Saturday, December 22, 2012

X in Christmas is used like the R in R.C. My given name at birth was Robert Charles, although before I was even taken home from the hospital my parents called me by my initials, R.C., and nobody seems to 

be too scandalized by that.

X can mean so many things. For example, when we want to denote an unknown quantity, we use the symbol X. It can refer to an obscene level of films, something that is X-rated. People seem to express chagrin about seeing Christ's name dropped and replaced by this symbol for an unknown quantity X. Every year you see the signs and the bumper stickers saying, "Put Christ back into Christmas" as a response to this substitution of the letter X for the name of Christ.

There's no X in Christmas

First of all, you have to understand that it is not the letter X that is put into Christmas. We see the English letter X there, but actually what it involves is the first letter of the Greek name for Christ. Christos is the New Testament Greek for Christ. The first letter of the Greek word Christos is transliterated into our alphabet as an X. That X has come through church history to be a shorthand symbol for the name of Christ.

We don't see people protesting the use of the Greek letter theta, which is an O with a line across the middle. We use that as a shorthand abbreviation for God because it is the first letter of the word Theos, the Greek word for God.

X has a long and sacred history

The idea of X as an abbreviation for the name of Christ came into use in our culture with no intent to show any disrespect for Jesus. The church has used the symbol of the fish historically because it is an acronym. Fish in Greek (ichthus) involved the use of the first letters for the Greek phrase "Jesus Christ, Son of God, Savior." So the early Christians would take the first letter of those words and put those letters together to spell the Greek word for fish. That's how the symbol of the fish became the universal symbol of Christendom. There's a long and sacred history of the use of X to symbolize the name of Christ, and from its origin, it has meant no disrespect.

Adapted from Now, That’s a Good Question! ©1996 by R.C. Sproul. Used by permission of Tyndale.

Thursday, December 6, 2012

The Man and The Birds by Paul Harvey

Paul Harvey and “The Man and the Birds a Christmas Story” Remembered

The man to whom I’m going to introduce you was not a scrooge, he was a kind decent, mostly good man. Generous to his family, upright in his dealings with other men. But he just didn’t believe all that incarnation stuff which the churches proclaim at Christmas Time. It just didn’t make sense and he was too honest to pretend otherwise. He just couldn’t swallow the Jesus Story, about God coming to Earth as a man.

“I’m truly sorry to distress you,” he told his wife, “but I’m not going with you to church this Christmas Eve.” He said he’d feel like a hypocrite. That he’d much rather just stay at home, but that he would wait up for them. And so he stayed and they went to the midnight service.

Shortly after the family drove away in the car, snow began to fall. He went to the window to watch the flurries getting heavier and heavier and then went back to his fireside chair and began to read his newspaper. Minutes later he was startled by a thudding sound…Then another, and then another. Sort of a thump or a thud…At first he thought someone must be throwing snowballs against his living room window. But when he went to the front door to investigate he found a flock of birds huddled miserably in the snow. They’d been caught in the storm and, in a desperate search for shelter, had tried to fly through his large landscape window.

Well, he couldn’t let the poor creatures lie there and freeze, so he remembered the barn where his children stabled their pony. That would provide a warm shelter, if he could direct the birds to it. Quickly he put on a coat, galoshes, tramped through the deepening snow to the barn. He opened the doors wide and turned on a light, but the birds did not come in. He figured food would entice them in. So he hurried back to the house, fetched bread crumbs, sprinkled them on the snow, making a trail to the yellow-lighted wide open doorway of the stable. But to his dismay, the birds ignored the bread crumbs, and continued to flap around helplessly in the snow. He tried catching them…He tried shooing them into the barn by walking around them waving his arms…Instead, they scattered in every direction, except into the warm, lighted barn.

And then, he realized that they were afraid of him. To them, he reasoned, I am a strange and terrifying creature. If only I could think of some way to let them know that they can trust me…That I am not trying to hurt them, but to help them. But how? Because any move he made tended to frighten them, confuse them. They just would not follow. They would not be led or shooed because they feared him.

“If only I could be a bird,” he thought to himself, “and mingle with them and speak their language. Then I could tell them not to be afraid. Then I could show them the way to safe, warm…to the safe warm barn. But I would have to be one of them so they could see, and hear and understand.” At that moment the church bells began to ring. The sound reached his ears above the sounds of the wind. And he stood there listening to the bells – Adeste Fidelis – listening to the bells pealing the glad tidings of Christmas. And he sank to his knees in the snow.

Monday, December 3, 2012

The Touch of God at Christmas

The Touch of God at Christmas
This is from a 60 Minutes broadcast from a few years ago. It’s an excerpt of what Harry Reasoner said around Christmas time that I want you to hear. Listen carefully – he said:

Eleven years ago I did a little Christmas piece and it seemed like a good idea to repeat it. The basis for this tremendous burst of buying things and gift buying and parties and near hysteria is a quiet event that Christians believe actually happened a long time ago. You can say that in all societies there has always been a midwinter festival and that many of the trappings of our Christmas are almost violently pagan. But you come back to the central fact of the day and the quietness of Christmas morning, the birth of God on earth.

It leaves you only three ways of accepting Christmas. One is cynically, as a time to make money and endorse the making of it. One is graciously, that’s the appropriate attitude for non-Christians who wish their fellow citizens all the joys to which their beliefs entitle them. And the third, of course, is reverently.

If this is the anniversary of the appearance of the Lord of the universe in the form of a helpless babe, it is a very important day. It is a startling idea, of course. The whole story that a virgin was selected by God to bear his son as a way of showing his love and concern for man. It’s my guess that in spite of all the lip service given to it, it’s not an idea that has been popular with theologians. It is somewhat an illogical idea and theologians like logic almost as much as they like God. It’s so revolutionary, a thought that it probably could only come from God that is beyond logic and beyond theology. It is a magnificent appeal. Almost nobody has seen God and almost nobody has any real idea what he is like, and the truth is that among men the idea of seeing God suddenly and standing in a very bright light is not necessarily a completely comforting or appealing idea.

But everyone has seen babies and almost everyone likes them. If God wanted to be loved as well as feared, He moved correctly, for a baby growing up learns all about people. And if God wanted to be intimately a part of man, He moved correctly, for the experience of birth and family-hood is the most intimate and precious experience that any of us will ever have.

So it comes beyond logic. It is either a falsehood or it is the truest thing in the world. It is the story of the great innocence of God the baby. God in the power of man has such a dramatic shock toward the heart that if it is not true to Christians, then nothing is true.

So if a person is touched only once a year, the touching is still worth it. And maybe on some given Christmas some final quiet morning, that touch will take. The touch of God coming into this world as a vulnerable baby.