Just over 20 shopping days to Christmas, well as I write this anyway! So what is all the fuss about? I want to examine the hype that surrounds Christmas, look at its traditions and hopefully boil it all down to 'what IS the reason for the season'.
I guess I should explain the alternative Christmas card (see above). It is from a friend of mine in work who doesn't agree with my Christian viewpoint. Just before we leave work for either Easter or Christmas, his remark is usually just the same: "you stole our holiday". It is a jibe that Christians stole Christmas (and Easter) from pre-Christian traditions. I should add that although our views on Christianity differ, he and I are good friends and the card is certainly not meant to offend. So for this Thought, let's have a look at a few facets of Christmas and see if my friend is even remotely right in what he says…
Firstly, I wanted to see what Christmas meant to people. Here are a few excerpts I found from folk who had responded to a Times online survey on "What does Christmas mean to you?":
"Keep the name by all means but it really is about presents, trees and parties for most of us, not Jesus"
"…those of us who are not particularly religious can still find meaning among the parties and overeating and overspending"
"Christmas shopping is stressful because everybody we know already has everything they need."
"…having relatives over you barely see (and for good reason)"
"…an orgy of gift-buying and sentimental tosh masquerading as 'festivity'"
"The season has become an orgy of rampant consumerism, which is why an increasing minority (like me) want to withdraw from the madness and spend some quality time in a far-off lighthouse"
As a Christian, who has always enjoyed most aspects of Christmas, these seem harsh but people were being honest and I respect that honesty. And the quote about spending time away on a lighthouse could have been penned by my Mum!
I then did a little research on the origins of Christmas. Would it shock you if I told you that most of the tradition surrounding Christmas is actually based on ancient pagan traditions? According to scholars, most of our Christmas traditions began around 4000 years ago, as part of the festival of Yule, which 'renewed' the world for another year. In the Pagan calendar, the 21st December is celebrated as being the shortest day of the year i.e. a renewing takes place after this day has passed. What we call Christmas, or 'Christ Mass', came to us through the Roman Catholic Church, probably around the 5th Century. In addition, even though religious scholars acknowledge that Jesus Christ was not born on or even close to December 25th, this date was 'borrowed' from this pre-Christian festival.
The only written authority we have on how God became Man, lived a sinless life and died as a Substitute in our place, is in the Bible. Since there are no recorded dates to be observed, no Christmas trees to decorate with lights or tinsel, no stockings to hang by the fire and no mention of Yule logs, wreaths or mistletoe, then I guess we shouldn't be surprised that all of these have been added by 'the tradition of men'.
But lets have a look at what IS written:
"Behold, a virgin shall be with child, and shall bring forth a Son, and they shall call His name Emmanuel, which being interpreted is, God with us." Matthew 1:23
"And the Word was made flesh, and dwelt among us, and we beheld His glory, the glory as of the only Begotten of the Father, full of grace and truth." John 1:14
"For God sent not His Son into the world to condemn the world; but that the world through Him might be saved." John 3:17
So my friend was correct in that Christendom has stolen a holiday from a pre-Christian festival but what I find more disturbing is that the celebration of the birth of the Saviour of the World has been corrupted by mere tradition. If we are Bible believing Christians, let us make sure that we live our lives by the Book and not by the whims and fancies of this present age. Going back to that Times online survey, I would like to end with a couple of quotes that help to sum up what Christmas should be all about, the entrance into this world of the Christ Child. I have also embedded a video below on pretty much the same subject, definitely worth a listen. Have a joyous Christmas from all of us in Grove Baptist Church. Till next year then (DV)…
"For 2,000 years Christians have been celebrating the birth of Jesus on one day a year. It does not matter that this was once a pagan festival, the passage of time links Christmas Day with Christ across the world and across many cultures. It is an event that has so much meaning for all the peoples of the world even if they do not acknowledge it. Yes, if people want to celebrate… that is good, but if they cannot link that joy with the joy of Jesus coming into the world, then they should find another day with another name, because they are not truly celebrating the Christ in Christmas."
"We think of God as a distant figure, but Christmas reminds us that God is very near: He was born vulnerable and dependent, and fully able to share in the experience of human failings, weaknesses and imperfections. It encourages me that God took such drastic action to come close to me and to my world."
(All quotations are from the KJV)
Are you SURE that you have your place booked in Heaven? Read this if you're not!