There is Nothing Wrong with ‘Xmas’

I remember when I was a child how offended my mother would get when she saw the word ‘Xmas’ on a commercial or at a store.  She would really become angry saying, “There they go again trying to take Christ out of Christmas.”  On some level, I can understand her unhappiness.  Today, with the ACLU and the court system actually trying to remove any reference to Christmas, it is understandable that Christians would be on the defensive.  Almost daily we are faced with stories about long-time traditional festivals that are replacing the word “Christmas” with “Holiday” or “Festival.”  Seinfeld sublimely underscored many of these attitudes with the famous “Festivus for the Rest of Us” episode.

However, Christians who become offended at the word Xmas, simply have not studied what the word actually connotes.  In early Christianty, the X was actually a Greek letter pronounced “Chi” or “Kai.”  It was the first letter in the Greek word for Christ.

Due to persecution, early Christians would use the X as a symbol meaning Christ and denoting themselves as Christians.  The familiar Fish symbol seen on many cars goes back to this tradition.  The symbols that look like IXOYE (pronounced ‘ixthus’ or ‘icthus’), are really a Greek acronym denoting: Jesus, Christ, of God, Son, Savior.  The Greek word is actually an acrostic that spells out ‘fish.’

So, you see, when you spell Christmas with an ‘X,’ you are just paying homage to 2000 years of Christian tradition.  You can even use it as a tool to teach others when you hear them asking, “Why is Christmas spelled with an “X”?

Things that I am Thankful for

As I edge toward Thanksgiving Holiday, I ask myself what it is that I am actually thankful for.  Daily, it seems that we are being bombarded with news of the bad economy, and being a Republican is nothing like it was a decade ago, but here goes.

I am thankful that I am a Christian.  I may not hold to many of the more fundamentalist (or liberal) views of modern Christian denominations, but I believe that Christ died for my sins, and am thankful that my God is a god of grace who loves me in spite of my many failings.

I am thankful for my family.  I am thankful for my lovely wife and my wonderful little daughter.  Every day is a new adventure when you have a two year old.  My wife and I may be a good pair, but it is the little girl that completes both of us.

I am thankful for the grandparents.  My mom is wonderful with my daughter, and she does everything thing she can to help us through the everyday life situations that sometimes come up.  My in-laws are also great.  This year, there were a couple of times when I had to work some extended hours (once I put in an extra 155 hours in a month).  My mom and my in-laws really came through by coming to stay with us for weeks at a time so that the baby would not have to be in day care for eight hours a day or more.  To top that all off, this summer while I was having to work so many hours, my father-in-law practically put in a bar that I had been planning to do by himself, and it looks as good as a master carpenter could do.

My sister, her husband and my niece who is slightly older than my daughter are also a blessing.  We will not be spending Thanksgiving together this year because we will be at the in-law’s house, and my sister, who would normally be at her in-law’s house, will be staying at home because she is pregnant with what will be my new nephew.  Yeah!

I am thankful that I was born an American in Texas and in the Dallas area.  There is no place I’d rather be.

I am thankful for my education, the fact that I have a good job, and a good boss who appreciates the work that I do, and I am thankful that I have a customer base that, for the most part is easy to work with.

I am thankful that my wife likes some of the programming that I like to watch on television, and that she is willing to sit beside me and act like she likes some of the other programming that I watch.  I am also thankful that I live in the age of the DVR.

I am thankful that I live in an area that has a lot of sports related outlets.  Between, the Cowboys, Rangers, Stars and Mavericks, Dallas covers the sports world well, but it would be nice to see a World Series come through here.  We even have a professional soccer team, FC Dallas.  There are also three professional minor league baseball teams, several universities, and Texas high school football to satiate the sports fan.  And, of course we have the best local sports radio in the country, Sports Radio 1310, the Ticket.

I am thankful that I live in a safe, affordable neighborhood with good schools that my daughter will one day attend.

I am thankful that Texas still does not have a state income tax.

I am thankful that I have a few friends that go back as far a high school, and that I know I can trust at least one of them with pretty much anything.

I am thankful that I will not have to do anything to assist with the cooking of Thanksgiving dinner this year, and I am thankful that my father-in-law finally paid for the local channels to be put on his Dish Network plan so it will not be snowing during all of the football games that I plan to watch this week.

I am thankful that I live in a time, and in a country where I can publish any opinion that I wish to anyone in the world who wishes to read it, for free (thanks, WordPress).  Being a student of history, I know that freedom of speech has been a rarity throughout the history of mankind, and I respect a person’s right to have an opinion even if I do not agree with what the person is saying.

