“X-mas” Can Never X Out Christ

December 4, 2012 | 44 comments

“Look, Mom!” Lydia jabbed a finger at the car window, toward the church sign on the south edge of town. I snapped a picture with my phone:

 

 

“God doesn’t have a son named X.”

I lobbed my Amen into the space between me and my daughters.

Indeed! Yessiree! That’s what I thought. We celebrate Christ-mas, not X-mas.  No Xs here, where Christ belongs. I raised a defiant fist in agreement.

I thought that sign was mighty clever, I tell you. So clever, that the words became my Facebook status last night.

Then, a friend on my Facebook page led me gently to this post, written by R.C. Sproul. I clicked on over to read what that little X might really mean:

I’m stilling mulling what Sproul wrote: “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.”

***

I think it’s easy for me to get offended about this whole Christ-in-Christmas thing. I can get downright defensive. Every year, I see the call on billboards and bumper stickers to “put Christ back into Christmas.” And I add my voice to the battle cry.

In our home, we keep the focus, as they say, on “The Reason for The Season.” Jesus is central to our December — and also to the other 11 months of the year.

But what if I didn’t really need to work so hard to make sure the rest of the world “kept Christ in Christmas?” Is my battle cry helpful? And what if I acknowledged that, based on the truth of who God is, it is utterly impossible to take Him out?

Who has the power to remove Holy God from all that He has dominion over? Might I lower my defiant little fist, and bow a knee instead?

Love came down at Christmas. Love — actually and physically — came down to Earth.

Love split open the cosmos, whirling onto the scene in the most paradoxically explosive and peace-filled moment in the history of humankind. Long lay the world, in sin and error pining, ’til He appeared and the soul felt its worth. O night divine!

In one giant game-changing move — for the sake of those who hungered — He stepped out of the throne room and into a feed trough.

For us, He became one of us.

And all of Heaven held its breath at Love’s first cry, while a star twinkled in the eastern sky, a beacon of Hope to a forlorn world.

Love was birthed. Someone can try to draw an X over my Savior’s name if they want to, but they cannot X out history.

Love happened. Period.

Love was born, and has been shaking the world back to life and freedom for 2,000-some years.

Here’s the truth: The world could outlaw the word Christmas, and still, Christ cannot be separated from it. Even the stones would cry out, if every hymn book on the planet were glued shut.

There’s nothing that can separate us from  Christ’s love. Nothing. Nada. Zilch.

For I am convinced that neither death nor life, nor angels nor demons,  neither height nor depth, nor Santa Claus or Xs, or eggnog or metallic wrapping paper, neither the Grinch nor Ebenezer Scrooge, neither Lalaloopsy nor Xbox, neither commercialization nor WalMart or anything else in all creation (or inside any mega-mall), will be able to separate us from the love of God through Christ Jesus our Lord.

(But. While I know that Xmas doesn’t X out Jesus,  I’m still rather partial to  Merry Christmas. So that’s what I’ll be wishing you this December. 🙂 )

Your turn… Does the X in Xmas concern you? What do you think of Sproul’s commentary on the X in Xmas? How do we practically “keep” Christ in Christmas?

(Photo by Lydia Lee)

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by | December 4, 2012 | 44 comments

44 Comments

  1. lindy

    I feel the same way you do. Sometimes I raise my fist over theological differences and in the end I have to remember it probably doesn’t matter as much as I think it does. Thanks for posting this!

    Reply
    • dukeslee

      Lindy, Thank you for being one of the kind folks who pointed out the Christos of the X. I appreciate you!

      Reply
  2. David Rupert

    That used to really bother me. Now, I with you. “Let the stones cry out.” Stomp it out. Push it out. Make laws. Ban it. It doesnt matter. Christ is king no matter what

    Reply
    • dukeslee

      A-to-the-Men!

      Behold, the King. He reigns forever. Even when we get all misfocused this time of year. He’s still King. I need a King like that. A King who is King who is King who is King. Forevermore.

      Reply
  3. Kris

    I love this, Jennifer. I used to feel very strongly about not writing “x-mas”, but now, while it still sort of makes me roll my eyes in mild irritation, I am reminded that it is as you say. There is no X-ing out Christ. He was and is and always will be.

