What exactly does it mean when someone calls Christmas “X-mas”? Does it offend you when you see someone replace the “Christ” in Christmas with an X? In reality, it doesn’t replace Christ at all. Through history Christmas has often been abbreviated by the Greek letter Chi (that looks like an “X”) which stands for Christos—the Greek word for Christ. So, “X-mas” was an abbreviated way of saying Christmas!
But let’s be real. Our culture doesn’t call Christmas “X-mas” to abbreviate Christ with the Greek letter Chi. Instead, our culture’s use of “X-mas” is a politically correct tactic to avoid offending those of other faiths who seek to celebrate the Christmas season (as ironic as that is). Our society markets Christmas as if the “X” can stand for whatever you want. And Christians are often outraged when businesses plaster banners or advertisements that read “X-mas” instead of “Christmas.”
However, could I suggest to you that no one replaces the “Christ” in “Christmas” more than American Christians? There is no one else who should seek and savor and enjoy the coming of the Christ child at Christmas time more than those who profess Him as Savior, yet it is His children who forsake Him the most during the holidays. Gifts steal the joy in our hearts reserved for the King, and our “X” becomes material items. Santa swipes the mystery in our minds that should be claimed only by the gospel, and our “X” becomes a make-believe children’s character. Family takes the priority in our lives that is due only to our Lord, and our “X” becomes family gatherings.
If we are honest, no one replaces Christ during Christmas more than professing Christ followers. If we will truly examine how we conduct our attitudes and attention during the Christmas season, we will find that it is not the department store banner that pollutes the minds of our children and teenagers; it is the traditions and customs we have built that divert their focus away from the true reason for the season—Christ.
So, I want to give you an “X-mas” alternative. I want to give you an advent focus on this season that was created by the Creator, Himself.
A PROPHESIED ADVENT
The baby wrapped in swaddling clothing in the little town of Bethlehem was not just a sweet little Christian story we can use to comfort our children. It was the very culmination of a divine plan that had been transpiring for thousands of years! Do you realize that the birth of the Christ child was the ultimate answer to the entire Old Testament?
Adam plunged mankind into an eternity of doom and all 39 books of the Old Testament is a big story leading up to the solution to that mistake and the answer that is the birth of Jesus. God banished man from his presence after the fall (Gen. 3:22-24) and the sin problem only got worse from there. But God miraculously reintroduced Himself to mankind through the call of a man named Abram (Gen. 12:1-3), and the spark of a God infused nation was born. Abram (later renamed Abraham) had a son named Isaac. Isaac had a son named Jacob. Jacob, who was eventually renamed Israel (Gen. 32:22-32), had twelve sons who would become the twelve tribes of Israel.
One of the twelve, after being sold into slavery by his other brothers (Gen. 37:12-36), became great in the land of the Egyptians and brought his family there to live. The Hebrew people (Israelites) grew to an enormous size and the Egyptians began to fear their number and might, and so, they enslaved them. The Israelites remained in slavery to the Egyptians for four hundred years until God called a man named Moses (Exod. 3) to lead them into the wilderness and to a land God had promised.
This is where God established the sacrificial system that we see all throughout the rest of the Old Testament. Mankind still could not be in the presence of God because he had still not been cleansed of his sin. So, God set up a way that Israel could symbolically transfer the consequence of their sin to a perfect and innocent lamb and trade their death (the consequence of sin—see Rom. 6:23) for the life of the lamb. So, the Israelite people, for thousands of years, symbolically and ceremonially sprinkled the blood of the sacrificial lamb on the altar, to cleanse them from their sin and grant them entrance into the presence and good standing with God. But there was still a problem. The established sacrificial system wasn’t good enough to permanently reconcile mankind back to God, and it was always just a symbol and foreshadowing of a better solution to come. And that is why a promised Messiah—a coming Savior—is echoed throughout the prophetic books of the Old Testament.
