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]