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4 Christian Christmas Myths BUSTED

Christians are on a semantic crusade against the War on Christmas, but what phrases should be embraced and which should be avoided?

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Christmas Day is upon us, and among the cheery well wishes and glittery GIFs on every good little boy and girl's Facebook wall, some users warn of the "War on Christmas." The consumerism that has marred the holiday for decades has led the charge on the tradition, but now semantics are taking the starring role. Many Christians have embarked down this slippery slope to purge themselves of the more secular phrases often associated with Christmas, but which should be avoided and which are harmless?

1. Happy Holidays!

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Controversy: This is the CHRISTMAS season! Saying "Happy Holidays" is just some PC bull concocted by easily offended nonbelievers.

Etymology: Holiday is a modern spelling of the Old English haligdæg meaning Holy Day. Holidays in the fourteenth century included religious festivals and days of recreation on the Sabbath.

Modern Use: I don't know who decided it would be a great idea to cram so many holidays into one month. December sees the celebrations of Winter Solstice, Kwanzaa, Hanukkah, Christmas, New Year's Eve, and (yes) Festivus. With so many traditions coming together once a year, "Happy Holidays" is a way to appreciate any one that a friend or stranger may choose to celebrate.

Verdict: Let it go! When someone wishes you "Happy Holidays", they're simply acknowledging your freedom to celebrate any tradition you choose. Christmas has been celebrated in the winter since its pagan festival origins in the fourth century, and Hanukkah, for example, has been around since 165 BCE, so Christianity does not have the corner on the winter holiday market. In addition, any Christian who watches the ball drop at midnight on January 1 or throws a New Year's Eve party does, in fact, celebrate TWO holidays. We can all wish whatever glad tidings we like most, but in the end, as Christians we should not snub our noses at someone else's good-meaning wishes. "And a servant of the Lord must not quarrel but be gentle to all" (2 Timothy 2:24).

2. Merry X-Mas!

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Controversy: We can't take the CHRIST out of CHRISTmas!

Etymology: The "X" in X-Mas comes from the first letter in the Greek word for Christ, Christos. In the sixteenth century, Christmas was spelled X'temmas. (The abbrevation for X'temmas probably stemmed from second-century illiteracy. I couldn't even spell it without looking it up.)

Modern Use: I've rarely seen X-Mas used as a replacement for Christmas when space allowed for the traditional word to be used. X-Mas is most often used when a tweet's 140 characters have been exceeded or there is no more room to write in a Christmas card.

Verdict: It's not a big deal. Obviously, Christ is the "reason for the season." We all know what X-Mas represents. According to its etymology, people have been abbreviated the word this way for centuries. It is not new. As Christians, we should only start to be concerned if people begin to call the holiday Santamas. "For to us a child is born, to us a son is given; and the government shall be upon his shoulder, and his name shall be called Wonderful Counselor, Mighty God, Everlasting Father, Prince of Peace" (Isaiah 9:6).

3. Happy birthday, Jesus!

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Controversy: We are celebrating the birth of Jesus, but is it really his birthday?

Historical Roots: As previously mentioned, the origin of Christmas in December dates back to Roman times. Pagans introduced Saturnalia, a week of lawlessness from December 17-25. Eventually, it was reformed by the Church and replaced with modern Christmas. The Bible gives no date of Jesus' birth, and some speculate it to be in spring or summer because "shepherds watched their flock by night" and did not freeze to death while doing so.

Modern Use: Fast food chain Steak Escape is famous for their "Happy birthday, Jesus!" decorations and signage in the month of December. From songs to festive cards, the phrase has caught on in pop culture.

Verdict: Lose it. The celebration of the Savior's birth and "happy birthday" are not synonymous. If kids say it, we can call it adorable, but seeing the phrase in restaurants just seems like a marketing ploy. "And this will be a sign for you: you will find a baby wrapped in swaddling cloths and lying in a manger" (Luke 2:12).

4. Peace on Earth

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Controversy: Did Jesus come to bring peace on Earth or something else?

Historical Roots: Luke 2:14 says "Glory to God in the highest heaven, and on earth peace to those on whom his favor rests" (NIV). The word "peace" is used in the Bible 249 times.

Modern Use: Christmas cards boast "Peace on Earth and Goodwill towards Men." Popular song "The Little Drummer Boy" also includes the phrase.

Verdict: Please stop. Peace on Earth is a noble wish for any day of the year, but it was not Jesus' message. In Luke 12: 51, Jesus says: "Suppose ye that I am come to give peace on earth? I tell you, Nay; but rather division" (KJV). Jesus brings peace to those who believe and trust in him, but he was not born to bring peace to the entire world. His birth and ministry brought such division, it resulted in his death.

The Conclusion:

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Regardless of whether you celebrate Santa or Jesus and whether you wish "Happy Holidays" or "Merry Christmas", the holidays are a time for family and thanksgiving. As Christians, we need to respect that not everyone shares the same traditions. We must also be careful of our own interpretations of the Savior's birth. Only then can we be lights of the world (Matthew 5:14).

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