Catholic Diocese of Spokane, Washington

From the

Official News Magazine of the Diocese of Spokane

Deacon Eric Meisfjord, Editor
P.O. Box 48, Spokane WA 99210
(509) 358-7340; FAX: (509) 358-7302

The missing X

by Father Michael Savelesky, for the Inland Register

(From the Dec. 21, 2006 edition of the Inland Register)

Father Michael Savelesky Recently while doing the proverbial Christmas shopping, I ran across an insistent-looking “Christmas picketer” on one of our city’s downtown streets. This individual himself did not speak as much about the holiday season as did the shop windows which gave a backdrop to his entrenched position.

“Put Christ back into X-mas,” his body placard read in bold blue graphics. His lips were silent.

Shoppers of every make and model scurried about their business – most of them intentionally oblivious to the obtrusive protester. Something about the obvious Roman collar I was wearing and the man’s penetrating eye, however, forced a smile from me and a nod of affirmation. “Of course!” I mused as I, too, scurried by. “Which Christian wouldn’t affirm such a statement? In many ways Christ has been taken out of his very own birthday celebration.”

Now, mind you, I didn’t lapse into a meditative trance as I walked down the block, but the bold witness of this gentleman did occasion a few distracting thoughts to my shopping intentions. Passersby seemed a bit embarrassed by this blatant reminder of the historical fact which occasions this time of holiday celebration. Our State might be the most unchurched in the nation, but I would guess that in the quiet recesses of the heart of the vast majority of our citizenry, Christian chords still resonate. Church-goers or not, this walking advertisement was quite successful in pinging the conscience of many a shopper.

Consumerism and materialism notwithstanding, Christ remains part of the Christmas equation. Try as they might, the world of shoppers and shopkeepers cannot mask the focal point of our holiday celebration. Ultimately, the math is simple: Christmas minus Christ equals meaningless buying and selling.

Christ often is absent from the popular exchange of greeting cards, banned by legal action from public displays, and blocked from airwaves – but he cannot be taken out of Christmas. The facts of history cannot be defeated. At best, they merely occasion adjustment and adaptation.

At the same time, we must remember that Jesus, the Christ, did not come among us to pose for CD covers or greeting cards. He did not come to stand as a mannequin in department stores and city halls. By entering into the very heart of history, Jesus entered into the hearts of men and women of faith. And continues to do so.

Every year at this “holiday season” it seems the Christian community is tempted to enter into argumentation with our pluralistic society about our rights to make public display of our faith tradition. There may be a relative matter of rights here, but for true believers, these external trappings of the holiday season cannot become the focal point of our concern.

Is it not possible that we expect these things to make our personal statements of faith for us? To carry the weight of what should be a personal confession of belief?

Christ may be missing from X-mas, but only if he is indeed missing from our hearts and the witness of our lives. It is far easier to chastise those who do not choose to use their commerce to proclaim the Gospel than to accept the reality of Christmas for ourselves – namely, the incarnation of God’s love in human history.

If what we claim of Jesus is true – that he is indeed Lord and Messiah – then our celebration does not depend upon the world of commerce and its willingness to fill in the blank of X-mas with silent images of Jesus. Let the world fill in the blank with what it wants. Our choice is to fill in the blank with the living Christ without whom the emptiness of our lives becomes painfully obvious.

God’s love for us is to let ourselves be bantered about by the competing value systems of the world. If Christmas is Christ-mas, it must begin in the home of our hearts where the manger of welcome and personal love provides the Lord a warm place of comfort.

Christ is put back into Christmas less by decorating society with Christian trappings than by a personal generosity of heart that receives the Good News who is Jesus and seeks with wisdom to follow him.

(Father Savelesky is pastor of Assumption Parish in Spokane.)

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