Monday, December 06, 2004

It's Christmas!

As I have said before, I grew up attending the Church of Christ. This time of year has always been a bit...confusing as a Christian. What's so confusing about Christmas to a Christian? Well, "for the record" the Church of Christ does not celebrate Christmas.

Specifically, we do not celebrate Christmas as a "religious holiday". Momentarily going back to the basics for our beliefs, the phrase "speak where the Bible speaks and silent where the Bible is silent" is thrown around a lot. (Actually, there is some inconsistency in this phrase and how we use it, but that is for another time) Nowhere in the Bible does God tell us to celebrate Christ's birth. There are no examples of such a celebration in the first century Church, no references to such and no command. We are told to celebrate his death and we are given an example of such a celebration happening every first day of the week. So that's what we do.

There are the facts about how the Church of Christ (officially) sees Christmas. In practice, things get a bit wierd.

As a boy and a young adult, I was very adamant about Christmas. It was a man-made event, not authorized by God and therefore not to be acknowedged in our Church or our worship. The name "Christmas" comes from the term "Christ Mass" a special mass from the Catholic Church. My feelings about this bordered on irrational. How so? Let me give you a couple examples.

As a song leader I would never dream of leading songs relating to Christ's birth during the holiday season. Also, whenever (inevitably) someone else lead one of these songs, I would get up and leave. I felt that if we did what the "Catholics" did, then how would the "unchurched" differentiate us? I felt that we needed to be different from the rest of the world that gave lip service to praising God by going twice a year (Christmas and Easter). One ugly side of this is that songs about the birth of Christ are rarely ever sung in our services. Why would you want to sing "Silent Night" in July? The answer is that there is nothing wrong with it, in fact if songs about Christ's birth were standard fare in our Churches, then there would be no problem with singing them during the holiday season.

Also, even though we celebrated Christmas at home there was to be no religious symbolism. That means, no angels on the tree, or stars and especially no nativity scenes (I still don't like those).

So, why celebrate Christmas? The simple answer is because everyone else does, the ironic thing is that this same response answers the question of why we DON'T celebrate Christ's birth around Christmas. It wasn't until I started to stop and look around that this hit me in the face, and that's when I started asking questions...

Here's what I know (and what I don't). Christ was not born on December 25th. Yeah, so what. I don't really know of anyone that really and truly believes that. "Christmas" is a man-made holiday. I used to think that many religions saw it as a religious holiday, that's where I was wrong (even though there are some that do). "Christmas" as we know it is really different that it used to be. Now, it just one of many holidays during our "Holiday Season".

So, the big question for me is "what is so wrong about recognizing Christ's birth on December 25th?" Honestly, I'm having a hard time holding on to my old answers to that question. Yes, God did not command us to celebrate his birth, however...

HE sure made a big deal about it. Take a look at Matthew sometime and tell me he didn't want us to remember his birth. Every word in the Bible is God-breathed and there for a purpose. That's one of the reasons we study it so often (or should) and intently. Since every word comes from God himself, it's an extremely important form of communication with and praise to God. If he didn't want us to know about Christ's birth of if he thought that it was not important, then why did he devote so much space to it in the Bible and, more importantly, why was it so wonderfully miraculous!

There are many examples in our relationship with God and our worship and service to him that displays our own personality into what he set forth. I don't remember anything about using song books in the new testament, he didn't tell us to meet on Wednesdays to study the bible and have an "invitation", he didn't tell us to spend Church funds to buy softball uniforms, the list goes on. Most of us (almost all of us) have no problem with these man-made infusions of personality into our worship to God.

So, for me, I am an old dog that is learning a new trick, a mule that is finally starting to move, the stick in the mud that is wiggling it's way out. I am embracing Christmas for what it is, a man-made celebration of the miracle of Christ's birth. It's not nearly as important as his death, but one comes before the other and his birth WAS miraculous, wonderful and God-given. Praise God, Christ was born!

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"...Now the Lord is the Spirit, and where the Spirit of the Lord is, there is freedom. And we, who with unveiled faces all reflect the Lord's glory, are being transformed into his likeness with ever-increasing glory, which comes from the Lord, who is the Spirit." 2 Corinthians 3:7-18