Christmas is an incredible time of year for much of the world. So many cultures, traditions, family tendencies and more define this multi-faceted time. With all of that comes the media – driven by the powerful retail market – adding even more layers of complexity.
From the craziness of navigating family dynamics, to holiday plans and Christmas movies, from the cooking of dinners and the wrapping of presents through to end-of-year parties – it can all drown out the truth with much jolly merriment. But there has been an age-old cry from many a Christian to “not forget the meaning behind it all”.
That does require us, however, to know what REALLY lies behind it all. What are the truths that truly lie behind this manic festive storm called Christmas?
Some quick facts:
Jesus was not born on the 25th of December
In fact – the 25th of December was actually a pagan holiday celebrating the Winter Solstice. When the Church was looking for a way to integrate Christianity into a culture and society that was exceptionally resistant, they decided to integrate pagan festivals with Holy days. So Jesus was more likely to have been born around the middle of September – where there was definitely no snow in Israel.
2. The Wise men weren’t in the Nativity
Not only that – their number wasn’t ever defined. It could have been two wise men, or twenty. Neither were they necessarily kings. The Bible simply states that there were men from the east that visited King Herod speaking of a new king born in Israel. But not only that – the wise men may have only found Jesus up to two years after he was born. In connection with the time in which King Herod expected the Magi’s return and the prophecies about Jesus, we can surmise that there was definitely a span of time between the Shepherds’ visit and the Wise Men’s arrival.
3. Christmas Trees and Tree Decorations are pagan
Yes – the conifers point towards the sun and miraculously stay green throughout the winter. Druids believed they held mythical powers and would hang orbs (or mini suns) on the boughs as a result.
4. (SPOILER ALERT) Saint Nicholas WAS Real
Yes – in the fourth century there was a Bishop from Turkey who was extremely wealthy and generous. He would help the poor and needy and earned his sainthood after being imprisoned by Emperor Diocletian. He may not have had a sleigh or elves, but he did exist and the Roman Catholic Church celebrated him on the 6th of December – around the date he died.
So if the foundations of Christmas are so twisted, how are we as Christians meant to approach this time of year?
There are two things that I think we should keep in mind that can bring true meaning to the time.
Christmas is an incredible reminder
Christmas is a time where the world slows down enough to allow you to remember Jesus’ birth and life. It is a very bright red and green, flashing reminder that God Almighty humbled Himself and became a helpless baby so that I could know him.
Christmas is an incredible opportunity to reach others
If we know anyone who does not believe in God, the ONE time where they are more-than-likely going to come to church with you is on Christmas. And no matter when the exact date or what details of the popular stories are, the eternal fact is that every human being needs the love and authority of Jesus Christ in their lives. It is also an opportunity to make amends and bring peace to your family.
Christmas is fun!
No matter what is founded on truth or not, there is nothing wrong with enjoying life and seasons. Even in the Hebrew culture, God intentionally told people to feast and have extravagant, memorable yearly gatherings. If you aren’t intimidated with the worry of becoming ‘corrupted’ by the manic materialism, or intoxicated in some kind of ancient idolatry there is no harm in enjoying the festive traditions that surround Christmas. God wants you to have fun. He wants you to enjoy life. And the most fun things you can do in life are found in Christmas culture: generosity, family unity, good food and worshipping God together at church.
Knowing Jesus is the only way you can truly know the power of what the church remembers at Christmas. Outside of that personal relationship, there is not going to be much meaning in anything we do on the 25th of December. But you have an opportunity to navigate Christmas this year with an intimate revelation of the person of Jesus Christ. I always step into this season remembering that He included Himself into my story – long before I ever chose to accept it. He came to reunite us with God and to set us free from the tangled mess we had made of our lives. If you would like to know more, click on the link below.