“If I hear one more person wish me a “Happy Holiday!” I think I will just burst!” How often have you heard that over the course of the last several weeks? Many Christians are just fed up with the secularization of Christmas. For years we have put up with Kris Kringle, elves, holiday shopping sprees, Grandma getting run over by a reindeer, and, of course, Jingle Bells. It has gotten to such a point with this stuff that it almost makes a Christmas want to cringe from the Friday after Thanksgiving until New Year’s Day. Some have even gone so far as to say that they dread the entire five weeks of it and look forward to the day the tree comes down and the decorations go back into the box. In some sense they feel that it is the only way to react to a culture so steeped in greed and idol worship that it has completely forgotten what Christmas is all about.
Christians who fear Christmas! Now isn’t that an odd-sounding thought. Yet, there are more and more of us each year that are pushing Christmas farther and farther away from ourselves and our families. We know that Christmas is more than just five weeks of celebrating once every November to January. It’s something that we carry in our hearts the whole year through. Besides, as the stricter constructionists among us cite, Christmas is nothing more than a Christian cloak that a pope threw over the bawdy pagan holidays that traditionally occurred at this time of the year as the sun began its travels back into the northern hemisphere on December 21st and drunken festivals sprang up all over Europe. Now, as many of us reflect on what Christmas has become in this culture, we look back at these roots and and sigh, “Why should we be surprised?”
Being upset with Christmas and Christmas celebrations is not a recent phenomenon. In fact, in more recent times, there have even been attempts to ban Christmas! Many years ago the Puritans thought that they were ruining Christmas with all their pagan rituals. They especially objected to the fact that the holiday usually came on a week day, therefore distracting people, they thought, from the Lord’s Day of Sunday. But they did more than annually complain about it as we do. They took action and got rid of Christmas altogether. In Puritan settlements across 17th century America a law was passed outlawing the celebration of Christmas. The market place was ordered to stay open for business as though it were no special occasion and all violators were prosecuted. It was against the law to make plum pudding on December 25th. The celebration was not referred to as Yuletide but as fooltide. (Sermon Illustrations, 1999.)
Fortunately for us, the Pilgrims did not succeed. As hard as they tried to dispel the holiday, the more deeply entrenched it became. Within decades it was not only being celebrated in English settlements throughout the colonies, Christmas would find its way into native indian camps up and down the eastern seaboard as Christianity spread among the various tribes. In fact, as missionaries often related, one of the chief reasons was the natives’ fascination with Christmas, the gift giving, feasting and the celebrating. Christmas in the early 1700’s found Yule logs burning, bonfires lit, wreaths hung, candelarias lit, ivy strung, and stocking stuffing from the German settlements in Pennsylvania and French trading posts in Detroit, Prairie du Chein, and New Orleans to Spanish towns in New Mexico and California. Christmas was indeed growing faster in the Americas than anywhere else in the world. Despite the fact that many of these customs had pagan origins, the Christmas “promise” was so compelling that many had forgotten that Yule logs had once been a part of Druid worship and that hanging ivy was ...
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