I love Christmas.
I listen to Christmas music, both sacred and seasonal. I watch excessive amounts of Christmas movies—the classics and the cheesy. I enjoy shopping for those I love. I value spending time with friends and family. And there’s not enough time to talk about the food!
Yes, Christmas has become commercialized. (DUH!) As has Easter. And Valentine’s Day. And Mother’s Day. (Watch out, Arbor Day!) And as much as I love the holiday, I shudder when I see Christmas decorations next to the Halloween costumes. I changed the channel when my favorite radio station began playing Christmas music two weeks before Thanksgiving. Unlike the song We Need a Little Christmas, (from the musical, Mame) I think we can get too much Christmas. But we shouldn't fault the retail sector. While selling Chia Pets and Clappers may not be the “reason for the season,” it is certainly the foundational premise of modern capitalism. It’s easy to get lost in the flurry of activity of this time of year and the superficial aspects of the retail emphasis.
And sometimes I think my ear will bleed from the noise of piercing warnings about the danger of Christ being taken out of Christmas, or the shrill insistence that Christmas is being stolen from “us.” (Which seems as ironic as whining to Native Americans about “illegal” immigrants stealing America!)
I appreciate that this season includes many observances and holidays—some religious, some not. Rather than fight against them, I try to understand their traditions; there are some valuable lessons to be learned. Hope. Renewal. Faith. Good Works. Enlightenment. Meditation. Self-examination. One common thread that seems to run through all the annual observances is the call to stillness and tranquility for personal reflection. That’s a valuable message, especially at this hectic time of year.
As a Christian, this time of year holds a special significance as a commemoration of the birth of Jesus. It’s Advent, and an important aspect of my faith. Christ is not just part of my Christmas, He is central. In our house, we keep a Nativity visible all through the year.
Author’s Note: Of course I know that Jesus wasn't actually born on December 25; it was probably in the Spring. The date came when Pope Julius I decided to replace the pagan holiday of Solstice with a Christian one. And I’m also aware that many (if not most) of our Christmas traditions—the tree, mistletoe, Yule logs, ornaments, holly bushes, etc.—have their origin in pagan cultures, and have been “christianized” and incorporated into our festivities.
So in the midst of the many exhausting activities and the noisy clamor for Christmas “correctness,” I pause to quiet my heart. And I am once again drawn to those simple words, spoken so long ago:
“Do not be afraid; for behold, I bring you good news of great joy which will be for all the people…Glory to God in the highest, And on earth peace (good will) among men with whom He is pleased." (Luke 2:10,14 NASB)
Do you hear what I hear?
Good will (some translations)
For all people.
God is pleased.
The events in Bethlehem were not intended to create a holiday, The Magi didn’t bring expensive gifts to set a required precedent. Jesus wasn’t born so we could have a day off work. The birth of Christ was never about trees or decorations or parties or spending money. Jesus came to us as the living expression (Incarnation) of God’s love to the world. He is the gift that assures us of God’s approval.
Why would I want to fight about a day that was intended to bring “peace on earth?”
How am I showing “good will” when I criticize the way someone greets me? (i.e., “Happy Holidays” instead of “Merry Christmas.”)
Can I seek ownership of an event that was meant for “all the people?”
Where is the “good news” when I condemn others for how they celebrate?
Why sacrifice my “great joy” because Jesus is not recognized in retail marketing? (Remember, at His birth the commercial market then wasn’t open to him: there was “no room at the Inn.”)
No one can take Christ out of Christmas without our permission. We make the choice to honor Christ—in our hearts, in our attitudes, in our behavior, and in our holiday observances. When we express love to one another, we are are the Christ in Christmas.