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[Chalice] Keep the X in Xmas - Revisited [Chalice]

Presented December 5, 2010, by Sandra Morrison

Listen to a recording of "Keep the X in Xmas - Revisited"
22:15 minutes - 9.15 MB - Keep the X in Xmas - Revisited .mp3 file.

OPENING WORDS

Within the Shining of a Star by Robert S. Lehman

Within the shining of a star
We catch a glimpse of who we are
In every infant born we see
The hope of our nativity.

The miracle of each new birth can shake
And save the stony earth
Trimphantly the newborn's cry
Strikes echoes from the waiting sky.

Meditation

Solstice------ Diane Lee Moomey

Again did the earth shift
Again did the nights grow short.
And the days long.

And the people
Of the earth were glad
And celebrated
Each in their own ways.

Reading

For So the Children Come.....Sophia Lyon Fahs

For so the children come
And so they have been coming,
Always in the same way they come
Born of the seed of man and woman.

No angels herald their beginnings
No prophets predict ther future courses.
No wisemen see a star to show
Where to find the babe that
Will save human kind.

Yet each night a child is born is a holy night,
Fathers and mothers----
Sitting beside their children's cribs
Feel glory in the sight of a new Life beginning.
They ask, Where and how will
This new life end?
Or will it ever end?"

Every night a child is born is a Holy night-----
A time for singing
A time for wondering,
A time for worshipping.

Keep the X in Xmas - Revisited

I officially became a Unitarian when I signed the membership book in this church in 1960. As we know, when people realize you are a Unitarian questions are asked...... What do you believe in? Why do you celebrate Christmas?

The first eighteen years of my life I spent growing up in a small town in northern Illinois. Our family was third generation Presbyterians. My siblings and I attended the weekly Sunday School sessions, I was active in the youth group and went to church services on a regular basis.....never questioning anything........

I attended Monmouth College, which was supported by the United Presbyterian church. This is where I first became introduced to Unitarianism........in the form of Ted Morrison. Ted, who grew up in this Church, was the first Unitarian I had ever met.

As I think back....my parents were Unitarian in their beings. They were tolerant, open-minded and not judgemental. Lively discussions were part of our family life. They were both active in our small community and always at the ready to help people when they needed it. I never detected any prejudice from them though there was little diversity in our town. Liberal faiths had not come to that part of rural America while I was growing up. I married in to a Unitarian family and it was an easy transition. I had aquired the philosophy, unknowingly. I was ready to "live it" so to speak.

In the late fifties the minister of this church was John Morris. He gave a Christmas talk that has stayed with me all these years. I do not remember the exact content of that sermon but the general impact made a huge impression. It focused my ideas and helped shape my celebration of Christmas in this church.....MOSTLY the ideas helped me explain to friends and relatives "Why Unitarians celebrate Christmas.!"

During that time the word Christmas was being shortened to Xmas. This became an issue as many people were worried about the commercialism of the holiday and that Santa Claus was upstaging the Christian story, the birth of Jesus. The cry "Put Christ back into Christmas" became a well-known saying. John Morris' talk was offering another aspect to that idea.

As a result I came up with ideas of what X might stand for during the holiday season. Those of you who were around eight years ago will remember I presented this idea in 2002. Some of us decided it was time to start the Unitarian Christmas season -- 2010 with a renewed version ..... The X in Christmas.....revisited.

X stands for the unknown.....
X stands for mystery
X stands for peace and love

The holiday approaching on the 25th of this month is considered a Christian holiday set aside to celebrate the birth of Jesus, Son of God.

The story of Jesus' birth is told over and over as many people in our society celebrate this event. Christmas Carols are sung, Christmas trees are decorated, Christmas lights are strung everywhere, Christmas gatherings are held, Christmas Pageants are presented and the countdown of shopping days left until Christmas is noted daily... It was a wondrous event 2000 plus years ago and people are still celebrating it these many years later. Let's look at the various components of this story.

THE ANGELS

Angels We Have Heard on High.....Hark the Herald Angels Sing....These Christmas Carols tell of the role of the angels in this event. Their job was to spread the news. They let everyone know about the glorious happening.

