It is a common misconception that using the term “x-mas” literally takes “Christ” out of Christmas. The concern that we miss the message because of all the noise during the season is a legitimate one, but this misconception can also show us something deeper.
Many religions use symbols as a sign of respect in order to avoid frequent and perhaps irreverent repetition of sacred names. The “x” in “x-mas” is not an x, it is a Chi. In Greek, Christ’s name was spelled: Χριστός. In the early christian church, the first two letters chi (x) and rho (p) were used as an abbreviation and combined into a symbol for Christ.
The meaning becomes especially clear in versions that also include the symbols for alpha and omega. This was later simplified to just X.
*(Side note: this has nothing to do with the name of the city Cairo in Egypt, which is simply a romanization of “khere-ohe” or the “place of combat” in Egyptian.)
The moral of the story is that you can find Christ even in a world that sometimes seems hostile to expressions of religious faith. You just have to know where to look. Whether traditions and terminology add or detract from the Christmas message depends on how you choose to interpret them.
For example, in an earlier post, I suggested ways to make gift giving less commercial and more meaningful by using it as an opportunity to practice empathy and service. Another example is my favorite Christmas song, “I heard the bells on Christmas day” which describes hearing the Christmas message through the ringing bells.
This Christmas season, find the meaning behind the traditions and you will have found the Christ in X-mas.
And in despair I bowed my head;
“There is no peace on earth,” I said;
“For hate is strong,
And mocks the song
Of peace on earth, good-will to men!”
Then pealed the bells more loud and deep:
“God is not dead, nor doth He sleep;
The Wrong shall fail,
The Right prevail,
With peace on earth, good-will to men.”