Back to the Meaning of Christmas

As we go through this chaotic time in the year, many of us lose focus on why we, as Christians, celebrate.  I was listening to Trans-Siberian Orchestra’s album The Lost Christmas Eve and came across these lyrics from the song “Back to a Reason”

“Got to get back to a reason; Got to get back to a reason I once knew; And this late in the seasons; one by one distractions fade from view; the only reason I have left is you”

We all know the Christmas story of Mary and Joseph’s journey to Bethlehem (Matthew 1:18-25 and  Luke 2:1-21).  We see the European images of Mary and Jesus in a barn.  We experience the hundreds of lights strung out over houses and trees.  Christmas cards decorated with red and green.  Evergreen trees placed in houses and adorned with thousands of small ornaments.  Angry shoppers grabbing the latest gifts to remind children of… what? 

As an American society, we have warped the meaning of Christmas around material things.  We tell children to be good so that they will get presents, toys and gifts.  We replace God, born as a child, with images of St. Nicholas and Santa.  We put presents under the tree in hopes that we receive as much as we give.  As each year goes by, we drift farther and farther away from God and closer to the material possessions that the world can offer us.

Early Christians did not celebrate the birth of Christ.  They believed that celebrating the birth of someone, anyone, was a pagan celebration.  At some point in the third century (200’s) certain sects of Christians began celebrating Christmas at different points in the year.  One of the first references to the nativity being on December 25th is in the Chronography of 354, an illuminated manuscript compiled in Rome in 354.   Throughout the Middle Ages, Christmas was celebrated as the Epiphany, which focused on the visit of the Magi, or Three Wise Men (Matthew 2:1-12). 

The Modern celebration of Christmas is a combination of various ‘pagan’ festivals and rituals that have been ‘Christionized’ over the years into what it is now.  According to some people, the American Society has Paganized Christmas once again, but I believe we, as Christians, have lost focus of what Christmas is all about. 

Christmas is a celebration of God coming into the world as a human babe, fully human but at the same time fully divine. 

It’s not about the gifts.  It’s not about the holiday cards.  Or the cookies and sweets.  The parties.  Santa.  Carols. 

As Christians, we should not need one specific day to remember God’s greatest gift to humanity.  We should meditate on it everyday, and accept the fact that, although we don’t deserve it, He freely gave it to us in the form of His Son, Jesus. 

I have come to realize this as everything else seems to fade away.  It doesn’t matter what I receive from family and friends, I have already been given the greatest gift, and have received it with an open heart.

Remember the reason we celebrate as Christians.

God Bless and PEACE

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