I vividly remember sitting in my Old Testament Survey class one winter morning. The professor walked into the classroom. He put his books down on the desk. He walked over to the lectern and began the class. During the question and answer portion of the lecture, a student asked the professor what he thought about the Christmas greeting that reads, “Merry X-Mas”.
The professor was a bit taken back. After all, the question had nothing to do with the day’s lesson. However, the professor knew that this question was extremely important to the student who asked it. He also recognized that the student body and the Christian population at large were talking about the “X” in “Merry X-Mas”. It seemed the student body, and a sizeable portion of the Christian community was bothered by the “X”.
It was the 90’s. More and more Christians were realizing that there was, and still is, a concerted effort to remove anything Christian from the public square. Christians feared that people were trying to remove Christ from Christmas. Bumper stickers have produced that read, “Put Christ Back into Christmas”. Another bumper sticker read, “Jesus is the Reason for the Season”. Christians were upset that the secularists among us were boldly and overtly removing Christ from Christmas.
"You can't X out Christ"
Like any good teacher, the professor answered the question by asking a question. He asked, “Do you think you can X out Christ?”. No one really responded, but the general mood and atmosphere were communicating that the majority of the students believed that was the left’s intention. Then, the professor made a statement that has stuck with me over the years. He said, “You can’t X out Christ”.
The room fell silent. He admitted that he was not a Greek scholar, but that he understood Greek. He had to be proficient in it in order to earn his Doctorate. He went on to teach the class something very valuable. The following is a brief recap of what I learned that day.
Christ is a Greek word for the Hebrew word, Messiah. Both of these words mean, “anointed one”. The Greek characters for Christ is Χριστος. The Greek alphabet does not have the letters “c” or “h.” The Greek word Χριστος begins with what looks like an X in the English alphabet. However, in the Greek, it is the letter chi.
As time went on, it became the custom to abbreviate Christ by using the X. A brief look at the etymology indicates that the Anglo Saxons used the X as an abbreviation for Christ around 1100 A.D. It was never intended to show disrespect for, or an attempt to remove the title, Christ. It is no different than people using a single letter to represent a title or name today. For example, J.C. Ryle or R.C. Sproul.
So, the next time you read, “Merry Xmas”, a smile should come to your face. Why? Because now that you know the history behind the abbreviation, you realize “You can’t X out Christ”.