Merry Xmas! It’s a phrase often met with angst in Christian circles. But before you get offended, here’s a question for you.
What do Christmas and the almighty dollar have in common? The answer is: probably more than you might think. Aside from the fact that a lot of money is exchanged during the Christmas season, they both have some meaningful symbols behind them.
First let’s look at the dollar. The original dollar sign was created by taking the letter U from “United” and superimposing the S from “States” on top of it. This became the universal symbol for the dollar. People across this new country, regardless of their native tongue knew at a glance the symbol referred to the cost or price of something. With time, the symbol has become more abbreviated. The bottom of the U faded out leaving an S with two vertical lines through it. But look at your computer key board and you will see the S with only a single line through it. The dollar sign has evolved somewhat overtime, but the meaning behind it has not changed. It still refers to the cost or price of something. Now even globally, people recognize it as specifically American currency.
Likewise, the X in Xmas is a slightly abbreviated symbol evolved from Chi Rho. Chi Rho is the Greek symbol for the name of Christ. ΧΡΙΣΤΟΣ is the name of Christ written in Greek. However, at the time of the early church, people did not have access to the scriptures nor were the majority of persons able to read or write. Various signs and symbols were developed to convey meaning to the masses. Much like today’s young children, who have not yet learned to read, they can still tell you a red octagon means “stop”. Chi Rho is formed by super imposing the first two Greek letters of the name of Christ, Chi and Rho (XP). This became the cultural symbol for Jesus. These two superimposed capital letters were equivalent to what the cross is to us today. Both used as a very public and undeniable symbol denoting Jesus Christ. While you will still see the original Chi Rho in churches or on clergy garments today, over time the second letter (P) faded, yet the X remained.
This is why when we sign a document we are asked to put our name by the X. To this day, X is still a mark indicating or calling for a name. The name, beginning in Greek with X, and above all other names – Jesus! Contrary to common belief, Xmas is not crossing out the name of the birthday boy. Rather, like the $, it is a slightly morphed symbol originally referring to the name of Christ.
So instead of finding offense, find someone who needs to hear the true meaning. Maybe the next time they see Xmas, they will be reminded of Jesus, who is the Christ.
So Merry Xmas and Happy New Year!