I could go on forever, but suffice it to say, I am thankful.

A Christian Family Halloween.

Last night my family got together for Halloween.  It included my wife, my two year old daughter, my mom, sister, her husband and my niece.  My bother-in-law’s father, sister, niece and his brother-in-law also were there.  On top of that, my sister is pregnant with my future nephew, as is my bother-in-law’s sister with his.  This was by far the largest family gathering of this sort since my sister’s wedding about 12 years ago.

I have to say, this was the most enjoyable Halloween of my life, and that includes when I was a kid.  I got to watch my two year old Daughter who has no fear.  She is amazing.  She watched her 4 year old cousin and her cousin’s cousin for the first few houses, and I even had to retrieve her from one house when she walked right in past the owner.  After a few houses, she had the hang of it, and at years old she was the one who got to the door first and knocked.  She would say, “Trick or treat! (it sounded like ‘tick-tee’)” and, “Thank you!”  Often, she needed no prompting, and she made me very proud.  There were a few times that she asked me to carry her to the next house, but when she saw the light on, she would run to the door.  She loved it and there was a couple of time when she grabbed me around the neck and just started giving me hugs and kisses repeatedly.  I guess she was just that happy.

The other thing that got my attention was the number of adults that were participating.  Almost every other house gave out candy.  The people were all very nice.  Some sat on their porches, and a few came down to the sidewalk to meet our children.  I noticed the ages of these people, and most were old enough that there children were out trick-or-treating on their own, or they probably already had grandchildren.  This made sense, as most couples with small children were roaming the streets getting the candy themselves.  This means that the numbers actually participating in the festivities were even larger than the numbers giving out candy.  Kind of amazing.  Isn’t America great?  All of these people could have been sitting in their respective living rooms, but they decided to take the time to give out candy that they bought from their hard owned money just to make people that they did not even know happy.

I wrote a post a couple of week’s ago about Christian Attitudes Toward Halloween.  Since, then I have been extremely busy with overtime work commitments, and have not had a lot of opportunities to write, but I have monitored my traffic and the search criteria that people have used to get to my posts.  The Halloween post has generated a lot of interest, though there have been no comments.  I was surprised about that because of the controversial nature of the subject.  It seemed like the people for and against were about even when looking at their search criteria.  I personally think that those who were against Halloween who read my post either did not stay long enough to read the article once they saw that it did not confirm their own ideas, or they, unfortunately, like most Christians do not take the time to form their own opinions and wait to be told what to think about ideas like Halloween by other Christians who often have no better reason than the fact that someone told them what to think.

I feel sorry for the Christian parents who did not take part in the festivities.  I was pretty nice about it in the last post, but now, I am just going to say it flat out.  They are wrong.  There is really no Biblical justification for their attitudes.  They are the kill-joys that drive people including their children from the churches.  It is a shame because it does not have to be that way.  Their noble intent of protecting their children will often build up resentments in these same children.  They, the children, as they grow up will know that the negative attitudes toward things such as Halloween are wrong, but often there is no one who can help them resolve the truth about the situation, and they end up becoming disillusioned with the whole Christian life because of the few problems that denominational Christian churches have including negative attitudes toward anything secular, including Halloween.

On Thursday, my family went to one of the Fall Festivals at one of the local Baptist churches.  We had a lot of fun, but it could have benefited from a little more organization.  That being said, they did not have to do it at all, and it was a nice attempt at a hospitable ministry to the community.  It is often hard to get a church to embrace these types of ministry activities because they cost money, they do not generate money, and they do not directly lead to converts during the activity, for the most part.  They are effective, however, because they bring in tons of people to meet the nice members of your church, and will result in people joining the church that may not have done so.

However, I read a couple of blogs last week that defended the “Fall Festival” idea last week.  These people felt that their party was being criticized as hypocritical by Christians who were against Halloween.  They went on to split hairs between taking part in Halloween, and attending their “festival” where you dress up, play games and give candy to children.  This is where I agree with the fundamentalists who hate Halloween.   If a Church has a “Fall Festival” as an alternative to Halloween, and denigrates the holiday at the same time, they are indeed being hypocritical.  But, where I differ from the fundamentalists is that I think having a “Fall Festival” or even a Halloween party at your church in accord with the generally accepted Halloween observances is a great idea, and a good ministry tool.  Let’s just not condemn Halloween while observing it in our churches.

