Sunday, December 17, 2017

Is it X or CHRIST? by Susan Harris

Our Sunday School Christmas concerts in Trinidad were highly anticipated events that drew large audiences annually. The merrily-decorated church was packed year after year with members and well wishers who came out to enjoy the songs, poems and drama presented solo or in groups. The skit from the Teens Class was the highlight that never failed to thrill, and as the final item on the program, it brought a bright and memorable year to a close.

One December, I donned pink and stood on the pulpit with heels together and toes out, my hands clasped on level with my waist, my shoulders squared. I bowed to the crowd, and upon standing erect again, with every ounce of energy in my tiny 12 year-old body, belted my monologue:

Here’s a question, tell me pray,
Should we call it Xmas day?
Or is it Christmas we should say?
Is it X or Christ?

The audience waited with bated breath as I replied to the rhetorical question posed by a poet whose name I did not know and which an Internet search in 2017 still did not reveal. Xmas was a short and convenient word of the season. It saved ink and space when signing postcards. Was it really a big deal if it’s X or Christ in the “Christmas” word? But in Christian circles it mattered. It mattered immensely, even to this day, and I too was convinced by the proof I delivered that night.  


Who was He of matchless birth?
Heaven’s glory left for earth,
Coming here with lowly birth,
Is it X or Christ?

Who was He that wise men three,
Travelled from afar to see,
Bringing gifts so liberally,
It wasn't X but Christ.

A few “amens” had rung out from the senior ladies, their hatted heads bobbing up and down.


Who did travel through the land,
Always with a helping hand,
Healing folks at His command,
It wasn't X but Christ.

Who did die upon the tree?
Suffered there for you and me.
Bore our sins on Calvary,
It wasn’t X but Christ.

The nodding and bobbing had continued though the church was quiet, conviction heavy as my high-pitched tones commanded the night air:

Let us then with one accord,
Honour give unto the Lord.
Call it CHRISTMAS, that’s the word!
For it isn’t X but Christ.

The verdict was delivered in crescendo, with passion that still marks my person to this day. The poem, executed with the intonations and flourishes in the manner my principal had trained me for choral speaking when I represented my school at age 9, accrued a level of sacredness tantamount to the Holy Scripture. I bowed, acknowledged the thunderous clapping and cheers by making eye contact with the crowd from right to left as he had demonstrated to me, before exiting the stage through a side door.  

Decades later the question resurrected as I wrote my Christmas alphabet books. Words beginning with the letter x are often challenging to find, but it was easy this time. Both An Alphabet of The First Christmas and Christmas A to Z  contains Xmas, although the other 25 words used in each book are different. 


It was during the research for the books that I came across the knowledge that X means Christ in the Greek language. X comes from the Greek letter Chi which is the first letter of the Greek word Χριστός, which in English is Christ. Therefore Xmas was derived by interchanging Christ with X to give us Xmas. (http://www.dictionary.com/e/xmas-christogram/)In this context then it is not sacrilegious to use Xmas, for it is in fact Christmas in a combination of letters from two languages. The wisemen did bring gifts to X. Friends on social media, teachers, media personnel and adults in general have observed to me that the origin and meaning of Xmas is new to them, and they discovered this knowledge through my alphabet books. 


It is not unlike the Latin inscription on the Canadian coins as I discovered while researching Little Copper Pennies in 2012. The effigy of the reigning monarch appears on the coins, and in our day it is that of Queen Elizabeth II. Her effigy first appeared in 1953 and in the coin pictured here was used until 1964. Note the inscription: ELIZABETH II DEI GRATIA REGINA, which means, "Elizabeth II, by the grace of God, the Queen."

Copyright The Royal Canadian Mint 2017

Now examine the updated effigy of Queen Elizabeth II from 1965-1989. The inscription ELIZABETH II D. G. REGINA is a shortened form of the original. D.G. replaced DEI GRATIA but the meaning is the same, albeit it is an abbreviation of one language (Latin) and not two as in the case of Xmas (Greek and English) [although it is easier to make the connection between Xmas and Christmas than it is to link D.G. and Dei Gratia.]

Copyright The Royal Canadian Mint 2017
Interestingly, my awareness of both Christmas/Xmas and Dei Gratia/D.G. surfaced while writing books, and this encourages me to want to write and research more. I am pleased that "elementary" alphabet books have brought enlightenment to adults and it is my prayer that I will inspire and educate all the days of my life. 

Explanation of D.G. on page 114

It gives me peace to know that the Bible tells us that any who calls on Jesus Christ shall be saved, and this means "Christ" in any language. 