The word “Messiah” comes from the Hebrew word Mashiach and is translated “one who is anointed.” The idea of an “Anointed One” (see Pslm 2:2 and Dan. 9:25-26) was a major theme to the Israelites. He was said to be from the tribe of Judah and in the family line of David (Isa. 11:1-4). He would be supernaturally born of a virgin (Isa. 7:14) in the town of Bethlehem (Mic 5:2). This would be a Savior who would be a sacrificial servant (Isa. 53) and bring peace and His coming kingdom (Zech. 12-14).
The Jews desperately sought and awaited the arrival of this coming Messiah, and then, one star filled night, prophecy was fulfilled and a divinely inspired plan met its answer. Hundreds of years of foretold events took place. Mankind met the solution to the garden mistake. God entered the created world. The reality of what Jeremiah spoke of came true:
“Behold, the days are coming, declares the Lord, when I will make a new covenant with the house of Israel and the house of Judah, not like the covenant that I made with their fathers on the day when I took them by the hand to bring them out of the land of Egypt, my covenant that they broke, though I was their husband, declares the Lord. For this is the covenant that I will make with the house of Israel after those days, declares the Lord: I will put my law within them, and I will write it on their hearts. And I will be their God, and they shall be my people. And no longer shall each one teach his neighbor and each his brother, saying, ‘Know the Lord,’ for they shall all know me, from the least of them to the greatest, declares the Lord. For I will forgive their iniquity, and I will remember their sin no more”. (Jeremiah 31:31-34).
Jesus was the answer—the fulfillment and the sacrificial lamb—of the Old Testament prophecies. He was of the tribe of Judah and in the family line of David (Matt. 1:1-17). He was supernaturally born of a virgin (Matt. 1:18-25) in the town of Bethlehem (Matt. 2:1-6). And He was a sacrificial servant who brought peace and a coming kingdom. Jesus fulfilled all of these prophesies, but not just these. Jesus fulfilled over 300 Old Testament prophecies about Himself over the course of His lifetime (29 in a single day) and did the impossible.
A HUMBLE ADVENT
Do you realize that the God who said, “Let there be…” and light cracked across the sky at the command of His voice was the very baby who lay crying in his makeshift bed? Has it ever occurred to you that the little boy that belonged to the lowly carpenter of Nazareth was God almighty? Has it ever struck you that the bloody and convicted man upon the cross—who died for your sins—was the King of all kings and Lord of all lords?
When we think about the majesty and glory that God possesses in heaven and on His throne (see Isa. 6, Ezek. 1, and Rev. 4) it is breathtaking and startling to suppose that He descended from there to here. Not only that, His birthplace was not majestic. His family was not royal. His hometown was not famous. His appearance was not dazzling. Not to mention that His mission in descension was to die for people who hated Him, rebelled against Him, spat on Him, struck Him, denied Him, abandoned Him, and cursed Him. What? Are we really talking about the God of the universe? He looks nothing like we would expect Him to look like, if He came to earth. But the prophetic description of Him was true:
"For he grew up before him like a young plant, and like a root out of dry ground; he had no form or majesty that we should look at him, and no beauty that we should desire him. He was despised and rejected by men, a man of sorrows and acquainted with grief; and as one from whom men hide their faces he was despised, and we esteemed him not… But he was pierced for our transgressions; he was crushed for our iniquities; upon him was the chastisement that brought us peace, and with his wounds we are healed. All we like sheep have gone astray; we have turned—every one—to his own way; and the Lord has laid on him the iniquity of us all. He was oppressed, and he was afflicted, yet he opened not his mouth; like a lamb that is led to the slaughter, and like a sheep that before its shearers is silent, so he opened not his mouth… Yet it was the will of the Lord to crush him; he has put him to grief; when his soul makes an offering for guilt, he shall see his offspring; he shall prolong his days; the will of the Lord shall prosper in his hand. Out of the anguish of his soul he shall see and be satisfied; by his knowledge shall the righteous one, my servant, make many to be accounted righteous, and he shall bear their iniquities." (Isa. 53:2-3, 5-7, 10-11).
