As a young boy and teenager, I did not mind the commercialization of Christmas, for I always enjoyed opening gifts at Christmas and cherished it as one of the greatest days of the year, one where my wishes for new toys, video games, clothes, candy, cash, and other great items came true. I would then spend the next week while off from school enjoying the gifts that I had received. It was always a highlight! Sure, as a Christian, I understood the deeper meaning of Christmas, that it was the celebration of the birth of Jesus Christ and enjoyed the festivities at church each year. But as I have grown older, Christmas has become complicated. Now, I have a hard time answering the question, “What makes Christmas merry?” It seems that America’s answer to this question would not line up with the biblical ideal.
What happened? Well, in my own life, the realization that there has been a secular backlash against the political incorrectness of celebrating Jesus’ birth came a couple of years ago. During that Christmas season, JC Penny had an advertisement that had the music to Joy to the World in the background. But it was not the Christian version. It was the song “Joy to the World” sung by Three Dog Night which starts, “Jeremiah was a bullfrog…”. When I heard that, it hit me, Christmas is no longer about Jesus Christ in this country. This year, the similar effect on me occurred when I first saw the jewelry commercial on television where a couple is skating on a frozen pond and the man intentionally falls down to give a Christmas gift to his love as she comes to his aid. The song in
the background? “I’ve got you babe” by Sonny and Cher.
It seems to me (I could be way off base here) that the focus has shifted from the celebration of the incarnation of Jesus Christ and the focus on charitable giving and philanthropy to a focus on the gift giving within the immediate and extended family with little or no giving to those in need. Yes, we give side notice to the plight of the poor, but the focus is on what little Johnny is getting for Christmas from Santa. When did Santa Claus go from gift-giver of the poor to gift-giver to good boys and
girls divorced from its Christian origin? This I think is the key. The change in the legend of Santa Claus in the nineteenth and twentieth-centuries, especially in America, moved Santa Claus from the category of charity to the category of giving children the toys of their dreams and all they had to do was be good. Here is the problem with this picture:
Santa Claus’ other name – Saint Nicholas is based on the Christian bishop, Saint Nicholas of Myra who died in 346 A.D. He is famous for two things. First, he was a defender of Orthodoxy who in 325 A.D. at the Council of Nicaea, tradition holds that he punched the heretic Arius after Arius repudiated the deity of Christ. Also, and this gets more to the issue of Christmas, he was renowned for his charity to the POOR. He is especially well-known for donating money to three destitute, young women’s dowries so that they could get married, and thus he prevented them from a life of prostitution. The name of Santa Claus comes from the Dutch “Sinterklaas” which is a hybrid of the St. Nicholas tradition and the Norse myths surrounding the god Odin. I recommend that you go to Wikipedia.com and research the origins of Santa Claus.
But, before digressing into a Santa = Satan discussion, let’s answer the problem of reclaiming a Merry Christmas. Here is a list of ideas that I recommend:
1. Remember that Christmas is a festival about the INCARNATION of CHRIST = God incarnate. This is the greatest event in human history. We should focus everything / filter everything around this central and glorious truth! Glory be to God!
2. Unapologetically say “Merry Christmas” to everyone – don’t worry about political correctness.
3. Celebrate the spirit of giving by investing your time in participating in charitable activities – especially giving to the poor or participating with organizations that do.
4. Celebrate your family! Spend time with your family!
5. Don’t get sucked into the commercialization of Christmas. Resist it. Give gifts with meaning and purpose.
I am sure that there are many more tips and recommendations to make a Merry Christmas, but the greatest way to make this Christmas merry is to celebrate your relationship with Christ. The most merry Christmas comes with being a redeemed follower of the Christ who was born on the night that split history.