Christmas

Twenty Christmases had come and gone, yet I had never known the true meaning of the season. The lights had entranced me as an infant; the gifts had enthralled me as a child; but as an adult, Christmas was little more to me than a time for the family to be together.
 
So, what made my twenty-first Christmas so different? It was Christ!
 
During the previous year I had told him my life was a mess and that I needed him to clean me up. I had repented of my sin and trusted Jesus Christ to forgive me. He had become my Saviour and my special Friend. Now I saw Christmas through new eyes.  I wept as I sang the old carols, realizing for the first time in my life their true meaning and pondering in awe the miracle of “God contracted to a span”.
 
Do you find yourself wearying of the annual round of jollity, the spending spree and all the pressure? Are you fed up of the same music and TV programmes?
 
Maybe for you Christmas has always been a time of arguments, pressure at work, depression and many other unpleasant emotions and experiences. It need not be.
 
I have discovered that the way to get a new perspective on Christmas is to receive as my Saviour the one who came to that stable long ago.
 
Why not listen extra carefully to the carols sung this year and to the Bible readings? If you prayerfully seek for him, like the wise men, you, too, will find Christ.

A few years ago I wrote a little piece for the magazine I edit for The Faith Mission. As I have seen a lot of comment already in blogs and on Facebook, about the use of the word Xmas, I thought it apt to repurpose the article for Slices of my Life.

The Xmas or Christmas?

A child makes a snow angel - an X in the snow

Photo by Cindy Kalamajka

There are few things more joyous than seeing children playing in the snow! Making a big X with their little bodies, while lying down, many enjoy making the imprint of “snow angels”. But it was another ‘X’ which vexed one of my friends recently.

She remarked: “Every time I see Xmas, instead of Christmas, I cringe. X stands for something unknown. Christ is royalty, not an unknown.”
Another echoed the feelings of many: “With that X, it is as if they are crossing out Christ from Christmas.”

I used to feel exactly the same. But then I learned something which changed my feelings. Now, whenever I see ‘Xmas’ I say: “Jesus IS in this, even if the people who wrote it are too rushed to write the full word, or do not understand.”
This became my perspective when I learned about the Greek lettering that makes up Christ’s name.

Chi-Rho - the first two letters of the Greek spelling CHRISTX is the first letter of the Greek word “XPICTOC” (pronounced Christos – Greek: Χριστός), which means “Christ”. This letter is called “chi”.
It would have been understood by early Christians as a sign meaning ‘Christ’, especially when it was combined with a P shape (the Greek letter Rho) which was the second letter in ‘Christ’ in Greek. The Chi-Rho symbol (P with an X across the vertical stalk) has for centuries reminded Christians of the one who died to save us.

So now, when you see the word Xmas, don’t let your spirit sink. Instead of focussing on the thought that so many appear either to regard Christ as “X – the unknown”, or to cross him out of Christmas, think of Christos our Redeemer! The word Xmas need not be a stumbling block. Turn it into a stepping stone, to lift you to higher praise of our wonderful Jesus!

Some of life’s circumstances can overwhelm us and cause us pain during this season of festivity. 

RUSTY WRIGHT has some suggestions for positive ways to cope and he has given permission for his thoughts to be transmitted here.

Coping with Loneliness at Christmas

Tis the season to be … gloomy?

Feeling low this Christmas season?  You’re not alone.  Amid cheery songs, festive parties, gifts and good wishes, many lonely people are crying or dying on the inside.  Maybe you’re one of them.  I was.

During a horrible year, my wife of 20 years divorced me, my employer of 25 years fired me, and I had a cancer scare.  As I drove home one night, lovely Christmas music came on the radio.  Melancholy aching evidenced the deep pain of abandonment and loss that I was still processing.

No fun.

There are ways of coping with loneliness at ChristmasBlue Christmas

Romantic estrangement, family strife, and bereavement can make your holidays dismal.  One of Elvis Presley’s most popular songs was “Blue Christmas.”  A lonely crooner mourns heartbreaking lost love.  Performers from The Beach Boys to Celine Dion, Loretta Lynn, and Jon Bon Jovi have recorded it.

Does even thinking about that song make you depressed?  The spoofed “Porky Pig” version could get you laughing.  Google will take you there.  But please … wait until finishing this short article to search, OK?!

Several factors can produce Christmas blues.[1] Hectic activity can bring physical and emotional stress.  Overspending can produce financial pressure.  Year-end reflection and focus on loss can magnify sorrow.

McGill University psychologist Dr. Michael Spevack notes, “Over eating and over drinking combined with a decreased amount of sleep is also a formula for extreme emotional swings.”  Depression can lead to thoughts of suicide, especially among the socially isolated, he says. [2]

The “Empty Chair”

I am lonely this ChristmasIs your family apart this season by necessity or choice?  Maybe an “empty chair” reminds you of your pain.  Does Christmas “Ho, Ho, Ho” contrast with your deep anguish?

