Wednesday, March 12, 2014

What is Christmas? ......................... Parables 091

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, it was decided that December 25 would be 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 unwittingly include customs picked up from heathen festivals. Some are adapted from later practices including trees, cards, and plum pudding. And many of those who are not Christian turn to “spiritual” activities - singing carols and putting up manger scenes.

Does Christmas confuse you? If so, it is no wonder. Our thoughts of what this holiday really means 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. They have no pagan connotations for us.

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 so we could 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 He rose again so we could boldly declare, “Behold, my Lord and my God!” - He was born so we could receive a gift from Him - eternal life.

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 - He is so easily pushed out of it - and those of us who have received His gift have great reason to celebrate.

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