Celebrating Christmas

christmas tree

The day after our American Thanksgiving,[1] I climbed up into the attic and retrieved the stored Christmas tree parts and two boxes of tree decorations.  I am amazed at the tree.  I bought it 25 years ago because our granddaughter had asthma and we were concerned about having a “real” tree.  Hard to believe that it is still quite presentable, probably because it has to be assembled each season.

The decorations are filled with memories.  Many were gifts from my mother who sent one each year, a tradition that I have continued with our children and grandchildren who now have homes of their own.  On some, she wrote the date and if she didn’t, I did it last year, usually adding the words mom or granny.  Our hospice also has ornaments in remembrance of those who have passed and the memories come as I place them on our tree.  In addition, we have the ones made with our kids when they were young, or special ones purchased at an after Christmas sale and lovingly kept and added to the collection.  One cow reminds me of a gift to an African friend from our family—a moose remembers our Canadian son-in-law—airplanes are gifts my pilot husband received from friends and Christian symbols and white lights lift out our faith.   The tree is a family history and decorating it has always been a joy.

I know trees are considered pagan by some. My research however, makes me think that unlike many customs they make a far better Christian symbol than a pagan one.  Think about it; the evergreen does not die or fade away or lose its needles in the winter making it an excellent symbol of everlasting life in the resurrected Christ.  As a person in the winter season of my earthly life, I smile at this!  Jesus called us the light of the world in Matthew 5:14, and the lights on the tree and all around remind me of our calling to be light in the darkness.

History tells us that December twenty-fifth was chosen around 350 AD because it was the birthday of the Roman sun god, Sol, and the increase of daylight after the winter solstice. Light overcoming darkness isn’t too bad a choice.  Could God have been responsible for this choice?  It is probable that His conception rather than His birth happened during this season.

December twenty-fifth correlates with Hanukah, the eight day Jewish Festival also known as the Feast of Dedication and Feast of Lights.  Hanukah begins on the twenty-fifth of the Hebrew month Kislev, which falls sometime in late November or December.  It celebrates the cleansing and rededication of the second Temple following the desecration ordered by Antiochus Epiphanes. Hanukkah is also called the Festival of Lights.  According to tradition, there was only enough purified oil left for the eternal flame in the temple to burn for one day yet God caused the flame to burn for eight days[2] while new supply of sacred oil was being prepared. …the light shines in the darkness, yet the darkness did not overcome itJN 1:5

Clues from the Word let us know that the birth of Christ actually came during the Lord’s fall Feast of Tabernacles in 4 or 5 BC.  If you’d like to check this out, look at http://biblelight.net/sukkoth.htm and http://biblelight.net/year.htm or google it for yourself.  The feasts are an enlightening study—highly recommended, but not for this post.

Obviously I love this season.  Loving Christmas doesn’t mean loving the commercial event that it has become.  I’ve been doing some reading on the book of Daniel and one point that sticks out is that Daniel shows us how to live in a pagan society and yet be faithful to the one true God.  It’s a lesson we need.  So, is celebrating at Christmas pagan, maybe it depends.

Does the way we celebrate Christmas glorify God?  What does it teach our children? How do we handle the pressure of the season?  I don’t know about you, but I have to admit that there are some things that need to be deleted and maybe some added.

Keeping in mind that I can’t change anyone but myself, I’m taking a prayerful look at Christmas and finding that attitude–the intent of my heart–is critical.  My desire is for all that I say and do be done unto the Lord—that means no sloppy, half way efforts.  If it’s worth doing, it’s worth giving it my best, doing it “as unto the Lord.” Obviously that’s a goal, not a reality.  For all of us being molded into His image is a work in progress.

God knows our failings, but He rejoices when our hearts are turned to Him.  Could this be our gift to the Most High?  Isaiah tells of His gift to us, “Unto us a child is born, unto us a Son is given…” Isa.9:6  Think about that, a baby boy, fully human, was born but the Son, fully God, was given.  Given not only by the Father and Holy Spirit but by the Son’s own choice.

Celebrate Christmas! Celebrate the Gift!  Rejoice that  “In Him was life, and the life was the light of men.  And the light shines in the darkness, and the darkness did not overcome it.” Jn 1:4-5 NKJV

_________________________

[1] November 28 this year

[2] Eight is the number of new beginnings

 

 

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