Sitting here, writing out the list of things to do within the next 24 hours to prepare for the festivities of Christmas, I find myself forced to focus on stillness. In the last few days, I have been either too tired to put together coherent sentences or too busy preparing for Christmas. Tonight, however, my heart longs to be still and enjoy the words of Christmas.
Reverentially, I pause to consider the usage of Xmas.
Yes, I said “reverentially.” You will see why in a moment.
This time of year, I get a little weary of hearing the Christmas word wars that go on around us – from commercialism to the church, the madness abounds. “Happy holidays” goes up against “Merry Christmas” and “Christmas” goes up against “Xmas.” Honestly, these are battles that, to me, do not prove our love, devotion, and care during the Christmas season. Instead, they show we care more about semantics than we do people. And perhaps they even show that we do not even know the history or meaning behind any of the words.
I have been curious about Xmas for awhile. I used to be one of the semantic fighters and would not dream of being caught writing “Xmas” on anything! Now, after reading the history, I want to cry, pray, and fight – but for souls not semantics.
In the days of the early church, X was used as a symbol for Christ. Many early Christians were Greek and Xristos is the Greek name for Christ. Many early Greek Christians were also martyred for their faith. Ace Collins depicted the impact of X well when he wrote, “When a Christian was martyred, other Christians often traced an X to mark the spot where a true believer had given his or her life in faithfulness to Christ. Hence, in the initial days of Christianity, X was also the ultimate symbol of devotion and sacrifice” (Collins, p. 185).
Hundreds of years after the start of the early church, the term Xmas began circulating in religious documents. At that time, everything was handwritten, so shortening a word was common. There is also a reverential element to this, because anyone knowing the history of the early church would understand that the X symbolized not only our Savior, but deep devotion to Him, as well.
Some have used the symbol to represent the cross. Some have used it to save time and paper. Today, some use it for the same reasons. And others use it for commercial efforts or in an attempt to cut “Christ” out of “Christmas.” (Joke’s on them, right?!)
You may be thinking, Holly, people these days don’t use the term for its original meaning. They use it inaccurately and it is an affront to Christianity! Is it? Or does it not fascinate you that the world, even in its folly, unknowingly points back to Christ? I love what Paul says about the motivation behind the proclamation of the gospel:
What then? Only that in every way, whether in pretense or in truth, Christ is proclaimed; and in this I rejoice. Yes, and I will rejoice. (Philippians 1:18)
So when you see Xmas, know that Christ is being proclaimed. (After all, every knee will bow!) When you see Xmas, think of those who have gone before, laying down their lives because they believed in the One the X represents. When you see Xmas, pray for the missionaries and the Christians being persecuted all over the world. When you see Xmas, think of Christ and His devotion to you.
When you see Xmas, pause in reverence and wonder that one simple letter can have so much depth and meaning. Let Xmas point your heart toward worship of Xristos. Let Xmas point others to Him, as well.
I pray you have a worshipful Xmas!
(For more history on the term, read Stories Behind the Great Traditions of Christmas by Ace Collins. Quote taken from this book, page 185.)