It has been said over and over again: Words mean something. They have definition and definition matters. As Aristotle chided, “How many a dispute could have been deflated into a single paragraph if the disputants had dared to define their terms.” If we don’t understand our words, their meaning can be manipulated and we often end up arguing for things that may be the exact opposite of our words’ original intent.
Let’s take, for example, the word “holiday.” What does it mean?
Well, at first glance you might recognize it’s pretty obvious. The word holiday is actually the combination of two words: “holy” and “day.”
Holy — A religious word: Something that is sacred and set apart for God; something that must be preserved and kept whole; something sanctified, righteous, pure and right and real. Holy — uncompromised and worthy of respect and worship. “Holy, holy, holy is the Lord God Almighty, for He alone is holy!”
Day — A reference to a 24-hour period of time: The acknowledgment of past, present and future; the awareness of the clock; knowing that the minutes and hours are passing and that ultimately, they are God’s to give and to take, and that human beings have nothing to say about their longevity or brevity.
Day: Self-limitation; the understanding that our days are numbered. Yesterday’s memories. Today’s responsibilities. Tomorrow’s dreams. Made in the image of God, we stand alone in our awareness of time and the divine dictate that “this is the Day the Lord has made” and we, alone, of all God’s creatures, are obligated to keep it holy.
Isn’t it ironic that the “wise” who wish to secularize our culture actually do so by demanding that we abandon “religious words” like Christmas while at the same time arguing in favor of an even more religious word like “holiday”?
Which leads me to a second word: Christmas. Since the 12th century, this word has meant “Christ’s mass.”
Christ — An obvious acknowledgment of the deity of Jesus, the Child born in Bethlehem. Christ: The Savior of all mankind; Emmanuel, God with us. Christ: The Messiah; “for He will save His people from their sins.” Christ: born of the Virgin Mary, suffered under Pontius Pilate, crucified, risen, and coming again; the Alpha and the Omega, the Beginning and the End. Christ: The Lion of Judah, the Lamb of God; “Joy to the world, the Lord has come!” Christ!
Mass — A statement; a message of unmistakable clarity; an unapologetic sermon that guides and directs. Mass: Not a time of man’s mushy manipulation; not a time of postmodern opinions; not a time of political popularity. Mass: The message of the Messiah; the mission of God’s chosen One; “the Word made flesh and dwelling among us.” Mass!
So, as you celebrate with family and friends in the days ahead, remember this holiday season is made up of holy days. Remember these are days “set apart” for us to humbly contemplate that God is God and we are not and that time is His to give and His to take. Remember each day if full of God’s grace and that we alone, of all creation, have the understanding and responsibility to redeem it as holy unto the Lord.
Also remember that this is the Christmas season. This is Christ’s Mass. Not Buddha’s mass. Not Mohammed’s mass. Not Krishna’s mass. It’s not Donald Trump’s or Nancy Pelosi’s, Washington’s or Wall Street’s. It’s not yours or mine. It is Christ’s mass! We can commercialize it, homogenize it, politicize it, and compromise it, but in the end the bottom line is this: Christmas means something and all our attempts to spin it, manipulate it and change it are, frankly, nothing more than the pouts of bunch spoiled children who don’t like what their Father gave them for Christmas.
Thousands of years ago, a Jewish psalmist sang out, “Teach me your way, O Lord; I will learn to walk in your truth!” Later, Jesus Christ himself proclaimed that by following His way the blind would see and the oppressed would be set free. Perhaps there is some wisdom in these words, these time-tested and ancient words. Maybe, just maybe, the magic of Christmas — of peace on earth and good will toward men; of Emmanuel, God with us; of joy to the world; of silent night and holy night — can only be had by choosing the right words and the right definitions.
We are warned that there is a way that seems right unto man but the end, thereof, leads to death. We are also told that there is a Way, a Truth and a Life, found only in the very Word of God himself.
“In the beginning was the Word and the Word was with God and the Word was God In Him was life and that life was the light of men The Word became flesh and dwelt among us. We have seen His glory, the glory of the one and only Son, who came from the Father full of grace and truth.”
Happy Holydays and Merry Christmas!
• Everett Piper, president of Oklahoma Wesleyan University, is the author of “Not A Day Care: The Devastating Consequences of Abandoning Truth” (Regnery 2017).