In our society today, we use the letter ‘x’ for a variety of things.
- It marks the spot on a treasure map.
- It stands for ‘kisses,’ when you sign something XOXO
- It represents an unknown amount of something. As in something that costs $XX.XX
- It represents getting rid of something. I’m “X”-ing that out. Striking it from the record.
Used alone, ‘X’ often stands in place of something else. In other words, it “replaces” the real meaning that should be intended. It stands in place of something more important that, for whatever reason, you did not wish to display.
This can get a little hairy when it comes to Christmas though, right? X-mas is seen by many as a way of, quite literally, removing Christ from Christmas. Replacing the King of the world with an “X.” I mean, at least it’s a capital letter when it’s done…but still, it seems a bit too easy to be rid of the most pivotal person in all of human history.
Nobody says, “Happy X Day” for Labor Day or “Happy Xter” for Easter or “X Luther King, Jr. Day” for Martin Luther King, Jr. Day. That would be weird.
Before you get yourself in a tizzy over the X that people often use “in place of Christ” in Merry X-mas, I think it prudent to understand a bit about language.
There is something that you need to keep in mind when looking at languages. Greek is different from English. That fact is very pertinent in this situation.
English has basically transliterated the Greek word (which is the language of the New Testament) for Christ. You need to understand that it is not the letter X that is put into Christmas. This X actually stand for the first letter of the Greek name for Christ. The Greek word for the name of Jesus Christ is Christos, pronounced ‘cree-s-toss’. The first letter of the Greek word Christos is transliterated into our English alphabet as an X. That X has come through church history to be a shorthand symbol for the name of Christ. It is in no way meant to be disrespectful or derogatory.
The church has used the symbol of the fish historically because it is an acronym. Fish in Greek (ichthus) involved the use of the first letters for the Greek phrase “Jesus Christ, Son of God, Savior.” So the early Christians would take the first letter of those words and put those letters together to spell the Greek word for fish. That’s how the symbol of the fish became the universal symbol of Christendom. There’s a long and sacred history of the use of X to symbolize the name of Christ, and from its origin, it has meant no disrespect.
For the people who have a real problem with people writing X-mas instead of writing Christmas, I think there are better battles to fight than this particular one.
Do people really want to leave Christ out of Christmas?
I don’t think so. Because if we did, we’d be left with just ‘mas.’ That just doesn’t work.
- We wish you a merry mas.
- All I want for mas is my two front teeth.
- We’d invite people to our mas Eve service.
- We’d watch National Lampoon’s mas Vacation.
Nobody wants that. Not even pagans. Because we all know that whether you’re a pagan or a Christian, you watch National Lampoon’s Christmas Vacation at some point during this season.
With the myriad of distractions flying at us through the media, shopping, office parties, and traveling, we need reminders to keep Christ in Christmas, right? You’ve seen them on buttons, t-shirts-billboards, and yard signs.
- Jesus is the reason for the season.
- Keep CHRIST in CHRISTmas.
- No Christ. No Christmas. Know Christ. Know Christmas.
I’m not convinced that these types of reminders work. I also think that when you make it a personal mission to tell everyone you see, “Merry CHRISTmas” (over-dramatizing the “Christ” part), you don’t necessarily help your cause.
In fact, that’s offensive to many people.
“Shouldn’t that make us, the Church, upset?” you say. “It is our holiday, after all, right?” This holiday should be all about Jesus, so we should expect that everyone, even those who don’t follow Jesus, to honor him as Savior and Lord during the Christmas season, right? Oh wait…forcing someone to recite something they don’t believe isn’t necessarily helpful. Expecting that they’ll honor Jesus during December even though they don’t believe He is King may not be the best way.
I would like to offer a better way. Here are some ideas I have that might be better CHRISTmas reminders
Maybe a better way to keep Christ in Christmas is to show people love. Even people who don’t deserve it.
Maybe a better way to keep Christ in Christmas is to pursue peace with people because God, through Jesus, has pursued peace with us.
Maybe a better way to keep Christ in Christmas is to live joyfully in the midst of difficulty. Because we have a Savior who endured our suffering.
Maybe a better way to keep Christ in Christmas is to live generously. Because we serve a King who has given us salvation.
Maybe a better way to keep Christ in Christmas is to live our lives as if the God of the world sent his Son to call us His own.
What do you think might be some better ways to keep Christ in the Christmas? During this holiday season, let’s not forget what CHRISTmas is really all about.