So this is Christmas, the late, ex-Beatle, John Lennon wrote in Happy Christmas (war is over) and it is clear that Lennon was not only troubled about the Vietnam War, but, Christmas as well. He was right. Most people do miss the point of Christmas, choosing to consider it a time of goodwill and joy, peace, and simply some sort of warm fuzzy activities and feelings. This has become known as the spirit of Christmas. Unless you hibernate during the winter, you are well aware of the commercial side of Christmas and the general stress this time of year brings to most people, nevertheless, most do agree that it is a time for exceptions to the flow of life.
During World War I, the fighting stopped and both sides met for good cheer and stories. The next day, “I enjoyed your story yesterday, now enjoy my bayonet.” Perhaps it happened. Today, we have a day of the warm fuzzies and then it is back to the war in the malls. It is hard to park during the days and even weeks before Christmas, then one day off, and the panic resumes. Even though Christmas shopping seems to begin shortly after summer. Imagine, several months of shopping and a few days, or maybe hours, of goodwill.
Ever since Santa became obsolete, or should I say redundant, in my life, I have been troubled too. I often find myself sitting up late Christmas Eve staring at the tree and pondering. Or, this Christmas, I am writing this blog entry. Even with a full understanding of what Christmas is about, I can not shake the disconcerting feelings around the way we as a society approach Christmas. Perhaps it is because I do not do much at Christmas anymore. It did seem to make a bit more sense when I was involved in something, like playing music. I just seem to be too busy for Christmas as society does it and find it is simply a bit too stressful.
Isn’t there anyone who knows what Christmas is all about? This question, asked by Charlie Brown, brings the eternal response from Linus:
Sure, Charlie Brown, I can tell you what Christmas is all about.
And there were in the same country shepherds abiding in the field, keeping watch over their flock by night. And lo, the angel of the Lord came upon them, and the glory of the Lord shone round about them: and they were sore afraid. And the angel said unto them, ‘Fear not: for behold, I bring unto you good tidings of great joy, which shall be to all people. For unto you is born this day in the City of David a Savior, which is Christ the Lord. And this shall be a sign unto you; Ye shall find the babe wrapped in swaddling clothes, lying in a manger.’ And suddenly there was with the angel a multitude of the heavenly host, praising God, and saying, ‘Glory to God in the highest, and on earth peace, good will toward men.
That’s what Christmas is all about, Charlie Brown.
Linus replies to the question with a quote directly from the Holy Bible. Linus is almost right. Although the observance of, and the name Christmas, has an origin by Christians in the second century. they did appropriate it from the Romans who celebrated a winter harvest festival marking the winter solstice, called Saturnalia. It was a rowdy festival worshipping Saturn, the God of Sowing. The winter solstice recognized the return of the sun. Christians felt it should be a time to worship the Son (of God).
Over the centuries, Christmas has had it’s ups and downs such as over indulgence and partying. Linus’ quote sums up a magnificent story, a story that people have taken parts of, just as they pick and choose from the Bible. If you ask anyone on the street what Christmas means, they will probably respond with something that includes some form of good tidings, joy, peace on Earth and good will toward men, from the announcement in the Bible.
Every Christmas, people sing Christmas carols. Most carols relate some form of the Christmas story. They sing about Jesus, Christ, angels and God. I never really thought about it all until I discovered the real meaning of Christmas. Then, what hypocrisy, I thought. How can people sing about Jesus without embracing Him and all that he stands for? Moreover, they mix it with all the other notions of Christmas, including the commercial ones. I was confused.
The Christmas story, in fact the Bible in whole, is so fantastic that it takes a huge leap of faith to believe. Yet, it is so full of wisdom and historical accuracy it is accepted as a great source of value for society. Jesus is considered to have been a great teacher and good person. But wait! Jesus taught that he and God are one. That he is the way to everlasting life. He has become the most important figure in history, changed and influenced millions of lives and yet was poor, never owning anything. From his birth in a manger to his death as a criminal and burial in a borrowed tomb, Jesus stands unique in comparison to any other historical person. The birth of Jesus fulfilled over 150 prophesies from the Old Testament of the Bible.
What most people know about Jesus and the Bible, they have gathered from other people. Few have made their own exploration of what the Bible states. Many have been turned off by experiences in a church or by religious people, or by others who have turned away from the church. But, for most people, they are too interested in self-indulgence and they are afraid to face their sin. The Christmas story is about love and forgiveness.
For God so loved the world that He gave His only begotten Son, that whoever believes in Him should not perish but have everlasting life. – John 3:16 (KJV).
To me, Christmas seems to have a split personality. On one side is the Christian version, the celebration of the birth of the Son of God. However, nobody knows when that really was. Some calculations have placed it sometime around the month of September. Images and beliefs about the Christmas story have become distorted and are now full of inaccuracies. Look around, try the Internet, and you can find a manger image that contains trees with snow. Or, the one above with Santa visiting the baby Jesus. If you had never heard of Christmas and look around to learn what it was about, I think it would be hard to determine the actual meaning of Christmas.
Actually, there is no record in the Bible or in the traditions of the very early church, prior to the second century, of any sort of celebration of the birth of Jesus. Instead, Christians have always looked to and celebrated Jesus’ sacrificial death and resurrection.
On the other side, is the non-religious, non-Christian approach to a warm fuzzy time of year. Is it time to split Christmas, or is it fine the way it is? I wonder what Jesus would say. During his life on Earth, Jesus owned nothing himself and shared everything he received. In his resurrected life, everything belongs to him, he is the ‘King of Kings and Lord of Lords.’ Jesus is coming back for His church.
So, this is Christmas…
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