By Doug Jackson
It has become somewhat low-hanging fruitcake to decry the commercialization of Christmas. One common part of that gambit is to rail against the use of the abbreviation “X-mas.” As a teacher of New Testament Greek I am well aware that this usage is not, in fact, an attempt to replace the name of Our Lord with algebra’s unknown factor. The English X transliterates the Greek chi, the first letter of the word “Christ” in that language. I also know that this abbreviation has a long history in the Christian faith and is of neither modern nor atheistic provenance. Still, I have long been moved by C. S. Lewis’ pseudo-Heroditan essay, “Xmas and Christmas,” in which he contrasts the two very different sorts of holidays that overlap at this time of year. “But what Hecatateus says, that Exmas and Crissmas are the same, is not credible,” Lewis’ narrator concludes, and I think he is onto something. Each year, I find myself more in need of the emptiness of Advent because I am more in need of the arrival of Christ at Christmas. Each year, I find myself less able to find either. Perhaps it is the waiting, the insistence on the full meter of promise, that counterbalances the increasingly chopped doggerel of immediacy and allows the spirit to breathe.
XMas and Advent: The Struggle for a Sonnet
Rich purple folds of grace hold my poor plea,
“Even so, Lord Jesus, once more come to me.”
But X-mas came six weeks ago
In garish hues and plastic snow.
The absent center at the créche’s core
Makes space where emptiness can yearn for more.
But X-mas fills my shopping cart
To stuff the zero at my heart.
Israel lies in lonely, low exile
And I must rest and wait a longer while.
But X-mas colonizes days
So it can be with me always.
“Buy now, pay later!” X-mas cries.
“I paid first and come later,” Christ replies.
Doug Jackson is a preacher/professor/poet who after a quarter-century in the pastorate now teaches spiritual formation, pastoral ministry, and Greek for the Logsdon Seminary program at the South Texas School of Christian Studies in Corpus Christi. His collection of poetry, Nothing There is Not More, is available from Finishing Line Press.