I heard some interesting stats yesterday morning on the radio: About 30 million rolls of wrapping paper will be used to wrap Christmas presents this year, and right at 376 million Christmas greeting cards will be sent out. Aside from the stats, multitudes will be traveling this weekend and into the early days of January 2013. Christmas trees are up and decorated, pies are being baked, meals are being prepared, presents are being bought, and kids are certainly ready for the break in school. Are the parents?
These past 5 years now, I have paid a little more attention compared to years past, in some of the “traditions” I hear, read about, and see people engage in and continue. I even have reflected on those that seem important and “must do’s” in our own family. Consider these few things: (1) Jesus Himself was probably not actually born on December 25. (2) The magi brought gifts to the Christ child – there is nothing in Scripture that records that anyone exchanged gifts among themselves. (3) Depending on what you read regarding the Christmas tree, it came much later, like in the late 14th Century. Get this, the custom of the Christmas tree is noted to be that in which “devout Christians brough decorated trees into their homes” (wikipedia, Christmas tree). It also states that Martin Luther was the first to have a lighted tree in his home, at Christmas. It was candles, of course. (4) And finally, the “yule” log originates with the Babylonians who burned a yule log in a fire, then, the very next day, they would bring an a symbolic evergreen into the house to honor their god of crops and farming. An early forerunner for the Christmas tree? Perhaps.
Jeremiah 10, vv.1-4 touches on this ritual – read it and you decide. However, before you get too stressed or anxious over all of this, I do want to say that we have a Christmas tree in our living room and there is a large Christmas tree planted right in the Worship Center at our church (thank you Aaron and Lenee’ for getting it up and decorated). You see, most people in our nation, in the 21st Century, have no idea on the origin of these things. They aren’t paying homage to Babylonian gods or instruction. They aren’t following pagan rituals in order to follow pagan rituals. It’s not about this. It’s about much, much more.
But a question that perhaps some struggle with, and questions that inquiring folks want to know, is this: What do we do and what are Christians to do, with some of these traditions? Well, the best place to start is in the Word of God. It should be the primary resource we go to for instruction, correction, assurance, and light – to name but a few – not a secondary default when other things seem to fail. In Scripture, we learn that Jesus Himself faced a festival with much tradition – some tradition which may have been true and some not so true. We are referencing here John’s Gospel, chapter 10, and the Festival of Lights (or Hanukkah). This celebration dates to the period between the close of the Old Testament and the opening of the New Testament – in that period that is referred to as “The Silent Years.” To me, though it may have been “silent” compared to what they were used to, God was very much active. In fact, He was preparing the world for the coming of His own Son. Galatians 4:4-5 claims this. Anyway, getting back to the festival: there is nothing in the Bible about this festival we read of in John 10, yet, Jesus was celebrating it: “It was now winter, and Jesus was in Jerusalem at the time of Hanukkah, the Festival of Dedication. He was in the Temple walking around the area known as Solomon’s porch” (vv.22-23). I like how one pastor described this: “He used the Festival of Lights to shine the light on Who He really is.” If you read vv.22-30, you will see this plainly. What a great way to capture that truth!
This is just my take on what we should do with Christmas. Though many people don’t want to have any part of the celebration, both inside and outside the church, and will say: “It’s too commercial!” “It’s too stressful!” “I have nothing to give!” “It’s not true!” “Bah humbug!” – we have to celebrate His coming, and we shoudl desperately want to! You see, there are only 2 choices with Christmas: (1) You run from it and help extinguish His light, or (2) You use it to share and lift up the truth of Jesus Christ and point others to Him.
Think or ponder on some of your favorite Christmas tunes and carols, or at least, the ones you hear in this season. Hark the Herald Angels Sing, Joy to the World, Away in a Manger, Silent Night, O Holy Night, Mary Did You Know, Mary’s Boy Child, It Came Upon a Midnight Clear, etc. etc. etc. They echo in stores. They are on the radio. You’ve bought some CD’s. People are singing and humming and playing these popular chords and choruses. Many people are singing songs that we proclaim, teach, share, and live by each week in the church. Some don’t know all the words and others don’t know what we are singing. That is exactly where we are to come in. No better opportunity to share “the boy who brings eternal joy!” You see, it only matters that Jesus came! His coming has made everything possible — His coming completed all that God desired in redeeming and restoring us. Prophecy fulfilled. Hope distributed. Joy catapulted. His love, accessible. So even as some may celebrate Christmas for all the wrong reasons – utilize this precious time to remind the world, others, strangers, your family, and your friends – of Him, of His love and grace, of His provision in your life, of His undeniable truth and promise. Let them see “Christ in you, the hope of glory!”
Help raise His banner, this Christmas.
Love and joy,