Alex Crain

Editor, Christianity.com

Does "Xmas" Take Christ out of Christmas?

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Should Christians get upset about seeing Christmas abbreviated as “Xmas?”

How did that tradition even get started?

Is it disrespectful?

The answer to that last question is “not necessarily.” While some Christians seem unduly judgmental of others who abbreviate Christmas as “Xmas,” the practice of using an “X” to abbreviate “Christ” began hundreds of years ago. Scribes in the early church who copied the Greek New Testament regularly used the Greek letter chi (which looks the same as the English letter “X”) to represent the name of Christ. Pastor and author, R.C. Sproul has this helpful article that explains further. Additionally, this short video by Pastor Mike Fabarez details more of the technical background on the subject.

The real issue here—as with everything—is the heart. Do modern-day people have the respectful use of “X” as a chi from the Greek New Testament on their minds and hearts as they scribble on a gift or a card the words “Merry Xmas?” Perhaps. But probably not. One former non-Christian admits here that he used to intentionally write "Xmas" in order to exclude Christ from his celebration of Christmas. He actually enjoyed seeing signs where the letter X replaced Christ and was annoyed by the "put Christ back in Christmas" people.

Yes, early scribes may have used the letter chi as part of the system of nomine sacra (sacred name) abbreviations for deity, but such reverential practice has mostly disappeared from common knowledge—at least in the 21st century where I live. So, what does that mean for Christians today? Maybe we’ve reached a time when wisdom dictates that we fully spell out the word Christmas, not only for the sake of other Christians who take offense out of ignorance but also to display a modicum of cultural awareness. 

And with that, I bid you Merry Christ-mas! 

Your turn: Are you offended when you see a sign that reads “Merry Xmas?” How many people do you know that truly understand the historical background behind the use of “X” as a sacred abbreviation for the name of Christ?
 

Alex Crain is the editor of Christianity.com. You can read more posts by Alex at his blog and follow him on Twitter @alex_crain.

Should Christians endorse, tolerate, or participate in the use of torture? It is a serious question. There's a serious answer by Eric Metaxas worth checking out in today's edition of BreakPoint.

Here's a brief exerpt:

America has enemies, and swift and decisive action against them is necessary. The scriptures and the Just War theory make it clear that there are times when taking a life is not only permitted, it may be a necessary part of what it means to love your neighbor.
 
But the same thing cannot be said about torture. These practices trade someone else’s human dignity for a sense, which may well be illusory, of added safety. It’s a trade that no Christian in good conscience can make and which Christian conscience demands we condemn.

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You’ve probably heard your fair share of criticism about Christian missionaries over the years. A couple of common myths that still linger are: “missionaries destroy native cultures” and “Christianity is a Western religion.” Today at The Gospel Coalition, Brian Stanley debunks 10 such myths in short order. Here are a few:

·         Missionaries destroyed indigenous cultures. Indigenous cultures were not static entities: to suggest that they were is characteristic of Western modernity. Missionaries often displayed what we would term cultural blindness, but their message, once translated into the vernacular, acquired indigenous cultural overtones. Missionary contributions to the inscription and study of indigenous languages have helped to preserve or enrich such cultures.

·         Christianity is a Western religion. The period in which Christianity appeared to be indissolubly linked to Western European identity was a relatively short one, lasting from the early 16th to the mid-20th centuries. The church in China, India, Ethiopia, and Iraq is older than the church in much of Northern Europe.

·         ‘Christianity, Commerce, and Civilization’ was an imperial creed. It was essentially an anti-slavery humanitarian creed, associated especially with David Livingstone (though he didn’t invent it). For those reasons it often led to advocacy of imperial solutions. Fighting slavery actually led imperial expansion as humanitarians called for deeper commitment from Britain to root out the slave trade at its sources in the African interior.

Check out all 10 myths here and arm yourself with the truth when your faith comes under attack. For further reading on defending your faith, check out all of our apologetics resources here and be always ready to graciously share the gospel of Christ.

Your turn: What myths about Christian evangelism around the world have you heard? How have you been able to defend Christ and the Bible of false charges and share the truth in love?


Alex Crain is the editor of Christianity.com.You can follow him on Twitter@alex_crain.

More Pastors are Addressing Mental Illness

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"It's amazing to me that any other organ in your body can break down and there's
no shame and stigma to it, but if your brain breaks down, you're supposed to keep it a secret. If your brain doesn't work right, why should you be ashamed of that?”
—Rick Warren

Following the April 2013 suicide of his 27-year-old son, Matthew, Rick Warren told Christianity Today of his new purpose for the 20,000-member Saddleback Church: removing the stigma of mental illness from churches. "It's amazing to me that any other organ in your body can break down and there's no shame and stigma to it, but if your brain breaks down, you're supposed to keep it a secret. ... If your brain doesn't work right, why should you be ashamed of that?" he said.

Following Matthew Warren's tragic death, a number of other evangelical leaders were also prompted to talk about ways that churches can better help those dealing with mental illness in their congregations. Ed Stetzer, president of Nashville-based LifeWay Research, said he wanted to see more churches discuss mental illness openly. "We need to stop hiding mental illness," Stetzer said. He noted that some Christians think if they pray enough or become more spiritual, then their mental illness will go away, but they don't look at other health issues the same way. "People who become a Christian and have a broken leg will still have a broken leg," he said. "We tend to think that Jesus fixes what is in our heads, and medicine fixes what is in our body. Sometimes what is in our heads needs medicine."

Perhaps pastors and churches are hearing this message and change is happening. One indicator is GetReligion.org’s article from last Saturday, which speaks glowingly of a New York Times article by Jan Hoffman reporting of the increase of evangelicals who address mental illness. This much-needed new direction is hopefully a positive trend in the way churches welcome those struggling with mental illness. The Rev. Bill Ritter, author of Take the Dimness of My Soul Away: Healing After a Loved One's Suicide, said that people affected by mental illness often steer clear of church. Some feel ashamed and others are just overwhelmed. "For as much as we talk about the church as the place you turn when life is falling apart -- the reality is that people often stay away from church when life is falling apart."

Your turn: How have you seen churches deal with mental illness, depression, and suicide? Why not equip yourself to be part of the solution? Find more related articles at Crosswalk’s special coverage channel on depression and mental illness.
 

Alex Crain is the editor of Christianity.com.You can follow him on Twitter @alex_crain.

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