Monday, December 15, 2014

How Do You Spell Christmas?

Gledelig Jul-Norwegian,
"ubha nath thalak Vewa!"-Sri Lankan,
I had a conversation on Saturday that I'd like to share with you.  I was in a meeting at my church. We were planning for the future - visioning.  I was recording the notes from our small groups on large poster paper so we could all see.  One of our groups had developed a lot of good ideas and they were coming fast and furious, so as I was writing I abbreviated the word Christmas with X-mas, intending to go back when we finished and write out the word.  Before I could do it, one of the folks around the table (a person who would very much enjoy my error) pointed out the abbreviation and requested that it be corrected.  'It really bothered him.'
I have been watching the facebook posts over the past few weeks about the disagreement over Merry Christmas or Happy Holidays and I must admit I have to ask, what's the big deal?  Now I know, when I write this, that most assuredly I will get the most responses I have ever gotten trying to reform my thinking and clarify the difference.  No doubt, I am not as smart as others who seem to 'get it.'
But here is my point.  When I wrote X-mas, I was writing Christmas. In no way was I "X-ing out Christ."  What a foolish thing to say!  So I got to thinking about these arbitrary symbols that we use to communicate.  As you can see above, there are vast and asunder symbols to represent the word Christ and Christmas.  And then I got to thinking about God and what He would think about all of this fallderall and fiddledeedee.

As I was looking for some history about this issue this is what I found: It a common misconception that the use of the term "Xmas" instead of "Christmas" spelled out was started by those who hate Christianity and who want Christ to be removed from society. Actually, the term "Χmas" has religious origins. It is not some kind of X-ing out of Christ. In fact, the Χ is not a Roman X at all, but the Greek letter chi -- Χ (Lowercase : χ) -- which looks something like the Latin X. Chi (χ) and rho (ρ) are the two letters in ancient Greek that begin the name Christos [Christ]. The chi-rho (☧) was used on the standards of Constantine's Roman army when he defeated Maxentius and brought Christianity into the Roman Empire as its official religion in the early fourth century. It is frequently used in the orphrey of traditional vestments.

So, "Χmas" is actually a more ancient form, in a way, recalling to our minds the origins of our Faith, in which Greek, as well, as Latin, is paramount in Tradition.

Here is my conclusion (and, again, I'm certain there will be those that will assuredly correct me)...
God could care less about our symbols of communication or how we spell a word, even His word.  What He cares about is our heart.  You see, I'm not worried that God is angry with me for X-mas.  He knows my heart and He knows that I love Him and put Him first in my life.  My relationship with God is a good one.  He knows that I would NEVER X him out.  He doesn't care whether we say Merry Christmas or Happy Holidays.  What He cares about is that we are loving each other and serving each other and worshipping Him.  You can use the words Merry Christmas every time, but if your heart is not God's, He will and does know.  Instead of spending all this time on this debate, wouldn't it be better to spend it in service to someone this holiday season and, yes, I said holiday season.  Thanksgiving, Christmas, New Year's  and ALL of the holidays...serving, giving, loving, worshipping.  Isn't this a better use of our time and energy?
This whole debate seems so foolish to me.  You know, beyond the Ten Commandments there are 613 rules in the Bible about how to love and serve our God and live our lives.  Jesus was not born to do away with the rules, he said so, but He was born to teach us two things about the rules:  Love the Lord, your God, with all of your heart, soul, mind, and strength AND to Love your neighbor as you love yourself.  If you do these two things, then all the other rules will fall in line.  Jesus pointed out that we get so caught up in the rules that we forget the relationships.  That's what His message was all about.  That's what He did.  LOVE - loving Him and loving each other.  I am pretty certain He doesn't care how we spell it.  He's more concerned about how we do it.
So I'll not apologize for my 'mistake.'  God knows my shorthand and my heart.  I don't have to worry about all of the others who worry so much!

And he answered, “You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your strength and with all your mind, and your neighbor as yourself.” 

Luke 10:27


Friday, December 12, 2014

On Santa's Team

My grandma taught me everything about Christmas. I was just a kid. I remember tearing across town on my bike to visit her on the day my big sister dropped the bomb: "There is no Santa Claus," jeered my sister. "Even dummies know that!"

My grandma was not the gushy kind, never had been. I fled to her that day because I knew she would be straight with me. I knew Grandma always told the truth, and I knew that the truth always went down a whole lot easier when swallowed with one of her world-famous cinnamon buns.

Grandma was home, and the buns were still warm. Between bites, I told her everything. She was ready for me.

"No Santa Claus!" she snorted. "Ridiculous! Don't believe it. That rumor has been going around for years, and it makes me mad, plain mad. Now, put on your coat, and let's go."

"Go? Go where, Grandma?" I asked. I hadn't even finished my second cinnamon bun.

"Where" turned out to be Kerby's General Store, the one store in town that had a little bit of just about everything. As we walked through its doors, Grandma handed me ten dollars. That was a bundle in those days.

"Take this money," she said, "and buy something for someone who needs it. I'll wait for you in the car." Then she turned and walked out of Kerby's.

I was only eight years old. I'd often gone shopping with my mother, but never had I shopped for anything all by myself. The store seemed big and crowded, full of people scrambling to finish their Christmas shopping. For a few moments I just stood there, confused, clutching that ten-dollar bill, wondering what to buy, and who on earth to buy it for. I thought of everybody I knew: my family, my friends, my neighbors, the kids at school, the people who went to my church.

I was just about thought out, when I suddenly thought of Bobbie Decker. He was a kid with bad breath and messy hair, and he sat right behind me in Mrs. Pollock's grade-two class. Bobbie Decker didn't have a coat. I knew that because he never went out for recess during the winter. His mother always wrote a note, telling the teacher that he had a cough; but all we kids knew that Bobbie Decker didn't have a cough, and he didn't have a coat.

I fingered the ten-dollar bill with growing excitement. I would buy Bobbie Decker a coat. I settled on a red corduroy one that had a hood to it. It looked real warm, and he would like that. I didn't see a price tag, but ten dollars ought to buy anything. I put the coat and my ten-dollar bill on the counter and pushed them toward the lady behind it.

She looked at the coat, the money, and me. "Is this a Christmas present for someone?" she asked kindly. "Yes," I replied shyly. "It's ... for Bobbie. He's in my class, and he doesn't have a coat." The nice lady smiled at me. I didn't get any change, but she put the coat in a bag and wished me a Merry Christmas.

That evening, Grandma helped me wrap the coat in Christmas paper and ribbons, and write, "To Bobbie, From Santa Claus" on it ... Grandma said that Santa always insisted on secrecy.

Then she drove me over to Bobbie Decker's house, explaining as we went that I was now and forever officially one of Santa's helpers. Grandma parked down the street from Bobbie's house, and she and I crept noiselessly and hid in the bushes by his front walk.

Suddenly, Grandma gave me a nudge. "All right, Santa Claus," she whispered, "get going."

I took a deep breath, dashed for his front door, threw the present down on his step, pounded his doorbell twice and flew back to the safety of the bushes and Grandma. Together we waited breathlessly in the darkness for the front door to open. Finally it did, and there stood Bobbie. He looked down, looked around, picked up his present, took it inside and closed the door.

Forty years haven't dimmed the thrill of those moments spent shivering, beside my grandma in Bobbie Decker's bushes. That night, I realized that those awful rumors about Santa Claus were just what Grandma said they were: Ridiculous!

Santa was alive and well ... AND WE WERE ON HIS TEAM!

Give generously to him and do so without a grudging heart; then because of this the Lord your God will bless you in all your work and in everything you put your hand to.

Deuteronomy 15:10