In modern day society the news of a newborn child spreads quickly.....That is especially true in 2010 .....with cell phones, computers, and other magical devices the network of family and friends spread the word joyously to all. With modern technology pictures of that newborn are heralded through our atmosphere as this miracle is rejoiced and celebrated. People love to share the news of a new baby just as those angels did so many years ago.

Every night a child is born is a holy night. It is a miraculous thing!

Another componant of the story....THE MAGI. The Three Kings.

We Three Kings of Orient are;
Bearing Gifts we traverse afar

As you enter any maternity ward of any hospital, flowers , balloons, baby rattles, stuffed cuddly toys adorn the new mother and child's room. When news that a baby is expected, quilts are stitched, booties and sweaters are knit. When the new family goes home family members, friends, and neighbors arrive with food. They want to be part of the celebration. Gifts arrive from near and far just as the Christmas story goes..the Magi carried Frankencense and Myrrh to the manger those many years ago. Every night a child is born is a holy night, a wondrous event.

And so the story continues

"The First Nowell the angels did say,
Was to certain poor shepherds in fields as they lay,
In fields where they lay, keeping their sheep,
on a cold winter's night so deep."

The shepherds sympbolize to me the working people who are given hope by this event......Life will be better..... For every child born it is a new beginning for the family of that child .....The event gives all families, rich or poor, a new perspective on life.... Their thoughts are "We have to make this world a better place. We want the best for this child so he or she can grow up to live a good life." Every night a child is born is a holy night. That is the X factor....the truely magical thing.

The Manger!

The manger symbolizes the humble beginnings of Jesus' life. Many of us celebrate the birth of a child in comfortable, cozy, sercure surroundings. Yet we know that children are born every day in squalor and filth, in bleak and dreary conditions. The parents of these children have the same feelings, hopes and dreams for their child as Mary and Joseph did those many years ago. As all our modern families do now.

Every night a child is born is a holy night. It is an exceptional event.
Every night a child is born the unknown, wondrous, awesome feelings touch people.

As people revisit the story of the birth of Jesus during this Christmas holiday time it is a celebration of hope for all children as they are born. It is a recognition of the miraculous, mysterious love that springs from the birth of any child. It is the time to commit ourselves to make Christmas work all year long. We rededicate ourselves to making life on this earth HERE AND NOW a better place. The nativity scene stands for so much more than the story of the birth of Jesus. It stands for the renewal of commitment to go forth in the world and make peace with our neighbors near and far.

Make peace with our neighbors near and far.
PEACE. I declare this another X factor.

"Of Peace on Earth, Good Will to Men"! These words are sung in many Christmas Carols.

I Heard the Bells on Christmas Day comes from a poem written by Henry Wadsworth Longfellow in 1864....146 years ago!

In 1872 John Baptiste Calken slightly rearranged the words and wrote the music.. ..thus it became a Christmas Carol. It is a Christmas song that appears in many music books and is often sung at Christmas time. The original version had seven stanzas!!!!!

Every single stanza ends with "Of peace on earth, good will to men!!!!" Think about that. For 138 years people ....... Christians, Unitarians and others have been singing "Of Peace on Earth, Good will to men" ......They have been singing these words multiple times each time they sing this song through once.

Now I ask, where is the Peace on Earth, Good will to men really happening? Why are there parts of the world where some people have never known peace?! Why have leaders of countries not figured out how to settle differences in this world without going to war? Why haven't neighbors accepted their differences and figured out how to live in harmony. Coming off the recent election, I ask myself many times why have so many factions in our society become so polarized?

Jesus has been referred to as The Prince of Peace. He certainly taught tolerance. The stories written about his life include many experiences of acceptance, tolerance and how he healed and fed people as he traveled around the country side......no questions asked about who they were or what they stood for.

It Came Upon the Midnight Clear, That glorious song of old,
From angels bending near the earth, To touch their harps of gold
Peace on earth, good will to men, From heaven's all gracious King."/p>

Silent Night......Sleep in heavenly peace.

Little Town of Bethlehem...Where praises sing to God the King, And peace to men on earth.

It is a huge mystery to me that ordinary people all over the world and powerful leaders of countries can celebrate the birth of the Jesus on Christmas Day, wake up the next mornng and continue to wage war in whatever form it is............It may be major warfare or intolerance in streets of any home town.

