Christmas, Mailbag

The Mailbag: Merry “X-mas”?

Originally published December 16, 2019

When people use the term “X-mas” instead of “Christmas,” isn’t that taking Christ out of Christmas? Should Christians use the term “X-mas”?

What a great Christmas time question! It’s kind of understandable that people would think that the “X” in X-mas is removing Christ or genericizing Christmas. We use the letter X as an unknown variable in math. We might see a detergent commercial in which one of the bottles is labeled ‘brand X’ instead of its real name. So it can kind of seem like X is a place-filler or that it can stand for practically anything. 

But that’s not the case with the X in X-mas. That X has a finite value. X = 1, the One and only, Jesus Christ. How do we know that?

First, let’s take a look at where the term “X-mas” came from. GotQuestions’ article Is it wrong to say Xmas instead of Christmas? provides us with a nice, succinct answer:

In Greek, the original language of the New Testament, the word for “Christ” is Χριστός, which begins with the Greek letter that is essentially the same letter as the English letter X. So, originally, Xmas was simply an abbreviation of Christmas. No grand conspiracy to take Christ out of Christmas. Just an abbreviation.

What this means is that, in the term X-mas, rather than the letter X taking Christ out of Christmas, the letter X actually stands for Christ. It is used in the same way that we might use “H.S.” to stand for “Holy Spirit” or “OT/NT” to stand for “Old Testament” or “New Testament” when we’re writing informally (I’ve never actually heard someone say X-mas, H.S., OT/NT, have you?), we’re pressed for space, and the people in our audience probably know what those letters mean.

But it’s obvious from the number of people questioning the term “X-mas” as “taking Christ out of Christmas,” that most people – in any audience – don’t know what that letter means. So we need to go a bit further.

Is it possible that advertisers or atheists or others with an active, outward animosity toward the things of God are using the term “X-mas” as a way to mention Christmas without actually having to write the letters in the word “Christ”? To intentionally try to “take Christ out of Christmas”? Yes, it’s possible. But it’s a pretty silly thing to do if you think about it. Everybody who sees “X-mas” in their ad or e-mail or whatever they’ve written knows they mean Christmas, they know they mean Christmas, and, as we’ve just seen, the “X” means “Christ”. So what is the ever-lovin’ point? To parade their “Ooooo, I’m gonna stick it to Christians” pettiness and intolerance before the world?

Yes, such people exist, but I really believe, for the moment anyway, that, despite what it may look like on the news or social media, they’re still the fringe minority. It seems to me that most regular non-Christians who use the term “X-mas” simply do so to save time and space in whatever they’re writing. When I Googled “X-mas,” the two main uses I saw for the term were a) articles with titles like, “Why Do People Use X-mas Instead of Christmas?” and b) space-saving product descriptors (ex: xmas tee- red, LS/SS S,M,L) on sales websites.

But what about Christians using the term “X-mas”?

There is nothing fundamentally sinful or unbiblical about using the term “X-mas” (especially since the X stands for Christ) when necessary since there’s no Bible verse or principle that prohibits it. I have occasionally used both “Xmas” and “Xian” (Christian) on Twitter due to the character limit. My audience is mostly mature Christians (many of whom know what X-mas means), and my theology is an open book to the public, so no one could credibly accuse me of trying to take Christ out of Christmas (or Christian).

But there are a couple of other issues we should think about when it comes to the term “X-mas”.

The first issue is weaker brothers. If you’re not familiar with God’s admonition to us to lay down our Christian liberties so as not to wound the faith of new Christians or Christians who have a weakness of conscience in a particular area, I encourage you to study 1 Corinthians 8 and 1 Corinthians 10:23-33.

But take care that this right of yours does not somehow become a stumbling block to the weak. 1 Corinthians 8:9

If you know that a recipient of your annual Christmas newsletter or someone at church who sees your flier for the upcoming “X-mas Party” is going to be offended by your use of “X-mas” because they don’t understand that it’s not unbiblical, and that your’e not waging some sort of “war on Christmas,” just don’t use it. Why cause unnecessary offense over something so insignificant? Why not take a small, loving step toward living at peace with our weaker brothers and sisters? (I know it can be tough. I need a lot of improvement in this area, myself!)

The second issue has nothing to do with theology, but as an advocate for good writing, I feel I must mention it. Using “X-mas” in anything but the most informal pieces of writing (text messages, social media posts, a note to your husband, a label on your ornament storage container, etc.) looks sloppy and lazy, especially if your writing reaches a moderate to large audience. If you wouldn’t use abbreviations like “TBH” (to be honest) or “IMHO” (in my humble opinion) in what you’re writing, don’t use “X-mas”.

Merry Christmas!

If you have a question about: a Bible passage, an aspect of theology, a current issue in Christianity, or how to biblically handle a family, life, or church situation, comment below (I’ll hold all questions in queue {unpublished} for a future edition of The Mailbag) or send me an e-mail or private message. If your question is chosen for publication, your anonymity will be protected.