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Christmas, X-Mas, or ChristMAS?

My grandmother has so many wonderful convictions, many of which I recall from my childhood. One of those was in regards to various ways Christmas is written.

She, like many others (including myself), would get a little perturbed when someone would write X-Mas as opposed to fully spelling out Christmas. She thought it took away from the meaning of Christmas, and that Christ was wrongly taken out, and not given His due. I mean, that was why we were celebrating and having this joyful celebration and season anyway, right?

Well, I suppose after enough years of being bothered by it, my grandmother decided to look at it in a new light as opposed to trying to fight it.

These days when she sees the X she suggests that it is the symbol of a broken cross. Meaning that not even a cross, on which Christ was eventually crucified, can limit God or defeat God in any way. Essentially, Christ broke the cross and defeated even death all for us.

This is an interesting twist and good positive outlook to have on something that had been viewed as a negative.

I didn’t expect this X-Mas topic to become a strong discussion point for me again. Yet, much to my surprise, it began appearing in seminary. Our Systematic Theology 2 professor, David Jensen, would write anything Christ-related with an X. For example, if he were to write the word “Christians” on the board, it would appear as “X-ians.” If he were to write the word “Christianity” it would appear as “X-ianity.”

At first, I was rather miffed at this intentional use and the frequency of it—and surprised to see it, of all places, in seminary.

However, after learning Greek, I began to understand why it may have been used deliberately. In Greek, an “X” is actually the letter “Chi.” This letter also just so happens to be the very first letter in the word “Χριστός” which translates simply into “Christ.” This gives crucial significance to the contentious “X-Mas.”

I began to understand why the X was being used in this manner, and the genius that was behind it.

It’s just a shorthand version of Christmas, Christians, Christianity, etc. when condensed down to the “Chi-Mas.” It’s been used since the 16th century, and there is not much evidence to point to this being a secularized movement to take Christ out of Christmas.

Now let’s look at the other half of the word Christmas.

Live Mas! used to be a slogan of Taco Bell. Another commercial included “Uno mas” as a sign of encouragement.

The Spanish translation of “mas” is “more”. That would mean that Taco Bell’s slogan is “Live More.” It would also mean the presumption is that we were not doing enough, nor living enough in the first place.

So, if we (like my Grandmother) simply look at the word Christmas, we can come to the conclusion that Christmas could translate into “More Christ.”

It’s ironic that many languages are needed for, or at least influence, our understanding of Christmas (or X-Mas) and the coming of Christ. But I feel that’s just how God wanted it.

We are reminded many times that Christ came not for the Jews or the Greeks, or the slave or the free, or the rich or the poor. Instead, Christ came for humanity. Maybe we are meant to instill more Christ not only into Christmas, but into the world, and to share that growth of Christ with others.

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One Response to Christmas, X-Mas, or ChristMAS?

  1. Margaret December 19, 2016 at 8:12 pm #

    Chris, your grandmother was so honored that you spoke of her in your sermon, She was even more impressed that you remembered what she said so very long ago!!

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