If you add all of this to the fact that He came and died to forgive every single one of your past, present, and future sins and make it possible for you to be in the presence of the Father, it is too much to hear and too much to bear. The God who is greater than the tallest mountain and bigger and brighter than the largest star became a human, lived a perfect life, and died the sinner’s death you should have died. No one captures it better than the apostle Paul:
"Have this mind among yourselves, which is yours in Christ Jesus, who, though he was in the form of God, did not count equality with God a thing to be grasped, but emptied himself, by taking the form of a servant, being born in the likeness of men. And being found in human form, he humbled himself by becoming obedient to the point of death, even death on a cross. Therefore God has highly exalted him and bestowed on him the name that is above every name, so that at the name of Jesus every knee should bow, in heaven and on earth and under the earth, and every tongue confess that Jesus Christ is Lord, to the glory of God the Father." (Philippians 2:5-11)
When considering the radical steps that God took so we could come back into His presence and live with Him in eternity, it should create nothing but worship in our hearts.
A RETURNING ADVENT
God’s divine story doesn’t end with the cross. God’s divine story doesn’t even end with Jesus’ resurrection and ascension! The story that God has orchestrated and weaved throughout human history doesn’t even end with Jesus’ return! We know that when Christ returns to retrieve His church, we will join with Him and dwell with him forevermore. What does this mean? It means that Christ’s return—the end of human history—is actually only the beginning of our story. It is the beginning of a story about the Father and His children that will literally never end.
Satan must have felt pretty good about himself as he gazed up at the dead and crucified Jesus. He must have foolishly believed he had won. Everyone else thought he had won too. Every phase of his diabolical plan, up to this point, seemed to have succeeded. He successfully deceived Adam and Eve and they were thrown out of the presence of God (Gen. 3). He had successfully polluted the morality of mankind to the point God had to wipe out the human race, with the exception of Noah (Genesis 6-9). And now, He had successfully nailed God, Himself, onto the cross of Calvary and killed him (Matt. 27:45-50; Mk. 15:33-37; Lk. 23:44-46; Jn. 19:28-30).
However, Satan must have swallowed his tongue when Jesus’ tombstone rolled away. He must have shrieked with fright when Jesus, in His glorified body, stepped out of the tomb. He must have cried with tears of horror when Jesus ascended back to the Father. And he will most certainly squill with terror, once again, when his satanic ears listen to the blasting sound of the angelic trumpet.
Jesus, just as he left, will come again in glory from the clouds. A trumpet will blast, and He will come with a shout (1 Thess. 4:13-18). And as Jesus descends for the second time—this time not in humility, but in power and authority—to gather His church, Satan, whether he likes it or not, will find a strange inability to resist the need to bend his knee. And just like every other creature in existence, he will bow, and he will confess with his tongue that Jesus is Lord (Phil. 2:9-11).
Those who have put their faith and trust in Jesus the Nazarene will join with the heavenly angelic choir and with believers from every tongue and nation, singing praises to our King (Rev. 7:9-17). We will sit down with the Groom and eat the marriage supper of the Lamb (Rev. 19:6-8). We will watch the final and ultimate defeat of Satan (Rev. 20:7-10). And we will watch God’s new heavens and new earth descend and join with Him in an eternity of Godly joy, love, and worship (Rev. 21:9-26).
Those of us who eagerly await that day join with John when he says,
He who testifies to these things says, “Surely I am coming soon.” Amen. Come, Lord Jesus! (Rev. 22:20)
You have a choice to make this Christmas season. You can make it about Christ and focus on His prophesied advent, His humble advent, and His returning advent—experiencing a supernatural and eternal joy. You can fall on your face in worship and say to the King, “Come, Lord Jesus! Come!” Or you can continue to make your Christmas about the temporal matters of life.
This Christmas don’t reduce the God who did all of that down to something less than Santa Clause and your Christmas gifts. Because when we get more joy out of those things than we do the advent Messiah, we declare Him less important than the material things we enjoy for about five minutes. If you are going to take the “Christ” out of your Christmas, don’t be upset when the department store takes it out of theirs.
Author: A. C. Minor
Scripture quotations are from The ESV Bible (The Holy Bible, English Standard Version), copyright 2001 by Crossway. Used by permission. All rights reserved.
Unless otherwise indicated, all Scripture quotations are from the English Standard Version.