I still wear pink but as an adult I have a different and definitive answer than the preteen in the little church. X or Christ is good for me. 

Merry Xmas. Christ is born. I wish you a happy and holy season.



SUSAN HARRIS  is a speaker, former teacher and author of 12 books. www.susanharris.ca

Thursday, December 14, 2017

Upended and Neck Deep in Trouble

Have you ever been neck deep in trouble? I've been there and it's not an entirely pleasant experience. I recall hanging upside down in my car, which was sitting on its roof in a snow-covered ditch. My wife was suspended upside down in the driver's seat beside me.

Suddenly finding yourself upside down after a high-speed-icy skid can be unsettling. I recall unfastening my seatbelt so I could reverse my position and sit upright on the interior of the car roof. Opening the car doors was impossible due to the snow jammed up on the outside. There we sat, trapped, car tires in the air, as the sun began to set.

We had two life lines: a mobile phone and a direct line to Jesus. Both worked flawlessly. Within minutes a young couple stopped and helped us out of the car. Later that evening we drove our flipped car back into the city undamaged. There was nothing to indicate we were in a rollover, not even a scratch or dent on the car body.

This true account serves as a reminder to me that God hears us when we pray. When we are in over our head—when we are neck deep and beyond—we can call out to God.

God did not save us because we are faultless. As the psalmist says, "You, God, know my folly; my guilt is not hidden from you" Psalm 69:5). God saves us because of His great mercy.

At this time of year I am reminded of another couple that had their lives upended. Mary and Joseph's world was turned upside down by an announcement by an angel. This unplanned pregnancy was not part of the script—not part of the plan for their lives as they originally intended. But God had something else in mind.

All too often our plans aren't God's plans. I can't imagine that Mary was too thrilled about giving birth to her firstborn in a stable. Though at first blush it may seem romantic, laying your baby in a manger has little appeal for the average first-time parents. We don't see millions trying to duplicate this experience.

But God's ways are higher than our ways. Let's keep that in mind next time our lives are upended by the unexpected. The Lord might just have a better plan.

Are you ready for it?







David Kitz is the author of The Soldier Who Killed a King. He and his wife Karen make their home in Ottawa. For further details on David's book and drama ministry visit: http://davidkitz.ca/


Wednesday, December 13, 2017

A Blessed Gift by Glynis M Belec



Christmas is a time to celebrate a birth. 

To thank the Lord, our God, for sending Christ to earth.

We celebrate with presents and trees adorned with lights

               We know that Jesus Christ was born on that star-lit night. 

Everyone is happy. There is caring all around

"Peace on Earth. Goodwill to men," is an ever-present sound. 

Yet sometimes, though we don't intend, we lose sight of the reason

The focus shifts away from Christ, at times, throughout the season. 

We rush to stores to buy the best for each one on our list.

With endless toys and precious gifts. There's no one we have missed. 

Let's not be blinded by the lights and tinsel on our trees.

Let's rejoice at Christmas time and fall down on our knees. 

The shepherds kneeled before the Lord and bowed their heads in prayer.

Our Saviour, Christ, was born that night - the news spread everywhere. 

So as we gather 'round the tree with friends and family

Do it in His blessed Name for all the world to see. 





Thanks be to God for his 
indescribable
Gift! 

2 Corinthians 9:15




Glynis lives, loves, laughs and does an awful lot of reading, writing, publishing and praying in 
her home office. 
        How thrilled Glynis is to be part of CHRISTMAS WITH HOT APPLE CIDER - an anthology filled with a wonderful assortment of Christmas short stories, memories, drama and poetry. 
                     www.glynismbelec.com 

Tuesday, December 12, 2017

Joy of the Word Ruth Smith Meyer





Many words describe various parts of Christmas.

“‘Tis the season to be jolly” one Christmas song instructs us.  But although jolly as in “jovial, cheery, happy, ebullient” may cover some of the reactions to the Great Gift that is the “reason for the season,” those words just don’t cover it for me.

 Joy is much more descriptive of what I feel. The thesaurus gives me more descriptive words—“happiness, enjoyment, elation, thrill, gladness, exultation and rapture.”  Yes!
As a writer and weaver of words, my response to that joy, is expressed in different ways.

For the last four years, I have compiled a Christmas Cantata for our community choir, using songs we’ve sung before and putting them together with narration I’ve written. In October, we begin to practice.  As we learn the various parts of the cantata, we not only work on perfecting the music, the words work their way into our hearts and ‘grow’ on us.  

PictureThe final evening of our concert brings it all together.   The lights are dimmed, the candles are lit and we share the message of God’s love being born in a stable, through the singing and narration. I see the message take its effect on the listeners.  There are rapt expressions, smiles, the odd tear and a feeling of peace. The miracle happens and my heart is filled with joy.

