Well, I said that I would post on Saturdays, but of course, with yesterday being Christmas it just didn’t happen. We had a great Christmas with family this year. My parents aren’t together anymore, so Christmas begins on Christmas Eve with my dad’s family, the seven of us Christmas morning, my mom and brother (and parts of Jeff’s family) Christmas afternoon, neighbours Christmas night and then Jeff’s family on Boxing Day. It makes for a very long three days, but in looking back, it is such a special time.
There has been a lot of talk around this year about keeping the true meaning of Christmas alive in our holidays. For Christians, the true meaning of Christmas is Christ. Seems to make sense, it’s even the root spelling of the holiday. It is so important to not lose sight of why we celebrate Christmas. Most don’t know, though, that the holiday season was birthed in the Roman pagan festival of Saturnalia. This was a time of lawlessness, debauchery and widespread lasciviousness. The rituals began on 17th of December and ran through the 25th. For the grand finale, a human sacrifice was offered to rid the people of the immorality they had embraced over the last week. Christians, knowing that December 25th wasn’t the true ‘birthday’ of the Lord Jesus chose to celebrate His birth at that time in an effort to over-shadow the wickedness of Saturnalia. The hope was to bring the people from the Saturnalia festival into a celebration of the Lord through the church. The people were more than willing to celebrate Christmas and records indicate that many joined the church around this time (4th century). The problem was that they were unwilling to give up the Saturnalia festival – they just added on Christmas.
Christmas today is kept by both Christians and those of other faiths and even those of no faith. The celebration is a combination of Saturnalia and a Christian remembrance of the birth of the Lord Jesus. Many of our traditions stem from Saturnalia, for example, during Saturnalia, people would go naked through the streets singing, now we wear clothes and go caroling. Mistletoe, now for tender embraces, was once the root of poison used by the gods to kill their enemies. In pre-Christian Rome, emperors forced the despised to bring them gifts during the Saturnalia festival. Christmas trees were adopted by the church to make Christianity more comfortable for those from the cults of Asheira.
Some Christians today have nothing to do with any of these traditions while some involve parts of all of them in their Christmas. Most people aren’t even aware of the roots of these elements of the holiday celebration.
What I’ve noticed over the last month, in speaking with Christians and non-Christians, is that the focus of Christmas has become about spending time with people you love. Christmas is a time to set aside the busyness of the everyday and stop to appreciate, care and give to those people who are so special in our lives. People we want to give our time and energy. People we value.
As a Christian, I can’t help but think of how the Lord, King of kings, chose to spend time with me and for me. Despite His holiness – actually because of it – he saw value in me. He cared enough about me to give up His place at the Father’s right hand and spend 33 years preparing to give me the greatest gift of all.
John 3:16-17 (New International Version, ©2010)
16 For God so loved the world that he gave his one and only Son, that whoever believes in him shall not perish but have eternal life. 17 For God did not send his Son into the world to condemn the world, but to save the world through him.
When I consider today’s Christmas, I can’t help but think that in loving one another and putting others first we are closer to the true meaning of Christmas than any celebrations or traditions could ever be.
1 Corinthians 13:13
And now these three remain: faith, hope and love.
But the greatest of these is love.