My first career, in my three-career life, was as an English teacher. I majored in English at Kent State University because I love literature. I knew that I’d be teaching grammar and writing too, of course, but I didn’t realize what a difficult time many of my students would have learning the basic eight parts of speech. You may remember what they are—nouns, verbs adjectives, adverbs, pronouns, conjunctions, interjections, and prepositions. You may also remember that nouns are words that name a person, place, thing, or idea. Proper nouns name a specific person, place, thing, or idea. Christmas is a proper noun. Verbs are words that show action or state of being.
Did you know that the noun “Christmas” is not in the Bible? The word probably didn’t come into use in the church until the 200’s A.D. when the expression “Christ mass” was used, meaning “the mass of Christ.” Christmas is a word that evokes for many of us feelings, mind pictures, memories, and sensory impressions. Positive feelings may be of love, warmth, excitement, anticipation, happiness, and sharing. We may see in our mind’s eye the beauties of Christmas— the colored lights, beautifully wrapped presents, and decorated evergreen trees. We may have memories of special Christmases past—the time we got the puppy or the year we received that special gift or found the perfect gift to give. Then there are the sensory impressions of the holiday—the smell of pine, gingerbread cookies baking, wood smoke, crisp winter air.
The word “Christmas” is a powerful word, loaded with its own special magic and mystery. It’s a word that can evoke yearning, because the thing about Christmas is that it doesn’t last. We build toward the peak of December 25th by decorating, lighting Advent candles, shopping, attending Christmas musicals and programs, caroling, sharing holiday meals, and then its over and gone. Lights down, tree on the curb or in the box, and its back to business as usual. That brief time of beauty and peace and goodwill, when people seem to try to be a little nicer, is gone for another year. In fact, it seems a little darker afterward with all the lights and decorations gone.
What I’d like to suggest to you in this Advent season and beyond, is that we break the grammatical rules of our English language! I invite you to take the noun Christmas and turn it into an action verb! That’s what poet Rod McKuen does in his poem number three/improving language from his book Seven Psalms For Christmas. He writes:
Christmas shouldn’t be another doorway
That widens out the heart’s horizons,
It should be the only window
In the house we call ourselves.
For Christmas is but one more word for love.
I Christmas you more than I
Have christmased anyone before.
When my hair has turned to silver
Will you still Christmas me
As much or more than you do now?
You see it wouldn’t be as hard
To christmas one another every day.
First the capital C must go,
Now try it sans italics.
Think about it—Christmas as love, God’s love shown in the very real gift of God’s Son to us, love that we have the ability to choose to share with others every day of the year. During the remainder of this Advent season leading to Christmas and beyond, let us think about ways we can break the grammatical rules of our English language in ways acceptable, at least to this former English teacher, sharing with our sisters and brothers, in the living of our lives God’s message, “I Christmas you!”
Christmas blessings to each of you!
Pastor Candy Thomas
Christ Congregational United Church of Christ