As I write it is Christmas Day, at least here on the West Coast of the U.S. In keeping with the day I have decided to write a post about Christmas, and to extend Christmas greetings to all of my friends around the world; some of you may celebrate this holiday and some may not, but I wish everyone a very Merry Christmas all the same.
As is usual at this time of year, I have run across a number of postings on various sites wherein the posters have heaped derision and scorn on the religious aspects of this holiday, and part of what I want to do today is reply to some of those posts. (Of course, there are very few of those people who will ever see what I am writing today since they would never do anything so rash as to follow my blog, but perhaps by voicing my opinion it will give some people food for thought, and that is always what I want to accomplish – to make people think.) I have read many posts attacking Christmas as nothing more than a mutated version of the old pagan winter solstice celebrations. I will never try to say that Christmas is not the religion of Christianity’s replacement for the old pagan holidays, because the choice of December 25th as the day to celebrate Christ’s birth was largely chosen for that very reason. The Church in Rome has always either changed pagan holidays into Christian ones or at least tolerated the pagan holidays, all in the name of expanding the Church. Yes, Christmas can be seen as nothing more than a pagan holiday dressed up in Christian trappings, but even that origin cannot detract from what Christmas was and is meant to be, and that is a celebration of the birth of Jesus Christ, the Son of God and the chosen savior of the universe.
You see, that is what Christmas really is and always has been, a celebration of the birth of Christ. But why pick a major pagan holiday as the time to celebrate such a great event? Why not? Do we really know when Jesus was born? Not exactly. Unfortunately, the majority of the scanty records that were kept in Judaea 2,000 years ago have been lost, most likely in the destruction of Jerusalem by the Romans in 70 AD. So even if the event of his birth had been recorded, it would have been just one more brief entry marking the birth of a Jew during the Roman occupation. Tradition holds that he was born in winter, which lends some circumstantial evidence supporting a December birth. But it could also have been in January or even February. Recorded history gives very little support to this cause.
But what is really important is not the precision of the date chosen, but the fact that His birth is celebrated. Without any written proof one way or another, the early Church could have chosen a date in November or March or even August. What is important is that humanity in the West chose to celebrate the birth of the Messiah. The date is irrelevant, but the event itself is crucial, for it is the birth into this bloody vale of tears of the chosen savior of humanity and all of Creation that is celebrated.
The critics love to point out that Christmas has become a holiday tainted by materialism and pagan symbology, and they are correct: it has been. From the Yule log to the Christmas tree to dear old St. Nick (which is little more than a furtherance of the veneration of the saints), much has been added to Christmas which has nothing to do with the birth of Christ. And the rampant materialism was added as an expression of humanity’s obsession with money and possessions; why else would the business world trumpet sales and products we can’t live without except to enhance their monetary bottom line? Sadly, most people don’t even see how badly we have been suckered into this cheapening practice. The giving of gifts is a generous practice, but the feeding frenzy of holiday shopping that leads people into going deeper in debt, bad tempers and even violence is a deplorable creation of the business world (this is a tale best told on another date, for once I get started on the rampant materialism of our world it’s hard for me to stop!)
So on this Christmas Day let’s all try to forget about presents and credit card bills and petty bickering over unimportant questions and even the hate and avarice so present today. Instead, let us remember why we celebrate the holiday called Christmas in the first place. Let us instead focus on the fact that God so loved the world and everyone in it that He sent His son into to the world to redeem us from our own weaknesses and sins. That is what is important about Christmas.
So I wish a merry Christmas to all. May peace and blessings be yours every day of your lives.