Summary: What comes to your mind when I said the word, “Christmas”? Christmas trees, presents, lights, candles, food, parties, snow, decorations, the star, angels, Santa Claus…wow! There are about a zillion symbols we have for Christmas, aren’t there? What do they
If everyone would take a moment and close their eyes…I am going to say a word and I want you to tell me what you picture when I say it. Ready?
What came to your mind when I said the word, “Christmas”? Christmas trees, presents, lights, candles, food, parties, snow, decorations, the star, angels, Santa Claus…wow! There are about a zillion symbols we have for Christmas, aren’t there? What I find interesting is that, in this group of believers, the one symbol that didn’t seem to come to mind until very late was The Nativity. Hmm…we’ll talk about this in depth later.
For the next little while, we are going to look at the celebration that we call Christmas – where it came from, where the symbols we use come from, what they mean, and things of that nature. I hope that you will find it insightful and enlightening, and that you will gain a deeper appreciation of the birth of Christ in the process.
From November onwards, it is impossible to forget that Christmas is coming. Colored lights decorate city streets and shops, shiny decorations and artificial snow will adorn shopping displays and store windows, and Christmas trees – real or artificial – will be decorated with lights and Christmas ornaments.
Pictures of Santa Claus begin to appear and television advertising begins to include elves and reindeer.
Shopping centers become busier and busier as December approaches and stores begin staying open until very late. Christmas carols will be played on PA systems everywhere, and radio stations will devote the bulk of their music programming to Christmas-oriented songs. Thanksgiving comes and the very next day, now known as “Black Friday”, begins a shopping frenzy that overtakes millions.
By the middle of December, most homes will be decorated for Christmas with Christmas trees festooned with a myriad of bulbs and ornaments and decorations and strands of colored lights. The rest of the house may very well be decorated as well, and many, many homes will have outside colored lights and sophisticated yard decorations, too.
A good number of businesses will hold a short Christmas party for their employees a week or so before Christmas. These will be attended with lots of food and not a little drink in many cases. Work will be pretty much out of the question for the rest of the day.
We are entering that time of the year when we become surrounded with the trappings and symbols of Christmas. For many, this is their favorite time of year. The reasons for it being their favorite holiday are as varied as there are people around the world that celebrate Christmas each year. For some, Christmas is the time of year that depresses them the most or that they despise the most. Wherever we stand, and for whatever reasons, Christmas has a significant place in American society.
In the majority of American homes, Christian and non-Christian alike, you will find a Christmas tree with presents underneath. Why do we do this? Where did this ritual come from? What does it mean? What is the significance of all of the different accoutrements and paraphernalia that surround the celebration of Christmas? Some believe that this celebration is pagan and evil while others believe the opposite: where should we as Christians stand on the matter?
How many of us know why we call this season “Christmas?” Do we know why we celebrate it on the 25th of December? And why do we feast? Why do we cook the foods we do at Christmas? Why do we exchange gifts? What do wreaths and garlands of evergreens and holly have to do with it? Why have a Christmas tree? What is the significance of the Christmas lights that decorate our trees, homes and city streets? Who is Santa and how does he fit with the birth of Christ?
I’m not sure what you know about the origins of the holiday we call Christmas or of all of the things that are associated with its celebration today. What we have in America is a hodge-podge of traditions from multiple nations over thousands of years. There really is no “one-thing” beginning for it like there is for the Lord’s Supper (also known as Communion). Some would argue that this, too, is a conglomeration of different events into one, but it isn’t, really. We can discuss this another time. For now, let’s see if we can unravel Christmas and its place in the lives of believers today.
“Now in those days a decree went out from Caesar Augustus, that a census be taken of all the inhabited earth. This was the first census taken while Quirinius was governor of Syria. And everyone was on his way to register for the census, each to his own city. Joseph also went up from Galilee, from the city of Nazareth, to Judea, to the city of David which is called Bethlehem, because he was of the house and family of David, in order to register along with Mary, who was engaged to him, and was with child. While they were there, the days were completed for her to give birth. And she gave birth to her firstborn son; and she wrapped Him in cloths, and laid Him in a manger, because there was no room for them in the inn (Luke 2:1-7).”