So many Christians are real Scrooges about Christmas…expressing a great deal of rancor and nastiness because Christmas is not celebrated in the way they think it ought to be. Well, guess what…they are wrong to do so.
First of all…and least of all…there is nothing wrong with having a dual-focused celebration; it is done all the time. My daughter was born on Thanksgiving and we have often celebrated her birthday on that fourth Thursday when the family is together. My beloved but departed friend Irene celebrated her birthday (December 29th) on New Year’s Eve…again when family are close together and spirits are high.
“But Christmas is not about a tree! or strings of lights!”
Well, actually, yes it is. My second point is that during the Christmas season, many symbols are brought out and displayed because of their meaning and significance to a Christian’s life. The Christmas tree, for example, has several ‘roots’ in Christian tradition, one of which is how “the temptation that brought sin into the world hung on a tree (the forbidden fruit), and the act that resulted in salvation from sin (Christ on the cross) hung on a tree. Furthermore, once sin entered the world in the Garden of Eden, Adam and Eve, and all mankind, were no longer permitted to eat of the tree of life. However, in eternity, Christ’s work on the cross will give us ‘the right to eat of the tree of life’ once again (Revelation 2:7).” (from Traditional Christmas Symbols – Christmas Trees.)
“Well, it’s not about presents, then!”
It most certainly is. My third point is that while the giving of gifts has obvious roots in Christian tradition, i.e., God’s gift of His Son to the world, I believe there is a much more important reason to preserve the tradition of gift giving: Christ NEVER commanded us to celebrate His birthday; He DID, however, command us to love our neighbor.
(Who is our neighbor? Every one else. EVERY ONE ELSE. But that’s another post on another web site.)
No one quibbles about Veteran’s Day, Memorial Day, or Flag Day. They are important days because without such designated days, most Americans would go their entire lives without pausing to acknowledge their friends, family members, neighbors, much less strangers who have dedicated their careers, limbs, and lives to protect us, if not the world, from harm. Having a designated day is a good thing.
By the same token, having a designated day to give to others is also a good thing.
It is often debated as to whether Christ actually said that “it is better to give than to receive,” so I will not use that as an argument…although it would be an easy one. I will say that in order to follow Christ’s command to love others, one would be hard pressed to find a better or simpler way to start doing that, than by giving gifts to those one appreciates. Sure, there are flawed motives, resentments, financial burdens that often result but Christ never said “Love your neighbor only if their are no problems or complications involved.”
Furthermore, those problems and complications actually introduce additional opportunities to obey His command: Let’s say you resent having to buy a gift for your sister-in-law. Were there no Christmas tradition of giving gifts, you could live out your entire life without having to face that fact. As it is, your resentment raises its ugly finger once each year…presenting you with the designated day to DEAL WITH IT.
Has Christmas become crass and commercialized…and we, materialistic? You bet it has…and we have. But that’s easy enough for each of us to avoid and over-come. Do not throw the Christ Child out with the sullied bath water.
Christmas as a gift giving occasion is a good thing…a God thing. It forces us to think about each other…what the other person values and appreciates…and gets us in a position to love that person and express that love. Without Christmas, such efforts would be rare, indeed.
So, Christmas: Bah! Humbug?
No. Baa…as in a little lamb. The Lamb of God, that takes away the sins of the world. God’s gift to the world. Take Him and give Him as a gift to others this Christmas. Pray over your gifts before delivering them or putting them under the tree…praying that the Holy Spirit of Christ go with the gift. Or when you hand someone your gift, point out to them that you are giving them a gift because you are loved by Jesus and feel moved to share your joy.
The giving of gifts at Christmas is a way to obey Christ’s second commandment. Celebrating His birthday is not. Getting grumpy and chastising others for putting up trees, giving gifts, hanging lights, etc. is definitely NOT.
By the way, even the long lines and traffic snarls are ‘God sends.’ Talk about teachable moments! If you were a good Boy Scout, you would thank God for such ‘God sends’ because Main Streets and shopping malls during Christmas present abundant opportunities to do a good turn…many in one day. Looking for opportunities to practice patience and kindness? Go shopping!
(God, forgive us for being so focused on defending Your honor and not recognizing Your-given opportunities to love one another, particularly on the designated day.)
If you would like to find out more about the Christian origins of Christmas symbols like wreaths, mistletoe, and lights, go to the web site about Traditional Christmas Symbols.