Thoughts on Christmas

Every year during this season we turn our thoughts to the events surrounding the birth of Jesus. We call it the Christmas season because it is the commemoration of the arrival of the Jewish Messiah, who is called “the Christ”.  The word Christmas derives from the celebration of the Christ’s Mass; so designated by the Roman Catholic Church around the 11th century.

Christmas is often shortened to the abbreviation Xmas and much has been made of the perception that this seems to be an attempt to eliminate “Christ” from Christmas. However, you may be surprised to discover, as I was, that the letter “X” is an ancient Greek letter that symbolized the word “Christ”.  The letter “X” is the Greek letter “chi” (kai), which is the first letter in the name “Christ.” For hundreds of years the letter “X” has been used in the Christian church as an initial for Jesus Christ. Sooo…properly understood, Xmas is not a corruption of Christmas, it is not a denigration of Christmas, nor is it necessarily an attempt to “x out” Christ from the word Christmas (though in some cases that may actually be true). It is another way of communicating the word Christmas using shorthand which has been the case since at least the 16th century. I point this out so that, maybe, we followers of Christ can enjoy the Christmas season with a little less negativity when we see Christmas abbreviated Xmas. Let’s just assume the sign and card makers had Christ in mind when they used the letter X.

For many of us Christmas evokes a lot of memories and emotion.  It’s wrapped up in thoughts of the Christmas story which recounts the historical events of God sending His Son, Jesus, into the world to become our Savior and King. It’s also a remembrance of the many celebrations through the years with family and friends; the giving and receiving of gifts, familiar, joyous music, and expressions of love and kindness which are sometimes missing at other times during the year. All of this compounds to make the season unique and special.

On the other hand, Christmas has also become more and more hectic and stressful for some. It has become an exhausting race to attend events, shop for gifts, and cram as much activity into the days leading up to Christmas day. Some people are actually happy when the season is finally over. It’s understandable. It’s also somewhat sad.

Maybe this year you’ll look at Christmas a little differently. Maybe you’ll be able to pump the brakes just a bit and let the joy of the season flood over you. Maybe you’ll allow God’s presence a little more space in this busy season. Maybe Christmas will take on a new and fresh meaning for you this year.

Angels appeared to shepherds on the night of Jesus’ birth and declared the best news the world has ever heard:

“…I bring you good news that will cause great joy for all the people. Today in the town of David a savior has been born to you; he is the Messiah, the Lord. (Luke 2:10-11 NIV)

It’s still the best news for us and for all men.

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