“In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God. He was with God in the beginning. Through him all things were made; without him nothing was made that has been made. In him was life, and that life was the light of all mankind. The light shines in the darkness, and the darkness has not overcome it. . . . The Word became flesh and made his dwelling among us. We have seen his glory, the glory of the one and only Son, who came from the Father, full of grace and truth” (John 1:1-5,14).
Perhaps you have seen the symbol etched into a stained-glass window, embroidered on a banner, printed on the front cover of the hymnal, or embedded into the white candle of the Advent wreath. The symbol looks like the letter X with the letter P placed over it. But the letters are not English; they are Greek. The letter that looks like X is equivalent to ch, and the letter that looks like P is equivalent to r. These Greek letters chi and rho are an abbreviation for Christ. In Christian art, the letters are often adjusted so that the two are merged together, appearing to be a single letter. The logo on the cover of Christian Worship: Hymnal provides an example of such a stylized Chi-Rho.
On Christmas Eve and Day, the symbols of Christ surround us—manger scenes and Christmas trees, Chi-Rhos and candles. Perhaps you attend an evening candlelight service in which the light from the Christ candle, the center candle of the Advent wreath, is used to light other candles that in turn light all the candles held by worshipers. With building lights dimmed, the light from the candles fills the room with a heavenly glow.
But the glow produced from the Christ candle is a pale comparison to the brilliant glory of the angels who filled the night sky to announce Jesus’ birth! Any symbolism we employ at Christmas is only a dim reflection of the first Christmas and an imperfect representation of the miracle that the angel messenger announced: “Today in the town of David a Savior has been born to you; he is the Messiah, the Lord” (Luke 2:11).
Christ is the Greek translation of the Hebrew word Messiah. Both words mean “Anointed One.” This special name for this special child tells us that there is more than what meets the eye in Bethlehem’s manger. This child is anointed and appointed to be the King of kings and Lord of lords. The innocent baby wrapped in strips of cloth is also the almighty God wrapped in human flesh. God has become one of us and one with us! The One who created heaven and earth is now cradled in a manger. What an amazing heaven-sent miracle from the heart of God the Father.
Even greater than this miracle is the heavenly rescue that the Christ Child will accomplish. Jesus Christ’s mission would take him from the wood of the manger to the wood of the cross as the perfect payment for our sins and the sins of the whole world. And after the darkness of his death, the bright light of Easter morning would announce to all that the mission that began in Bethlehem’s manger was fulfilled by Calvary’s cross. The miracle of Christmas was just the beginning of the miracle of our salvation!
Rejoice! Today your Savior has been born! He is the Messiah—Christ, the Lord!
Watch students from Martin Luther College sing the suggested hymn, “From Heaven Above to Earth I Come.”
Author: Johnold Strey
Volume: 110, Number 12
Issue: December 2023