• Christmas

    Posted Dec 28th, 2011 By in Pastor Brian's Blog, Why We Do What We Do With | No Comments

    A woman wished me a merry Christmas on Tuesday of last week. I was out for breakfast with my son for his birthday. We passed as I was getting my coffee, if I remember correctly. She had just gotten hers. She had a red sweater on because that is what you wear during this time, sometimes green ones too. I think she had a pin that said, “Jesus is the Reason for the Season”. I have no firsthand knowledge of this, but I would bet that she probably had a bumper sticker on her car that said, “Keep Christ in Christmas.” I cannot be sure of this woman’s motives or of the others who have said the same things, but I usually feel like I am being evangelized when people wish me a Merry Christmas. Whatever. That’s unrelated to where I am going with this. What is particularly interesting about all of this is the time that folks choose to wear their Christmas pins and sweaters. In our culture “the Christmas season” (whatever that means) begins the Friday after Thanksgiving and runs through December 25th; then it’s over. But even among our cultural observances of Christmas there are little things, here and there, that demonstrate that we are doing it backwards. Consider, for example, the song sung by many during Christmas. “On the first day of Christmas my true love gave to me…” And on it goes for twelve days (the song is really interesting and includes references to the gospels, Pentateuch, the 10 commandments, the Apostles’ Creed, just to name a few). I will admit that up until recently I had no idea what the days of Christmas were. Stookey suggests that this song,

    is evidence that once Christmas truly was celebrated as a season of twelve days – not simply a day – and not December 25 plus however many preceding days might be needed to make preparations for it.

    And, in quite the opposite fashion as we do, the days of Christmas were celebrated after Christmas. What happened? The Puritans happened, to put it simply. In England they had a good time during the twelve days (read: revelry and partying and celebration). Up with such levity the Puritans could not put. Thus in the new world west of the Atlantic it was illegal to take off work on the 25th of December and idolatrous to commemorate the Lord’s birth in any way. In fact, it wasn’t until 1856 that Christmas became a legal holiday. Such observations were – get ready now – undesirable remnants of Roman Catholicism. To celebrate Christmas on December 25th was Rome-ish mumbo jumbo. Of course it was. The name itself testifies to that: Christ’s Mass. The origin of the name comes from the practice of the Roman Catholic Church to celebrate the Eucharist (or communion for those who think that Eucharist sounds too Roman Catholic. But if you don’t say Eucharist, can you say Christmas?   Because that sounds Roman Catholic too. Oh never mind).

    While all of this is interesting — I do realize I am speaking for myself — we do well to always remain committed to the profound proclamation of the New Testament, that not only was a baby born to a virgin and then placed away in a manger because there was no crib for a bed, but that that baby was God in human flesh.

    Only in this way will we move beyond a preoccupation with a sweet baby in a crib (or Santa Claus) to ask the basic question: “Who is this that was born in Bethlehem and is headed toward death in Jerusalem?” (Stookey).

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    Pastor of New Life La Mesa Presbyterian Church in San Diego, CA.

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