Keep ‘X’ in Christmas!

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!

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Ben Reed
Ben Reed is the small groups pastor at Long Hollow, a multi-site church in the Nashville, TN, area. He holds an Mdiv from Southern Baptist Theological Seminary. Ben is also an avid coffee drinker and CrossFitter, but not at the same time. Catch up with Ben at BenReed.net. In his book, "Starting Small: The Ultimate Small Group Blueprint," he helps leaders through the process of putting a small group ministry together and creating a place where people belong so they can become.