It isn’t always warm for everyone around the holidays, and I’m not referring to colder temperatures. For some of us, the holidays may have an empty feeling – the departure of loved ones, past disappointments, stressful situations, and even more. It can make for a special kind of cold during the holidays.
Christine and I will both miss our departed loved ones, our cherished family members, dear friends, and mentors who are no longer with us.
But even more, there can be a certain ice beneath the surface, a chilling and jaded cynicism doubting the veracity of good tidings and joy ubiquitous around us.
What good tidings? Why joy? Where is the happiness long promised? How can I feel cheery in such a time like this?
That is exactly why the miracle of Jesus’ coming to us is so important. There is no miracle unless we understand the stark reality staring at us, much like the darkness my astronaut faced a few sermons ago.
To understand and grapple with the miracle of Christ’s birth, we must acknowledge the cold that so many of us might face this Christmas season. The joy of Christmas is not an ignorance of the cold but spreading warmth despite it.
Thus, I challenge you to spread that warmth around. Not just smiles or joyful noises, but also the embrace of solidarity to one another. Ask how one another are doing and listen to them. Our church family is uniquely positioned to help those around us.
If you have lost, if you are jaded, if you are experiencing that icy cynicism – you are still welcome here. Come and see the child who brings joy into the world.
And as always, feel welcome to each out if you need help.
It’s why we say Merry Christmas and Happy Holidays, because it challenges the cold.
Speaking of which….
When I [This is Christine writing now!] was in middle school, the so-called “War on Christmas” raged. Businesses, stores and even cars proclaimed “Happy Holidays” or “Merry X-mas”, which meant to everyone on the other side that they were not keeping the “Christ” in Christmas and effectively “x”-ing out the name of Christ. The rallying cry of the evangelical right was, “Keep the CHRIST in CHRISTmas!” Little did they know, the Puritans of early America said the exact opposite: “Keep pagan Christmas out of Christianity!”. But I digress.
When I took a course on Koine Greek, I learned about a tiny little letter called the “chi”. This letter, shaped like an x, was the first letter in the Greek word “Christos”, which looked like this:
If you haven’t already guessed, “Christos” was the New Testament word for “Christ”, a title or a name given to Jesus by Biblical writers and by the celestial heralds of His birth. As Christianity developed, the letter “x” actually came to represent the word “Christ” in Christian conversation and writing. In the 2nd century, a Christian creed describing Jesus as “Jesus Christ, Son of God, Savior” used the same Greek letter as part of an acronym in the Greek word “Ich-thus”, which is the Greek word for “fish”.
We all have seen Christian people or Christian organizations who use the fish symbol to indicate their religious leanings. Finally, if you’re still looking for more…Emperor Constantine popularized the use of the “chi” or “X” as shorthand for Jesus, along with the second letter in the Greek word, “P” or “Rho.”
These two letters were emblazoned on his banners and shields to proclaim to the world that he moved in the name of God. Throughout history, examples continue to pop up. including an Anglo-Saxon writing from 1021 where the scribe used the “x” and “p” together to stand for “Christ” in the word “Christmas”.
Certain Christians (who many even know the history of the Greek letter “X”) claim that the “x” in “x”mas is symptomatic of a larger societal trend to take God out of mainstream politics, news, education, and life. But here’s the deal, folks: no matter how much anyone tries to “Take God” out of something, God is still there. God always was there, is there, and always will be there.
As Ben wrote above, the icy cynicism that threatens the hearts of all – even those who accept Jesus as their savior – can be overwhelming during a holiday that is meant to be full of Joy.
Next time you hear someone loudly counter “Happy Holidays” with a “And a very MERRY CHRISTMAS to you, too!” remember that little Greek letter.
Christ is in all, through all, and with all. We CAN’T take or give God. Emmanuel: God is already here