I have a lot of bibles, and I use all of them. Now, I don’t say that to make you think that I am some super spiritual person and that you must have and use a multitude of bibles to be close to God. I do say that for two reasons though. First, it’s to let you know that I am very self aware of my limitations, including forgetfulness. One big reason that I have so many bibles is that I place them everywhere I might need one (school, church, home, the car……you get the picture). I am prepared when (not if) I forget to grab my main one off of my desk. Secondly, I tell you this because it is good to have several that have different functions. Now, there is nothing wrong with sticking to one, especially if you are good about not forgetting it (again, self aware here). I won’t go into all the bibles I use (maybe another day), but when I am writing this blog, I have 2 study bible (HCSB & ESV), my entire collection of commentaries, one of my electronic bibles that I can cross reference with other translations quickly if needed, and my Apologetics Bible for those tough cases I want to write about. While I normally work primarily out of my ESV Study Bible, I had to rely heavily upon my Holman Study Bible for tonight. You see, the HCSB Bible stresses and teaches the Greek behind many important words in our Bible. That is a necessary tool for what I want to relay to you tonight.
We finished the second segment on the season of Advent and now I want to turn my attention to another group of Christmas icons. The next 5 days we will look at the sights of Christmas- those iconic symbols that draw your attention and alert you to the fact that it’s almost Christmas time. Tonight, we are going to look at the name Christmas itself and some of the misconceptions that may accompany that name and how it is used today.
Did you know polls show that the two biggest concerns of Christians during the Christmas season is the substitution of Happy Holidays for Merry Christmas and the use of Xmas instead of Christmas. Let me go ahead and preface the rest of this post with the following disclaimer:
**DISCLAIMER: I am a full believer in our Lord Jesus Christ and I do not condone nor defend anyone who intentionally or deliberately trashes, belittles, or puts down my faith. I do however, feel that if you are going to battle for your beliefs, you need to have all information possible before you battle.****
I am not here to really deal with the issue of Happy Holidays vs. Merry Christmas- I want to focus on the use of Merry Xmas. However, I will say this- it is not the cashiers fault they say Happy Holidays instead of Merry Christmas, they are forced to say it. Don’t belittle them for saying it, they are doing their job, probably because they really need the money and the job. This is an issue to take up with the company itself, not the poor employee behind the counter. First, it just makes Christians look judgmental and plain mean when we do this (not the impression we need to be giving), and second, you can fix this problem very easily. When they say “Happy Holidays” you smile and respond with “Merry Christmas.” This does two things- first of all it allows you to stand up for your beliefs and secondly, you just freed that employee to be able to say Merry Christmas back to you. When you do that you will be surprised how often the clerk feels relieved that they can say Merry Christmas to someone. Remember…its about love first.
Now to the matter at hand. What is with this Merry Xmas? Is it really a pagan attempt of the last 20 years to secularize Christmas and remove Christ from the celebration? That indeed is the popular opinion, especially in the heart of the south in the bible belt. This is where I hope a little education goes a long way. The practice of using Xmas is not 20 years old. In fact it is as old as the religion itself. The X is not an X at all, it is the Greek letter Chi. This represents the first letter in the Greek name Kristos , meaning Christ. The word Christ in Greek looks like this: Χριστός. This shows the “X” looking letter of Chi in the front. These abbreviations were commonplace throughout Rome and the Empire. In fact, the first two letters of the Greek word for Christ, Chi and Rho (the “p” looking letter) were used as an abbreviation for Christ and carried into battle by Constantine himself (the first Christian Emperor of Rome). This has become known as the Chi-Rho Monogram and is widely seen on a number of religious items as an abbreviation for Christ. The abbreviation Xmas became commonplace in print in the 16th century. As Johannes Gutenberg invented the printing press in 1436, Christian publications began being produced. With these earlier printing press, the typesetting had to be done by hand and was very costly. In order to save money, abbreviations were widely used by the church to save money. This is where you see abbreviations like Xianity, Xtian, and of course Xmas. Not pagan, not new- very Christian in origin.
Having said that, I recognize the attempt of a secular world to remove Christ from Christmas in many ways. Movements have been underway from several years to remove nativities from yards and buildings. Year after year, we are constantly reminded of the world’s desires to bring us down and wash away any existence of Christianity from the public world and there is no doubt that secular people as well as Christians have bought into the myth about Xmas. Also, it is highly likely that there are people who intentionally use the X to take Christ out of Christmas. Many will not be happy until we are confined to our homes and basements worshiping privately and quietly without being seen or heard. Before we go to war, however, we need to be prepared and ascertain the intent of a person’s heart. Too many times, we go on the offensive without knowing the facts first. This only presents Christians as religious bullies instead of loving messengers. So before we go over the edge and fly off the handle at someone this Christmas, let’s be certain about the intent of their heart. A friendly conversation about why they put an X in front of Christmas will get you farther than an harsh word or condemnation. Who knows, you may find that the person is a Greek Scholar. While I have made it my mission tonight to give you all the facts and details about a common misconception of Christians, just to be clear- I don’t abbreviate. MERRY CHRISTMAS!!!!! 🙂
In Christ Alone,
Rev. Bro. Coach
–Dennis Bratcher, Copyright © 2011, Dennis Bratcher – All Rights Reserved, CRI/Voice, Institute, Copyright © 2013 CRI/Voice, accessed at http://www.cresourcei.org/symbols/xmasorigin.html