A Christmas Without Jesus Christ?
Are you celebrating Christmas without Christ? Do you celebrate a birthday without the celebrant? Eat banana split without a banana or hamburger without a burger? Cook fried rice without rice or chicken pastel without chicken? Order pizza from McDonalds? Something is not right, right?
Well, every year, millions of people around the world celebrate Christmas. It is a widely celebrated holiday by Christians and non-Christians alike. Many celebrate it to "remember the birth of Jesus Christ". But the sad truth is that most celebrate it without Christ at all. How is that you might ask?
Strange Christmas Traditions
Do what we do during Christmas match what Jesus would want us do and believe?
Christmas Past. Think about this. The history of the traditions and customs practiced during Christmas time is tainted by various pagan origins like the Winter solstice or "Yule" and Saturnalia, which are characterized by feasting, orgies and revelry. Christmas was established by the Christian Church in the East to revive Catholicism. This they did to sway unbelievers to the faith. In doing so, it was impossible to control the bringing in of the pagan practices into the Church.
They made Christmas day to coincide with the celebration of the birth of the sun-god "Mithra" on December 25. Was Jesus' birth rightly placed on the calendar or what? I don't think so since the Bible is silent as to the date when Jesus was born (Many scholars say it can't be wintertime). But it doesn't really matter whether we remember it on December
25 or on any other day. What matters is the manner we remember it.
Would Jesus allow celebration of his birthday the way we celebrate it now?
It's a Material World
Christmas Present. Do all the modern Christmas practices like gift-giving, exchange of greeting cards, a special meal, and the display of various decorations - including Christmas trees, lights, and garlands, mistletoe, nativity scenes, and holly make Christmas more meaningful? They do keep people up on their toes in preparing for "Jesus" birthday. However, with all the busyness and stress, do people still have time to focus on Jesus?
And what about the business side of Christmas. Christmas nowadays is so much characterized by commercialism and materialism. Retail advertisements tempt us to buy this and
to buy that making Christmas too extravagant. To make the buying more tempting is the belief in Father Christmas (known as
Santa Claus in North America, Australia and Ireland). He is associated with the bringing of
gifts for children on the night before Christmas when the truth is that the money that bought "Santa's gifts" came from dad and mom's pocket.
With all that is going on around this time of the year, are you having a Christ-less Christmas? Is this your concern? If not, you can stop reading here. But if this is of concern to you, do read on.
I Like Christmas
Honestly, I like Christmas and I am not against its celebration. I came from the Philippines and we have a very rich Christmas tradition. As a child, I did enjoy putting up the Christmas tree and decorating it, arranging the nativity scene, singing carols, watching the colorful lanterns, eating ham during Noche Buena and of course, opening Christmas presents. (Take note, my parents did not really encourage the belief in Santa Claus.) Then, I did not even know about the origins of Christmas, nor how it is impacting our material world.
However, there came a time when I found out that to be able to celebrate Christmas meaningfully, we have to appropriate in our lives what Jesus came here for. As the angel of the Lord said to Joseph in a dream
"Joseph son of David, do not be afraid to take Mary home as your wife, because what is conceived in her is from the Holy Spirit. She will give birth to a son, and you are to give him the name Jesus, because he will save his people from their sins."
Jesus came to save us from our sins, which He did so 30 years later by dying on the cross for our sins. It was us, sinful men who should have suffered all those pain and death. Yet Jesus bore it all in our place so that we might escape the dreadful punishment of eternal life in hell.
What wonderful news! All people on earth have a reason to rejoice when Jesus, the Savior, was born. That's why this carol says
Joy to the world! the Lord is come;
Let earth receive her King;
Let every heart prepare him room...
Have you prepared a room in your heart for Jesus? Do so and ask Him to be the Savior of your soul.
How Can we Have a Christ-filled Christmas?
So, do Christians, like me, still celebrate Christmas? Yes. The way the world does? I say No. What we do is to make sure Jesus is part of the celebration. For us, it is not a lavish celebration and stripped of all the non-essential trappings of the season.
We attend the Christmas church service where we remember the story of Christ's birth together with fellow Christians. Then, it is also a great time to share the love of Christ with other people. I remember having collected toys and shared them with kids who are less fortunate. Another time, the church's music and youth ministry went from house to house singing carols and afterward giving the family a basket of goodies.
As a family, we pass on a meaningful Christian tradition to our children. We try to make certain that our children understand what Christmas is about - Jesus Christ's birth. Christmas story-telling sure is a part of it. We still give gifts to let them know that we love them as Jesus loves them. Every year, I also ask them "Since it is Jesus' birthday, what is your gift to Jesus?