The Cross & the Pen: The Great Traditions of Christmas
- Wednesday, December 03, 2003
Ace: The story is amazing and one of the two in this book that literally blew me away too. In truth, getting the book just to read about Handel's "Messiah," would probably make the holidays more meaningful for everyone and give a new passion for each day of life in the process. This is one chapter not to miss. In the initial performances of this musical, no one stood at any time except the end of the performance. Yet, when the "Messiah" made it's way to the English stage; that changed. King George II was so moved by the first notes of the "Hallelujah" chorus that he stood. In England at that time,
when the King stood so did everyone else. That was 1742 and we have been standing every since. And well we should.
Eva: Agreed. Christmas, for me, is not Christmas without holiday movies. You talk about quite a few and call one the best Santa Claus movie ever made. Which one and what makes you refer to it thusly?
Ace: The wonderful movie "Miracle on 34th Street," probably defined Santa as well as any and placed him not only on street corners and flying through the air on a sleigh, but also deep within each childlike heart. In a way, this movie is about believing, giving and service and that is a very old Christmas message that can be found in the Bible. It seems strange now that the film was actually first released in the summer.
Eva: Speaking of Santa...would you share briefly a bit about the 2 men who inspired the legend?
Ace: Two wonderful Christian men really began the Santa Claus legend through their selfless actions and their faith. The first was Nicholas, a clergyman who gave presents to poor peasant children in the third century, even before the church actually recognized the holiday. The second was a devout duke in Borivoy, who became the leader of Bohemia
at a very early age. Each Christmas Eve, this man would go through the snow giving out gifts to his poorest subjects. We now remember him through the song he inspired, "Good King Wenceslas." These two probably shaped the image and personality of Santa more than any others.
Eva: Ace, I can't say that I loved your book enough! But, I loved, loved, loved your book if for no other reason than that you've explained Christ in all of our Christmas traditions so eloquently. Hmmm...or is it X in Xmas?? (Laughing) Want to explain what I just said?
Ace: There are two unique and ancient traditions of Christmas. The origin of gifts are obvious, but few know that using X as a sign for Christ predates even our initial celebrations of Christmas. X or Chi was the first letter of Christ's name in Greek. Many early followers of Christ were Greek and would place an X over their doors or wear something on their persons with this letter to reflect their faith as followers of Christ. I could go into great detail here, but the book does that, so let's move onto Xmas. For more than 1,000 years, the church spelled out Christmas with just an X. It was not done to take Christ out of Christmas, but to put Him there where everyone, even those who could not read, could understand that this day of worship was for the Son of God.
As I tell kids at church, Jesus was not only the original "X-man," but the most powerful one too. The early church also would put an X on a page, then ask a believer at Christmas to turn the page 90 degrees. When they did, the X became a cross and they were reminded not only of the beginning of Christ's life on earth, but the end as well.
Eva: Awesome. Thank you, Ace, for your book…and your time. Would you offer a prayer for our readers during this "most wonderful time of the year?"
Ace: Christmas is a wonderful, Lord, but it is a time of not just shopping and wrapping gifts, but of remembering that your story as Savior began on this day as you came to earth as one of us. This year, let us take our faith and reach out to others in acts of kindness. Through a special note on a Christmas card, an unexpected Christmas gift or greeting, or maybe just an old fashioned hug, we can shine the spotlight back on You and bring Peace on Earth to the heart of one who has known nothing but turmoil. In your name we pray, Amen!
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