Putting Christ Back in Xmas

OK – I have to admit the use of the word ‘Xmas’ has always bothered me.

I’ve assumed it was just another way of removing Christ from Christmas. Then I read R.C. Sproule’s answer to the question, “Why is X used when it replaces Christ in Christmas?”

His answer certainly puts this practice in a different light.

R.C.’s answer:

People seem to express chagrin about seeing Christ’s name dropped and replaced by this symbol for an unknown quantity X. Every year you see the signs and the bumper stickers saying, “Put Christ back into Christmas” as a response to this substitution of the letter X for the name of Christ.

First of all, you have to understand that it is not the letter X that is put into Christmas. We see the English letter X there, but actually what it involves is the first letter of the Greek name for Christ.Christos is the New Testament Greek for Christ. The first letter of the Greek word Christos is transliterated into our alphabet as an X. That X has come through church history to be a shorthand symbol for the name of Christ.

We don’t see people protesting the use of the Greek letter theta, which is an O with a line across the middle. We use that as a shorthand abbreviation for God because it is the first letter of the wordTheos, the Greek word for God.

The idea of X as an abbreviation for the name of Christ came into use in our culture with no intent to show any disrespect for Jesus. The church has used the symbol of the fish historically because it is an acronym. Fish in Greek (ichthus) involved the use of the first letters for the Greek phrase “Jesus Christ, Son of God, Savior.” So the early Christians would take the first letter of those words and put those letters together to spell the Greek word for fish. That’s how the symbol of the fish became the universal symbol of Christendom. There’s a long and sacred history of the use of X to symbolize the name of Christ, and from its origin, it has meant no disrespect.*

What do you think? Does the contemporary practice of using the term ‘Xmas’ sit well with you?

Oh, and may I take this opportunity to wish you a Christmas filled with the joy of Christ?


*Taken from Now, That’s a Good Question!
©1996 by R.C. Sproul.
Ligonier

4 thoughts on “Putting Christ Back in Xmas”

  1. Thanks for sharing this Don. I always thought that the X was a shorthand symbol for the cross and people simply forgot the meaning of it over time. This is a really instructive insight that would be a great conversation starter. Especially with those who deliberately use ‘Xmas’ to remove Christ from the picture :)

  2. Hi Don,

    I haven’t heard that explanation before. However the average person wouldn’t know that, so for my mind I would like to keep “Christ” in Christmas. It’s a lot clearer. But as James said… it could be a good conversation starter for those who simply write “Xmas” to save ink!

  3. I heard the explanation awhile back, i think it’s right. At the same time, as Stu says, I doubt anyone thinks that way when they use it.

    I wonder if Christ would be more glorified by keeping Him in Christmas or just having the church hand this one over to the world and esteem all days alike? Just a question, not gonna start a movement or anything!

    1. Welcome to the HBC Blog, Jeff. Please come back again and comment often.

      Yes, your proposal to treat all days alike has merit. I don’t want to sound like a grinch, but I suspect the deterioration of Christmas to what it is today was always inevitable. Yet, it does give Christians the opportunity to proclaim the gospel and that’s a good thing!

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