At Christmas time, there has always been the ongoing battle with culture and materialism. This has been the greatest adversary to the Hope of Christmas. Is there a war on Christmas?
Jesus’ birth has long been overshadowed by cultural traditions, as wonderful as they are. Don’t get me wrong, I am right in the middle with tree trimming, present buying, gift wrapping, music programs (secular & church), miniature village set-up (my passion), and Christmas lights. Even though the church has baptized many of these traditions (secular to sacred), the story of Christ’s birth continues to be overshadowed.
Do you think perhaps it is supposed to be this way?
The reason the early Christians celebrated Christmas in December was so that, while the Roman Empire was having parties above ground about the winter solstice, they were in the catacombs below ground worshipping the Christ Child. Biblical scholars believe Jesus was born sometime around the end of March, or the first part of April in the year 4 B.C.E. For many years Christians had to worship in secret, often times using Pagan rituals to hide the true reason for their worship.
Today, we expertly hide the Christmas story with shopping lists, menus, travel plans, pageantry and Nativity scenes – whether plastic or live. The Christ Child is hidden, but in a really good spot. It is hidden in the hearts of those who believe in the promise fulfilled by God over two thousand years ago.
You know who my favorite people are in the Nativity Story, other than Jesus? The shepherds. They heard the angel’s message. They saw the baby in the manger! They told what they had heard and what they had seen in that cave all those years ago. Part of me believes it was the shepherds who kept the story of Christmas alive and well, in the hearts of all who believe.
Shepherds – no glamor or glitz there – had to keep the story alive was their telling it to all who would listen. You know, there are still living relatives of those shepherds! Some of them worship at Christmas Lutheran Church in Bethlehem Palestine. I bet you didn’t know that. If you ever meet those folks, they would love to tell you a wonderful story, about one night many years ago and how God became one of us.