Newsletter — Chrismas or ChrisTmas

Here is another newsletter article by PPPadre, a frequent commentator on Steadfast Lutherans. Thanks for the submission; please submit your own articles if you think they could use a wider audience.

 

I don’t know why or when it started…laziness, I suppose. Language is full of words changing pronunciation to make them easier to say (like conpact changing to compact so the lips can be in the correct position to make the “p” sound). Somewhere along the line, the “t” in Christmas became silent. Most people pronounce the word /KRIS-mas/. Even though I try to keep the “t” in there, I will admit that I sometimes slip into that lazy pronunciation, as well. It wouldn’t bother me so much, I guess, if the symbolism were not so profound.

The letter “t” resembles (more or less, depending on the font you use) a cross. So many are trying to take the cross out of Christmas, I try to remind myself that the cross is at the center of Christmas by distinctly pronouncing the “t.” And when I decry those who are taking the cross out of Christmas, I am not talking about those Godless individuals who denude public squares of creches and hold “Winter Holiday” concerts. They are taking Christ out of Christmas. But even within the church, there is an effort by some to play on the emotion of the day – the birth of a child, impoverished parents, humble surroundings for a noble birth, etc. – and miss the broader theme of this feast of the church – why Jesus was born. How many Christmas songs and carols speak of the setting of that night, the weather and the people present, but presuppose (or worse yet, blatantly omit) the purpose for the birth of Christ? And how many songs do underscore the reason for the season, but are presented in such a way that the message gets lost? Do we like The Little Drummer Boy because of the cute tyke banging on his drum, or because the message of the song is that salvation is for all and no one is left without a means of responding to that precious gift? Do we hum Good King Wenceslaus because it’s a catchy little ditty or because it tells the story of how gift of salvation strengthens and motivates the Christian to acts of love and charity?

The three greatest festivals of the church year, Christmas, Easter, and Pentecost are focused on the events of the Cross. (And, I just noticed as I typed them out, “t”s near the center of the word.) The Easter Season and its preparatory season, Lent, are focused on the passion, death and resurrection of Christ as the atonement for our sins and the seal of the promise of our newness of life. Pentecost celebrates that we, having been buried with our crucified Christ, are resurrected by the Holy Spirit and united as church. Again, the work of the cross is central. Likewise, Christmas and its preparatory season of Advent focus on the coming of Christ to accomplish the mission of the Cross – both at the incarnation as He began His march to the Cross and at the Final Day when He will return and view all of creation in light of the Cross. Nothing is more important in the life of a Christian than the work of the Cross. It is the righteousness of God and the gift He brings us by which we are saved. Let us always remember this reason for the season.

So as you greet your fellowman this winter, don’t forget the “t.” As you wish a blessed Christmas, and receive such blessings as well, hear that “t,” think of the cross and remember:

“Christ was born for this, Christ was born for this!”

[Originally written for the December 2005 newsletter of Grace Lutheran Church – Strasburg, IL]


Comments

Newsletter — Chrismas or ChrisTmas — 6 Comments

  1. PPPadre,

    As one who is guilty of using the lazy pronunciation of Christmas I thank you for this newsletter. What a great reminder of the centrality of the cross in all seasons of the church year.

  2. But if you’re going to avoid laziness in the pronunciation of this term, *altogether*, then you must say “Christ’s Mass” or “Christ Mass”. Don’t leave out the “t”–the Cross–Absolutely not! But don’t leave out the Mass, either–it’s how He brings the blessings of His Cross to you, after all.

    In for a dime, in for a dollar, you know.
    :)

    Now, while you’re at it, go through your hymnal–TLH, LW and/or LSB (or your ELH, or whatever), and look for specific references to the sacrifice of the cross in the Christ’s Mass hymns. Not as many as you thought would be, huh?
    Paul Gerhardt, for all the “pre-Pietism” we might accuse him of, gets it in there in *my* personal favorite: “All My Heart [Again/This Night] Rejoices”. “He becomes the Lamb that taketh Sin away And for aye Full atonement maketh. For our life His own He tenders, And our race By His grace Meet for glory renders.” Or as in LSB “See the Lamb, our sin once taking To the cross, Suffring loss, Full atonement making. For our life His own He tenders….”
    And the cross is pretty explicit in “What Child Is This”, too.
    Of course, there are others, but it’s a bit thinner than one might think.
    I noticed this as I was picking hymns for the various services this concluding Christ’s Mass-tide.

    Disclaimer–I do *not* mean that very many of those Nativity hymns that don’t take you explicitly to the cross are not any good. Who can complain about Luther’s “To Shepherds As They Watched By Night” or “Of the Father’s Love Begotten” or the truly cross-centered, though not bluntly explicit language of “Let All Together Praise Our God”/”Praise God the Lord, Ye Sons of Men”: “He serves that I a lord may be; A great exchange indeed!”/”He undertakes a great exchange, Puts on our human frame, And in return gives us His realm, His glory, and His name… He is a servant, I a lord: How great a mystery!
    Or who can complain about the beautiful monergistic language of “Now Sing We, Now Rejoice”: “Come from on high to me; I cannot rise to Thee!…Draw me unto Thee!”

  3. And for that matter, maybe we could end this silly battle over “Merry Christmas” vs. “Happy Holidays” by pronouncing “holiday” more thoroughly, too: Holy Day.

  4. ST David’s Hospital, here in Austin, make a very definite cross in place of the “t” in St.

    I wish I knew how to access one to place appropriately in ChrisTmass, EasTer, PenTecost.

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