Why not Celebrate?

I was chatting with my cousin online the other day, discussing whether or not Christians should celebrate Christmas. He pointed out that December 25th was originally a pagan holiday (Babylonian feast honoring the Son of Isis). It wasn’t until 350 A.D. and a proclamation by Pope Julius I that Christians started celebrating on that day. And many of the Christmas symbols were originally pagan.

In today’s society, Christmas is mostly Christian, but there’s definitely a secular part to the way we Americans celebrate it. After chatting with my cousin, I saw the following cartoon in the most recent New Yorker:

Santa Cult NewYorker

It’s true; there is sort of a cult of Santa Claus. And I like to make fun of some of the ways Christmas gets celebrated in our culture. As Fred Sanders (another Biola teacher) says, he has a hard time explaining his kids’ questions like “Why are we putting a tree in our house? Why all the lights? What does this have to do with the baby Jesus?” He says some of the reasons he ends up giving around this time of year are like this: “grandma always made this dish,” or “we got it because it was on sale,” or “that would make sense if we lived somewhere where it snowed,” or “once a year, Americans like to pretend they’re from old Germany.” (Fred wrote an excellent post about Psalm 98 on his blog here).

I live with three guys in a house, and this year, we decided to parody the tradition of getting Christmas photos at the mall. So we got the most old-fashioned sweaters we could find at the thrift store last month, then had a few pictures taken at the local Sears Portrait Studio. Here are two of them:

Christmas Picture 2006

Sleigh Ride Dec 2006

(You can see more at: MatthewWeathers.com/christmas)

Let’s Celebrate Anyway
As much fun as it is to mock cheesy Christmas traditions, I still believe it is good to celebrate. Even if Christmas had pagan origins, even if the Bible doesn’t command us to celebrate, it’s a nice tradition to celebrate the advent of Jesus Christ, coming to save the world from our sins. Everyone knows that Jesus was probably born in September, not December, but since we don’t know the exact date, we might as well stick with December 25th. Christians have successfully hijacked that date from whatever pagan meaning it used to have.

Although secular society has added it’s materialistic bent to the season, when else can you walk through a mall, a store, or just about any public place and hear a song proclaiming that Jesus was “Born that man no more may die / Born to raise the sons of earth / Born to give them second birth” or “Long lay the world in sin and error pining / Till He appeared and the Spirit felt its worth / A thrill of hope the weary world rejoices / For yonder breaks a new and glorious morn.”

So let’s join with a billion Christians around the world, and celebrate on Monday, for unto us a Child is born, unto us a Son is given.

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