Well, December 25 is almost here. I pray that you have a Merry Xmas!!! Oh wait, did I just unintentionally take Christ out of Christmas?
Every year we as Christians endure what feels like a jab from people replacing the word “Christmas” with the word “Xmas.” Given the increasing secularization of our great winter festival celebrating the incarnation of Jesus, it would seem that their intention is to kick the Baby Jesus out and keep all the rest of the cultural fluff. That certainly might be the intention of some who use “Xmas,” but it might surprise you that that’s not necessarily the case.
History tells us that it was actually English-speaking Christians who first used “Xmas.” Why in the world would Christians do such a thing? Well, that’s because while they very well might have been writing “Xmas” /exmus/, they were actually meaning “Chi-mas” /kiemus/. You see, the Greek letter chi (pronounced /kie/ in Greek, not /chee/) looks exactly like our English letter X and is the first letter in the Greek word for Christ, which is Xristos. Therefore, the Greek letter chi has long been the symbol for Christ, dating at least back to the 4th century A.D. and probably even before.
Perhaps a little help from a lexicographer will shed further light:
So, Xmas indeed has a long Christian tradition and was never meant to take Christ out of Christmas. However, in communicating today, something often gets lost in translation. Very few know that Xmas is actually Chi-mas, and in the end, we can unwittingly communicate something offensive. Our unoffensive Xmas can be received offensively. Therefore, I think it is wise to be cautious in using “Xmas.” If you absolutely must abbreviate the word Christmas, either be ready to educate people on the history of “Xmas” or do what I do. I simply use the more English-friendly abbreviation “C-mas.”
Any way you go, whatever you do, whether you use the “X,” the “C,” or the whole word, please keep Christ in and at the center of your Christmas!