At the Wintersville United Methodist Church, we are fortunate to have a very visible church sign, which is seen by many passing by each day on Main Street in Wintersville. At this time of year we always put our Advent theme on the church sign, and it seems this year's theme caused confusion for some and upset some others. Our Advent theme is: "Xmas: the CHRIST Factor." A number of people could not understand why, as a church, we were taking "Christ" out of Christmas.
That is the last thing we are trying to do at our church. In the following paragraphs I have included some excerpts from my December church newsletter article addressing this issue, and hopefully it will help clear up any misunderstanding.
I have never watched an entire episode of the TV talent show, "The X Factor." But when I first heard the title a few years ago it intrigued me. When it comes to talent, singing and performing, some people definitely have an "X" factor, although it is easier to recognize and experience than it is to describe. Some people just have "it" - that extra special "something" that sets them apart from others. It is not just about singing all of the right notes in just the right key with perfect pitch.
We all know there are very good singers who just do not have "what it takes" to be a great performer and become a star.
What is the "X" factor? One website explained it in this way - "The 'X Factor' of the title refers to the undefinable 'something' that makes for star quality." Some of the judges on the show described the "X" factor as, "something you can't quite put your finger on," "a combination of many things - timing, charisma, talent, confidence, originality, all coming together," and "a glow, a really strong presence which you just can't stop watching ... people are mesmerized by you."
But what about Christmas? Is there an indispensible "X" factor that makes all of the difference, or is the "X" in Xmas just one way of secularizing a once very Christian holiday? I believe there definitely is an "X" factor when it comes to celebrating the Advent and Christmas season, and without truly grasping the ultimate importance of this "X" and experiencing the power and promise of this "X" during the holiday season, as well as in our daily lives, we are truly missing "IT."
The letter "CHI" in the Greek alphabet is shaped similarly to our "X" and it is the first letter in the Greek spelling of the title, "Christ." At times the early Christians used this letter "X" in a symbolic way to represent Jesus Christ. and that is "it"! The "X" factor of Xmas is Jesus Christ himself! The "Christ factor" is that indispensible "something" that is absolutely essential if we are to faithfully celebrate Christmas, and, if we are to live out a Christmas spirit each and every day of our lives. With Christ, we have "it"; without Christ, we are missing "it."
On the TV show, some performers are judged to have the "X Factor" and may possibly be rewarded with a lucrative recording contract. But for all of us, truly experiencing "Xmas, the Christ factor," leads to something far greater and infinitely more valuable. We certainly do not want to miss "it"!
(Quillen is the pastor of Wintersville United Methodist Church.)