At the end of each year many of us vow to start the new year off ‘right’. Well let’s start by not always believing everything we see, read or hear. Let’s start by doing a bit of fact checking of our own so that numbers add up, t’s are crossed and i’s are dotted. My latest rant has to do with people (Christians, in particular) complaining about folk taking the “Christ” out of Christmas and replacing it with an “X”. The rationale, according to folk is that the “X” is an attempt to X out Christ or stamp Jesus out of the equation for this season for which He is the reason. What is true, however, is that we interpret language and communication, along with the words and representations (ie. abbreviations etc.) through a modern-day lens which is colored and formed by various contemporary agents of socialization (ie. media, friends, literature, gossip and illiterate individuals in authority to name a few).
The term Xmas is not some contemporary campaign to stamp out Christ. In fact the “X” in Xmas is not the letter X as we know it in our Roman/Latin alphabet, but rather it is the letter Chi (pronounced kai) in the Greek language, which precedes our Roman/Latin alphabet. The history of the use of Xmas for the holiday and season for which we remember our Savior dates back to early Christianity when the Greek letter X was used to formally symbolize Jesus as the Christ. The use of the Greek letter was a formality, used by Bishops and Elders to underscore the sovereignty and validity that Jesus was true Christ— Christ, meaning anointed in the Greek which was the same as Messiah meaning anointed in Hebrew. Remember Jesus (Greek for “God saves”) was a very common name as was the equivalent of Joshua (Hebrew for “God saves”) Early Christianity bloomed and blossomed in a Hellenistic and Greco-Roman world where Greek was the lingua franca or the working language for both period and place. Hence it was very common for early Church leaders to utilize the capital letter X or Chi to represent The Christ. This was especially beneficial in order to elevate and distinguish the Savior from any other mortal named Jesus.
The letter X was also symbolic during times of persecution. In early Christianity believers would meet in homes and other secret locations. Symbols such as a fish would be drawn over doorposts or in other areas to let believers know that the location was one where Christians met. In addition to the fish, however was the use of the Greek letter Chi or X.
The term Xmas is not some modern day conspiracy to get rid of Christ. Although individuals like Franklin Graham, son of evangelist Billy Graham have erroneously made this allegation as has a well-known news anchor, who is married to a minister, it would do us well to know both the history and the profound significance behind the use of the Greek letter X during this season. It is true, that today many who may have commercialized Christmas and might only set foot in church three times a year make use of the term. But those of us who are concerned with the foundation upon which our Great Belief is built, should embrace our history; for it tells the story of those who labored and toiled under the guidance of the Holy Spirit so that the Word of God might go forth and that humanity might know Christ and be saved. Merry Xmas!
In God’s Power & Purpose,
Rev. Lisa D. Jenkins