One of my personal pet peeves is the use of “Xmas” instead of “Christmas”. I’ve always complained that it is “crossing Christ right out of Christmas” and have argued that it should never be used. I have encountered many people who share my feelings about this. On the other hand, I have encountered people who disagree with me, sometimes adamantly, that there is nothing wrong with using Xmas, that the X is actually the Greek letter chi, the first letter in “Christ” in Greek, and that it was used in ancient times during persecutions by Christians to identify themselves to each other when they could not mention Christ publicly; therefore, it is a pious action to write “Xmas” which gives great honor to Christ. So which is true?
I guess we could never know for certain without asking Jesus Himself. I think, however, He would consider the intention behind its use. Certainly, during the days of persecution, He would have been well-pleased by this pious use of the Greek letter X to represent Him. But how about today? It seems to me it would depend upon why we are using the X. When someone writes “Xmas” today, is he using it because he is thinking of the ancient Christians and their struggle during persecution, and is uniting himself with them and honoring them by using their symbol as his own in prayerful worship of Christ? If anyone thinks he truly is, please contact me, as I have some swampland in Arizona for sale, really cheap! Come on, get serious. He’s not doing it to honor Christ, he’s doing it because it’s faster, and the explanation of the X as an ancient symbol for Christ is just an excuse he’s using to justify continuing to use Xmas. Furthermore, priests who use the “chi” argument to defend this practice are in my mind guilty of accommodation to secularism. Just that fact that people call it “Xmas” rather than “chi-mas” shows they don’t know a thing about the Greek alphabet and are not using it to honor Christ. The reason people are using it is simple: it takes less time to write an X than to write out “Christ”. Is not the Holy Name of the One who became man and endured the agony of the cross to save us from our sins worth taking the time to write out? Do you realize that Christmas is the only feast in the entire calendar that has the name of God in it, and it is the only feast whose name we feel the need to abbreviate? We write out “Valentine’s Day”, “Independence Day”, “Memorial Day”, “Thanksgiving Day”, yet with Christmas we resort to “Xmas”. Why are all these other days worthy of the time to write out longhand but the Holy Name of Christ is not? And if you think about it, “X” in mathematics is the unknown number, the answer we’re trying to figure out. So in writing “Xmas” we are perhaps prophetically declaring one of the biggest problems of Christmas: that lots of people have no clue what they are in fact celebrating. Perhaps it is for them a great feast of the unknown!
Yes, the Greek letter chi (X) was once used as a pious symbol for Christ, but symbols change their meaning over time, and what was once appropriate has now become a symbol of the secular “no-Jesus” Christmas. While some people would argue to preserve “Xmas”, I say we cease using it and take the time to write out “Christmas,” as the Holy Name is worth the time. In a world so determined at times to wipe Christ out of it, let’s make a concerted effort to put Christ back, and the more the world tries to mask Him, the more we will reveal Him. Let’s cease saying “Seasons Greetings”, “Happy Holidays”, and “Merry Xmas”, and start again using “Merry Christmas!” His Name is worth it!