More thoughts about Christmas…..if you have not read my previous blog in which I play Scrooge for all to mock, please read it first. I obviously think I know what’s wrong with Xmas (a Christmas without Christ), but I also know what is good and right about the Christmas season.
First, it is evident to all that the secular side of the Christmas has won the day. When my friends in Africa hear how we Americans celebrate the birth of the Christ child, they think we are pagans! They don’t get it that we spend millions on ourselves, eat like pigs, then the day after Christmas we knock down the doors of department stores to take back the gifts we don’t want! They see us and ask, “What has that to do with God’s gift of his Son to redeem us all?” Good question, I’ll try to answer it.
Why December 25th? Did you know that for 300+ years the early church did not celebrate Christ’s birthday? Because pagan emperor’s birthdays were celebrated, Christian leaders like Origen refused to date or celebrate Christ’s birth. Also, no one really knows the date Christ was born. Most early Christian’s felt it was in April, during the lambing season in Palestine. All those images of Mary and Joseph riding into Bethlehem in the cold winter snow come much later after the December date was accepted. So, why was December 25th chosen? In a word-compromise! In order to reach out to the pagan emperor, Constantine in 336AD made this date official. Romans had for centuries celebrated the birth of the sun on the winter solstice in late December. Add to that, the Iranian pagan god Mithra (their sun of righteousness) was said to have been born December 25th. Mithra was very popular with Roman soldiers, so Constantine decided to “baptize’ these dates and make them Christian! Bad idea! Really bad idea!
After this unholy union was established by the emperor, church leaders were “stuck” with it. One theologian at that time said, “We hold this day holy, not like the pagans because of the birth of the Sun, but because of Him who made it” (the sun). So, for centuries we Christ worshipers have been married to a pagan holiday, ever trying to Christianize it. How we doing with that idea? Not so good!
My observation is that the philosophy of “If you cannot defeat them, join them” is not a Christian idea and never has been. This idea of being in the world without being of the world is a perilous walk. It’s like walking around in a dark room with freshly painted walls. Everything you touch will leave its mark on you.
Here we are-stuck with the winter solstice, jingle bells, a fat man in a flying sleigh pulled by flying reindeer! My God-are we crazy?
Can we make lemonade out of this lemon? Probably not, but we can decide to not act like pagans at Christmas time. We can lead our family and friends to focus on Christ and the gospel. We can be motivated to give great gifts that matter to the Kingdom of God and not to ourselves! We can make every effort to present our beautiful baby Jesus to our lost world as King of Kings who is worthy of our efforts. We can stop cursing the darkness and light many candles. Every opportunity you and I get we can make Christ the reason for the season. When greeted by pagans with a “Season’s Greetings” or a “Happy Holidays” you can show up, stand up and speak up with a joyful “Jesus loves you” or a “Have a Blessed Christmas.”
During this time of the year we who know Christ can keep him preeminent in our homes, our messages of love, and use this advantage to tell the old, old story of Jesus and his love. I’m up for it! How about you?