A man walked into a department store in mid-December, heard a carol being played over the store’s sound system, and angrily remarked, “These Christians have to bring their religion into everything, even Christmas!”
Those who know that Christmas is a celebration of the birth of Christ may chuckle, or feel somewhat saddened that this person seems to have missed the whole point, that, without Christ, there would be no Christmas.
Well, that is not entirely true. There was a time when huge celebrations were held in late December, without Christ. Historically, December was a month of pagan festivals, feasts, and orgies. Pageants were held to honor idols as winter reached its fullness. The strength of the sun and spring thaw were eagerly anticipated. Then, in the middle of the 4th Century, a Bishop in Rome choose December 25 as the day that the church would celebrate the birth of Christ. It was hoped that this would somehow sanctify the pagan celebrations and tame the wild revelry to a holy occasion. It was a nice thought -- but the heathen festivities continued.
So what does that make Christmas? It has become a strange mixture. Some of the things that Christians do to commemorate the birth of Christ include customs picked up from heathen festivals. Some are adapted from later practices, such as threes, cards, and plum pudding. And many of those who are not Christian turn to “spiritual” activities -- singing carols, sharing love, and manger scenes.
Does Christmas confuse you? If so, it is no wonder. Our thoughts of what this holiday really mean vary as much as the colors, lights, and decorations. Part of my celebration comes from some rather dubious tradition, however, we joyfully give gifts, send cards, and put up a tree anyway. Personally, I’d like to send up sky rockets and use loud speakers sometimes, just to share the joy I feel about Christmas. God actually became a man and lived among us! He was not born in a manger to have us say, “Isn’t He sweet?” or so we could throw a big party, with or without inviting Him; He was born so He could die for our sins, and rose again so we could boldly declare, “Behold, my Lord and my God,” and receive a gift from Him -- eternal life.
So I have to agree somewhat with the angry man in the department store -- not with his anger, but that we who believe in Christ do have to bring what we believe into this holiday. Those of us who have received His gift have great reason to celebrate.