We have all heard the negative reports from across our land of instances where the Christmas Season is assailed, and it seems that all the Grinches of Christmas ban together each year in one voice to shout down the traditions of Christmas.
Yes, we know the crazy stories of businesses that do not allow employees to say, “Merry Christmas” lest it offend someone. (However, I did encounter two different clerks this morning that cheerfully said, “Merry Christmas.” Kudos to them!) I read of one guy that tweeted, “A stranger just said, ‘Merry Christmas’ to me in a store. Damn…we (the Jews, the Liberals, etc) have a lot more work to do to win our war on Christmas.” And then there is the declaration that Santa Claus is a white supremacy symbol. What!? I mean, come on man! This is nuts!
We could dwell on this negative trash, rant and rave and complain – but what good would that be doing? It’s Christmastime and time to celebrate. And we have a lot to celebrate! Instead of negative sounding boards, we are to be reflectors of the Light that came into the world on that first Christmas.
I realize that within Christendom itself, there resides differences of opinion and merit concerning Christmas. Some Christian denominations and sects do not celebrate Christmas because it is deemed to have derived from ancient pagan culture and therefore no trees to decorate, lights to twinkle, nativity scenes or even presents to exchange. All I will say here is I am sad for folks that can’t see how God uses these trappings to point to His purposes and bring joy to families and individuals.
Yes, there are probably pagan roots to some of the articles of Christmas. Even the day that we celebrate Christmas on is suspect. And the first century Christians did not celebrate Christ’s birth. The date of His death and resurrection was well known because it had been on Passover. I would think that the reason the apostles emphasized the resurrection was because they had seen Him dead, then alive (That would tend to get your attention). It was obvious to them that He had been born and they had heard all the accusations against Mary and Jesus, referring to Him as illegitimate. But, to them, the resurrection was central, and they would never get over it!
A few hundred years later, the believers began to focus on the birth of Christ, as told by two of the Gospel writers, Matthew and Luke. These accounts present much more than just the facts of the birth in the manger. The Messiah must have certain characteristics and heritage to qualify as the long promised Jewish Redeemer. These men explained Jesus’ genealogy through Joseph (Luke 3) and through Mary (Matthew 1), as having all the credentials to fulfill the Scriptures regarding who the Christ must be.
Also, many other things must happen for the Christ child to fulfill the Jewish prophecies concerning Messiah. He had to be born in Bethlehem. But His parents lived in Nazareth, 90 miles to the north. That was a great distance back then. How and why would they ever venture that distance, especially when Mary was pregnant in order that Jesus could be born in Bethlehem?
So, a few centuries down the road, Christians began to see the great significance of the birth of Christ. It was not without hardship that these two (Mary a very young teenager) obeyed the government mandate that everyone must go to their “own town,” or the town where their ancient roots were found, to be registered.
Strange coincidence, or the sovereign hand of God in fulfilling His plan perfectly and using so many players to do so? Caesar Augustus thought he had a plan. But God was a step ahead of him and had a greater purpose. By the way, if Jesus isn’t the Messiah, there can never be one. This is because His lineage was presented, and He was proven to be the only one who could qualify. In 70 A.D, Titus of Rome demolished the Jewish Temple and all genealogy records were destroyed. No other person could make the claim that Jesus does because no lineage from David could ever be proven.
But you might ask, how did pagan culture creep in? I’m glad you asked! We can’t state that our Christmas traditions come directly from pre-Christian paganism. However, as the early Christian missionaries began taking their message to other lands, they also received an education on the cultures and practices of the peoples they visited. Some would become fascinated with the pagan rituals and, desiring to convert them to Christ, would mix a bit of paganism in alongside.
The legend of Santa Claus has its Christian roots in the Dutch as they remember St. Nicolas, the kindly man who gave gifts to children. Some say he is from England’s Father Christmas. These began to be intertwined with old pagan ideas of spirits that traveled through the skies in midwinter.
The Christmas tree seems to be from the Germans in the 17th century. There was a pagan practice of bringing greenery indoors to decorate in the drab of winter. And in the agricultural societies of those days, dark days of winter came as the harvest was completed. It was party time and there would be lighted fires, feasts and decorations.
Now, if you’re talking about “War on Christmas,” you must consider the early Puritans. During the 16th century Reformation years, Christmas brought a schism to the developing Church. One author writes, “In England, under Oliver Cromwell, Christmas and other saints’ days were banned, and in New England it was illegal to celebrate Christmas for about 25 years in the mid 1600’s. Forget people saying, ‘Happy Holidays,’ instead of ‘Merry Christmas.’ If you want to look at a real War on Christmas, you’ve got to look at the Puritans. They banned it!”
So, all of this is stirred into the cauldron of Christmas and comes to us as one of our holiest Christian celebrations. The lights that we see twinkle and sparkle tell us of the Light of the world that was born that special night. The green trees speak of His life that He promises to all who believe in Him. The giving spirit that Christmas brings, the festivities and the great music, all encourage our hearts, as we make family memories that will last for lifetimes.
Grinches come and Grinches go, and they may all be offended by greeting them with a friendly, “Merry Christmas.” But that is their personal hang-up. Maybe if enough people greet them this way, they will begin to soften and see the blessedness of celebrating Christmas.
And that’s what the Christian is to be about – helping bring the Light of Christ to the dark world we all dwell in. So, go ahead, they need to hear it! It’s not illegal. Say it with vigor!