Summary: For many of those that are among us, however, each Christmas becomes more and more difficult to endure. It is a joyous time, but there is also more loneliness, depression, heartache, and disappointment at this time than any other of the year. Can we en

I read a story this past week about a woman who, in early December had stopped at a grocery store to pick up a few things on her lunch break. One of them was a cinnamon-scented air freshener. She had smelled a candle with the same scent in the store but wanted to know exactly what the air freshener smelled like. She thought the fragrance might be a nice addition to her home during the Christmas season.

When she left the grocery store she stopped at her friendly near-by Burger King. While she was waiting in the drive-thru line she popped the lid off of the air freshener, aimed the bottle toward the back seat of the car and pressed down. Little did she know the air freshener was concentrated. The scent, although pleasant at first, quickly consumed every inch of her car. Her eyes started to fill with tears. The fragrance was so strong. It was simply overpowering.

The lady said that the woman in the car behind her stared at her as if her hair was on fire as she shifted the car into park, flung herself across the car to open the passenger-side window and then to the back to open the two rear windows.

When she reached the drive-thru window, the girl inside crinkled her nose and looked around as if she were trying to find something. “It’s cinnamon,” the driver said shamefully.

“I thought I smelled something funny,” the girl at the window said in reply.

Driving back to her office the woman couldn’t help but wonder if anyone would notice the scent that was almost without a doubt was stuck to her nose and hair. The answer came quickly as she walked past one of her coworkers.

“You know,” he said. “It’s already beginning to smell a lot like Christmas everywhere you go.”

The things that seem to happen to us every year at Christmas time can make for some pretty humorous stories and at the same time difficult times to live through. Even for those of us who love the holidays and most everything about them, Christmas often seems to become more difficult every year.

For many of those that are among us, however, each Christmas becomes more and more difficult to endure. What with all the buying and exchanging of gifts, the cooking and baking and hosting of friends, family, and co-workers, the decorating both inside and out, and seemingly so much more. Oh, and we can’t forget about the cost of it all. Social agencies report that at Christmas time depression for many seems to climb and at the same time the ability to cope seems to drop more than any other time of the year. There is more loneliness. There is more depression. There is more heartache. There is more disappointment. Can we endure, can we take Christmas?

I Can we endure the secularization of Christmas? The Monday after Thanksgiving, this year, still very much in November, I met a group of preachers, as is my habit most Mondays for lunch. I was the first to arrive and while I was waiting, I noticed the music playing on the sound system. Song after song of Christmas music was coming out. If only we could say that it was simply a few days of extra Christmas music because Thanksgiving fell so early. Truly, that is not the case. I try very hard to pay attention to things around me. I never know when something that I might see would make a good sermon illustration at some point in the future. One of the things that I noticed this year was, I saw my first Christmas push in mid-August when Hobby Lobby was making room for Christmas decorations, and I am not talking about decorations that people would buy parts of to make. I am talking about decorations to put on your tree. That was in mid-August, four and a half months before Christmas.

Santa Claus was actually in many malls two full weeks before Thanksgiving this year. Perhaps that has happened before, but I can’t remember when.

The day after Thanksgiving may be the official start of the Holiday buying season, but it is truly a much longer time than simply one month. And, as Christmas buying has gotten more and more important to our economy, we have made the season longer. The end result becomes, every year Christmas becomes more and more secular. Our society has forgotten much of the Christ of Christmas.

Writing in the St. James Encyclopedia of Pop Culture, Linda Ann Martindale observes that the American commercialization of Christmas is a departure from the Puritan (pilgrim) ideals established in the early New England colonies.

“While Christmas generally is considered the celebration of Jesus’ birth, the early Puritans, who settled in the New England region, refused to celebrate the occasion. Disagreeing with the early church fathers, who established the holiday around a pagan celebration for easy remembrance by the poor, the Puritans considered the observance secular in nature. Set during the winter solstice when days grow dark early, Christmas coincides with the Roman holiday of Saturnalia; the date, December 25, marks the celebration of Dies Natalis Invicti Solis, or the birthday of the Unconquered Sun by the Romans. Puritans believed that these pagan customs, which included no work, feasting, and gift giving, were inappropriate for the celebration of the Lord’s birth.”

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