Words are really arbitrary these days, and riddled with levels of abstraction. The classic examples showing "Joy" as soap and "Pride" as furniture polish have been updated and we now use "Friend" as a verb, we deserve to "indulge" ourselves, and "miracle" products can be "Googled" at will.
These days, amidst the clutter and noise of the Season, it is not unusual to hear some Christians spend this time of year doing their best to remind everyone that the word Christmas has the word Christ in it.
Some folks respond to these efforts by increasing intentional usage of the confrontationally truncated "X-mas." Others resort to the stale white bread of "happy holidays" (New Years Eve is so close, after all. Surely Jesus doesn't mind sharing his "birthday" with New Years.) Well in my opinion Jesus would probably say, "I do mind, and don't call me Shirley" - not because he is jealous sharing but because we insist on reducing the most ontologically significant spiritual event into an over-glorified birthday party.
Naturally, there is a cubic parsec of rhetoric drugging the way America behaves during the Season. We simply must start fights about how to have peace on earth, after all, we just can't help ourselves.
As though we are not a nation full of different perspectives, some get irate at efforts to be more inclusive (indeed some Believers shudder at the mere use of THAT word) in regards to discussion about observances this time of year.
"Happy Holidays" is safe enough in most circles as we certainly don't have a shortage of them: Jewish, Christian, Muslim, Pagan, Hindu, Humanist... the list goes on, no need to try and be exhaustive about it here, you get the point. The term does us all a blessing by being not quite an indication of "holy" days but pointing to it semiotically and allowing us to say something and not be too presumptuous about what exactly the person we say it to would celebrate if given the freedom to do so.
It is so all encompassing it can even support that growing population of those who simply don't subscribe to any classifiable system or superstructure of belief, even those who are intrinsically secular in nature as well.
For many years, it was ok to just say "Merry Christmas" and let those other poor perspectives suffer in their marginalization - as some have said, how can these "less popular" holy days compete against the grand-daddy of all commercialized traditions?
Christmas is so commercialized that even content decrying the commercialization of Christmas gets commercialized to an often obscene level (I'm looking at you, Charlie Brown Christmas.)
But, functionally in our modern western capitalist democracy, is Christmas really a holy day? Is it really Christian at all? Has it ever been?
Oh, I know. Yes, for some, there is no extracting the Christ from Christmas (despite the whole affair having plundered Pagan rituals for content and process) and they'd rather die (or kill) than see it be any other way. For individuals, Christmas is what Christmas does, so to speak; but what of the Culture of America at large? One does not have to look very far in our art/culture/tradition as it has evolved in America around Christmas to see that it is INDEED a secular holiday and not a Christian holy day at all. A Christmas of "stuff" as some have called it.
What's Christmas about? What is the true spirit of Christmas? What better way to examine our culture's take on these questions than to examine the art that comes out of it - in particular it's most populist artform, the cinema.What do American Christmas movies say Christmas is about? Secular Holiday or Christian holy day?
In my next few posts, I'll dissect some of these holiday favorites to find out exactly what kind of messages are contained within. The purpose? To propose the absurd: It makes good sense for Christians to "give up Christmas" - to give it over in a certain sense to the secularists in our culture. To create Kristmas and save Christmas. I aim to suggest that to do so would not only be to mend some of the more damaging, materialist, gluttony currently stapled to it, but possibly to create a force for good in the world unparalleled in history - a force Jesus himself might even be proud to be associated with (even if it means giving up his "birthday").
For some - even some in my own family - what I'm suggesting is close to heresy. I'm not saying Christians can't celebrate Christ's birth, I'm simply suggesting it may be the wisest course of action to concede the glaringly obvious loss of Christmas and start anew - letting the secular world maintain its version as Kristmas and inventing a new Jesus-focused holy day for Christmas; taking heart that notions of goodwill and peace on earth might remain in Kristmas and be more logistically possible for having abandoned it.