Crisp air, crowded malls, and credit cards a-flying can mean only one thing: the holiday season is upon us! In fact, Christmas is a mere 4 weeks away. My, how time has flown since the last bout of bustling buyers scrambled for trinkets and travel arrangements! Yep – it’s definitely time again to ponder the ‘reason for the season’ and, indeed, the season itself.
Read the Q&A titled, “Holy Days: Christmas” from my book Finding Answers to Stuff Churches Don’t Discuss (available in 2014) and you’ll learn some little-discussed facts about Christmas. For instance, Jesus’ birth took place in a warmer time of year when the animals were grazing. As a result, they weren’t near a manger kept in the lower part of a typical Jewish home where the animals would’ve been housed during the colder months. And the actual number of wise men is anybody’s guess. Read the Gospel accounts closely and you’ll also notice that Jesus would’ve been about 2 years old and not a newborn baby when the wise men finally arrived with their gifts. Simultaneous with that ah-ha moment may be the sudden realization that the gifts were necessary to see Joseph, Mary, and Jesus through a 2-year exile in Egypt.
If you’re like me, you’re asking yourself, “How, then, did Christmas come into being and assume current traditions?” Most likely, a well-meaning fourth-century Church established the holiday to acknowledge Jesus’ birthday but coincide with pagan recognition of the winter solstice on December 25th. Why? Perhaps it was to attract those pagans to the Christian faith. Look around and you’ll see we do the same even today through churchgoer actions, speech, and approaches to entertainment and worship. But, we can go down that rabbit hole another time.
You may be getting the idea that I’m not a proponent of Christmas. The truth is that I think the holiday is fine when recognized for what it is: a time of feasting, family, and indebtedness with little actual regard for our Christ. Let’s change that – even if for only a fleeting moment – by imagining together what a Christ-centered Christmas could look like.
I see clothes and food for the less-fortunate, without indebtedness, delivered by children and their parents. After all, this is how our Christ said we’ll be judged in the last days. And we’d sing songs about redemption, forgiveness, and expectation of amazing things to come – not about Frosty, Santa, chestnuts, or elves. We’d share stories about Jesus from the Gospels and imagine what His life was like. There’d be feasting and drinking (in moderation, of course). Our Christ gave the greatest gift of all to us: the choice of eternal life. We’d celebrate it as the gift that ‘keeps on giving’, adoring the gift-giver all the while.
But, Christmas reality along with its gaiety and materialism are upon us. Are those your real reasons for the season? If so, dare to be different and give the Christ this Christmas.