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Christ and Christmas


Every year, the same tired argument comes up between the overly religious and the overly cynical, basically about who owns the holiday season which comes around at the end of December each year. A great many things have been said which appear at first to make sense, but which lose a lot of their validity when you stop to consider them. As a result, anyone making an assertion about what the holiday season "should" mean tends to get ignored by a large portion of the public straight off, and sometimes that is a mistake. Not that my own opinion is better than anyone else's, but I think there are some things we ought to consider, whatever our personal beliefs and perspective.

First, I want to emphasize that compulsion has no place in the Christmas season, as I think of it. That is, no one who is not Christian should feel obliged to act in accordance with Christian beliefs, anymore than someone who is not Jewish should observe Hannukah, or someone who is not Muslim should observe Ramadan, or someone who is not Seinfeld should observe Festivus. The flip side, of course, also applies. Someone who is not a Jew has no business attacking the observance of Hannukah, someone who is not a Muslim has no business trying to restrict Ramadan, and so on. In the United States, there is no valid legal or moral basis for trying to stamp out public ceremonies which peacefully celebrate a religious event. It may or may not be valid to restrict public funds for religious presentations (but if you ban one, you must ban all, including Kwanzaa, Gaia festivals, or even the Great Pumpkin), but the modern culture attacks private businesses and organizations for exercising their right to observe religion as they see fit.

Some critics have pointed out that most Christmas decorations and celebrations are secular events, anyway. You won't find Santa Claus, Christmas trees, or the Grinch in any of the Scriptural accounts of Christ's birth. And there is a lot of talk that Jesus was probably not born on December 25th. Of course, there's a lot of people who go on to claim that Jesus was not born in that season, not in Bethlehem, does not really exist, and in fact is the creation of the Military-Industrial Complex of the Emperor Constantine ... or Rush Limbaugh, take your pick. But we're not going to talk about the Gores or the Kerry's here today. Here's the thing - when Christianity first got going, it was the oddest of paradigms; a religion which worshipped an all-powerful God who took human form as the son of a poor carpenter's family, born without influence, money or status, who brought God's truth and love but was rejected by the very class of believer who had been waiting for centuries for the Messiah to appear, who lived a life of perfect obedience to the law but taught that even perfect obedience was not enough, that a person whose religion was imperfect but who loved God was better than a person whose deeds were mighty but selfish. He was rejected by the leading thinkers of his day, ignored by the very priests who served specifically to prepare for his arrival, falsely accused, tortured, then murdered publicly to advance a conspiracy between Herod and Caiaphas to prevent an uprising by the masses (which was delayed for a time but happened anyway in 70 AD). With one exception, his followers scattered, or were arrested and killed. That one exception was exiled to a barren island, where he wrote a weird tale about the Messiah coming back and ruling forever in a perfect kingdom. The leaders of Rome, Judea, and Judaism all expected the strange little cult to die out, especially as Rome increased penalties for following this Christ, from fines to imprisonment, to banishment to torture and execution. Yet the faith kept growing, with more and more believers all the time, until the Emperor Constantine found it advantageous to throw his support behind the Christians. From there, the Church gained material and political power, until it became oppressive and hateful in its own character, and splintered to become something else. To this day there remain intense debates about who is a 'true' Christian, and what it means to believe this doctrine or that, but the essence of Christianity is Christ, the revealed truth of the Triune God, which is to say One God revealed to Humanity in power, love, and hope.

The Scriptures do not say exactly when Christ was born, but the event was clearly important. Choirs of Angels, supernatural lightshows, and so on make it clear that Jesus' birthday was a big deal. This led to the practice of celebrating the birthday because of Christ, rather than the date. The December date was chosen for two simple reasons - first, between Hannukah and the Winter Solstice, there were a number of celebrations which allowed Christians to celebrate the birth of the Savior without being particularly obvious. Also, Jesus' decision to live meekly and teach his followers the same meekness (meekness in this case means to avoid hostility, not to be weak or silent) of spirit, reminds us that Christ represents us all, and so just as no one day is known to be his birthday, so we celebrate a day to focus on the love of God and not to put one day above another, just as we should not put one person above another in worth.

Christmas is about Christ. All the semantics in the world cannot change that fact. But as Christians, we should remember that our celebration of Christ in Christmas came in disguise, so we could worship without calling undue attention to ourselves. Demanding that people who do not share our faith give way to our commands is not the way of Christ. Neither is it the way of Christ to pretend that Christmas is the same thing as other celebrations. We love our families and friends, but Christmas is not about family and friends. We love to give and help, but Christmas is not about social justice. Christmas is about all those things insofar as they are from and of God, but the essence of God, His love and truth and hope, the miracles that are the reality of goodness and the definition of holiness, these are things which must not be discounted or replaced with meaningless baubles and egotistical, humanist blather.

God is real, and came to us as Christ Jesus. Not in judgment of our sins and errors, but in forgiveness, healing and hope. Not in his right to command our every thought and deed, but living in perfect service, that we might come to understand the value and virtue of humility and selflessness. Not to claim his right to all power and glory, but to bring us all up as his children and as the people in whole we were always meant to be, full in service, potential, and joy. We celebrate Christmas the right way, by remembering and celebrating Christ, and seeking his will we find our own freedom and perfection.

Merry Christmas.


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Comments (15)

Merry Christmas, DJ!... (Below threshold)
GarandFan:

Merry Christmas, DJ!

Beautiful piece, DJ. And I ... (Below threshold)

Beautiful piece, DJ. And I don't normally say that about your stuff unless it's something that I could have written -- which this definitely isn't.

