I grew up hating the shortened version of Xmas. Such sacrilege! It appeared to be the world’s way of subtracting Christ from the very holiday that came about as a celebration of His birth!
While the skeptic in me still supposes that is the desired effect of some, I now understand there is something more honorable at stake.
The early Christians loved the X (chi) in ιχθυς (ichthus) or Christ (Χριστός) as it was their shorthand for Christ.
Wait. I’m getting ahead of myself. What in the world is ‘ichthus’? It was a code-word invented by the first-century church as an acronym to silently confess who they were to one another – at the risk of their lives.
The Greek spelling for ichthus is made up of these spiritually-charged words, as follows:
and Sotor (Sigma).
So, taking the first letters of each word, one comes up with ichthus (ιχθύς) and the five Greek words they stand for means, “Jesus Christ, Son of God, Savior”
Pretty cool, huh?
When you see a fish emblem – usually on a car or a business, it’s a symbol with meaning. It says we, the passengers or proprietors, worship Jesus Christ (who is) the Son of God, (our) Savior.
Oh, and the chi (X) which is so prominent in that sacred word? Has connotations of the cross and was often a sign passed between believers assuring each other they, too, are followers of Jesus Christ (Ιησούς Χριστός).
Remember, this was the era of great persecution where Christianity, seen as a rogue religion, was outlawed by the Roman imperial government. If you were a follower of Christ, there was always the danger of being informed upon or turned in to the authorities, so Christians (Xians), worshippers of ιχθυς, would use such code (a two-stroke outline of a fish or an ‘X’) to assure another they were safe in their company.
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So embrace the Χ this Xmas, and be assured you’re tracing a long history of committed, devoted worshippers of the Christ of God!
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If you’re still uncomfortable with this format (admittedly, I still wince a bit when I see it, but becoming less so), think of it also in this way:
- X marks a treasure, and Jesus is certainly the inexhaustible supply of God, our Portion and Prize for eternity
- X marks where you are on a map – and that’s what Emmanuel is all about. Imagine yourself ‘here’ and place a X over that spot, for He is with you!
Wish someone a Merry ‘Xmas’ today…and give them the real reason you’re doing it. You see, it really is all about Christ.