A few years ago we were inviting the local community to an Advent celebration. Because of space, we put Xmas on there rather than Christmas. An anonymous gentleman called in and reamed our preaching minister for this abomination. An attempt was made to explain to the concerned caller that the "X" in Xmas is actually an abbreviation, not a cultural capitulation to the liberal conspiracy aiming for the removal of "Christ from Christmas." The man wasn't hearing any of it. It was further explained that the "X" was representative of the Greek letter "chi" which is (1) shaped liken an X and (2) is the first letter in the the Greek version of Christ, which we turn into a "Ch." Again, he was having none of it.
Of course we have done the mature thing and made wise cracks and laughed about it every Xmas since.
For the 2011 installment... We were in staff meeting on Tuesday discussing what to put on the sign this week and one unnamed witty, young, handsome, intelligent minister offered: "Hey, let's put on there:
TO KEEP THE X
A few laughs and a few oh-no-not-this-again-quit-beating-a-dead-horse groans filled the room.
It seems like the concerned gentleman's call is part of a wide-ranging angst from evangelicals today that all the non-Christians are out to steal Jesus from us. I caught this on Scot McKnight's blog the other day:
One security company is offering a solution to the problem of stolen baby Jesus figurines from Nativity displays by giving organizations GPS tracking devices.
“The holidays are about helping people,” said Todd Morris, CEO of BrickHouse Security in New York. “The theft and vandalism of treasured holiday figures is a problem we can empower communities and congregations to solve. We’re happy to expand the program and help even more people this year.”
The name of the program is “Saving Jesus,” and this holiday season will mark the sixth year the company has supplied the devices to organizations and churches. Some years around 100 organizations have taken advantage of the offer, and BrickHouse anticipates many more to participate this year.
Qualifying organizations will receive the Spark Nano GPS Tracker device, which is described as “matchbox-sized” and can be hidden either on or in the Jesus figurines. BrickHouse even ships the device for free, and it comes fully activated and ready to use.
The whole idea of "Saving Jesus" overflows with possibilities. The lowest hanging fruit would be to go on a rant about how it is the evil religious establishment that has stolen Jesus and we need to go about a crusade to Save Jesus from the Church as one author penned.
Another possibility would be to make this analogous to the way a secular culture is attacking our Christian holiday and how we need to fight to protect it. We need to launch a "Saving Jesus" campaign of our own. On facebook I have already felt the bitterness ramping up already. The posts will continue, I'm sure, warning the secularists that this is OUR day and OUR religion and we are not going to back down. We will petition, write letters, advocate, and install GPS if we have to so that Jesus is the one who gets "saved" this time around.
But does Jesus really need us to "save" Him? Whether we are speaking of the plastic (and unfortunately caucasian) representation of Him in a nativity or referring to His name staying on the marquee of Christmas sales, celebrations, cards, trees, etc?
Does Jesus need the church to save him this season?
Does Jesus need the church to engage in a power struggle with the culture for the rights to define this particular holiday?
I tend to think that Jesus is fine without my help in this regard. I am inclined to assume that "saving" is Jesus' work in our lives and in our world, and the marketing efforts of Christians to make a secular culture bow to our religious observances is hindering Jesus' efforts more than saving them. I propose that if the church would reject lobbying for definitional rights to this day and go about embodying the self-emptying, incarnational, sacrificial, rights-rejecting-rather-than-claiming love of the Nativity, then Christmas and Jesus will be just fine.
I assume that this random caller simply wants Jesus to be lifted up this season and not forgotten in the midst of rampant consumption. I assume he wants the church to not be ashamed of their God-turned-infant. And I share those desires. I just think that efforts to honor this Jesus ought to mirror His submissive and radical act of becoming an infant rather than the democratic and rights-establishing act of Christians defining what others should and should not say this time of year.
I need to turn more deliberately and intently to the nature of a God that would empty Himself and become a human for cues on how to honor Jesus this time of year and less to the modus operandi of modern, democratic society.