Summary: "Merry Xmas!" Whenever you try to take "Christ" out of "Christmas" -- all you have left are "Xs". Excesses, Exhaustion, and Exchanges. But we were made for Expectation, Exaltation, and Examination.
THE CHRISTMAS X-PERIENCE
Text: John 1:1-14
(Suggested opening video: Christmas With A Capital C)
There are many beautiful traditions and practices that have come to be associated with Christmas. And many of them aren’t what you would call “Christian traditions or practices” - but we’ve adopted them and made them a part of our annual celebration anyway.
Take the Christmas tree, for example. Now, nowhere in the scriptures will you find where Joseph and Mary put one up in the stable where Christ was born. Some historians trace this practice back to an ancient pagan ritual that marked the celebration of the winter solstice. But over the centuries it has shed its pagan symbolism – and now stands as a beautiful reminder of life and God’s creation to you and me today. We generally use evergreen trees to remind us of everlasting life in Christ. And that’s why I have a Christmas tree standing in my living room. If I thought it was undermining the sacredness of this Christian holiday – I’d throw it out. But, I think in a very meaningful way – it adds to it.
And there are lots of other traditions which have grown up over the years that don’t really have any particular Christian or scriptural foundation. Like: hanging up stockings. . .putting up lights. . .sending cards. . .drinking eggnog. . .eating fruitcake. For some people – these things are Christmas. They are the beginning and the ending of the meaning of it. For Christians, though, those things are only a harmless addition to the real meaning of it. And so long as we keep our eyes on the celebration of the birth of Christ – those things don’t contradict the truest expression of the holiday.
But you know, there is one practice that I can think of that is probably the most annoying and offensive holiday habit I’ve ever seen. And that’s when we take “Christ” out of “Christmas” – and replace him with an “X”. It’s such a common thing anymore – on highway billboards, on store fronts, in people’s homes. To see splattered up there a big “MERRY XMAS.” Now, some people say that it’s just a harmless abbreviation for when you don’t have room to write the whole thing. But I say – if you don’t have room to include Christ in it, it’s better to write nothing at all.
I’ve heard others claim that it’s really not an X. They claim that it’s the Greek letter “chi” – which is the first letter in the name of Christ. So that “X” really stands for “Christ.” Just out of curiosity – how many of you can speak or write Greek? (Show of hands) That’s what I sort of suspected. So, who are we kidding?
Do you realize what you’re wishing people whenever you wish them a “Merry Xmas”? You’re actually wishing them a “Merry Nothing-mas!” Whenever you take Christ out of Christmas – you have nothing left to celebrate!
It shouldn’t really be that surprising, though, that so many would desire to take Christ out of Christmas. For in John 1:10-11, it says, “He was in the world, and the world was made by him, and the world knew him not. He came unto his own, and his own received him not.” (KJV) And even hundreds of years before his coming, the prophet Isaiah foretold what his reception here on earth would be. He said, “. . .he was despised, and we esteemed him not.” (Isaiah 53:3, KJV)
Instead of Christ – all that some people have ever had is a big “X”. And because of it, their whole Christmas holiday is filled with “Xs”. And I thought I’d share what some of those “Xs” are that follow whenever you take Christ out of Christmas. First, three negative “Xs” from the world’s perspective. And then, three positive “Xs” for Christians.
1. FOR SOME PEOPLE, ALL CHRISTMAS MEANS IS EX-CESSES.
It becomes a holiday for going overboard on just about everything. Too much partying, too much drinking, too much eating, too much spending. It has to be bigger, better, louder, and longer than it was last year – in order to be considered successful and enjoyable. For so many people, who have taken Christ out of their Christmas celebration – Christmas has become excessively hectic, excessively expensive, excessively demanding, and excessively indulgent.
Somehow, I think it’s shameful whenever we have more alcohol-related traffic fatalities between the week of Christmas and New Year than any other single week in the year. And whenever multitudes of people still haven’t finished paying-off last year’s Christmas credit card bills – before they start adding to it this year.
You know, church historians tell us that Christians didn’t start observing Christmas until about 60 years after the death of Christ. And when they did begin observing the day – it was a day of worship and praise. Later, there evolved the idea of exchanging small gifts on his birthday. But always – worship was kept the foremost function of that day. And I sometimes wonder how taken back our 1st century brothers and sisters would be if they could just see how the world celebrates this holy day today? I’m sure they would probably shake their heads in disbelief and despair if they could see the way Christ is so often pushed aside and neglected completely – on HIS day! That’s because Christmas become a time for eX-cesses whenever you take Christ out of it.