Xmas or Christmas? One Preacher Sounds Off, and It’s Not What You Think

Seven years ago, when I became fast friends with Benjamin Corey — a preacher, theologian, and blogger — he was a Christian fundamentalist. And back then, he cringed when he saw the word “Christmas” rendered as “Xmas.”

He would fume (though mercifully not within my earshot),

How dare those godless atheists try to take the baby Jesus out of my manger, and block out the word Christ with a big, black, X?

Since then, Corey (many of his friends call him by his last name) has had a change of heart. A student of ancient Greek, he’s discovered that (drum roll…) there is no secular conspiracy to remove Christ from Christmas.

As shocking as this may be for some to realize, the Bible wasn’t written in English. The New Testament is written in Koine Greek, and the Greek word for Christ is… get ready…

Χριστος

See where I’m heading with this yet?

In Greek, the first letter for the name of Christ is X. Instead of always writing the full name Χριστος, we see in early Christian history a trend to abbreviate Χριστος as simply Χ. …

[W]riting Christmas as Xmas is hardly anything new or born out of a secular culture — this tradition dates back to the 12th Century.

I’ve avoided using “Xmas” for some years now, in part because it strikes me as an ever-so-slightly ugly and lazy rendering, but also because I know that “Xmas” rubs some of the people I love (such as my evangelical in-laws) the wrong way. It doesn’t matter that they’re misinformed on the topic — I simply see no upside to antagonizing anyone with a spelling that matters to them, and not at all to me. (To clarify: neither does the rendering “Xmas” annoy me.)

For his part, Corey, too, chooses conciliation and good will. He sees his brethren’s protests against the alternative spelling as needless salvos in the

… nonexistent war against Christmas [which] drive a wedge further between ourselves and the neighbors who Jesus has called us to radically love.

Why, Corey doesn’t even take offense anymore if someone wishes him “Happy holidays.”

Someone better notify Bill O’Reilly.

About Terry Firma

Terry Firma, though born and Journalism-school-educated in Europe, has lived in the U.S. for the past 20-odd years. Stateside, his feature articles have been published in the New York Times, Reason, Rolling Stone, Playboy, and Wired. Terry is the founder and Main Mischief Maker of Moral Compass, a site that pokes fun at the delusional claim by people of faith that a belief in God equips them with superior moral standards.


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