Christmas arrives December 25th, ready or not, like it or not. The word itself is an Old English word, constructed from two words combined: “Christ” and “mass”. “Cristesmaesse” is the first Old English version recorded in 1038, which morphed into Cristemasse by the Middle Ages.
What about shortening it to Xmas? I often do, but thought it was blasphemous until I read this from jakubmarian.com: “It is an abbreviation of the Greek name of “Christ”, X (+ letters I don’t have on my keyboard) (Christos) . . . Abbreviating “Christ” as “X” can be traced many centuries back, with some written documents dated as early as 1100 AD.” Well, if it was good enough for the 12th century, then it should be good enough for the 21st, yes?
The term “mass”, according to catholicculture.org, “is a late form of missio (Latin, sending), from which the faithful are sent to put into practice what they have learned.” The word “Christ” comes from the Greek Christos, as above, meaning “anointed”, which was translated into English as “messiah”.
According to a 2013 Pew Research Center survey, about 9 in 10 Americans (92%) and nearly all Christians (96%) say they celebrate Christmas. I couldn’t find percentages for Canada, but everyone I know celebrates it, except for a few Jewish friends who celebrate Hanukkah and some who celebrate both because their spouse is not Jewish.
So what do you think – and how often do you think – about Jesus Christ, the namesake of the coming holiday? Of my many friends and family who celebrate Christmas, there is just a small number who attend church at this time, or anytime throughout the year for that matter. It’s probably the miracles of Jesus – the faith healing, exorcisms, resurrection of the dead and control over nature – that give me the most trouble as far as believing, and yet . . . I have no trouble believing in the miracles of Santa Claus. Hmmm.
I guess the question then becomes where do you want to place your faith? What do you want to have faith in? You live long enough, you get to a point in life when you realize that faith in the almighty dollar leads to spiritual bankruptcy. Pastor Rick Warren, author of the bestselling book The Purpose Driven Life, puts my earlier life goals this way in his TED Talk: “looking good, feeling good, having the goods”. Looking good is a matter of opinion – eye of the beholder – but let’s face it, there are people who are truly just stunningly gorgeous. I’ve heard make-up artists help immensely in this regard. Time is an enemy though. Looks – if given – get taken. Feeling good? I have to disagree with Warren here (unless he’s talking about the kind of ‘feeling good’ that comes from ingesting stimulants, like booze, pot, drugs). Sure, again, time wreaks havoc – on joints, skin, well-being – but I do everything I can to feel good, because feeling good inside extends to outside. Having the goods? Not enough.
I find it amusing how Warren takes the opposite approach to faith, saying that he hasn’t seen anything to make him not have faith in God, to not believe. Here’s a few miracles in one of Warren’s quotes: “God changes caterpillars into butterflies, sand into pearls and coal into diamonds using time and pressure. He’s working on you too.”
I believe one must have faith in something, something ethereal, something unseen. Otherwise life is pretty bleak. And there’s nothing to carry you through the rough times, the losses. I tend to insert “Higher Power” for the word “God” though. I have a Higher Power that is capable of changing caterpillars into butterflies, sand into pearls and coal into diamonds.
I also get really jazzed on the notion that an actual man, a kind man with very high spiritual standards, named Jesus Christ walked on Earth 2000 years ago. “Virtually all scholars who write on the subject agree that Jesus existed,” says Wikipedia. There are two events in the life of Jesus subject to “almost universal assent”. Those are His baptism by John the Baptist and His crucifixion by order of the Roman Prefect Pontius Pilate.
I recently watched the movie The Case for Christ, about Lee Strobel, an atheist and a journalist. He was pissed because his wife, who he was madly in love with, had become a Christian because of an incident in which their daughter almost choked to death. He set out to prove her wrong; through thorough journalistic investigative methods he intended to show that there was no Jesus Christ. His meticulous research, however, led him to the conclusion that there was, in fact, such a person. He became a Christian as well and has written several books on the topic.
I’ve often wondered about the Bible, it’s authenticity, so I found it quite fascinating what Strobel discovered about it, and also what the Institute for Creation Research had to say: “There is more evidence for the Bible’s authenticity than for any literature of antiquity. The New Testament was written in first century A.D. There are some 25,000 early manuscripts in existence, almost 6,000 of which (many being only recognizable fragments) are Greek texts and the others being early translation of the Greek New Testament. The earliest textual evidence we have was copied not long after the original.” Compare this to 2000 copies of Homer’s Iliad, 10 of Caesar’s Gallic Wars and 5 of Aristotle’s Poetics.
There are those, like patheos.com, who will argue that this is no big deal, that many of the early “manuscripts” are “just tiny scraps”. Writer Bob Seidensticker says that it’s not until you get into the fourth century that you get to the complete texts.
I must leave this argument to the scholars who have firsthand access to the material, but having written documents from fairly close to the time period of the life of Jesus Christ certainly increases the likelihood of the accuracy of events. According to accounts, Jesus Christ was compassionate, serving, loving, forgiving, committed, prayerful (or meditative), gentle, patient, possessed of self-control and humble. Pretty amazing qualities to aspire to, right?
Pastor Rick Warren, the author and speaker, asks an important question: “What are you doing with what you’ve been given?” He feels you need to toss the “looking good, feeling good and having the goods” aside to “be good and do good”.
Being good and doing good seem easy at Christmas. Whether you believe in Jesus Christ, historical Jesus Christ, God, a Higher Power, and/or just plain old Mother Nature who provides for us daily, being good and doing good should always be in season.