Whats the deal with the word Xmas? Is it just another way to spell Christmas or part of a sinister plot to remove Christ from the holiday?

Several years ago I was quickly typing up the worship set list for our church’s Christmas program. We were doing a Christmas-themed song that shared a name with a regular worship song we also did routinely. So to differentiate between the two, I typed the name of the song and next to it put “Xmas” in parenthesis to alleviate confusion. I brought the list to the praise team and someone (I honestly can’t remember who anymore) with shock said, “Jamie! Are you trying to take Jesus’ name out of Christmas?!” Huh?  No, I am not currently trying to do anything bad to Jesus, I thought to myself. I asked for more clarification. They said, “You used ‘Xmas.’ You took Christ out of Christmas and replaced it with an X. You ‘X’ed’ Him out. That’s what Atheists want to do.” Hmm. Hadn’t really thought about it. The truth is, the word “Christmas” wouldn’t fit on one line and I was trying to save space. I shook it off and went about my merry way, saying something brilliant like “whatever, dude.”

But it stayed with me. I felt bad. I didn’t wanna X-out Jesus (whatever that means). But the more I thought about it, the more it made me mad. So all the time I spent building a relationship with God was nullified because of an abbreviation? I was rejecting him because of my use of a letter? Its seemed so shallow and silly. So I did a little research and found some really cool information:

1) The letter X has been used for centuries by Christians as a symbol to represent Christ. X is used because the Greek word for Christ is Χριστός and starts with an X. Oftentimes, the word “Christian” was written “Xian” and more recently “Xtian” to differentiate between the Chinese city. Many historians report that Christians would put an X symbol above their door to secretly identify themselves to each other during times of persecution. Furthermore, early Christians used the letters X and P (the first two letters of Christ in Greek) to form a symbol for Jesus called the Chi-Rho. This symbol became synonymous with Christianity and was seen as a respectful reference to Jesus, not a way to replace Him.

2) Xmas is not pronounced “ex-mas.” The X is an abbreviation and doesn’t change the pronunciation. You don’t call Dr. Jones “Dee Are Jones.” The Dr. abbreviation is pronounced like the actual word that it is abbreviating.  In the same way, you pronounce “Xmas” just like you would the word “Christmas.”

3) Only recently, in the English language has the letter X held negative replacement connotations, like to “X’ something out. In the past it was used to highlight the importance of something by marking an X next to it. Today, it commonly represents the word “cross.” Ever seen a “Ped Xing” sign?

So whats the conclusion? Xmas is a logical abbreviation with sound Christian history, not a disrespectful way to exclude Christ from a word – or more importantly, Jesus from Christmas. Are there some who purposely and antagonistically use the abbreviation to exclude the word Christ? Sure. But the joke’s on them. They are replacing the word Christ with the sacred symbol for Christ. Sorry folks, you just can’t take Christ out of Christmas no matter how hard you try!

So should Christians use Xmas as an abbreviation when writing? Sure, why not? Do you write out the word Mister or use the Mr. abbreviation? Look, Christians need to quit finding things to get offended at. If you get forwarded an email chain about how those nasty mean ol’ atheists are trying to exclude Jesus by using Xmas, don’t resolve to show them who’s boss by pronouncing it “CHRIST-mas.” Instead, volunteer for a soup kitchen, encourage someone struggling in their faith and make a point to love someone who seems unlovable. The Kingdom of God is advanced, not by making a big deal of the darkness, but by making a big deal of the Light. The world is full of sinners and sinners sin. Big deal. Go be different.

Last week I was once again selecting songs for a Christmas service and I used Xmas on purpose. It felt cool in an ancient, connect-with-those-who-have-gone-before kind of way. Maybe we should consider being more reverent with His sacred name anyway instead of slapping it on everything in site.

So next time you see Xmas used, don’t get offended. Remember those who were persecuted who had to write their faith in symbol. Remember that X doesn’t replace but represents Jesus. And remember that the world is lost and waiting on someone who is not all hung up on abbreviations to demonstrate God’s love to them.

God bless and Merry Xmas!

Merry Xmas from the BFCC (Big Fat Christmas Cat)

  1. Linda Rogers says:

    Hi Jamie,

    Thanks for posting this. In the past I too have been offended by the “X” in Xmas. I ran across an article on the web that touched on the Greek history (#1 in your blog) so I did another search and found you. Great info! There will be some people in Douglasville, Ga that will hear some of your words today.


    ps – I will no longer be offended by the “X” in Xmas thanks to you.

  2. Chuck Hall says:

    Very interesting and informative. Thanks for sharing it, Jamie.

  3. Cobi Rush says:

    I really liked this article. I will share it with others. I always like a history lesson.

  4. Carol Gay Fagerhaugh says:

    Great Blog ~ XO ~ gives a new meaning to my hugs and kisses that I always use !

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