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Keeping the Chi in Christmas
What is the true meaning of Christmas? While it is true that Christmas grew out of the Roman pagan festivals of Saturnalia, and Sol Invictus, which were festivals that honored the Roman god of Saturn and the birth of the unconquered sun, still what is the meaning and purpose of Christmas?
Is it really the celebration of Jesus' birth? Even though the Church at the time of Constantine chose December 25 as the day to celebrate the birth of Christ, most scholars agree that Jesus wasn't born on or even around this date. So, what are we celebrating? A pagan festival? A birthday?
Each year as Christmas draws near, there is that group of Christians who ban together and refuse to use the greeting: "Happy Holidays." Even though Christians are not the only ones celebrating a holiday during the month of December. The Jews celebrate Hanukkah and there is also the African-American holiday of Kwanzaa. So maybe we are celebrating a collaboration of holidays?
By now we are seeing such reminders as "Jesus is the Reason for the Season" and "Keep Christ in Christmas". Perhaps, these reminders are ways of combating against the fear secularism and commercialism creeping in and taking over the celebration of Christmas. Maybe there is that fear that the baby [Jesus] will get thrown out with the bathwater.
Some even see the "X" in "Merry X'mas" as being offensive or as an attempt to remove "Christ" from "Christmas." But in reality the "X" is not to be understood as the twenty-fourth letter in the English alphabet, and it is certainly not meant as to "x" something out. Rather, it is the Greek letter Chi and has been used since the first century to symbolize Christ or Christos. So, perhaps we should keep the "X" or Chi in "X'mas".
But this has also raised another thought for me. We should keep the "chi" in Christmas. Not only the Greek letter chi that has been used to symbolize Christ for centuries, but also "chi," which is spelled the same way and is that energy of balance in Asian philosophy.
I am a practitioner of the marital art of AIKIDO, which is often translated as "The Way of Harmony" and "chi" is an essential element of this harmony. "Chi" is defined as the circulating life energy that is inherent in all things - it is a balance! I believe this is what we need not only during the holidays, but also in all of life. We need to live in harmony or in peace with ourselves and one another - we need balance. We need balance physically, emotionally and spiritually.
Perhaps, the most familiar and recognizable words of the Christmas narrative are those within the Gospel of Luke: “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 room for them in the inn” (Luke 2:6-7 NRSV).
These resounding words have echoed throughout the course of time and they challenge us to consider if there is any room in us? It is so easy to allow ourselves to be so consumed during this time of the year that we have no room in us. The cooking, the cleaning, the wrapping, the decorating, the parties, the church activities, the family gatherings and the friends can all consume us. These things can take up room in us.
The season of Advent is Church’s invitation for us for us to make room for the chi - Christ and chi - balance.
I knew that the Christmas season had officially begun when on Thanksgiving Day National Lampoons Christmas Vacation was on T.V. This is, undoubtedly, one of my favorite movies and one of my favorite scenes is when Clark is up on his roof decorating his house and as he decorating he finds himself getting all tangled up in the strings of lights. And as he is getting tangled up he tries to shake them off but he loses his balance and he falls off the roof. Like Clark, it is so easy for us to get all tangled up, all caught up in the hype and excitement, the hustle and bustle of this season that we lose balance. And that is why we need chi - Christ and chi - balance!
I think there is a closer connection between the chi of Christ and the "chi" - balance then we realize. And I think we begin to see it in the lighting of the Advent candles of hope, peace, joy and love. When I think of "chi" I think of things like healing and balance, positive energy and focus. If we were to find a parallelism between the themes of Advent and these attributes of "chi" we could say that the healing is hope; the balance is peace; the positive energy is joy and focus is love.
As people of faith we are called to be a people of hope and healing. We are to share this healing and hope with others and these come through the sharing of God's love, mercy, compassion, reconciliation and grace with others.
As a people of faith we are called to be a people of balance and peace. So much of our time is consumed by people and schedules. Hardly do we have time for ourselves. Time to relax. Time to unwind. Time to rejuvenate. No wonder Jesus found those moments where he could escape. Moments where he could be alone and seek balance and peace. We need balance in our lives. Often the busyness of our schedules tilt the scales of our lives to the point that we lose balance. But there must be that balance in us. There must be that balance between work, play and rest. Such balance gives us inner peace. This balance and peace are even more important when the busyness of the holidays demand more time from us. And so I challenge you to find that balance and peace. Do not overbook. Do not try to do it all on your own. Do not over plan. Ask for help when needed. Find balance and peace in this season.
As a people of faith we are called to be a people of positive energy and joy. All around us are good tidings of great joy! Allow this positive energy and joy to feed your spirit. It is so easy for us to focus during this season on the lines, the crowds, the traffic, the rude and impatience people that cross our path. Instead, let us listen to the sounds of the season - the positive and joyous sounds of this season. See the smiles on others' faces, see the excitement in the children, see the generosity in people who are willing to share and give. Remember the angel's message, "Behold, I bring you good tidings of great joy..."
And finally, as a people of faith we are called to focus and love! We are good at focusing on ourselves. In fact, we live in a self-focused society. But focus on others. Share the gift of love by focusing on those around you - your family, friends and those in need.
The holidays can be a difficult time for some. It can be a difficult time for those who have so little, focus on them and love them. It can be a difficult time for those who have lost a loved one or friend, focus on them and love them.
Whatever Christmas may mean to you. However you chose to see this season and observe it, I hope this Christmas season you will keep the chi Christ in Christmas, and that you will find "chi" in your celebration: healing and hope, balance and peace, positive energy and joy, focus and love. Keep the chi and chi in Christmas!
Hope, Peace, Joy and Love to You;