The Christian Church didn’t throw a dart at a calendar to determine the “official” birth date of Jesus. However, the early church had as its motto, “If you can’t beat them, join them!”
In my recent studies of our family tree and life in the 1600’s I’ve learned that the Church of England once tried to eliminate Christmas because it had become a pagan holiday. I guess they’d forgotten that Christmas had been exactly that – a pagan holiday – before the Church took advantage of a traditional mid-winter festival. The church had done the same thing with Easter, but that’s a story for another time.
In a few weeks I’ll be experiencing my 65th Christmas. I honestly don’t remember the first few, and many of the others seem to blend into one.
It may be my imagination, but it seems the pagan holiday is flourishing in spite of any and all efforts of the Christian church. When radio stations begin playing “Christmas” music before Thanksgiving, one would think it was part of a conspiracy to encourage us to go shopping. Considering that none of the songs mention Jesus, the conspiracy theory gathers strength.
I choose to recognize both the pagan holiday and the miracle of God’s son. The mid-winter festival is a great time for partying, exchanging gifts, and spending time with family and loved ones. Jesus’ coming as a humble human born to a poor family in less than ideal conditions tells us that our God is a loving parent reaching out to embrace every one of us. The message delivered by Jesus made God’s love abundantly clear to all who would listen.
So what if the church doesn’t really know the date of Christ’s birth? What matters is that He was born and, as a fully human person, got first-hand knowledge of what it’s like to be one of us. It’s a miracle that not everyone believes, but for those of us who do, it opens our eyes to many other miracles.
I recently read an article about Germany celebrating St. Nicholas Day around the first week of December. The article was written about past memories, so I don’t know if this is still true.
At any rate, the gift exchange took place on St. Nicholas day. That left December 25th as strictly a religious holiday. It would be nice if we could celebrate in this manner in this country. However, it would be difficult to get the parties involved to change their ways.
We could ask merchants to start selling St. Nicholas Day gifts a month earlier, or ask church’s to pick another date for the birth of Christ. On second thought, our only hope probably lies with the merchants.