We’ve all heard the protests against any company, person or publication that uses the forbidden “Xmas.” Everyone assumes they intentionally take Christ out of Christmas, and so did I for most of my life. As a young girl, I remember my mom having a shirt that read, “Without Christ, Christmas is just a mess.” Then as a young adult, I remember taking time to write out “Christmas” on all my boxes of decorations, as to not write the forbidden “X.”
All this mindset changed during my first Christmas season while working as a copy editor for a Christian publisher. We distributed church and small group curriculum for children, teens and adults, and addressed the issue in a holiday lesson. The people working as writers and head editors all had seminary degrees, with many knowing Greek. I found it interesting as they explained to me—and in the lesson—the story behind the “X.”
The word for Christ in the Greek New Testament language is “Christos,” which happens to translate as the letter “X” in our modern-day English language. This seemed simple enough since sororities and fraternities, and other such organizations, use Greek letters for their names, which translate into words when spoken. Still, I wondered how the word “Xmas” went from being a simple abbreviation to a total blasphemy in most Christians’ opinions.
Since knowing the history of the “X,” I believe that it is simply due to a lack of understanding. I know a lot about the Bible, but I do not know Greek. Neither does the average American Christian. For that reason, I make it a point to tell anyone complaining about “Xmas” what it really means. At the same time, I find no fault in those who prefer to spell out “Christ” in “Christmas.”
The decision to spell out or abbreviate Christmas should be up to the individual, but we should also not assume anyone writing “Xmas” on a box or sign is a pagan with a political view of the holiday. I view it like Paul instructing the Corinthians to respect those who don’t eat food offered before idols, even though they know themselves there is nothing wrong with it (see 1 Cor. 8:4-7).
Instead of worrying about how it is written, we should focus on how it is pronounced: “Christmas” and not “Ex-Mas.” Just like you don’t hear a sorority girl say she is a “Triangle Tee Triangle” instead of “Delta Tau Delta.” Well, maybe a sorority girl would say that, but you get the point. So, as long as Christ is kept at the center of Christmas and you don’t run around wishing everyone a “Merry Ex-Mas,” I’d say you’re doing just fine.