    Reply
    • dukeslee

      Thanks for joining the conversation, Kris. I have to admit, that on my to-do lists, I’ve shorthanded Christmas, as in, “Find Xmas gift for nephews…” or “Bake Xmas cookies.” 🙂

      And guess what? He’s still Jesus! Go figure! 🙂

      Reply
  4. Christina

    I’ve always heard the X stood for his name because it was the first letter of his name in Greek. You are right, nothing can separate us from Him and that’s a powerful truth worth shouting! Merry Christmas to you:)

    Reply
    • dukeslee

      Christina … Thanks for being a part of the conversation today. I appreciate you.

      Reply
  5. Joe Pote

    Very good post, Jennifer! I must admit when I saw your FB status earlier this week I considered commenting and decided not to.

    The letter ‘X’ has, historically come to represent Christ, both because of the Greek letter, chi, which begins the word Christ, and because of the similarity in shape to a crucifix.

    Like you, though, I see our society as lragely forgetting the purpose of the Christmas celebration. I’ve considered starting to call it The Christ Mass, as a way of refocusing attention on the original intent.

    I am so thankful that nothing can separate us from the love of Christ!

    Have a blessed Christ Mass!

    Reply
    • dukeslee

      Always feel free to let me know when I’m a bit … “off.” LOL! 🙂

      Honestly, I still have mixed feelings about the use of the X…

      I read a lot of essays on this issue last night. I read about the symbol of the X, the meaning of Christos, and so on. I also read some essays that point out that some users of the X are probably doing it to deliberately avoid using the name Christ (not to acknowledge some kind of Christian symbolism). I suspect that is true.

      As a Christian, I will look at the X in the context of Christ. And I won’t pitch a fit if I see someone using an X. Besides, I would never convince someone to explore the Christian faith, by raising a fist of defiance, as I might be prone to do. But I just might have them wondering about this Christ that I bow DOWN to.

      I love the discussion around such issues. Thanks for being here.

      Reply
  6. Amy Jung

    I agree…I prefer Christmas over Xmas. I don’t think enough people know RC Sproul’s explanation on that to use xmas in a way that others will understand. I prefer saying the world people recognize! But you’re right…and we must remember…Christmas is CHRISTmas despite the commercialism!

    Reply
    • ro.ellott

      I like the thought that X doesn’t take christ out…but keeps His Name right where it belongs…even in ignorance when people try to keep CHrist out…they can’t…but like you…Merry is my choice… and I say hope you have a wonderful…Merry X…CHRISTmas 🙂

      Reply
      • dukeslee

        Ro — Merry Christmas to you, too, my friend. I appreciate you.

        Reply
    • dukeslee

      Thank you, Amy, for your thoughtful response.

      Reply
  7. Peggy

    I debated yesterday about sending you info on the X. I am frustrated with Christians being so outraged with teh X and Happy Holidays (which is holy days). Any good tiding wished us is good. I do not seem much outrage over Happy Easter and Easter is a pagan goddess. I guess I would like the world to see our energy and passion in loving them and each other. Instead catchy phrases to prove our point, I would like to see more intentional actions to show the world why Christ in Christmas makes a difference. I am thankfulf or your entry today. The world can not rob God of His glory but Christians can so we need to be careful of where we focus. Godd is bigger than these greeting and slogans.

    Reply
    • dukeslee

      Always feel free to share with me, Peggy. I really appreciate your comment here. Thank you. I’ll repeat here something I wrote a bit higher in the thread:

      Honestly, I still have mixed feelings about the use of the X…

      I read a lot of essays on this issue last night. I read about the symbol of the X, the meaning of Christos, and so on. I also read some essays that point out that some users of the X are probably doing it to deliberately avoid using the name Christ (not to acknowledge some kind of Christian symbolism). I suspect that is true.

      As a Christian, I will look at the X in the context of Christ. And I won’t pitch a fit if I see someone using an X. Besides, I would never convince someone to explore the Christian faith, by raising a fist of defiance, as I might be prone to do. But I just might have them wondering about this Christ that I bow DOWN to.

      I love the discussion around such issues. Thanks for being here.

      Reply
    • Dayna DeLaVergne

      Peggy…what a mature, thoughtful response! I’m having to rethink how I react to a lot of things. Thanks.

      Reply
    • Joe Pote

      Peggy,

      I always struggle knowing how to respond when FB friends post things like, “I’m keeping Christ in Christmas. How about you?”

