First of all, no Christian panties need get twisted at the mention of Xmas. Xmas is not an invention of atheists trying to get rid of all mention of Christ. Xmas, like Xian, was invented by the church as a way of emphasizing the ‘cruciality’ of Jesus Christ. The letter ‘X,’ the first letter of Christos in Greek, is also a symbol of the cross. It is a short and simple, yet powerful way of representing Jesus Christ in print.
Most puzzling to me, though, many of the folks who fret over leaving Christ out of Christmas fail to blink at the omission of the critical “feast” dimension of the holiday observance. Moreover, some even object to its inclusion in Christmas worship!
When the Old English name Christesmaesse appeared, the latin term missa no longer simply referred to the ending of worship, the dismissal, or ‘sending,’ but to the eucharistic service as a whole. It is the “Feast of Christ,” or “Christ’s Mass.”
By the time the church got around to celebrating the nativity, a fresh perspective of the Eucharist was no doubt welcome. Several early writers remind us that rite of communion was not simply meant to serve as celebrative symbol of the death and resurrection of Jesus, but of his whole life and ministry. Paired with a focus on the nativity story, the Eucharistic feast became a powerful celebration of the incarnation. “God in flesh appearing.” (Again, do we even pay attention to what we are singing?)
Trying to celebrate Christmas without communion is more of a deprivation than if you would try to celebrate a wedding without the cake, it’s actually like celebrating a wedding without the vows! And yet I could retire if I had a dollar from everyone who felt bothered by returning Eucharist to Christmas worship. Who felt communion was less important than having all the pieces of so-and-so’s Aunt Gertrude’s creche displayed upfront by the Christmas tree where they belong the first Sunday in December.
When did some churches intentionally drop incarnation as a central component of the ‘remembering’ of the nativity? Or when did we decide the Eucharist no longer celebrated “God in flesh appearing?” Once more, no atheist, no commercial interest has attacked our faith. We have allowed meaning to erode from our tradition due to inattention or distraction.
Perhaps we object to ‘holiday’ because we have forgotten the essential experience of ‘holy.’