Christmas morning for the kids is such a happy time as they exclaim over all kinds of stuff under ornamented trees or poking out of stuffed stockings.
The Christmas season is a miraculous time for retailers. More and more businesses are saved by shoppers buying Christmas stuff every year.
Of course, the real miracle of Christmas is not about stuff. Just the name “Christmas” tells us that. It comes from the Old English words Crīstes mæsse, meaning Christ’s mass, the festival celebrating the birth of Christ.
The incessant internet and TV ads don’t focus much on the Christ part of Christmas. They’re all about merchandising stuff. That’s part of the trend by merchants, government and the irreligious to emphasize the festive part of Christmas and de-emphasize the Christ part, e.g., happy holidays vs. merry Christmas.
For too many, Christmas has become all about stuff and good times. Interestingly, secular festivities have competed for ascendancy during the Christmas season since the Fourth Century. The early church celebrated the baptism, death and resurrection of Jesus, but not his birth. Some church historians say the celebration of Christ’s birth came about to draw people away from pagan festivals that occurred about the same time — the German yule festival and Celtic solstice legend of Balder are cited at Christianity.com. Then there was Saturnalia, the pagan festival when Romans feasted and gave gifts to the poor.
Nonetheless, the festivities celebrating the birth of Christ are intended to include a healthy portion of worship, e.g., giving thanks to God for the birth of his only begotten son, joining in Christian fellowship and singing his praises.
With strong forces dimming the true meaning of Christmas, it’s up to churches and families to keep this balance alive. Your pastor has probably urged you to better balance your secular stuff with the real stuff of Christmas.
For example, balance those smiles of joy on Christmas morn from opening stuff with smiles of joy from the carols and fellowship of Christmas, smiles from hearing the story of Christmas told once more, or tears from the Christmas family blessing lifting Jesus up.
Or how about giving prayers along with or in place of stuff? A beneficiary of prayer myself, I know my neighbors, friends and family members will benefit far more from prayer gifts than any stuff I could give them. Indeed, there is great joy in prayers answered for the health and well-being of friends and family.
Or how about giving stuff and prayers as acts of charity? There are those who truly need stuff to survive as well prayers for a better future, e.g., the refugees and victims of disaster, war, poverty and pestilence.
Here’s wishing you joy from the real stuff of Christmas this year. Merry Christmas.
Bill Crawford is a syndicated columnist from Meridian.