      My first thought is to wonder what they mean by that phrase, and hoping that they aren’t simply talking about rejecting the abbreviation.

      Bumper-sticker theology causes me to feel weary…

      Reply
  8. Sandra Heska King

    If you look sideways at that X, you see a +. May we always live sideways to the world.

    Reply
    • dukeslee

      There you go. Gettin’ all cross-eyed again. 🙂 xo

      Reply
  9. Eyvonne

    This line: Love split open the cosmos, whirling onto the scene in the most paradoxically explosive and peace-filled moment in the history of humankind.

    This is glory we celebrate at Christmas and it has nothing to do with how we spell it, or say it, or celebrate it. It is, and always will be, about Him.

    I sing along with you, “Christ is the Lord! Oh praise his name forever! His pow’r and glory evermore proclaim!”

    Reply
  10. SimplyDarlene

    Wow, you ask a lot of questions…

    Nope, the “X” doesn’t concern me…

    What concerns me is when people ask me or my kiddo, “Whaddaya want for Christmas?”

    We already have what we didn’t know we needed, and in that, we have immeasurable treasures. There ain’t a thing that a mere person can put under a tree that satisfies my heart’s desires, wants, or needs.

    [I feel an entire blog post coming on… actually, I started writing about it yesterday. Must be that whole “great minds think alike” thing.] 😉

    BLessings.

    Reply
  11. Monica Sharman

    For this very reason, I gladly abbreviate not only Christmas into Xmas but also Christian into Xian! ‘Cause the chi, instead of removing Christ, emphasizes Him.

    So…does this make us all “X-Men” (that is, chi-men)? 😉

    And you know, I LOVE your heart for Christ. Love you, you inspiring one.

    Reply
    • dukeslee

      You are darling! I love this, Monica. Suddenly, I’m thinking about X marks the spot. X-ray Vision. What else?? It all has new meaning. 🙂

      Reply
  12. Alecia

    I heard the same thing a couple years back about X standing for Christ, before then I shook my fist and the Xmas too. But I’m realizing more and more that I know who and what I stand for, and Christ is bigger than a Happy Holidays or Xmas sign.

    A preacher at a church we were visiting over the weekend challenged the congregation to say “Merry Christmas”and not “Happy Holidays” I agree with his theory, but honestly does it matter?

    Reply
    • dukeslee

      Really grateful for your input here, Alecia.

      Reply
  13. Lynn Morrissey

    Jennifer, I really appreciate this post because of your humility. Over a decade ago, a colleague criticized my abbreviation of Christian to Xn. It’s the same principle, and she saw it as my lazy (and crass) way of saving time while I typed. She found it extremely dishonoring to the Lord. While arthritic, I would not have wittingly done anything to disparage our Lord, whom she felt I was “X-ing” out. Her criticism came at a most difficult time, when my dear mother had been diagnosed a 2nd time with breast cancer. It was difficult to respond to her because not only had she unfairly judged me during a rough season of life, but also because she was incorrect in her application. God gave me the grace to respond in love and with an accurate explanation of the meaning of X. Mostly, beyond your humility, Jennifer, I love that you so aptly demonstrate that even if X meant X-ing (as in eradicating), no one or no thing can ever X-out Christ! No way! Your readers might also appreciate the following quoted explanation…..and also that when you use X (representing the Greek letter for Christ, it also represents the Cross). Would that we could apply the Cross more in all our lives–with humility.
    “Xmas is neither an abbreviation nor a ‘vulgar commercial invention’ of recent vintage. X has been used to symbolize the syllable ‘Christ’ in English since at least 1100, when it was recorded in Xianity, for ‘Christianity.’ The Old English word for Christian recorded in the 12th-century Anglo-Saxon Chronicle begins with an X, and the word Xmas, itself, was used as early as 1551. The Greek word that gives us the English word, Christ, begins with the letter chi, or X, leading some writers to believe that the X in Xmas symbolized the Cross.” (Hendrickson, p. 730)
    —Hendrickson, Robert. The Facts on File Encyclopedia of Word and Phrase Origins. Revised and Expanded Edition. (New York, N.Y.: Facts on File, c. 1997)
    Thanks again, Jennifer
    Fondly,
    Lynn

    Reply
    • dukeslee

      One of the most painful things in daily life, I think, is being misunderstood. How sad I am that someone would take you for being crass or dishonoring to God.

