“I Hate Xmas!” – Chill out its Christmas!

Is that an X?  Or is it something else?

Is that an X? Or is it something else?

This is the first of several holiday themed posts about some of the things that we, as Christians, need to chill out about regarding Christmas (or Xmas).  Many people perceive there is a cultural ‘war against Christmas’ and maybe there is something to that.  But we can’t over-react and become grinch-y about somethings we don’t need to.

It’s common to hear the phrase “Keep Christ in Christmas”.  It’s a good sentiment.  But sometimes it’s used as an assault on the use of a very common abbreviation for Christmas:  Xmas.  Is writing ‘Xmas’ really a way of cutting Jesus out of every reference to the season?  Should we get our knickers in a twist about it?  Should we use every opportunity to point out how bad it is?

Well, no.  In the spirit of the season, we should Chill Out, It’s Christmas!  And we should educate ourselves about what Xmas really is and where it came from.  Here’s some reasons to chill out.

Turns out that the X really isn’t an X.  It’s a Chi as in the Greek letter Chi.  Chi is the first letter of Christ.  Xmas is actually a totally legitimate way to abbreviate ‘Christ’.  So just because it doesn’t look (to us) like Christ is there, doesn’t mean that it isn’t.

Turns out it wasn’t our secular culture who first started using “Xmas”.  It was Christians.  And it is not recent either.  It’s use in English is about 1,000 years old.  It represents a very old practice of Christian scribes known as Nomina Sacra (that’s “Sacred Name” for those whose Latin is a bit rusty).  Theos (God) used to be shorted to the Greek letter theta.  And Christos (Christ) used to be shortened to Chi and Ro (these look like the English X and P, but they’re not!).  Christmas got shortened to Xmas.  Simple as that.

clever image via Mike Bird

clever image via Mike Bird

Turns out we shouldn’t jump to conclusions.  If our culture doesn’t seem warm to the idea of Biblical faith, then maybe that’s true.  But we shouldn’t look for cultural disrespect under every stone.  And we shouldn’t jump to conclusions.  We should seek to bring Jesus into the season but do it in a way that appeals to those around us.  “Xmas” is as Christian as anything.  And using it saves time, ink, and the effort of moving fingers across even more keys – so maybe there’s something to it!

For more info:

In Praise of “Xmas” – Matthew Schmitz, First Things

Keep the Nomina Sacra in Xmas – Mike Bird

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