So Joseph also went up from the town of Nazareth in Galilee to Judea, to Bethlehem the town of David, because he belonged to the house and line of David. He went there to register with Mary, who was pledged to be married to him and was expecting a child. While they were there, the time came for the baby to be born, and she gave birth to her firstborn, a son. She wrapped him in cloths and placed him in a manger, because there was no guest room available for them.
- Luke 2:4-7
“But what Hecataeus says, that Exmas and Crissmas are the same, is not credible. For first, the pictures which are stamped on the Exmas-cards have nothing to do with the sacred story which the priests tell about Crissmas. And secondly, the most part of the Niatirbians, not believing the religion of the few, nevertheless send the gifts and cards and participate in the RUSH and drink, wearing paper cars. But it is not likely that men, even being barbarians, should suffer so many and great things in honour of a god they do not believe in. And now, enough about Niatirb.”
- C. S. Lewis, Xmas and Christmas, A Lost Chapter from Herodotus, an essay in God in the Docks
Of course, Niatirb is Britain spelled backwards. Lewis artfully describes trudging in the snow to send Exmas-cards, just to get home and find that they received the exact same card that they sent to a friend from that same friend. Then, to their dismay, they find an Exmas-card from someone from whom they did not send a card. They curse this person and shout to no one in particular about the trouble caused by this insensitive friend. They put their coats, gloves, and boots on and return to the snow and the fog and the cold to buy and then send another card.
His description of gifts is equally hilarious. The RUSH is that frantic time on the eve of Exmas, buying and selling to the last hour. It gets so bad that they are up very late. Then they sleep until noon, followed by a festival of eating five times as much as they would eat any other day of the year, getting drunk on spirits beyond what seems humanly possible, and wearing paper things on their heads. Where the “cars” comes from in the quote is obscure, misprint?
But then, Lewis shifts the narrative to talk about Crissmas. The few followers get up early on the day of the festival with clean faces and attend a temple with a sacred message being given. They are quiet and respectful, unlike those stressed to their utmost over Exmas.
I know many people who argue that the “X” in Xmas stands for the cross and is perfectly interchangeable, but this very short essay by C. S. Lewis makes delineations that are not mistakeable. There are two holidays on Christmas. Letting one use Xmas and the other Christmas seems like a good place to start. The priests in Lewis’ essay suggest that the Exmas followers could move their celebration, if they so desired, but they don’t. Lewis’ question about why would anyone go through the trouble if they don’t believe in Jesus has been something that has boggled my mind for many years. Yet, these non-believers would be the first to rebuke you for offending them by saying “Merry Christmas.”
As insanity seems to be reigning, especially this time of year, I’ll risk it.
Merry Christmas to all.
Soli Deo Gloria. Only to God be the Glory.