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The X(mas) Factor

To celebrate the significance of Christmas in song.

by The Revd Alan M. Barker

Suitable for Whole School (Pri)


To celebrate the significance of Christmas in song.

Preparation and materials


  1. Refer to the television programme The X Factor. Who has enjoyed watching The X Factor? Has anyone voted, and for whom? Who won?
  2. Pose the questions: So would anybody here like to take part? Has someone in this school got the X factor?

    Explain that the ‘X factor’ is that ‘eXtra special something’ that makes all the difference. The X factor is an eXtra-ordinary quality that’s hard to describe. The X factor means that someone’s not simply a good singer – they are an amazing star performer.
  3. Optional: Recall that thousands of people audition to appear on the programme. It’s not easy to pick out the one that will become a star. Invite a number of pupils (or even staff) to display their singing talents. Ensure that each is affirmed.
  4. Reflect that music and singing play an important part in what is sometimes called ‘Xmas’.  Invite the children to share some of the things that they most enjoy about this time of year. Ask: What, for you, is the ‘X’ factor in Xmas?
  5. Review the responses and observe that the festival is enjoyed in many different ways. Explain that actually the X in the word Xmas stands for ‘Christ’. Xmas is an abbreviation (shorter form) of the word Christmas, often used to save space on an advert or page. The X is a similar shape to the Greek letter ‘chi’ (pronounced ‘kye’), the first letter of Christ.
  6. Invite the children to listen to part of the Christmas story from the Bible. They may sense excitement and wonder, hear some singing, and should listen for the title ‘Christ’ or ‘Messiah’ (depending which version of the Bible you use), which means (simply) ‘the Anointed One’. (If necessary, explain that the ancient Jewish people used to anoint their leaders with oil as a sign that they were chosen by God.)
  7. Read: Luke 2.8–20: The Shepherds and the Angels.
  8. Conclude with the thought that, for Christians, the birth of Jesus Christ is the X factor that makes Christmas really special. The Bible tells how shepherds ‘watched their flock by night’ and went in search of Jesus. Soon, they too discovered the X factor, and were singing the angels’ song of joy!

Time for reflection

Introduce a favourite Christmas carol for everyone to sing, or attempt a seasonal round, repeating each phrase below to the tune of ‘Frère Jacques’.

Angel voices,

Sweet and clear,

Sing of peace and friendship

Far and near.

(Words © the Revd Alan M. Barker)

The angels sang ‘Peace on earth.’ Let us think of all that we might do to make this time of year special and peaceful, and to share Christ’s blessing.


One of your school's favourite Christmas carols (see above).

Publication date: December 2010   (Vol.12 No.12)    Published by SPCK, London, UK.
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