Today’s Topic: How has Christmas changed for you as you have gotten older?
[Today’s post and tomorrow’s post (How has your faith been refreshed this Christmas?) are very closely related for me, so I am approaching these two posts as one, divided into two parts.]
In 2009, I blogged about “What Christmas Means to Me” for the 2009 WOF Christmas Blog Carnival. I shared how that, for four years, my family refused to celebrate Christmas:
When I was 15…A close family member began living a lifestyle that was steeped in paganism and occultism. He came to us declaring that our “Christmas” celebration had nothing to do with our God (Christ) but rather his gods and godesses. He triumphed in knowing that we were duped into celebrating a pagan holiday (the Winter Solstice) along with the rest of Christianity. After some research we realized that he was right, and in the interest of trying to return this loved one to the God he once knew, and keeping a clean conscience before the God we adored, we stopped celebrating Christmas all together.
I went on to say that while my family had returned to the celebration of Christmas, what we celebrate at Christmas is our family and the love we share, not the birth of Christ.
But even in all of my excitement and appreciation, Christmas (to me) is not about the birth of Christ. I know the truth about Christmas…Jesus isn’t and never has been “the reason for the season” nor do I even attempt to “keep Christ in Christmas.” Christmas (to me) isn’t a religious holiday so much, nor is it a secular holiday (as even I struggle with all the commercialization of the season). Christmas is what I consider to be a “family holiday”…a day that I spend with the people most special to me.
But Christmas to me is simply what it always has been: Finding pleasure in the little things in life, not because of the things themselves, but because of who you share them with.
And this is where I realized that this year, everything has changed…again.
It’s really been a change seven years in progress. This is the seventh year that I am celebrating Christmas after NOT celebrating at all for four years.
And this year, I celebrate the birth of Christ with all of my heart.
But how does such a change take place…especially in the heart of someone who knows that the true origins of Christmas have their roots in a pagan idolatrous celebration of the winter solstice? This is what I am going to attempt to answer.
1) I realized that just because something has a pagan origin doesn’t mean that it has to be pagan and idolatrous to me. This is something that, from the beginning of this whole process that started when I was 15, always bothered me. In history, pagans decorated trees and erected them as idols and worshipped them and God told his children not to do so. Ergo we shouldn’t have a Christmas tree. Well, in the time when that passage was written, yeah, I would say that would make sense. Every one is celebrating a pagan celebration and putting up trees in their house and worshipping them? Yeah…don’t do that! Worship me instead! I’m the only true God!
But this is 2012. First of all, most people don’t even KNOW that the Christmas tree has a pagan origin, let alone worship it. Is the Christmas tree perhaps over-emphasized, made too central in our celebration of Christmas? Yes, I could give you that. But does that mean that it’s wrong to have one? By putting up a tree are you erecting an idol in your home and heart? I used to think so…but now, that seems like a huge stretch.
This year, not only was I praying while I was decorating my Christmas tree, but God spoke to me through the act of decorating my tree. He wrapped His loving arms around me and showed me what was truly important about Christmas, even in the darkest of times. Joy, the joy that He gives, the joy that no man can take from me. And when I look at my Christmas tree, I’m not worshipping the tree, nor does it distract me from Christ. If anything, it is a reminder of the work He has been doing in my heart. That’s not an idol. And that can’t be wrong.
2) I realized that the majority of people in our society, even non-religious people, recognize Christmas as the birth of Christ. In the middle ages, maybe this wasn’t the case. But it is now. Stop any person on the street and ask them what Christmas is the celebration of, and I guarantee you that most of them will say “the celebration of the birth of Jesus.” Was Jesus born on December 25th? That’s debatable. Was Jesus originally “the reason for this season”? Not according to Google and Wikipedia.
But now, come the day after Thanksgiving, songs about Jesus come onto the secular radio stations and start playing in the malls. Nativity scenes go up on city property. The world is lit up, literally and emotionally. People start giving to other people in need in the name of Christ. There is light, hope, and joy, three aspects of Christ, on the faces of even those who don’t know him.
In those four years that I didn’t celebrate Christmas, I was saddened that so many people were “deluded” into “thinking they were celebrating the birth of Christ” when they were ACTUALLY celebrating a pagan holiday. Those poor deceived people…
Now, I laugh at that logic. What does God see? If a family is praying around a Christmas tree, reading and rejoicing in the story of His birth, does He reject their worship as idolatry because that tree has a pagan origin? No, God sees the heart of those individuals! And if they are worshipping Him in their hearts and celebrating His birth, then that’s what they are doing!
In this season when Christians unite to celebrate the birth of their Saviour and even the most secular of people get at least some reminder of the name of Jesus, I think God smiles. I think Christmas makes Him happy. Because God can bring good out of paganism. The catholic church “Christianized” a pagan celebration, and now the whole world is deluded into celebrating the birth of Christ… Horror of horrors! What a shame!
And I say, PRAISE JESUS!!! I thank God for those cardinals or popes or whoever it was who made this choice to Christianize a pagan holiday–if it means that for one month a year I am reminded to be a more giving person…if for one month a year I can hear songs about my Jesus while I’m grocery shopping, and it’s okay…if for one month a year my heart is even MORE focused on him and can rejoice in Him!
I praise Him. And I celebrate His birth, His life, and His working in my heart with joy.
Please take the time to come back tomorrow! There is so much more I have to say on this subject!