X stands for the unknown. Peace is truly an unknown in too many cases......unknown in how do we make it happen!! This congregation sings the song "Let There Be Peace on Earth" each Christmas Eve. It is a beautiful song with beautiful words. This song is a grand example of what everyone should take from Christmas and practice all year long.

Another wonderful phenomenon that is a reason to celebrate this season is the winter solstice. People rejoiced, reveled and danced in celebration at this time of year long before Jesus was born. This too is part of the X factor. During these dark, cold times we celebrate the impact of the changing seasons.....the mysterious, unknown workings that create our different cycles like clockwork, year after year after year.

Yes, there are scientific facts and explanations to all of this.....it is part of the fourth grade science curriculum which I taught for so many years. Yet it is something to celebrate as a mysterious, wondrous event. It happens in just the same way, year after year.

In the dark cold winter sparkling decorative lights, candles, warm fires on the hearth celebrate the importance of light in our lives. We gather together and celebrate the return of the sun as we evolve into the phase of the year when we can tell ourselves it is not going to be dark and cold forever. Even though we have lived it each year be we twelve, forty or ninety-five, it is a warm fuzzy feeling to know the days are getting longer, the sun is returning to give us the warmth we depend on. It is a natural to gather together around the fir trees that stay green so we keep the faith that all trees will bear fruit and be green again.

That is another answer to my friends who ask what in your religion makes you celebrate Christmas. My answer is, "the miracles and magical happenings in the natural workings of our earth give us much to celebrate"

The last and truly hardest part to define is when the X in Xmas stands for LOVE.

The love songs try to explain it....The Man I Love, Love is in the Air, I Love Paris in the Springtime. Through the ages, poets, lyrists and story writers have written about the mysteries of love.

We experience many levels of love. Love of fellow man. Love for a child, Love for family members, Love for friends, Love for you mate, Love for your pets, Love of chocolate. The word Love is used again and again and again. It is the most moving part of life. Yet it is very hard to get a concrete, definite explanation of the meaning of the word love.

Why do some people have a great capacity to love?
Why do some people just love themselves?
Why do some people reject love?

The affirmation of this church states: Love is the spirit of this church........To seek the truth in Love.....

We recite this every Sunday yet .....if we asked everyone in this room to write down the meaning of love we would get many different answers and much discussion...in keeping with the true Unitarian way.

For whatever the reason.....
The Christmas Story,
The beautiful music,
The Winter Solstice and return of warmth and light
The quest for peace on earth.
The memories,
The traditions!
The gatherings of family and friends.
Love!
Love surfaces during the holidays. Love is there to deal with. Love, in whatever form, becomes part of the celebration. Love is often the salvation for people. It can be found any time but somehow during the darkest/at the same time brightest time of the year....this is the only time it emerges for some people.

Love is miraculous, mysterious and wondrous. Christmas, Xmas, is the time to ponder it, gather it, store it up and use it all year long. Keep the X in Christmas and make it work all year.

Why do Unitarians celebrate Christmas? Why do you celebrate what's his name's birth anyway? Winter Solstice!!!!! What is that....never heard of it. Why would you sing Silent Night in your church?

These are the questions asked of me through the years. They are the questions that nudged me into this speaking role today. The answer to why Unitarians celebrate Chrismas......well there are as many answers as there are Unitarians.

All being said and done we do agree that celebrating Christmas, Winter Solstice, and just being together is a good thing.. For some of us it is the time to revisit the X factors. It is the time to recharge our batteries. The X factors mentioned above can make Christmas work all year long.

.....Let Christmas Come,

Closing Words

The Work of Christmas.....Howard Thurman

When the song of angels is stilled,
When the star in the sky is gone,
When the kings and princes are home,
When the shepherds are back with their flock.
The work of Christmas begins:
To find the lost,
To heal the broken,
To feed the hungry,
To release the prisoner,
To rebuild nations,
To bring peace among the brothers,
To make music in the heart.

©2010 Sandra Morrison

The following, adapted from the Chicago Manual of Style, 15th edition, is the preferred citation for this article:
Morrison, Sandra 2010. Keep the X in Xmas - Revisited, http://www.uuquincy.org /talks/20101205.shtml (accessed December 11, 2018).

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