One widow recalled how she felt during the Christmas after her husband’s death:  “Little mattered to me. I didn’t want to hear carols. I didn’t want to be cheered up. I didn’t want to look at perky Christmas cards. I wanted the same thing I’d wanted every day for eight months: the strength to force myself out of bed in the morning, to brush my teeth and to eat.” [3]

One possible influence, Seasonal Affective Disorder (SAD), is a form of depression the medical community doesn’t completely understand.  The Mayo Clinic says genetics, age and body chemistry could be the culprits.  Mayo recommends seeing your doctor if you feel down for days and have motivation problems.  Symptoms can include changing sleep patterns and appetite, feeling hopeless, contemplating suicide, or seeking comfort in alcohol. [4]

Coping

How can you cope with Christmas loneliness?  Some suggestions:

1. Spend time with people, especially positive ones who lift your spirits.  Perhaps you’ll be grateful for their cheer.

2. Exercise regularly.   Blood pumping can help clear your mind.

3. Eat right.  Chocaholics beware.  Overindulgence can mean temporary highs followed by disappointing flab.

4. Lights on!  Enjoy sunlight, outdoors if possible.  Brighten up your home and workplace.  Light therapy sometimes helps SAD.

5. Budget your gift spending and stick with your budget.  Prevent January bill shock.

6. Talk about your feelings.  Keeping them bottled up can mean anxiety, ulcers, sour disposition, and/or explosion.  Need a trusted, listening friend?  Try a local church.

7. Give to others.  Volunteer.  Medical professor Stephen Post, PhD, is convinced that giving is essential for optimum physical and mental health in our fragmented society.  He says some California physicians give volunteerism “prescriptions” to their Medicare patients. [5]

8. Seek counsel.  I used to be embarrassed to obtain professional counsel.  Now I recommend it.  We all can use good advice navigating life’s storms.

9. Develop spiritual roots.  I’m glad that before my dark days began, I had a friendship with God.

Tired of friends who betray, manipulate, disrespect, or desert you?  God won’t.  He cares for you, values you, will listen to you and comfort you.  You can trust Him.  He always wants your best.

One early believer put it this way: “Since God did not spare even his own Son but gave him up for us all, won’t God, who gave us Christ, also give us everything else?” [6] His point: God loved us enough to send Jesus, his only Son, to die on the cross to pay the penalty for our wrong, our sins.  What a demonstration of love!  I can trust a God like that.  Then Jesus rose from the dead so He could live inside us and become our friend.

Your choice

Would you like to meet Jesus, the best friend you could ever have?  Wouldn’t Christmas season be a great time to place your faith in Him?  You can tell Him something like this:

Jesus, I need you.  Thanks for dying and rising again for me.  Please forgive me, enter my life, and give me eternal life.  Help me to become good friends with you and learn to follow your lead.

Did you just trust Jesus to forgive you and enter your life?  If so, ask the person or group that gave you this article how you can get to know Him better.  Even if you’re skeptical or undecided, ask them your questions.  I have a hunch they’d love to talk with you.

Endnotes

1. “Christmas Holiday Depression,” 18 December 2005; www.medicalnewstoday.com.
2. Ibid.
3. Mary Cartledgehayes, “Blue Christmas – Grieving Through The Holidays,” Christian Century, December 27, 2003;
www.findarticles.com.
4. “Seasonal affective disorder (SAD),” Mayo Clinic Staff, September 24, 2007;
www.mayoclinic.com.
5. Stephen Post, PhD., and Jill Neimark, Why Good Things Happen to Good People (New York: Broadway Books, 2007).
6. Romans 8:32 NLT.

Rusty Wright is an author and lecturer who has spoken on six continents. He holds Bachelor of Science (psychology) and Master of Theology degrees from Duke and Oxford universities, respectively. His work is distributed through Rusty Wright Communications.

Rusty Wright has been invited to participate in conferences organized by the Global Christian Internet Alliance formed by Christianity Today International to platform Christian websites internationally. Christianity.ca is the internet representative for Canada.

Originally pubished in Answer magazine 15:6, November/December 2008. Posted on Delve Into Jesus, December 2009.

Used with permission. Copyright © 2009 Christianity.ca.

Thanks to Ian Britton of ReelWorship.com for this beautiful reading.

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SLICES OF MY LIFE are little slivers of my experiences. I have many interests and this blog is my way of keeping track of what I see and learn. Some of it brings a smile to my face, uplifts and encourages me, or makes me think deeply. I hope you enjoy what you read here as much as I enjoy writing it!