Monday, December 13, 2010

Sanctuary Sights and Senses: X-mas

The following is from the thirteenth installment of my bulletin insert series:

Today’s insert is going to stray a bit from the others in this series. The others have focused on sights or experiences within the sanctuary or the worship service (thus the title). This edition will start with a symbol that was talked about on last week’s insert about the Chrismons, and then focus on a related topic of the season.

The Chi-Rho - The Χ with the Ρ in the center forms a symbol of Christ using two Greek letters. The X is the Greek letter, Chi, and the P is the Greek letter, Rho. They are the first two letters of the Greek word Χρίστου, or in English, Christ. - Sometimes you will see the letter Ι (iota) with the Χ which are the first letters of the Greek spelling of Jesus and Christ.

Knowing about these symbols helps us to understand why sometimes people refer to Christmas using the “shorthand” form of X-mas. It really is not an attempt to “x-out” Christ from Christmas. Rather, it is an abbreviation for Christmas using a chrismon, if you will; the symbol for Christ.

I am in full favor of the idea of making sure we keep Christ in Christmas, but I am not all that concerned about whether people use the Greek initial when writing the word.
Instead, I would suggest two ways for us to “keep Christ in Christmas.” First, let us observe the holy season of Advent as a time to prepare ourselves spiritually for celebrating the birth of our Lord and Savior.

Second, keep the “mas(s)” in Christmas(s). Mass is not a term that we Protestants typically use. However, it is a word that basically refers to the worship service of Holy Communion. If you want to keep Christ in Christmas, be sure to faithfully gather with the Church around the Table of the Lord on Christmas (or, in our case, Christmas Eve).


Eric + said...

Thanks for this post Todd. Let me just jump in here for a minute and share my experience of Christ-mass in the church I serve. When I came, I made the decision that I would be having a Christmas morning service.

Needless to say I got lots of complaints about expecting people to celebrate Christmas morning with their faith family. Even my wife was not a big fan.

This will be the FIFTH Christmas morning service we have here. Every year we meet at 9:00 am for an acapella service of Word and Table. The attendance is not that great --- usually 10-12 people but those 10-12 people absolutely love it. They have experienced first hand the wonder of celebrating together the Birth of our Lord! Those 10-12 people will each tell you that there is something very different about the worship on Christmas Eve and Christmas Day.

Now that we have kids, I wouldn't do it any other way. We get up, have cinnamon rolls, get ready and worship, come home for a big Christmas brunch, then open gifts.

Keeping the "mass" in Christ-mass has definitely helped my families keep Christ in Christ-mass.

Todd Stepp said...


Thanks for sharing!

For the 12 1/2 years I spent in Greencastle, IN, we worshipped on Christmas Day. (My first Christmas there, Christmas fell on a Sunday. I had one person suggest we cancel the service that Sunday!! I said absolutely not; Christmas is the second "holiest" day of the Christian year, next to Easter, and if it is only me and my family, we would be worshipping.)

Our attendance was never great, but the faithful few always made it.

When I moved to Evansville, their tradition was a Christmas Eve service. The same is true at my new setting.

In my new setting, however, they have two services, one at noon and one at the traditional 11 pm 'til midnight. The two services will be different from each other; the first will be a service of lessons and carols, the second will be a "Christ-Mass" service of Word and Table.


I think, recognizing the long tradition of the Christmas Eve (midnight) Mass as the first service of Christmas has helped me with the transition from Christmas Day to Christmas Eve. - If it were at 6 or seven pm, then I think it may have been more difficult for me.

Eric + said...

Just to be clear, we do a Christmas Eve service at 7:00pm and a Christmas Day at 9:00am. Both services are the same Word/Table structure with different readings/songs. I think if we did the traditional midnight mass I would not do the morning, but it was easier for me to add a morning service than change the evening one.

We also do lessons and carols -- twice, actually. Once on the First Sunday of Advent (advent carols) telling the story from the fall, the prophets and the announcement of John's and Jesus' birth. Then the Sunday following January 6 we do another lessons and Christmas carols telling of the birth - baptism narrative. It really sets the tone well and gives us an extra week for Christmas music since I don't use any during advent.

Anonymous said...

About the use of the term Xmas: One of the things I try to remind my students is about pronunciation. It seems that, in the wider culture at least, the term is frequently pronounced "ehks-mus." But as an abbreviation for "Christ," it should always be pronounced "Christmas" even when written (and appropriately so) as "Xmas." We don't pronounce the abbreviation "Dr." as "druh" or "Mr." as "mruh"--nor should we pronounce "Xmas" as "ehks-mus."