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Pastor Glenn McDonald: The X Factor

For more than a few people, Xmas has become a four-letter word.

According to a number of Christ-followers, Xmas shouldn’t even be a word.

Never mind that earlier this century the editors of Webster’s formally granted Xmas a place in their dictionary.

The suspicion remains that it is a cheap, secular substitute for the word “Christmas" - an unwelcome addition to the symbols of the season. If manger scenes can no longer appear on public property, and “Happy Holidays” has squeezed out “Merry Christmas,” should Christ himself be jettisoned from the word Christmas and replaced by the innocuous letter X?

In truth, the letter X turns out to be an X-cellent way of remembering some of the foundational realities of Christmas.

Of course, there are some negative associations with X.

Remember the big red X’s that would appear from time to time on your math homework? Or how about the loud buzzer and the three big X’s that leap onto the screen whenever a family crashes and burns on Family Feud?

For a long time, X designated the kind of movie you shouldn’t even think about seeing. Then there’s XXX, starring Vin Diesel – which for entirely different reasons you shouldn’t even think about seeing.

The jury is still out concerning Elon Musk’s purchase and rebranding of Twitter, which is now known as X. What we know for sure is that the purchase price was $44 billion, which makes it the most expensive X in the world.

So let’s look at the positive associations with X.

In the world of equations, X represents something unknown that is worth finding out.

On treasure maps, X marks the spot. X is the place where someone can say with assurance, “This is where treasure can be found.”

X stands for the chromosome (we presume) that Mary contributed to Jesus. We don’t know exactly how God supernaturally produced a child within the womb of a Jewish teenage girl. That lies in the realm of mystery – something we can describe, but can’t fully explain.

The Incarnation (God choosing to take on human flesh) is undeniably one of the X Factors of Christian faith.

The letter X is relevant every year around Christmas because it is found at the bottom of credit card bills. Before we leave the store we have to add our signature. Until somebody signs, a debt remains outstanding.

Followers of Jesus believe that our cumulative debt of personal failure was signed over to Jesus’ account on the cross. Which should immediately lead us to revise our assessment of what actually constitutes the most expensive X of all time.

Jesus’ sacrifice suggests another X. Tradition tells us that Andrew, one of the original twelve disciples, was crucified on a diagonal cross – which is why any time you see an X-like symbol in a medieval stained glass window you are looking at a memorial to St. Andrew.

Finally, where did the word Xmas come from in the first place? X is identical to the Greek letter chi, which happens to be the first letter of the word Christos, or Christ.

X, therefore, can hardly be said to accomplish the erasing of Jesus of Nazareth from Christmas.

Instead, whenever you see an X, think of the unknown becoming known at Bethlehem. Think of the treasure of being loved by God. And think of the cross, which is proof that he has signed off on the entire indebtedness of our broken lives.

Seen from those angles, Xmas is no sellout.

It's nothing less than X-traordinary.


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