The Case for Xmas

Our Sunday School Christmas concerts in Trinidad were highly anticipated events that drew large audiences annually. The merrily-decorated church was packed year after year with members and well wishers who came out to enjoy the songs, poems and drama presented solo or in groups. The skit from the Teens Class was the highlight that never failed to thrill, and as the final item on the program, it brought a bright and memorable year to a close.

One December, I donned pink and stood on the pulpit with heels together and toes out, my right hand over my left on level with my waist, my shoulders squared. I bowed to the crowd, and stood upright again. Then with every ounce of energy in my tiny 12 year-old body, I belted my monologue:

 

Here’s a question, tell me pray?
Should we call it Xmas day?
Or is it Christmas we should say?
Is it X or Christ?

The audience waited with bated breath as I replied to the rhetorical question posed by a poet whose name I did not know and which an Internet search in 2017 still did not reveal. Xmas was a short and convenient word of the season. It saved ink and space when signing postcards. Was it really a big deal if it’s X or Christ in the “Christmas” word? But in Christian circles it mattered. It mattered immensely, even to this day (run a search), and I too was convinced by the proof I delivered that night.

Who was He of matchless birth?
Heaven’s glory left for earth,
Coming here with lowly birth,
It wasn’t X but Christ.

Who was He that wise men three,
Travelled from afar to see,
Bringing gifts so liberally,
It wasn’t X but Christ.

A few “amens” had rung out from the senior ladies, their heads and hats bobbing up and down.

Who did travel through the land,
Always with a helping hand,
Healing folks at His command,
It wasn’t X but Christ.

Who did die upon the tree?
Suffered there for you and me.
Bore our sins on Calvary,
It wasn’t X but Christ.

The nodding and bobbing had continued though the church was quiet, conviction heavy as my high-pitched tones commanded the night air. Then the verdict was delivered in crescendo, with passion that still marks my person to this day:

Let us then with one accord,
Honour give unto the Lord.
Call it CHRISTMAS, that’s the word!
For it isn’t X, but Christ.

I had executed the poem with intonations and flourishes the way my principal had trained me for choral speaking when I represented my school at age 9, and it accrued a level of sacredness tantamount to the Holy Scripture. I bowed, acknowledged the thunderous clapping and cheers by making eye contact with the crowd from right to left as he had demonstrated to me, before exiting the stage through a side door.  

Decades later the question resurrected as I wrote my Christmas alphabet books. Words beginning with the letter x are often challenging to find, but it was easy this time. Both An Alphabet of the First Christmas and Christmas A to Z  contain the word Xmas, although the other 25 words used in each book are different.

It was during the research for the books that I came across the knowledge that X means Christ in the Greek language. X comes from the Greek letter Chi which is the first letter of the Greek word Χριστός, which in English is Christ. Therefore Xmas was derived by interchanging Christ with to give us Xmas. (http://www.dictionary.com/e/xmas-christogram/). In this context then it is not sacrilegious to use Xmas, for it is in fact Christmas in a combination of letters from two languages. The wise men did bring gifts to X.

Friends on social media, teachers, media personnel and adults in general have observed to me that the origin and meaning of Xmas is new to them, and they discovered this knowledge through my alphabet books. I am pleased that “elementary” alphabet books have brought enlightenment to adults and it is my prayer that I will inspire and educate all the days of my life.

It gives me peace to know that the Bible tells us that any who calls on Jesus Christ shall be saved, and this means “Christ” in any language.

I still wear pink but as an adult I have a different and definitive answer than the preteen in the little church. X or Christ is good for me.

Merry Xmas. Christ is born. I wish you a happy and holy season.

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