in church art and symbolism as the Chi-Rho monogram. This may have gone all the way back to the first century followers of Jesus Christ (who knows? – there’s not exactly a record of this stuff), but by the 4th Century AD, the Emperor Constantine used the Chi-Rho as his standard when going to battle, after a dream in which he was told that if he converted to Christianity and used the symbol as his standard, his army would be saved. Believe it or not the symbol worked for him. At that point, Christianity became legal in the Roman Empire (for a while) and the Chi-Rho was the symbol used, and is seen in some ancient carvings.
Jump forward to the 15th Century when Gutenberg used the abbreviation “Xmas” in print as an abbreviated “Christmas” (before you snark at me, Gutenberg didn’t compose type in English.)
chi rho ancient roman carving xmasDictionaries note that the word Xmas was in common use by the 1600s,  It’s found as far back as scratchings in stone in the ancient Roman catacombs, and is as present today as to show up in the designs of priestly vestments and church altar dressings today. It might even be somewhere in the stained glass windows of your church. If you find it there, I hope you don’t feel as if your own parish (whatever you call it) is engaging in some sort of war on Christ.
How to say it:
 
Let’s not try and get snarky about pronunciation. The word Xmas is pronounced “Christmas” and not “exmas,” just the same as the whole word is pronounced instead of abbreviations like Mr., Mrs., Dr., etc. Not to mention the most recent to the list: @.
What we are looking at when we see the word Xmas is simply another word that has been used for centuries to mean the same thing. Think “Jesus Christ” vs. “Christ” vs. “Christ Jesus.” Same with all the many words that exist for “God.”
Attacks on Christmas and Christendom. Maybe the true attack – if any – that we deal with every day is that folks are wasting breath and energy ruining other peoples’ day with their own ill will toward their fellow humans. During Advent and Christmas, why not use every ounce of our energies to concentrate on the goodness of the season, regardless of other folks’ beliefs. Or other folks’ non-beliefs. As spiritual people, if we have enough time left at the end of each spiritual day to complain and grouse on the spelling of a word rather than to concentrate on all the fear in the world, all the hate, all the hunger, all the loveless, stinging cold, then we have not done enough to make our own – and our fellow humans – day complete.
Go in peace and pray for me, a sinner.
 – Amen
Ancient Roman Chi-Rho signet ring Xmas

Ancient Roman Chi-Rho signet ring

Now that You’ve Got It, What Are You Going to Do With It?

Marriage is here. It’s no longer “gay” marriage or “same sex” marriage, it’s just marriage. The time for much singing and rainbow rejoicing quiets around us, and so we begin the work.

This speaks to a whole group of people who have no previous example of how marriage works from our long-ignored and bashed down perspective. Yes, we have the example of our parents, and of our friends. Statistics show that over half of them didn’t do it very well. Are they are our source of reference. How do the workings of marriage we have all grown up with teach us about how we should handle a marriage. They didn’t exactly teach this stuff in Health class back in school.

This is also for the people who love us, who support us, and who profess to do all that they can to help us in this great life-changing step. Some Christian congregations add to this public pledge, “with the help of God,” reflecting very much the same pledge of undying, never-ending support said for them at their baptism.

What this is not.

Same sex marriage is not a time for nose-tweaking political statements. If we are a people of some sort of spiritual belief, then we should be taking this step with great seriousness and contemplation. This is not an extended date or protracted trick. This is not something that seemed like a good idea after a few drinks in Vegas. To do any of these is a waste of a blessing.

Know That Statistics Are Against You

Realize that divorce statistics studies on marriage in early adopter gay marriage states shows there is little difference in divorce rates between “gay marriages” and “everybody else.” You won’t win on this case without doing all the work. There is no golden marriage ticket.

What are you going to do with it?

Now that this blessing is among us, don’t feel as if it’s a necessary. We still have those around us who choose not to marry for whatever reason, those who are not yet emotionally ready to take on marriage, and those who would not even consider the thought, and who wish to be single. We must not become marriage snobs because some around us are not at the same relationship street that we stand on.

Just as the fight to get to this place was built on “stay out of my bedroom,” it is now our responsibility to stay out of our friends’ bedrooms, and not gloat about the drapes and wallpaper in our own.

The next day John again was standing with two of his disciples, and as he watched Jesus walk by, he exclaimed, “Look, here is the Lamb of God!” The two disciples heard him say this, and they followed Jesus. When Jesus turned and saw them following, he said to them, “What are you looking for?

– (John 1:35-38)

Jesus asks these new guys clearly “what is it you want” (by following me so)? Our job as marriage beginners is to figure that part out for ourselves, as long as it takes to learn it (some call this exercise discernment.)

It seems as if God is always asking us this question in one way or another… stay with your job? … get rid of your rust bucket car? … which issues to believe and which to ignore?… And so it is our job – hopefully with a little help from our friends and those who love us – to figure this out.

  • Why is it that we want to get married?
  • What do we hope to get out of the situation?
  • Are we ready to take on marriage as a calling and as a vocation, the same as our work?

The truth is: your marriage will take much more effort and cause more frustration than your job ever will. (We are assuming here that your job is not that of a bomb technician.)

And just for reference, I ask these questions of any couple seeking marriage, not just this-group, not that-group. Everyone. And if you met your alleged future spouse in any type of reality TV show about picking brides or grooms, please do not call my office. 🙂

– Keep the faith!