In the end, it’s a shame on Christianity, my religion, when we allow the world to ‘show us up’ in the areas of hospitality, neighborly love and friendship, and if we continue to go down this road, we will become more and more irrelevant.

God Loves Joel Osteen

I have been following the sham of a trial that was Sharon Brown suing Victoria Osteen for assault.  Many people simply hate ‘religious’ people for some reason.  Sharon Brown sought to cash in on the hatred of these people.  I have no doubt that Victoria Osteen felt that she was not receiving service commensurate the price of her first class ticket, but I also have no doubt that she expressed her feelings to attendants in a way that may have come across as pretentious or licentious.  This being said, as the foreman of the jury correctly said, “My personal point of view (the lawsuit) was a complete waste of time because the incident didn’t rise to any kind of level. I fly all the time. I’ve seen a lot worse than that happen on airplanes.”  This puts the whole thing in perspective. 

The only thing left now is for Continental to fire Sharon Brown.  Here we have an effective, objective determination of what happened.  A jury of her peers, no less, determined that Sharon Brown is a lying person who is willing to go to extremes when attacking a person.  For its own financial safety and the financial security of its customers, they must terminate her.

I was pleased with the verdict, but I was a little disturbed by some of the Osteen comments after the trial was over. I really liked what Joel had to say, “We’ve grown through it and learned to trust God and do the right thing,” he said. “Life is a test. We really have tried to live out our faith, what we teach (at church) and that is love your enemies, do the right thing when the wrong things happen, have a good attitude even when things aren’t going well.”  This is a very appropriate statement and basically put the whole thing into a nice theological nutshell that can be used to teach other Christians how to deal with trying times such as this.

Victoria’s comments, while endearing, were not nearly as theologically sound as most of her husband’s were.  She said, “I expected it because it’s the truth and I know the truth always stands firm.”  If she is speaking in an eternal sense, which I doubt, she is correct, but though this sounds nice, it is hard to support the statement temporally (in the world where we live).  There are two was to determine what God says: Specific Revelation and General Revelation.

Specific Revelation is best described in terms of the Bible itself.  This occurs when God decides to speak to someone directly with a person and reveal Himself or His will.  It is best to find this sort of revelation in the Bible.  At times this may occur when God actually does speak directly to someone, but it is important to remember that anyone can claim that God has spoken to them (see David Koresch).  Always be cautious when someone tells you God told them something he wanted to tell you.

General Revelation is how God speaks through His creation.  God indeed has chosen to reveal himself through his creation.  General Revelation is just as legitimate a form of revelation as Specific Revelation.  If you ever find that God’s General Revelation does not match up with your interpretation of His Specific Revelation, then you probably have a problem with your interpretation of what the Bible is saying.

When I heard Victoria’s statement, I thought, “if the truth is so apparent, and ‘the truth stands firm’, then why would God withhold the truth of the situation involving Caylee Anthony from the world?”  Does God feel that this situation with Victoria Osteen is more important?  I think not.

 Just because a statement sounds good does not mean it is theologically sound.  A good example of this is the old ‘Cleanliness is next to Godliness” adage.  It not anywhere in the Bible in case you were wondering.

The point I am making here is that there is little support for the statement, “the truth always stands firm.”  I looked in twenty different version of the Bible and found that these things ‘stand firm’:  God’s word, God’s love, the house of the righteous, God’s solid foundation, the family of God, and the Earth.  It also states that “…he who stands firm to the end will be saved” in several places.  While it may be argued that several of these verses can be applied to this situation, it is difficult to apply any of them wholesale to a Christian who is standing on principle. 

If anything, the Bible promises persecution for Christians who stand on their beliefs with an accompanying promise of salvation for those who ‘stand firm to the end.’  God’s General Revelation does not support the statement that ‘the truth always stand firm’ in a temporal sense either.  It is a fact that lies are sometime accepted by people as the truth.  Christians have to simply weather this storm, and realize that if they stay true to the end, they will be rewarded (often in eternity).  As the Bible says, “The Sun shines on the righteous and the wicked.”  Osteen’s statement comes off a little as the health, wealth and prosperity doctrine that television preachers are often accused of supporting.

Joel’s statement, “It’s a great vindication and shows us the faithfulness of God,” left me thinking, what about those who have to suffer through the trials and tribulations that Christians are promised on this earth?  Does their inability to find vindication in this life speak to God’s faithlessness?  I am all for praising God, but the Osteen’s myopic response to this situation, could confuse people who experiencing their own trials.