Let's begin with a definite maybe. It is unlikely that Jesus was born on Dec. 25. The Bible says that the night he was born, shepherds were in the fields, keeping watch over their flocks. Shepherds traditionally took their flocks to the fields in early spring and returned around mid-November. It was too cold for the animals to remain outside after that.
Let's add another fact, only rarely disputed. The Christian Church co-opted pagan celebrations that occurred in the late winter seasons. Wanting a vehicle through which to spread the Gospel of Jesus Christ, they attached the birth celebrations of the Savior to observances that were already in effect.
Now, let me make one more statement, very rarely disputed. Whenever Jesus was born, and whatever the reasons for celebrating on Dec. 25, that celebration was to honor the birth of God's only Son. We used to call it "Christmas," and celebrated the birthday of Jesus of Nazareth. Now it's just "the holidays."
A decade ago, the New Jersey Supreme Court and the Second Circuit Court of Appeals declared that holiday exhibits are allowed in that state if a "reasonable observer" would not mistake them for a "religious endorsement."
A religious endorse-ment? Debate the appro-priateness of Dec. 25 as the anniversary of Jesus' birth if you will. But somewhere under all of the shopping, decorations and caroling ask yourself: Wasn't Christmas originally a religious celebration?
Yuletide, holiday season, the holidays, and "this special season" all are bandied about by advertisers as the reason to shop, spend, and run up enormous credit card debt, mortgaging the future for the greed of today. Quickly now, what was the last commercial you heard which actually used the word "Christ" in it? "Christ" as in "Christmas"? I haven't heard one in years. Those produced by churches do not count -- you expect the home team to have its own cheerleaders.
Jim Brown, writing for AgapePress, says Spring Grove Elementary School, in Chicago, "recently staged a holiday program that celebrated Hanukkah and Kwanzaa, but excluded references to Christ and the Christmas Story. School officials claim the multicultural concert, which also included references to Santa, was designed to be more inclusive of all holiday traditions and cultures."
And so to be more inclusive, the founder of Christianity, the Reason for the Season, had his birthday excluded.
The office of the governor of Georgia got caught this year in the politically correctness that has crossed Christ out of Christmas. At 12:10 p.m. on Dec. 2, the governor's office of communications released a note saying, "Governor and First Lady to Light Holiday Tree at the Mansion." Fourteen minutes later, the press office released another missive: "Governor and First Lady to Light Mansion Christmas Tree."
Christmas without Christ. It may sell Playstations, DVDs, sweaters, perfume, and diamonds, but when the wrappings are all shredded, the presents are scattered or returned and the bills are due, if you do not have Jesus, all you have is one more empty day. And 364 of those are quite enough for one year.
As a believer in Jesus, I accept him as divine, as the only begotten Son of Almighty God. Therefore, it is hardly the same thing -- the birthday of God's Son as compared with the birthday of a human being -- but I wonder if it would be permissible to call the Rev. Martin Luther King Jr.'s birthday "Civil Rights Day?"
I mean no disrespect to the memory of Dr. King. I just wonder why it is now acceptable and seemingly mandatory to disrespect and to forget and to otherwise eliminate Jesus Christ the Lord.
(David Sisler, a Martinez resident, is pastor of Macedonia United Methodist Church in Camak.)
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