A Traditional Christmas
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I know that there are some in the Christian community who argue that Christians should not celebrate Christmas by decorating a tree and exchanging gifts. They say that there is no record that the early church ever celebrated the holiday, and there is no proof that Jesus was really born on December 25, and that the date was chosen as an alternative to the pagan celebration of Saturnalia.
They also point out that in early America, it was once against the law to celebrate Christmas. Anyone who took the day off of work was subject to a $25 fine. They did not ban Christmas because they were not sure of the correct day, or connections with a pagan holiday. They outlawed Christmas to rid the celebration of customs that had become attached to the holiday over the centuries.
In Europe, the celebration of Christ's birth was often lost in a carnival type atmosphere. On Christmas, crowds took to the streets dancing, singing, and playacting. Merrymakers would dress in animal costumes, and go from house to house expecting a tip or some refreshments. Sometimes the revelers would cause trouble if they didn't like the handouts they received. Christmas had become a 12-day period of overeating, drinking, and gambling.
Though those particular customs are no longer a part of our traditions, those encouraging the abolition of Christmas today would be quick to point out that the over shopping, overworking, and overspending in our celebration are also extreme. (http://www.freshministry.org/illustrations.html)
So my question is, are the 150-year-old traditions that most of us follow in celebrating Christmas harmful, or are they appropriate? Or to put it another way, can we honor Christ and still hold to our traditions?
First, let me say, that it is possible to leave Christ out of the celebration of Christmas. If the critics of Christmas traditions do nothing else but remind everyone that Christ is to be central in Christmas, they've done the church a great service.
Because Christ is central in our celebration of Christmas, Miss Carmen is devoting her children's story time every Sunday morning to the Advent. Each week, she has a child light a candle and she explains why we light that particular candle. And as usual, I think the adults get just as much from her story time as the children do.
Because Christ is central in our celebration of Christmas, we are exploring Christmas themes in our joint worship experiences. We're singing Christmas Carols and our sermons are centered on Christ's birth. This Friday night and next Sunday morning our Sanctuary Choir will lead our worship time with their Christmas musical: Rejoice Emmanuel.
Because Christ is central in our celebration of Christmas, our deacons will lead in a candlelight service on Christmas Eve at 5:00, followed by our I-Help ministry feeding and housing homeless men for the night.
Because Christ is central in our celebration of Christmas, we are generously giving to the Lottie Moon Christmas offering for International Missions. And we know that our gifts will be used by our missionaries to spread the gospel around the world.
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