Let's begin with a definite maybe. It is unlikely that Jesus was born on December 25. The Bible says that the night He was born, shepherds were in the fields, keeping watch over their flocks. Shepherds traditionally took their flocks to the fields in early spring and returned around mid-November. It was too cold for the animals to remain outside after that.
Let's add another fact, only rarely disputed. The Christian Church co-opted pagan celebrations which occurred during the late winter seasons. Wanting a vehicle through which to spread the Gospel of Jesus Christ, they attached the birth celebrations of the Savior to observances that were already in effect.
Now, let me make one more statement, very rarely disputed. Whenever Jesus was born, and whatever the reasons for celebrating on December 25, that celebration was to honor the birth of God's only Son. We used to call it “Christmas,” and celebrated the birthday of Jesus of Nazareth. Now it's just “the holidays.”
A decade ago, the New Jersey Supreme Court and the Second Circuit Court of Appeals declared that holiday exhibits are allowed, in that state, if a “reasonable observer” would not mistake them for a “religious endorsement.”
A religious endorsement? Debate the appropriateness of December 25 as the anniversary of Jesus's birth if you will. Debate whether or not modern celebrations still resemble, in any fashion whatsoever, a celebration of that birth. But somewhere under all of the shopping, decorations, caroling and the general ill-will towards men engendered when that knot-head in line in front of you beats you to the last “gotta-have” toy, ask yourself: Wasn't Christmas originally a religious celebration, religiously endorsed?
New Jersey has more problems. In Hillsborough, you can no longer celebrate St. Valentine's Day. It is now “Special Person Day.”
It is another holy day, but in East Lansing, Michigan, the Easter Bunny has, for several years, been called “The Special Bunny.” What a rabbit delivering colored chicken eggs has to do with the Resurrection of the Savior escapes logic.
Yuletide, holiday season, the holidays, and “this special season” all are bandied about by advertisers as the reason to shop, spend, and run up enormous credit card debt, mortgaging the future for the greed of today. Quickly now, what was the last commercial you heard which actually used the word “Christ” in it? “Christ” as in “Christmas.” I haven't heard one in years. Those produced by churches do not count you expect the home team to have its own cheerleaders.
Jim Brown, writing for AgapePress, says that Spring Grove Elementary School in Chicago, “recently staged a holiday program that celebrated Hanukkah and Kwanzaa, but excluded references to Christ and the Christmas Story. School officials claim the multicultural concert, which also included references to Santa, was designed to be more inclusive of all holiday traditions and cultures.”
And so to be more inclusive, the founder of Christianity, the reason for the season, had His birthday excluded. I've said it often the inmates are in charge of the asylum!
Jeff Parker, cartoonist for Florida Today, suggests a new appellation: “Merry mall-driven, competitive-present swapping, overindulgent-consumerism, winter holiday.”
The office of the governor of Georgia got caught this year in the political correctness which has crossed Christ out of Christmas. At 12:10 PM on December 2, the governor's office of communications released a note saying, “Governor and First Lady to Light Holiday Tree at the Mansion.” Fourteen minutes later, after someone convinced someone else that it still is all about Jesus, the press office released another missive: “Governor and First Lady to Light Mansion Christmas Tree.”
Christmas without Christ. It may sell Playstations, DVDs, sweaters, perfume, and diamonds, but when the wrappings are all shredded, the presents are scattered or returned and the bills are due, if you do not have Jesus, all you have is one more empty day. And 364 of those are quite enough for one year.
Understand that as a believer in Jesus, I accept Him as divine, as the only begotten Son of Almighty God. Therefore, it is hardly the same thing the birthday of God's Son as compared with the birthday of a human being but I wonder if it would be permissible to call the Rev. Martin Luther King, Jr.'s birthday “Civil Rights Day?”
Before you look for the tar and feathers, I mean no disrespect to the memory of Dr. King. I just wonder why it is now correct and acceptable and seemingly mandatory to disrespect and to forget and to otherwise eliminate Jesus Christ the Lord.
(David Sisler's newspaper column, “Not For Sunday Only,” is in its 14th year of weekly publication. “Not for Sunday Only” is based on news events, sports, popular songs, motion pictures and personal glimpses. The message is that the Christian faith is an everyday happening it is not for Sunday only. The columns are thoroughly researched, and never indicate denominational bias. For reprint permission, or to subscribe to “Not For Sunday Only,” contact Mr. Sisler at firstname.lastname@example.org.)