Wednesday, December 24, 2008
Tonight is one of the most holy nights of the year. As we move from today's Christmas Eve preparations into tomorrow's Christmas Day celebrations, we will be rejoicing in the moment of the birth of our Lord, Jesus Christ. Over two millenia ago in a small room in the little town of Bethlehem, Mary and Joseph brought their child, our Saviour, into the world. Over the next three decades or so his life would change all of ours. So it is not only appropriate, but it should also be obligatory, that we keep those circumstances and that meaning as first and foremost in our hearts and minds these next couple of days. But the celebration of the Christmas holiday has grown into much more over the years, decades, and centuries. So much is incorporated into our holiday celebrations now: Christmas trees, wreaths, candles, cards, gifts, drinks. Characters such as Santa Clause, Frosty the Snowman, and Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer have grown into beloved symbols of the Christmas season. It is just as important for Christians to know and accept that we have nothing to fear from these as it is for secularists to understand that Jesus Christ is the true 'reason for the season.' Every reasonable Christian understands that it is not likely that the baby Jesus was actually born on December 25th, and that in fact he almost certainly was not. A long time ago, with no actual recorded date for the birth, the December 25th date was accepted as the date on which we would honor and remember the event, now firmly established in tradition. The date was no accident, falling as it does right near the winter solstice, that time when the world is most dark and cold, when daylight is eclipsed by night for the longest amount of time. The idea that Christ was the light of the world, that He brought that light into all of our lives, would counter the actual darkness we experience every day. As we have added to that religious tradition over the years with more and more elements, we have further and further pushed back the cold and darkness of winter. Lights, ornaments, decorations, and songs all combine to brighten our lives. So to do those characters of Santa, Frosty, and Rudolph lighten our hearts and bring joy into our lives. As long as we always keep Christmas holy and remember its first purpose, there is nothing at all wrong with incorporating these other aspects into our celebration of the holiday season. Santa Clause will be visiting my grandkids tonight, that is for sure. Rudolph will be helping to pull his sleigh loaded with toys. And when they return to the North Pole, Frosty will be waiting there to lead them in a parade down the streets of town. I will happily listen to the last of the Christmas music while driving in my car today and tomorrow, and will enjoy my Christmas tree tonight. I will stop by my mother's grave this afternoon to lay a wreath blanket. I will stop by my brother's home and a neighbor's home later tonight to raise a toast or two and share some gifts. And I will visit with my daughters and grandkids tomorrow for the same before heading to my wife's sister's home for a turkey dinner. There will be lots of Santa, Frosty, and Rudolph. But I will also be at St. Christopher's Church for tonight's 8pm services at which our parish will celebrate with a wonderful Christmas celebration of the birth of Jesus Christ. To everyone, celebrate the joy of Christmas in all of the ways that it is wonderful. Watch the movies, sing the songs, drink the drinks, unwrap the gifts, enjoy the meals. And as you do, always keep in mind the beginning of the life that ultimately has saved yours. Merry Christmas to you all, and to all of your families.