“It’s beginning to look a lot like Christmas, everywhere you go…” When does Christmas become Christmas for you? Does it begin after Halloween? Does it begin after Thanksgiving? Does Christmas arrive with the first Santa in the shopping mall or the first ring of the Salvation Army kettle ringers? Does it begin with the first singing of Silent Night or Hark the Herald Angels Sing? When does Christmas become Christmas?
Christmas’ Cultural Beginnings
The first recorded December 25th Christmas celebration was in the year 354. Christmas has been around for some time! After all, it is Jesus’ birthday… well, kinda. We don’t really know the date of Jesus’ birth. Some scholars believe the December 25th date was chosen because of the winter solstice and perhaps to combat a pagan solar holiday. Others see the origin of the date of Christmas as the nine month mark after the Annunciation of Mary (March 25), the traditional date of the Incarnation. Whatever the reason for the date, we have absolutely no Biblical mandate to celebrate Christmas. It’s just a really good idea that stuck around.
Christmas’ Biblical Beginnings
As we have read in our GodSpeak readings these last few months, we see Christmas everywhere. This is why during the Wednesdays in Advent, I’ll be preaching a series entitled “Foreshadowing Jesus: Creation, Joseph, Exodus”. In many ways, Christmas begins at Creation! Christmas is not only a major theme of the story of Joseph, but even Exodus has Christmas written all over it! We understand the Old Testament to prefigure Jesus in many and amazing ways. I’ll do my best to help you see just a few of those. In the process, I pray we’ll all better appreciate how Christmas really began.
Christmas’ Household Beginnings
How does Christmas begin in your house? Perhaps you hold on to our tradition of Advent and you light the candles each night and prepare yourself for the celebration of Christ’s birth with Bible readings and devotions. Perhaps you decorate your house inside and out, put up the Christmas tree and prepare for family and friends to gather. These preparations help Christmas to become Christmas for us. It allows this time to be different. It puts us into a different mode and allows us to observe a truth that took many centuries to materialize: God has come into the flesh to save his people.
Christmas Becoming Christmas
Christmas becomes Christmas for many people in many ways. Unfortunately in our world, Christmas often becomes something very different than a celebration of God in the flesh for your salvation. Make this Christmas different. Resist the many external and internal urges for Christmas to become something else. Use this year to evaluate the way you spend your time and energy. Evaluate what it means to do this and that and whether it truly expresses praise and worship for the baby who is God. Find new ways for Christmas to become Christmas or rediscover an old way! However you do it, when you allow Christmas to become Christmas again, you will find that it really is “beginning to look a lot like Christmas, everywhere you go…”