It’s the most wonderful time of the year–when we once again begin the great Christmas debate. Who does Christmas belong to? There is the Christian “camp” who is trying to reclaim Christmas from mass marketing and the “secular-ness” of the season and replacing it with the story of a baby in a stable. Reclaiming the holiday that has become predominantly about reindeer and a jolly old fellow in a red suit. We have the argument of whether we have Christmas trees or holiday trees. We question whether we should patronize a store or business that would say “Happy Holidays” rather than “Merry Christmas”. Being overcome with fear of offending someone by wishing them a “Merry Christmas”. What am I to do?
This year I heard an argument against Christmas that I have never heard before. (You can read it here http://www.darrencanning.org/holy-spirit-journals/christian-feasts-or-pagan-rituals-by-lydia-canning). Christian preacher that I know published a blog on his website stating that we should not celebrate Christmas as Christians. The writer said that Christmas has a completely pagan origin that is based on lies and God hates lies. Jesus was not born on December 25th and Santa, well, I won’t even go there. We should only celebrate the Jewish High Holidays established by God. Like the Feast of Weeks preceding Pentecost. The Feast of Tabernacles. The Feast of First Fruits. We need to forget about Christmas.
In my research I also found a number of Christian websites that say that we shouldn’t celebrate Christmas because no one celebrated Christmas in the Bible. If the early Church didn’t observe it than neither should we. I wonder if we should celebrate birthdays. Or anniversaries. I am by no means a Biblical Scholar but I don’t recall any reference to those celebrations. Maybe I should forsake them too. I’m sure the kids won’t be too happy with me.
I don’t know. I am trying to honour God in everything I do. I desire to be obedient. I want to be faithful. To submit to my Heavenly Father. I have thought about this at length. And finally I talked to Pete. Christmas might not be the day that Jesus was born. That is true. But it is a time that we take to remember that miracle. The miracle that was planned before the creation of the world. The divine act of Jesus, the Son of God, becoming “flesh and [taking] up His residence among us” (John 1:14 HCSB). Of Jesus coming to earth to die. To provide a way to God. Reconciliation. Salvation.
I love the Jewish Festivals. I believe that they have something very important to teach us. Like God’s faithfulness. His desire to reach out to us. His laws. His provision. I never heard about these feasts when I was growing up in the Evangelical church. There was a tendency, it seems, to underplay Jewish history. I think I get it. History has recorded animosity towards the Jews for centuries. Since the struggle between Ishmael and Isaac. The Jews have had to endure oppression by nation after nation and will continue to until Jesus returns. When I can get past any feelings I have and look at their story I can see how God has been with them. Loving them. Reprimanding, chastising them when necessary. But always preserving a remnant of His people. Whether in Babylon or in Germany. In spite of repression by the Romans and the Muslims. His people have endured.
I don’t believe it is a coincidence that I ended up reading the Book of John earlier this month. I believe it was a divine appointment. John is one of the two gospels that doesn’t record the incidents of Jesus birth. John doesn’t record as many of Jesus’s miracles as the other gospels either. John is the writer who reveals Jesus’s determination to fulfill God’s plan for Him. No matter the cost. Or the pain. Or the sacrifice. Reading John’s witness of Jesus’s trial, death and resurrection has given me an even deeper sense of His love for me. Me. I didn’t deserve it but He did. So that I can have a relationship with God the Father. I feel incredibly grateful. Unworthy. But grateful.
As I mentioned a few blogs ago, I have been watching a lot of Christmas movies this year. A lot of them are awful. I watch them anyways. And Pete laughs at me. He says I am a Christmas movie junkie. Christmas may have originated from a pagan celebration but it is one of the only times of the year when we can hear about Jesus on mainstream television. The movie I was watching last night had one of the characters singing “Oh Holy Night”. Written by John Sullivan Dwight the first verse reads:
O Holy Night! The stars are brightly shining,
It is the night of the dear Saviour’s birth.
Long lay the world in sin and error pining.
Till He appeared and the Spirit felt its worth.
A thrill of hope the weary world rejoices,
For yonder breaks a new and glorious morn.
Fall on your knees! Oh, hear the angel voices!
O night divine, the night when Christ was born;
O night, O Holy Night , O night divine!
O night, O Holy Night , O night divine!
I don’t know another time of year when I can hear the message of Jesus and His purpose so clearly laid out. Sure, most of us can recite the words of this carol without the words sinking in. But what if they did? What if one person finally, clearly saw the reason that Jesus came. Finally understood how much God loves him. What Jesus did for him. What He gave up. What He sacrificed.
When I am celebrating the birth of Jesus I can stop at His birth but it is only half the story. A beautiful, miraculous half but not the whole story. A lot of people go to church annually on Christmas. I believe that God is big enough, almighty enough, to use a holiday with pagan origins to reveal Himself to us. I believe that someone can find God and salvation through the babe of Bethlehem.
So this year we will celebrate Christmas. We will have a tree and turkey. We will bless our children with gifts we hope they’ll love. We will bring our oldest back home and celebrate our family being a little more complete. We will mourn the empty spot at our family table but we will thank God that Arlynne is with Him. We will see her again.
So this year we will celebrate Christmas. We will celebrate Christ’s birth. We will wonder in His love. We will teach it to our children. And we will remember that Jesus’s birth is just a small part of a big story. A story that began before the foundation of the world and will continue after this world is gone. God is here. He is with us. And His Son was here. On earth. The ultimate sacrifice. We will stand in awe with the shepherds as they heard the chorus of angels. We will offer our gifts to our Saviour with the wisemen. Gifts of love, obedience and faith. And we will bow down in worship to the One who is worthy of praise.