As is typical of me I have seen glimpses of a conversation without really knowing where it started nor participating in it. However, I am going to comment on it. :)
The conversation I've been hearing is about calling a Christmas tree a holiday tree. Which is simply a follow up to other conversations in the past about store clerks saying "Happy Holidays" instead of "Merry Christmas." And both of these have a connection to conversations about whether nativities should be displayed on lawns of county courthouses.
Before saying anything else, let me say that my thoughts are based in the following assumptions: It is okay to be Christian and to claim that. It is also okay to be not only sensitive but respectful about the people who are not.
So, for what they are worth, here are some thoughts...
When you see "Xmas" it doesn't mean someone is x-ing Christ out of Christmas. In fact, "X" is the Greek letter chi which is the first letter of the word Christ. "Xmas" is proper shorthand for the word Christmas. (Technically, so a college professor told me, it would be shorthanded starting with a letter that combines the letters for chi and rho - the first two Greek letters in Christ - but since our keyboards are not equipped that way, "X" will have to do).
What about greeting from clerks? Personally, I am delighted when a clerk tells me "Happy Holidays." Unless I am in a store that claims a particular faith (say a Christian bookstore) I believe it is not only a safe but a kind assumption to believe that some of your customers will be other than Christian. Therefore, it makes sense to give a greeting of the season without presuming to know about another's faith. At the same time, I do and will happily greet my Christian friends with a jubilent "Merry Christmas."
Christmas tree or holiday tree? Why not consider the circumstances? A week from today when my husband and I host a party for our church staff I have no doubt we will all call what is in our living room a Christmas tree. That is what it is in our home and why we put it up. However, as I drive past the lighted tree on Main St. in our town, holiday tree might be the best word. After all, I have the pleasure of knowing many Jewish and Muslim as well as non-faith people here and the tree brings them joy as well.
Here's the thing...perhaps if we spent near as much energy being kind to one another as we do criticizing language (especially language that is meant to include) we might be better off.
If we are really concerned about the message and meaning of Christmas then let's quit buying more stuff for our family and friends who already have too much stuff and let's use our resources not only to feed the hungry and clothe the naked and visit the lonely, but to work to change systems that keep them in such conditions.
Perhaps, if we are really concerned with the Christian message we will take down our trees altogether and set up nativities in their place or Advent wreaths around which we gather with our children or friends as we pray that God's will might be done.
Perhaps, if we want the name of Jesus to be known we might want to start living and loving as he did. And I suspect how we choose our language might just matter to him.