Keep ‘X’ in Christmas!

Ben Reed —  December 15, 2011 — 21 Comments
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image credit: Creation swap user Joe Cavasos, edits mine

We use the letter ‘x’ for a variety of things.

  • It marks the spot on a treasure map.
  • It stands for ‘kisses,’ as 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.

Replacing Christ with an X

Which can get a little hairy when it comes to Christmas, 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.

And, come on…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. Except for Xter day…I kind of like how that sounds.

Greek to English

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. Here’s rule number 1:

Greek is different than English.

At least that’s what they taught me in seminary.

And it’s so pertinent in this situation.

English has basically transliterated the Greek word (which is the language of the New Testament) for Christ. The Greek word for the name of Jesus Christ is pronounced ‘yay-soos’ ‘cree-s-toss’. Spelled out, it looks like this: Ιησούς Χριστός.

Notice the first letter of the second word: ‘X’. “X” is the first Greek letter in the name of Jesus. And that ‘X’ isn’t actually an ‘X’ like it is in English. It’s actually a “Chi.” You may have seen/heard this in various fraternities/sororities (e.g., the sorority: Chi Omega).

Throughout history, ‘X’ has been a shorthand way of referring to Jesus because it’s the first letter of his name in Greek. In no way meant to be disrespectful or derogatory, ‘X’ has historically just been a way of referring to Jesus Christ.

‘X’ is not, and has not been, a replacement for Christ in Christmas. There are many ways to keep Christ out of Christmas…but unfortunately for those of you who like to hop on the “keep Christ in Christmas” bandwagon, this isn’t one of them. If you are looking for some proactive ways to “keep Christ in Christmas,” I’ve got some thoughts for you HERE.

So I’m starting a new campaign.

“Keep X in Christmas!”

I’m having buttons made as we speak.

Merry X-Mas!

*image credit: Creation swap user Joe Cavasos, edits mine

 

Ben Reed

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Christ follower, husband, father, writer, small groups pastor at Saddleback Community Church. Communications director for the Small Group Network.
  • Anonymous

    Ha, and there I was thinking X was a reference to the cross, rather than to Chi.
    (After all, you do sometimes see “Xing ahead” signs…)

    • http://www.benreed.net Ben Reed

      Good point…I had forgotten about that English usage.

  • http://www.jasonvana.com Jason Vana

    I love this! I’m a huge word nerd and love digging deeper into the original text to determine a greater meaning for what is found in scripture, so I love what you did here!

    • http://www.benreed.net Ben Reed

      I’m a nerd too, Jason. Glad we’re in good company.

  • http://www.thedailywalk.net Adam

    Loved this. Consider myself informed! I had no idea.

    • http://www.benreed.net Ben Reed

      And knowledge is half the battle…right? At least that’s what GI Joe says.

  • http://www.betachristian.net Moe

    Thank you! People need to learn the origins of what they rebel against. I appreciate you taking the time to do the research. 

  • http://www.robshep.com Rob Shepherd

    Great thoughts! I once heard an entire sermon on why we should not put the X in Christ. When I tried to inform him of some of the same things that you said he didn’t appreciate it. So I punched him in the face and two cartoon X’s covered his eyes. Similar to Mike Tyson’s Punch Out. I kid, I kid. I didn’t punch him.

    • http://www.benreed.net Ben Reed

      Ha!

      You’re serious about the sermon though, right??

  • http://kathyfannon.blogspot.com Kathy Fannon

    Awesome! I had heard this before but it’s been a long time, and it wasn’t explained this clearly. I like simple! :)

    Merry X-mas, Ben!

    • http://www.benreed.net Ben Reed

      Merry X-mas to you too, Kathy!

  • Linnlynn05

    How profound!!!! Thank u X for nerds!!!!

    • http://www.benreed.net Ben Reed

      Ha! Yes…thank you X for nerds, indeed!

  • http://www.noahlomax.com Noah Lomax

    Ben! I’m so thankful for this post! I feel like I had this conversation three times this last week. I’m just going to tweet them your article from now on! Merry Xmas man!

    • http://www.benreed.net Ben Reed

      Awesome…glad it was helpful for you, Noah. Merry Xmas to you too!

  • Anonymous

    Great post! I have been saying this for a while and a few people wouldn’t believe me.
    I actually had a similar post on this same topic on my blog as well. Solid article. Keep it up! http://tumblr.com/ZOqufwCyIIZt

    • http://www.benreed.net Ben Reed

      Thanks…liked your article as well!

  • CBUnderwood

    My brother uses X-mas when writing and speaking. His intent always brothered me, but I did’t say anything. I should have known God was there trying to teach me something more. X is in all things; I just need to learn better how to allow him to change my perspective. Thank you X, it will bother me no longer.

    • http://www.benreed.net Ben Reed

      Awesome Clint…glad to help!

  • Juno

    And to think my wife said I was just teasing her when I used to tell her this and my daughter still says, Mom didn’t like using ‘X’ Dad on Christmas :). Good job!

    • http://www.benreed.net Ben Reed

      Ha! Thanks for reading, Juno!