Christmas is the most wonderful time of the year. Most people are happy and cheery and giving and it feels like for once, humans are doing what they are supposed to do. Nothing gets you in the mood like that good ol’ Christmas cheer. However, there are some that this is possibly the worse time of the year, as it reminds them of pain, loss and deep hurt. As much as some look forward to Christmas, others dread it the same. But for all our gift giving, carol singing, and spontaneous kindness let us not forget the reason for the season.
“The reason for the season”. How many billboards have we seen with that this year? Not to sound like a scrooge but it seems like this is a catch phrase, slipped into every Christmas ad of charity and faith. And it’s ok if you understand largely to what is being referred. You can throw it around freely, the little nugget of yuletide reflection: the reason for the season. A spiritual bonus. But what if I stopped and really began to think about the reason for the season? What would it be?
I love Christmas for many reasons. I see a lot of my old friends, I eat lots of food, hang with my family, give and receive gifts (sometimes), and spend time thinking about Jesus’ coming to earth. Sometimes I rocket straight to thinking about his death and paying the penalty for our sin. Other times I simply soak in the fact that Jesus was the fulfillment of the law – the novelist in me’s favourite part.
I never thought that this year I would pick up a recurring theme. It’s funny how by jumping straight to his death, I bypassed my redemption. We fight a lot of battles about Christmas and there are lots of debates about whether Christians should celebrate Christmas, the origins of the season, which coming is more important, and the long list that comes with new (not always true) information. When I stepped back, I realised that redemption is taking something that was pagan and making it holy.
Christ’s coming was not simply to forgiveness but it was to make us pure in God’s sight. He came as a man to pay man’s debt, but also being God, only he could afford it. And Jewish traditions and customs were but a shadow of what he was doing for his people. Going out on a limb here but what if pagan customs were a reflection of what God was doing as well?
There is little debate over the origin of Christmas. The timing was off, coincided with festivals for gods instead of historically accurate seasons. The nativity scene is a mess. Some of the old songs have weak theological backing. The tree, the wreath, the lights, the decorations and that “Santa” has the same letters as “Satan” (not an anagram, since “Santa” is also Spanish for “Saint” and has the same letters as “Ansat”). I think it far from coincidental that Christmas coincides with a festival celebrating the end of the longest night. Or that Christmas trees are filled with lights while we celebrate the Light of the World.
That God had written himself in pagan customs and traditions may seem crazy but if he did it in Judaism, what stops him from writing himself in the hearts of every human? How redemptive of him to use what was once given to other gods and claim for his own! He said, “You intended it for evil but I intended it for good.”
The day is done and the next days will be longer and warmer, as with all things when Jesus comes. To each his own with his beliefs but when someone says “Don’t forget the true meaning of Christmas” or the reason for the season, think about it – really think about it. What is the one thing that you can’t have this (or any other) Christmas? I think if the answer is not Jesus then we have missed the real meaning of Christmas.