Summary: A look at what Christmas would look like if we removed everything connected with the Christmas Story.
Have you noticed that every year people seem more intent on secularizing Christmas? They wish you a “Happy Holiday” or “Seasons Greetings” they have presentations at school that make no mention of the manger or the Wise Men let alone the Christ Child.
Now I may be a little overly sensitive but somehow I think that if the school tried to secularize Muslim or Jewish Holidays in the same fashion that just wouldn’t be right.
Anyways maybe they are right, maybe, just maybe Christmas has itself has become more of a cultural holiday and should have the various religious elements removed so as not to offend those who might not practice the Christian faith.
This morning we are going to take a look at what happens when we take Christ out of Christmas.
Well the obvious thing is that we won’t be able to say Merry Christmas anymore. If we are going to do this right the first thing we need to do is take his name out of the holiday. That’s why we celebrate Christmas in the first place.
Now a little background, some of you probably know that the date of Christmas was originally used in pagan celebrations in Rome to celebrate the passing of the winter solstice. The ancients knew that by this time in December that the shortest day and longest night had passed, and with that came the promise of longer days, shorter nights and eventually spring.
Around 270 AD Emperor Aurelian capitalized upon the heathen worship of the sun and co-opted it as a Roman holiday when he declared December 25th as the birthday of the Unconquered Sun.
The date of December 25th as the celebration of Christ’s birth was first seen in a Roman calendar dating from approximately AD 336. But it would be almost another twenty years in AD 354, at the beginning of the reign of Liberius as the bishop of Rome, that the 25th of December had become the official date for the celebration of the birth of Christ in the church.
But really. You know as well as I do that it is very unlikely that Christ was born during the winter months of Israel. Those cold and wet winter’s nights, Why not? Good question in Luke 2:8 That night there were shepherds staying in the fields nearby, guarding their flocks of sheep.
The usual time for the sheep to be keep in the fields surrounding Bethlehem is after the last of the winter rains in April and before they start up again in November.
But December wasn’t always the choice for celebrating Christ’s birthday, in the two hundred years after the death of Christ Christians celebrated his birth on January 6, April 19, May 20 and several other dates.
Forty years ago a British physicist and astronomer, David Hughes, calculated that the date of Christ’s birth was September 17th 7 BC. He based this on various scientific evidence, including that of a conjunction of two planets, Jupiter and Saturn, in the constellation of Pisces on that date. He concludes that this extraordinary celestial display was the “star” seen by the distant wise men.
But the truth is that we really don’t know when Christ was born. Historically it would have had to have been before 4 BC which was the death of Herod the great, and because of the weather patterns it is doubtful if it would have happened outside of that seven month spread between April and November. But it really doesn’t matter does it?
The fact is that if we are going to take all of the religious symbolism out of Christmas we have to get rid of the Christ. And that leaves us wishing people a Merry ----mas. And that really doesn’t work either. You understand that the word Christmas is a combination of the words Christ and Mass and while the word Mass comes the Latin Missa which simply means “The Meeting” historical it has referred to the public celebration of the Eucharist in the Catholic Church.
Or very simply mass means church service, which of course is rife with religious symbolism. So I guess we’ll just have to wish people a Merry ------. You’ll want to make sure people understand that you are saying Merry and not Mary, otherwise you’ll be into the entire debate of Mary being the mother of Christ. I guess we can leave them with the Merry because of the different spelling.
So where does that leave us, we won’t call it Christmas we’ll have to simply refer to it as the Holidays and even that’s wrong because holiday is simply the diminutive of Holy Day, so maybe we can just call it “Winterfest”.
And instead of having a Christmas tree we’ll just have a festive tree or a holiday tree.