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Tuesday, December 16, 2008

Have an Outstanding Christmas!

Christmas--a word that draws various reactions. From one, the thought of presents under the tree. From another, a day off from work. For someone else, food, and lots of it! Still another, a day to enjoy family in a way that one doesn't often get to do.

But there is a couple other reactions one can find as well. Some see the term as devisive, or too attached to Christ to really "represent" those who celebrate it as non-Christians. And to a degree, I can understand that. However, popular usage in the past hundred years or so has made the term more generic in meaning despite Christ's name being attached to it. There are so many traditions, even some developed in the last hundred years, that neither originated with the Christian Church nor does it have any spiritual meaing other than that Christians have decided to attach to them.

You see that in popular Christmas songs, like I'm Dreaming of a White Christmas. Purely a secular song, nothing to do with Christ. Or the various Christmas shows that I watched as a kid and are still shown today, like Rudolf the Red Nosed Raindeer. Even the whole idea of some guy flying around the world in a red suit, squeesing down chimneys to deliver gifts has only vague connections to the real St. Nicholas of Myria.

I think it has primarily been in the last twenty to thirty years or so, that Christians have made the attempt to let everyone know that Christmas is Christmas because of Christ that the term has begun to stick in the craw of some folk enough to demand that "Happy Holidays" or some other more generic term be used, and no reference to Christmas is allowed. I'm certainly not against people using "Happy Holidays" if they wish, but I'm not too keen on institutions infrining on people's first amendment rights to say "Merry Christmas" if they so wish as well. Religious tolerance demands that no government institution, including schools, should prohibit the free excercise of one's religion. (Wording of the 1st Amendment.)

While certainly no such institution should force people to say "Merry Christmas" if it violates their religious sensitiblities to do so, neither should that prevent another from saying it if it validates theirs.

But as I contemplate the Nativity of Christ and prepare my heart and mind for its celebration, and the twelve days of Christmas that follow, I do turn to a more contemplative mood. For while there are many traditions that have arisen over the years around Christmas that have nothing to do with Christianity or the Church--and those are not all bad neither--it is true that the foundation of what Christmas is about is the gift God gave man on that day many years ago.

God did an amazing thing. He became man and began the journey to obtaining our salvation from death, hell, and the grave. Whether any particular person believes that or not, it is still the ultimate gift given to them by a loving God, interested in not just making pronouncments and judgments from afar, but being with us and one of us, so that he could redeem us.

He gave us the ultimate gift and it sits under the tree of every household in the world. Even if you don't have a tree or celebrate Christmas, it is there. The real question is, will you take a day off from your work, relax a bit, and pull that present from under tree and open it?

Believe or not, it is there and He waits. If you open it, you will have one outstanding Christmas.

Celebrate His Nativity!

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