      Thank you also, Lynn, for the Hendrickson quote. Your wealth of knowledge always amazes me. I learn from you … again and again.

      Reply
      • Lynn Morrissey

        I so appreciate your love and understanding, Jennifer. You are so special!
        God bless you!
        Lynn

        Reply
  14. Susan

    AMEN to that, Jennifer. Love the Romans 8:38-39 contemporary take 🙂 You post reminded me of an old song lyric – “ain’t no rock gonna take my place”

    Hugs to you with wishes for a joyous Christmas!
    Susan

    Reply
    • dukeslee

      Thanks for being here, Susan. I’m eager to see what you’ve shared in community this week. I’m so glad our paths have crossed. You bless me so.

      Reply
  15. Laurie Collett

    I personally won’t take “Christ” out of “Christmas” because it is all about Him. On the other hand, my grandmother was Ukrainian, and I was brought up in a home that celebrated Russian Christmas & Easter. we used to write “X-B” on Easter eggs, short for Xhristos Voscrece (B = V in the Russian alphabet, or Christ is Risen. Thanks for the great post & for hosting, & God bless!

    Reply
    • dukeslee

      Thank you for this historical/cultural lesson, Laurie. So fascinating!

      Reply
  16. Michelle DeRusha

    I admit, occasionally do the “x” thing – like in texting. But worse, I do have trouble keeping Christ in Christmas – I get a little overwhelmed with the additional responsibilities of the season.

    This year we are reading pieces of the Book of Luke as a dinnertime Advent devotion. It’s just a small step, but I really do feel like it’s making an impact, not just on me, but on our whole family.

    Reply
    • dukeslee

      I would love to hear more about your Advent readings, Michelle. Have you written about it on your blog yet?

      Reply
  17. Lynn Mosher

    Jennifer, such a wonderful Christmas post! I’m one who has known for many years about the meaning of X. Until I learned that, I was a little miffed at its use.

    And no, we cannot take Christ out of the season, though some try desperately hard to do so, even companies telling their employees to only wish customers Happy Holidays rather than Merry Christmas. In that case, I always say Merry Christmas back to them.

    And thanks to Monica, I had a great giggle for the day for her X-men! Touche, Monica!

    Merry Christmas, dear Jennifer!

    Reply
    • dukeslee

      I’m so behind. I’m just learning. Good thing, I’ve got friends like you to inform me. 🙂 Merry Christmas to you, Lynn!

      Reply
  18. Carol Hulin

    I was thinking “preach it!!!” as I read this post.
    I too have taken short cuts and used the X when leaving messages. And I too tend to get caught up in the materialism and busyiness of the Christmas Season and lose Christ….
    This year I`m trying to stay focused on Him…the whole thing: Christmas not Xmas…for only 1 thing can seperate us from the love of God: me…..

    Reply
  19. Dayna DeLaVergne

    Jennifer, thanks for stirring such great conversation. Healthy, edifying, thought-provoking.

    Reply
  20. Michelle Eichner

    Jennifer, I LOVED the thought that we can’t take Christ out of Christmas! Just like saying, “God said it, I believe it, that settles it.” Nope. God said it. Period. That settles it. Christ is Christmas. Period. What we do with it doesn’t change that fact. And I LOVED your “lower my fist and bow the knee” line, too. Such wonderful thoughts, as always! PS to Miss Lydia – fabulous picture!! 🙂 Merry Christmas and Blessings to you my friend. Michelle

    Reply
  21. Glenn Adams

    Sorry to disagree. The X that is used is from the Greek. It is the first letter of the Greek work for Christ–the Chi. The Greeks would, and still do, abbreviate the word for Christ with a Chi, Rho–that is Ch and R–the first letters in the title Christ. You will find this on inscriptions through Greece, and on the stained glass in our church here in western NY. Though many today seem to believe that this was the last name of Jesus, it is a title translated into Greek which in Hebrew means Messiah (not God as some other people think). There were no last names for Hebrews. So the Greek is always written as Jesus, the Christ.

    Reply
    • dukeslee

      Did you read the article? Because that’s what I wrote… Again, “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.”

      Reply

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