ANOTHER VIEW OF THE CHRISTMAS CELEBRATION

BY ALITA DEBERRY

SYNDICATED COLUMNIST FOR THE WINONA (ms)  TIMES, 21 DEC 95

 

It was a disturbing dream. I was trying to explain Christmas to Christ Jesus.

“What is all this commercialism, this buying, selling and money changing all about?”  He asked.  “And evergreen, the mistletoe; the eating and drinking, the feasting and all the merrymaking, what is going on?”

“It’s the celebration of your birthday, Lord!”

“My birthday!’ he roared.  “My birthday?”  Just as though I were some common, stargazing Pharoah!  How dare they!  Have they forgotten it’s only the heathen, the ungodly, who make great rejoicings over the anniversary of their birthday?  Did they not read it is my death—not my birth—that is to be commemorated?”

“This is not my birthday, in any case!  Where do they get this date?”

“It was set several centuries after your death, Lord,” I told Him.  “It was part of a ploy of gaining converts.  The church had no winter holiday, you see; the pagans did, and were reluctant to give it up when they came into the church, so the church fathers, to make them feel at home, accepted theirs, giving it new interpretations and calling it after you.  They called it the birth of the son (instead of sun), and labeled it your birthday.

“But they allowed the same old celebrations to continue, sanctioning it; you might say, with Your Name attached.  Much like the expression: “If you can’t beat them join ‘em.”

“How could they?  Did they not know that the foundation of true Christianity is truth!  Not lies?  Not traditions.  What is the meaning of all those images and idols in the people’s yard, houses and windows?”

" We don’t think of them as idols, Lord.  The sheep and shepherds, the camels and the wise men, the manger scene—all that depicts the circumstances of your birth.”

 He looked very thoughtful, even sad, and finally said, “Tell me, do you celebrate also the birthdays of others?”

 “Oh yes, Lord.  Everyone celebrates his own, and of those of all the famous folks like George Washington, Abraham Lincoln and Martin Luther King Jr.”

 “Well then, are they too, on their days, represented as babies in cradles?”

 “Oh, no!  They are remembered for the impact they made upon society, their contributions to this nation and to history.”

 He shook His head sadly, saying something about His being King of Kings and Lord of Lords, yet remembered only as an infant.

 “That fat man in the red suit,” he asked, “what is his meaning?” 

“Oh, that’s Santa Clause, my Lord.  He’s more or less the modern god of children – the god of greed, or gimmie, you might say.  A mythical character who’s supposed to grant children’s wishes for toys and stuff.  Children are told that he goes about in a sled through the sky, pulled by reindeer, landing on house tops, he enters through the chimney, leaving all the loot for the kids.”

 “Santa, Flying reindeer!  Indeed!” He snorted,” and what has all this deception and lies to do with me?  What has it to do with training up children to be God-fearing and truthful?”

 “Well” I tried to explain, “it was voiced by one child like this:  Jesus is dead, so Santa gives us the things we want.  And to tell you the truth, Lord, I don’t see how you can hope to compete with the fat guy.”

 “Well what about the mistletoe and evergreens—it’s just as the pagans were doing long before I was born as a human.”

 “Old customs dies hard you know.  The trees are called Christmas trees.  And it is the same old ancient custom, going back to nature worship and all that. Idol worship, they brought in the evergreens, decorated them with the images of their gods.”

 “Ah, yes,” He said, “Did not Jeremiah write about them?  Learn not the way of the heathen, for the customs of the people are vain: they cut a tree out of the forest, deck it with silver and gold….”

 “The eating, drinking and merry making, the exchanges of gifts—all that emphasis on material things—how do they say it gives me honor?

 “Well, everybody does it.  And it helps support the economy.  Big business, greedy for gain, sells the people whatever it chooses.”

 But as I talked, He turned and sadly walked away, saying something about forgiving them for they know not what they do…….