Christians, Embrace Xmas!

xmasChristians can use the term Xmas with a clear conscience! I know some of you might have just spit out your hot chocolate. For that, I am sorry. But before you start a social media campaign to oust me as the “Anti-CHRIST mas” pastor who deserves to be exiled with the Abominable Snowman, I ask read the next few paragraphs. If you are unconvinced by argument for Xmas, you may happily label me a Scrooge.

Why We Dislike Xmas

Many Christians view Xmas as an attack on the person of Christ. Removing Christ from the word Christmas seems to be synonymous with removing baby Jesus from his manger. The story of salvation and hope displayed in the manager scenes fades into Christmas lore if there is no baby Jesus. And if Christ disappears from Christmas, Christians seemingly allow their culture to wipe Jesus from the center of Christmas. Thus, may Christians are tempted to give Xmas practitioners a Grinchy stare, because Christians want to honor Christ.

Moreover, the letter X carries a negative meaning for many Americans. Stores write large Xs on price tags to communicate that an item’s original price has been replaced with a more attractive price. While Christians love sales, they cannot warm up to the idea of Xing-out Jesus from Christmas. We believe Christ is relevant for today’s world and is the most attractive person in the whole of Christmas. Thus, Christians bristle when people intentionally or unintentionally cross out Christ from Christmas. Christians are rightfully devoted to their Lord and  Savior.

The Real Meaning of Xmas

I applaud my friends’ concern and share their passion to see Christ worshiped during Christmas. But Xmas is not the brainchild of modern secularists who are intent on stealing Christmas away from Christians. Xmas is not an attack on Jesus and the gospel. Xmas is actually an abbreviation, a shorthand, for the word Christmas.

ChristosThe X that appears in Xmas does not represent the English letter X. Consequently, the symbol cannot represent that something has been crossed out.

The X represents the Greek letter Chi which closely resembles the English X. (The end of the Greek letter Chi is slightly curved as you can see in the picture.) The letter Chi is the first Greek letter in the word Christos (Χρήστος) which we translate as Christ. Several hundred years ago, Xmas first appeared in the writings of Catholic monks and clerics.  Printers later embrace the letter X and Xmas as shorthand for Christ and Christmas. The expression very much values the presence of Christ in Christmas, employing one of the original New Testament languages and a symbol that has almost universally been identified with Christ for thousands of years.

We readily use such shorthand in everyday life without any reservation. For example, we refer to our country as both the United States of America and the U.S.A. We use the terms interchangeably without our patriotism being questioned. We text LOL without having our friends doubt our sense of humor (Ok…maybe they do, but that is another issue). We refer the University of Georgia both by its proper name and by UGA without having our devotion to the school questioned. We call Jill both Jill and J without our love for her being questioned. We refer to John as both Juan and John without jeopardizing our friendship.  And, we have the freedom in Christ to happily bounce between Xmas and Christmas as both words express a firm commitment to keeping Christ in Christmas.

Final Thoughts

There are many battles for Christians to fight. But the Xmas battle is not one of them. It’s not a battle at all. It’s friendly fire as Christians are throwing snow balls at a word that very much keeps Christ in Christmas.

Instead of trying to stomp Xmas out of usage, I think Christians should wisely employ the age-old term. We should use the X in Xmas as an opportunity for explaining the gospel message.

And done. I hope we are still friends!

What are you thoughts about Xmas?


The Virgin Birth Still Matters

virgin-birthDespite the worry of many Christians, Christ is still very much a part of Christmas. Secular music specials feature songs for from our church hymnals, stores decorate with nativity scenes, and Christmas cards continue to feature the Wise men on their way to view baby Jesus. In short, the battle between the culture and our churches is not really over whether or not we keep the first syllable in the word Christmas. The real fight is over the virgin birth. It is over Jesus’ identity.

Our culture has no problem praising the arrival of Jesus, the great teacher.  After all, Jesus cared about the poor, offered the world of ton of pithy statements, and tried to bring peace to earth. As the atheist R. Elisabeth Cornwell remarked, “Christmas belongs to anyone who wants it, and just because I gave up believing in a god doesn’t mean I gave up believing in the love and joy of family.” In short, the world has no problem with celebrating the principles that Jesus triumphed while on earth.

The real Christmas battle is actually being fought over the virgin birth. As the great revolutionary writer Thomas Paine once wrote, “It is…at least millions to one, that the reporter of a miracle tells a lie.” Miracles are inconceivable to the modern scientific mind because they bespeak of a reckless embrace of the absurd. But what makes the virgin birth so unfathomable to the modern mind goes beyond the scientific method. The theological and the philosophical implications are truly the most troubling part of the Christmas story for our culture.

If Jesus was really born of a virgin, then his claims of divinity carry great weight. His offer of salvation transforms from a pithy idea into an ever present reality. If we belief, Jesus can down from heaven being both fully God and fully, then we truly must worship him. We must obey him. We must realize that we are powerless to redefine sexuality, morality, or to pay for our wrongs. We must surrender our lives to him. And then, we must do all that we can to follow him. As the pastor Tim Keller wrote,

If there is a God, and he has become human, why would you find it incredible that he would do miracles, pay for the sins of the world, or rise from the dead?

If we admit that something miraculous happened in that Bethlehem stable so long ago, then we have to admit that something even better happened on Calvary. We have to admit the Jesus, the “way the truth and the life.”

But what if the Paine and today’s atheists are right? What if Jesus is simply just another human? Is Christmas still worth celebrating?”

I think the answer is most decidedly no. As Paul said in I Corinthians 15:19, “If in Christ we have hope in this life only, we are of all people most to be pitied.” If Christ is not God, Christmas is not a triumph over sin and death. Rather, the holiday is a testimony to the futility of humanity. Think about it. Thousands of babies are killed because of this Jesus’s birth. He most loyal predecessors and cousin ends up dead at because of an evil king. Eventually, Jesus too is executed unjustly. And then all but one of his disciples is murdered or executed. When Jesus attempted to bring at the best in people, he was slain by the worst in people. Christmas without a divine Jesus is nothing more than a tale of human hope dashed upon the rocks of human failure. Why celebrate Jesus if he is just human?

Thankfully, Jesus life and death were not useless. He was not just a man. He was both fully man and fully God. By his death and resurrection, Jesus secured eternal for the innocent babies that died Bethlehem, for John the Baptist, for his disciples, and for the millions of his followers. Jesus conquered death. As Hebrews 2:14b-15 says,

he himself likewise partook of the same things, that through death he might destroy the one who has the power of death, that is, the devil, and deliver all those who through fear of death were subject to lifelong slavery.

As we talk about Christmas in the days ahead, let’s not just stop with putting Christ in Christmas. Let’s mention who Jesus really is. Let’s share about how the whole meaning of Christmas rides upon the virgin birth. From Bethlehem, the whole story of salvation unfolds.  Are we ready to share it?