For years, Christians have been offended when they receive a Christmas card in the mail that reads, “Merry Xmas.” To combat this apparent omission of the Christ child in the holiday, the slogan, “Put Christ back in Christmas” has been popular for as long most of us can remember.
But what if I told you “Xmas” is a clear observance of our coming Savior?
In the blog “What Does the X in Xmas Mean,” Ligonier Ministries founder R.C. Sproul writes, “The X in Christmas is used like the R in R.C. My given name at birth was Robert Charles, although before I was even taken home from the hospital my parents called me by my initials, R.C., and nobody seems to be too scandalized by that.”
What he means is X is shorthand for Christ, just as R.C. stands for Robert Charles.
But there is no X in Christmas.
Actually, that is only half true. While there is no English letter “X” in “Christmas,” the Greek letter chi, which resembles an English letter “X,” has been used to represent Christ’s name for hundreds of years.
Scribes of the early church used chi to symbolize Christ. The practice eventually translated to the shorthand “Xmas” of today.
Sproul writes, “There’s a long a sacred history of the the use of X to symbolize the name of Christ, and from its origin, it has meant no disrespect.”
However, as Alex Crain writes in the Crosswalk.com blog “Does ‘Xmas Take Christ out of Christmas,” there is a strong possibility that those who write “Xmas” on their cards aren’t doing so knowing that “X” is really an adaption of chi, meaning Christ.
Crain says, “The real issue here—as with everything—is the heart. Do modern-day people have the respectful use of ‘X’ as a chi from the Greek New Testament on their minds and hearts as they scribble on a gift or a card the words ‘Merry Xmas?’ Perhaps. But probably not.”
As with most gray-area issues, it is for the individual to decide if writing “Xmas” is appropriate for the season. If every “X” you write reminds you of the coming Christ child and the cross by which he would later die, by all means write it. But perhaps you should also share with others the meaning of the “X” and why it should not be cause for offense.
Your Turn: Do you write “Xmas” or “Christmas” on your cards? Is “Xmas” truly taking Christ out of the season?
Carrie Dedrick is the Family Editor for Crosswalk.com.
Publication date: December 18, 2015