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By Artie Phillips
Most people have heard the classic tale of the little girl who notices a sign in a department store that proclaims “Happy Xmas!” The little girl turns to her father and asks, “Daddy, did they cross Christ out of Christmas?”
The father thinks for a moment and then sadly nods his head and says, “Yes, sweetie, I guess they did,” before leading her on to finish their holiday shopping.
It seems pretty common every year around this time to hear people proclaiming abbreviating Christmas as Xmas is blasphemy and an affront to Christ and Christianity.
It’s natural to hear preachers declare that “you can’t ‘X’ out Christ.” At first glance, the argument that calling the holiday Xmas is degrading to religion seems reasonable, but is it really? Perhaps a little history lesson is in order to clear any resentment from what should be a festive holiday air.
Let’s begin by opening our Bibles, shall we? For most people, the language in which the Bible is written is their native tongue, and that is because the common person cannot read Greek. However, it is the language that the New Testament was written in. Greek was the most standard, universal language of the first century.
The name, Christ, as it is written in Greek begins with the letter X. This letter –chi, as it is pronounced in Greek – literally stood for Christ in many early publications written in Greek.
This fun little fact throws a small wrench into the current argument: How do you “X” out Christ when that is the first letter of his name?
Now it’s time to pull out the big guns. In 1436, Johannes Gutenberg popularized the first printing press with moveable type in Europe. In the early days of printing, all typesetting was done by hand, and the process was tedious and expensive.
It became the norm to abbreviate words that were commonly used in documents in order to save time and money.
According to Dennis Bratcher, who works for The Voice – a biblical and theological resource and research group – the church itself began to use the symbol X to stand for Christ. As the abbreviation took hold, X came to stand for Christ in all early publications, with Xmas being the accepted way to write Christmas.
There is no secret plot to erase Christ from Christmas by replacing him with
an X. The only thing the symbol X is for is to save space. It still means Christmas.
If the church is still looking for someone to blame for the “blasphemy”
of the season, they don’t have to look past a mirror. They are the ones who started this tradition. Because the church – and subsequently the world – lost the knowledge of the reasoning behind the word’s creation, a vendetta was started against a simple space saver.
The history of just a word can change the thoughts and opinions of an entire nation. When that knowledge is lost, a pure and honest word can become just as corrupted as anything else on God’s green Earth.
A simple understanding of a fantastic history may help to bring a little more peace on earth this Xmas season.