As the focus on God’s great love emerges with the approach of Christmas, my writing too, finds other ways to express the love that went to such great lengths so I could have a close relationship with him and he with me. My thoughts and my joy find their way into blogs, devotionals, short stories, new cantatas and poems.

One of the most satisfying of my writing projects gets under way early in November.  That’s my annual Christmas letter. Controversy surrounds these missives, but I have so many dear and treasured friends with whom I like to stay in touch—so I continue even as the dispute goes on.  Whether I get responses or not, nearly two hundred receive those letters either by email or snail-mail.  A few years when I skipped a few, I actually got calls in January to ask if I’m okay and to say that my letter was missed. When meeting friends at other occasions during the year, we have more of a connection than we would without those letters.  Thankfully more and more of my friends have adopted the same practice, and it gives me so much joy to hear about their lives.

When writing gift cards words are included to tell the recipient how they have been a gift in my life, or I tell them the gifts I see in them.

Place cards for our church Christmas dinner, are a nice way to help each diner realize that God’s gift is for them and they are a gift to God.

One year I even put words on pillowcases for each of my family—quotes that I felt suited them.  Another such quotes were arranged on my computer using different fonts and colours to emphasize the words.  Framed, they provided ongoing reminders of helpful truths.

Words give me much joy.  When I can pass them on, giving someone else positive motivation or encouragement, that joy is multiplied.


All that blessed joy stems from he who in the beginning was The Word.   Letting that Word live on                                                             through me is the greatest joy I can know or experience. 



Ruth Smith Meyer loves life in Ailsa Craig, Ontario.  Keeping connected to family and friends keeps her busy when she isn't pursuing ways to use her writing skills.   She's also always seeking for ways to sell her novels, memoir, children's story and multiple author books of which she's been part and accepting speaking engagements. 
















Monday, December 11, 2017

A Promise Waiting --Carolyn R. Wilker




Snow falls softly here as I write today. No doubt there’ll be more snow by the end of the day. People were out raking leaves just over a week ago, but soon the cold wind came, shooting like an arrow down the tunnel of the city’s main street.
Tuesday evening I’d been out to meet with writer friends from our critique group, for a little social time before Christmas. On the way back to my car, the wind pushed against me, making me shiver and my teeth chatter. Though I wore a warm winter coat, my legs were cold. I thought, Here comes winter.
Coloured lights remind us that Christmas will come soon and the snow with it. In some points north, I’m sure they have plenty of it.
Winter, in our part of the world, begins near Christmas usually, and the nights are darker. Soon we’ll have the longest night or shortest day of the year, however you want to look at it. At that time of year some folks mark Blue Christmas because of losses they’ve suffered. Others struggle with diminishing sunlight and seasonal affective disorder.
It may also be appropriate to match that early winter in our part of the world with the Advent season in our Christian church—a time of waiting, a time to remember how things were for people before the Christ child came to the world. People were under duress from the Roman government, and now it seemed they wanted even more taxes to pay their way, from common folks who worked hard just to get by. Another census so that all the world could be counted. All their world, as they knew it. It seemed they had little hope.
There had been one proclamation by the prophet Isaiah that a special child would be born. Maybe they believed it and maybe they struggled to see how it could change anything. A child born to one of them to save them from their ruler. It hardly seemed possible. And yet, some held out hope, and few believed when it actually came to be. 
Would anyone believe a young girl called Mary who would carry the baby? Her family? Her fiancée to whom she was promised in marriage? The scandal would have rocked their community, and she was sent away for awhile. To visit an aunt who lived days away. People would not have believed the aunt’s story either. One who had been called to carry another child who would prepare the way for the special baby. An old woman beyond her prime, who’d borne no previous children of their own. Dire circumstances, by human measure.
Except that the two women had a bond beyond their blood relationship. Oh, how they must have rejoiced when they spent the time together. They had hope for the world, though neither one would know just how things would go. Hope was important.
And so this is the opening to that story that we mark every year beginning in late November and into December, until the night of the baby’s birth. Seems appropriate, doesn’t it?
We’re not quite at Christmas yet. In the middle of the shopping, decorating, baking and pre-Christmas gatherings, let’s remember the long time of waiting and of the hope people held in a nearly hopeless situation—before the special baby came to make his place in the world. A promise waiting. A promise in the works. As the hymn writer declared in 1710 and a 15th Century processional put to music,
“O Come, O Come Emmanuel, and ransom captive Israel that mourns in lonely exile here until the son of God appear.”




                                                     
                                           


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