The two seasons of Advent and Christmas are my favorite seasons. I love the music, the Advent wreath, the changes in colors, decorations and all. For many people this is a very joyful time of year with special church and family events and remembering and celebrating the birth of Jesus.
But it is also a stressful time for many people, a sorrowful time for many, and a disappointing time for others.
Because we build Christmas to be such a special season, both in church and in our secular culture, it is bound to be a season where many are disappointed that it cannot live up to the fairy tail of joyous celebration that every Christmas card and Hallmark movie promotes.
My thoughts go out, particularly today, to people I know who have lost loved ones near this season, either this year or in previous years. For them this time can be a time of increased grief and a reminder of past and ongoing pain. It can be very bittersweet to try to celebrate when those who want to be celebrating with cannot be there.
My other concern about the meaning of the season this year is that, for some Christians, there seems to be a need to insist that non-Christians recognize our celebration. Or that non-Christians have to some how join in because for Christians “Jesus is the reason for the season.”
This has led to some pretty rude behavior where people get jumped on for saying “Happy Holidays” rather than “Merry Christmas.” Or someone gets the nose out of joint because they don’t like the design of Starbuck’s seasonal cup. (I kid you not!)
When someone says “Happy Holidays” to me I’m pleased. I do not know their religious faith and they may not know mine. In our community, as in many, we have people of all different faiths. They may not be celebrating Christmas, and they do not have to.
Many years ago the Church picked December 25th because of its proximity to the Winter Solstice. Biblical scholars do not know the birthday of Jesus. But it is doubtful that it was December 25th. We picked the day because it was already a day that many other celebrations where going on and it was a positive evangelism tool to say, “Hey, while you are celebrating would you like to help us celebrate Jesus?”
No one stole December 25th from us. No one usurped Jesus birthday. We put the celebration in the midst of many other celebration. That was the way many Christians emphasized Jesus. But the choice of the date should turn the celebration of the birth of the Christ child into some kind of arrogant, “you have to celebrate the season MY way.”
Christmas is not a competition between Christians and the secular world to see who gets to control the day. And Christians need to stop acting like it is. It betrays the very reason for Christmas, that is a celebration where everyone is invited and everyone is welcome around the manger.
You want to put the “Christ back in Christmas?” Than put the Christian love, charity and grace back into Christmas. Share the love of God presented to us in the birth of Christ with joy, openness and welcome for all.