I was baptized WELS 29 years ago. My husband was not born WELS, but is a giant history buff, and there are things he sees and points out in out services, traditions, and symbols that even have me questioning why we do them. One such thing is the Christogram (XR) we use on our hymnals, among other things.
I know this is a shortened version of "Christ" but not particularly Jesus Christ.
I know that this was used in Catholicism.
Also, more importantly, it was a sign used (even dreamed up?) by Constantine, to put on their shields and to "go forth and conquer" in this sign.
My question is, aside from it being the first two letters of Christ, why is it still used in our Lutheran churches?
The copyright page of Christian Worship: A Lutheran Hymnal offers this information: “The logo for this hymnal is a version of the Chi-Rho, a symbol for Christ. In the Greek language these are the first letters of the name Christ. He is the center of our faith and worship, our prayers, our praise and thanksgiving. This hymnal reflects in its name, logo, liturgies, and hymns the story of God’s love and salvation in Christ.”
A similar Christogram that you often find in church art is “IHS.” Those letters represent the first three Greek letters of “Jesus.”
Christian art can make use of pictures, symbols or letters to focus our attention on God’s forgiving love in Christ. We do not need to avoid these pictures, symbols or letters because of how people in the past might have used them. If that were not true, then we would need to avoid the use of cross because the Crusaders who carried out their atrocities against Jews and Muslims wore the symbol of the cross, and some explorers who exploited indigenous peoples sailed under the banner of the Christian cross.
The historic Chi-Rho symbol is a good reminder to 21st century Christians that “Christ is all, and is in all” (Colossians 3:11).