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…
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.