Benjamin L. Corey

Benjamin L. Corey

BLC is an author, speaker, scholar, and global traveler, who holds graduate degrees in Theology & Intercultural Studies from Gordon-Conwell Theological Seminary, and received his doctorate in Intercultural Studies from Fuller. He is the author of Undiluted: Rediscovering the Radical Message of Jesus, and Unafraid: Moving Beyond Fear-Based Faith.

What the X in “Xmas” *Really* Means

Writing X for Christ isn't anything new-- it's actually one of the oldest Christian traditions.

Well folks, it’s that time of year again.

Soon our stockings will be hung by the chimney with care, gifts will be wrapped and placed beneath the tree, Christmas cheer will fill the air, and our Facebook news feeds will begin to be clogged with posts about “Keeping Christ in Christmas.”

Exhibit A:

Ugh. It happens every year. Especially with Trump as president, which is honestly just plain weird since he’s successfully taken Christ out of Christian.

Anyhoo, back in my right-wing days, I too was passionate of keeping Christ in Christmas and would recoil whenever I saw Christmas written as “Xmas.”

How dare those godless atheists try to take the baby Jesus out of my manger, and block out the word Christ with a big, black, X… I mean, the entire purpose of writing Christmas as Xmas is to take the offensive name of Christ out of the word, right?

Um…. Wrong.

Turns out, using the phrase “Xmas” instead of writing “Christmas” isn’t some conspiracy by our secular humanist neighbors to remove Christ from Christmas.

Yet every year, we Christians push back in the nonexistent war against Christmas and further make a mockery of ourselves– especially when we express offense at the term “Xmas.”

Writing Christmas as Xmas, as it turns out, is actually part of the historic Christian tradition.

Allow me to explain:

As shocking as this may be for some to realize, the Bible wasn’t written in English. Or by Trump. The New Testament is written in Koine Greek, and the Greek word for Christ is… drum roll please…

Χριστος

 See where I’m heading with this yet?

In Greek, the first letter for the name of Christ is X, which is actually pronounced with a C/K sound. That funny “p” looking letter is the Greek equivalent of an “r”, and well, I’m guessing even without studying biblical greek you can now pronounce the rest of it just fine.

You see, when we recognize X is Jesus’ first initial things begin to take shape. Instead of always writing the full name Χριστος, we see in early Christian history a trend to abbreviate Χριστος as simply Χ. As Greg Carey, Professor of the New Testament at Lancaster Theological Seminary writes:

“Early manuscripts of the Greek New Testament dating to the third and fourth centuries used “X” as an abbreviation for Christ…The abbreviation helped manuscript writers fit more words on a page, reducing the time and cost of producing the texts…”

Ouch. So, not only have we falsely accused secularists of coming up with the term Xmas to remove Christ, we actually find that it’s a tradition dating all the way back to the New Testament itself?

Well that’s embarrassing.

It might be time to insert a quick apology into some of our Christmas cards.

Furthermore, the trend of writing Christmas as Xmas is hardly anything new or born out of a secular culture. While it was commonplace in early Christianity to write X instead of Christ, the tradition of writing Xmas instead of Christmas dates all the way back to the 12th Century.

No, there is no war on Christmas– and claiming the term Xmas is evidence of such only serves to make us look silly and ignorant of our own Christian history.

If there’s any war on Christmas, it’s actually by those who spend an entire month out of the year celebrating a Palestinian refugee who grew up an undocumented immigrant across the border, who became homeless as an adult– and ultimately died as another unarmed person of color killed by the state’s security forces…but who spend the other 11 months out of the year supporting politicians and policies that would be really, really bad for Jesus.

This year, when we see Xmas instead of Christmas, let us remember that Xmas is actually part of Christian tradition, and that it’s not further evidence of bogus persecution.

The holiday season provides us a special opportunity to show our neighbors cheer and goodwill– so let us start doing that by knocking off the “Keep Christ in Christmas” stuff, and maybe start focusing our efforts on keeping Christ in Christian.


(originally published Dec 2013, edited to include current affairs)
Benjamin L. Corey

Benjamin L. Corey

BLC is an author, speaker, scholar, and global traveler, who holds graduate degrees in Theology & Intercultural Studies from Gordon-Conwell, and earned his doctorate in Intercultural Studies from Fuller.

He is the author of Unafraid: Moving Beyond Fear-Based Faith, and Undiluted: Rediscovering the Radical Message of Jesus.

It's not the end of the world, but it's pretty #@&% close. Trump's America & Franklin Graham's Christianity must be resisted.

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