Historians tell us that Jesus probably wasn’t born in December. Most likely, according to the descriptions in the gospel accounts, He was born in the spring, most likely in April. How do we know this? Well, for one thing, the shepherds wouldn’t have been sleeping outside in December. They did that in the spring.
According to scholars, as the church moved into Europe and encountered the pagan winter celebrations, church leaders co-opted those holidays and made them about the birth of Christ. Many of the traditions of Christmas, such as the Christmas tree, are pagan symbols reinterpreted for the Christian experience.
I thought of this as I have watched our nation prepare for Christmas this year. I was horrified to see the brutality, what other word is there, of the shoppers pushing each other down as they tried to get past each other looking for the best deals on Black Friday. Really, what does this have to do with Jesus?
A few weeks ago, an atheist put up a Christmas bill board in Times Square showing a picture of Jesus on the cross with the caption “Keep the Merry, Dump the Myth” written under His picture. When asked about the bill board, the person said the celebrations and gift giving of the holidays have nothing to do with religion. People are just out having a good time.
He might be right. Our culture has a way of turning everything into a commodity. Christmas has become a time of mandatory shopping. If we don’t get out and spend money, the economy will collapse. So, we’re urged to spend ourselves into bankruptcy to save our economy from another recession and, of course, to make everyone happy.
But again, what does this have to do with Jesus? Are we getting close to the place where as Christians we’ll have to find new ways to celebrate the birth of Christ without all of the materialistic madness the world has thrown on top of it?
I’m not saying don’t give gifts. I’m not saying don’t put a tree.
I am saying let’s recover some kind of sanity about Christmas.
And I am saying to make sure the worship of Christ is the center of our Christmas experience.
Jesus is the reason for the season. I’m not mad the pagan world doesn’t know this. What bothers me is so many Christians don’t seem to know this. Worse, many Christians don’t’ seem to want it. Too many of us would simply rather have the presents.
I don’t have any answers… only questions. I’m wondering if it’s not time to give the holiday back to the pagans and find another way to celebrate Jesus’ coming into our world.
Maybe I’m getting old. Maybe I’m just getting tired. Or maybe I’m just getting real.
Maybe the pagans are right. Maybe all of this stuff doesn’t have anything to do with Jesus. If it doesn’t, it’s okay, but count me out. I need something… I want something that’s about Jesus.
For God so loved the world that He came Himself — and it is what I don’t want to miss this Christmas.