I had always bought into the "attach Christmas to the pagan holiday to push Christianity" theory, but your "do it to sneak it past the persecutors" makes a hell of a lot more sense, as it dates to before Christianity's aggressive growth phase. I'll have to remember that, and avoid making that error again.

And... Merry Christmas, old chum.

J.

Indeed.Merry Chris... (Below threshold)
jim m:

Indeed.

Merry Christmas to all. (Pardon the expression)

Beautifully written and upl... (Below threshold)
Peter F.:

Beautifully written and uplifting, DJ!

People, Christians included, tend to forgot just how violent, oppressive, hopeless, lawless, impoverished and virtually loveless the world was 2000+ years ago. Christ Jesus, indeed, was "a light" into that dark world. Hence, another reason for celebrating His coming during the darkest time of the year.

A very, very Merry Christmas to you and your family. DJ! And a very Merry Christmas to all Wizbang editors and commentors on both sides of the aisle!

Thanks Jay, everyone. Jay'... (Below threshold)
DJ Drummond:

Thanks Jay, everyone. Jay's piece earlier actually got me going, but I'm a slow thinker sometimes.

Well said D,J,The ... (Below threshold)
Myronhalo:

Well said D,J,

The reason I celebrate Christmas is because I want to remember that one night long ago, God became a man. In Creation, He made us a part of Himself. In Incarnation, He made Himself a part of us. He linked His eternal being with His creation.
If we say like J. T. said a while back that "the crucifixion is more important than the birth" we don´t understand what God was doing. Without a baby for the manger, there would be no man for the cross.
So, it doesn´t really matter whether he was born in December, or April or October. The important thing is that it happened, and with it became possible the salvation of the sinful human race. His coming, life, death and resurrection made possible the liberty and salvation of millions and millions of people from every tribe, and tongue and nation.
Why should we cease to celebrate that even if others don´t?

but I'm a slow thi... (Below threshold)
but I'm a slow thinker sometimes.
Never mistake slow with deliberate.

Merry Christmas all.

The exact date of Jesus' bi... (Below threshold)
Jim Addison:

The exact date of Jesus' birth remains unknown, and all the explanations for the choice of December 25 are mainly based on speculation, not evidence.

Merry Christmas to all!

Excellent writing.... (Below threshold)
Yosef:

Excellent writing.

For all to see that the G_d of Israel, The G_d of the chosen Jewish people who gave all His Instructions and heart to them, brought forth the Messiah, as an observant Jew. The first man sinned, Adam. His seed contained that sin.
Man forever passed on that sin and seed generation to generation. The Most High supernaturally, by His Holy Spirit planted His seed to Mary, a Jewish virgin, breaking the cycle of Adams sin stained seed. The Messiah was manifested as the Lamb of G_d. Born to die for all as the perfect sinless Lamb, shedding His blood for the remission of our sins. The Most High was so wise to not reveal the exact date of this.

The one date that is so significant is He died as the Lamb on Passover.

The blood of lambs secured the Jews from judgment on that day (the first Passover) as they applied it to their home doorpost. The blood of Jesus on Passover applied in faith to our selves allows us to be bypassed from the judgment we deserve. For all have sinned and fall short.

DJ, that was simply great!<... (Below threshold)
Hank:

DJ, that was simply great!

Thanks for writing it and Merry Christmas.

DJ, well written/said and I... (Below threshold)
WildWillie:

DJ, well written/said and I am overcome with so many good thoughts.

I remember Abraham took his son up to the mountain and was going to sacrifice him per Gods orders. Abraham's heart was breaking every step of the way. He absolutely loved his son, but he loved God more. Just when Abraham was ready to commit the sacrifice, God stopped him but informed him God himself will would have to make that sacrifice.

I remember the shephards on the hill seeing angels before them the night Christ was born, and the angel said "Fear not. I bring GOOD NEWS". That says all there is to say about the birth of Christ, it is good news to this day.

I remember Christ on the cross, fully aware of his impending death and descent into hell to battle satan to take away the keys of death.

And mostly I remember I can now go directly to God with my prayers and petitions without interference from a priest, pastor, rabbi or any other man or woman.

I continually pray for people who do not believe that their mind and heart will be open to understand what faith is and what it can do.

I wish you (DJ) a very blessed Christmas and to all my Wizbang family, I offer the same and look forward to a very bright and challenging 2011. ww

Very good piece, DJ. One l... (Below threshold)
Scalia:

Very good piece, DJ. One little correction though. You write:

...to prevent an uprising by the masses (which was delayed for a time but happened anyway in 70 AD).
The uprising (First Jewish-Roman War) began in 66 AD. Jerusalem was destroyed in 70 AD, and Masada fell in 73 AD.

It appears the link to your page is broken. Did you change it? If so, what is the link?

All the best.

Link? I have no idea. My ... (Below threshold)
DJ Drummond:

Link? I have no idea. My idea of 'links' is sausage.

There used to be a web link... (Below threshold)
Scalia:

There used to be a web link that had all of your posts. It was a convenient way of tracking every discussion you began. It doesn't work anymore, so I'm wondering if there is a new one.

Regards.

Well written DJ, personally... (Below threshold)
Leon:

Well written DJ, personally am convince Jesus was not born in December. There were numerous calculation that He was actually born in the month of September. I will be forever in paradox since though I believe that the current Christmas celebration we known was borne out of a Pagan tradition, nevertheless I need to pay honor, respect and praise to one true God who became human on the 25th of December. I agree that over and above this tiring debate whats important is to be one with Jesus. . live His Word . . emulate His life and teaching especially this Christmas. . . stumbling upon your blog is one pleasant surprise find this Christmas. . Merry Christmas DJ. .




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