Just yesterday I read a really fascinating article written by Skye Jethani. I thought the article showed a great historical perspective and how we got to where we currently are regarding Christmas. I really wanted to share it with you so you could read it and gain some perspective on how things got the way they did.
I thought that this author made some really great points in this article that really make a lot of sense. I am not going to go through and discuss each of the points made in this article. Instead, I want to talk about three things that I think we should focus on with this coming holiday season.
This past week at Cornerstone church, Pastor Jeff talked about our society’s fascination with Santa Claus. That really got me to thinking. Why did we even decide to make up Santa Claus? Wasn’t Jesus enough for our society? After reading this article, I have learned a lot more about some of the origins of Jolly Old St. Nick. I know that I don’t have kids yet, but it really made me think about how I would approach this as a parent when I do have children. For the life of me I can’t understand why parents would tell their children about a made up man named Santa Claus. We are telling our kids that this man exists and at some point they find out that he really does not exist. What are we telling our kids? We have opened up a situation where we have shown our kids that it is ok to lie. That is not good. Then we turn around and ask them to believe in baby Jesus which is something else they can’t see physically. They know that we lied to them about Santa Claus who they never saw and now we are telling them about a baby being born that they can’t see. Not very hard to see why it is not a large stretch to see why our kids would have their doubts about if Jesus really exists. All because we have created an environment where we have not been totally honest with them.
I think the best way to handle it is to just be truthful with your children. Trust me, they can handle it. Tell them the Christmas story and about how Jesus came to the earth as a baby in human form to save all of us who could not save ourselves. How the spirit of giving is central to the season of Christmas and is what it is all about. It started with the greatest and most selfless gift ever given, the gift God gave all of us of His only Son to save us. In that spirit of giving, you can tell of a man from history called St. Nick, who became a representation of that giving spirit. While Santa Claus is no longer living as a person, the spirit he showed is carried on through us. That is why the parents act on Santa’s behalf. Something like that is very believable I think. You are welcome to debate me on this all you want.
This holiday season, I think the first thing that we should focus on is the fact that Christmas is about Jesus and that should be our main focus. Many people do many kind things around the holiday season, but lets not forget the kindest thing ever done and how that all started a little over 2,000 years ago in a small town, in a stable under very little fanfare. As long as we keep our focus on Jesus with everything we do, we really can’t go wrong.
The second thing I think that we should focus on during this season is our hearts. A couple of Sundays ago, Pastor John Fuller at Prairie Lakes Church made a gret point in his sermon. As people, we judge other people differently than the way God judges people. When we look at people we judge them on things like physical beauty, intelligence, power, influence, wealth. All the things that don’t really matter to God. The one thing that God focuses on in people is their heart. Is their heart pure? Are people willing to let God rewrite their life story with the story God has in mind for them?
We as a society in general spend so much time, effort, and money on developing things in our lives that really have absolutely no eternal significance at all. Things that don’t matter at all. We need to focus the majority of our time, effort, and money on developing our hearts. The greatest outpouring of a heart that is true is displayed in showing love to others. Love is the key. Do things for people, help those in need, forgive someone who doesn’t deserve to be forgiven, give someone a second chance. Accept someone who society runs away from. The power of a heart filled with love is a very powerful thing and I think we should really focus on that.
Somewhere along the way, people would say that people have lost the true meaning of Christmas. It has become too commercialized. That people spend enormous amounts of money on gifts for people. I do agree with that. People say that people give each other way too many gifts. I disagree with that. I don’t think we give each other enough gifts. I do think that we give the wrong kind of gifts. Instead of focusing on how much money we can spend on someone, let’s do something different. Instead of giving gifts that cost money, lets give gifts that require our time. The last thing I think we need to focus on this Christmas is giving more of our time and less of our money. I look at my family and girlfriend as examples of this. My grandma, who says all she wants for Christmas is for me to call her. She understands the power of relationships and genuinely caring about someone and showing concern for how their life is going and empathizing with struggles we have in our lives. She understands the importance of giving of her time. My mom, who makes homemade jam to give as gifts. It is the best raspberry jam you will ever taste. What makes it special is that she took the time to make it just for you. She understands the importance of giving of her time. My dad, who freely gives of his time to help those in need. When I talked to him last on the phone, he was driving around town picking up single mothers in the church van to take them to church for a monthly single mother event they were having at church. He was not gaining monetarily from doing this, but knew that his time was a more valuable gift that he could give this season. My second mom, who freely gives of her time and efforts to help those who need encouragement. She makes homemade cards that she sends to family members. They are so beautiful. They are the grandest of cards and you feel so special when you receive one. She understands the value of giving of her time. My girlfriend, who goes to the nursing home with a group from the church to sing Christmas carols to residents at a nursing home at a very lonely time for many nursing home residents. Who goes and starts a friendship with a newly married woman who is struggling with her marriage and gives her someone she can talk to. She understands the importance of giving her time.
These people all understand the importance of giving of their time to help others. They understand the real meaning of what Christmas is all about. I am so blessed that the people closest to me in my life get it. They understand. What a great influence I have to follow. I can tell you that these people are my heroes. I want to be more like them and this holiday season that will be my focus. These people are some of the richest people I know and the amazing thing is that not one of them has large amounts of money.
God, thanks for surrounding me with countless examples of what Christmas is all about. I know it has taken me a while to finally get it, but better late than never.
‘War on Christmas’? Christians Are Fighting the Wrong One
by Skye Jethani
A few years ago I was walking through Woodfield Mall, the largest one in Illinois, just before Christmas. I was disappointed to see that Santa’s grotto, where children waited in line for a brief one-on-one consultation with Mr. Claus, had been transformed into an enormous promotional display for the upcoming movie, Happy Feet.
Apparently the mall’s managers were not bothered that Santa was difficult to see among the huge images of computer generated penguins, and clearly nobody was disturbed by the geographic discrepancy — penguins only live at the South Pole and Santa resides at the North Pole. Sadder to me was the absence of the enormous Christmas tree that had stood at the center of the mall since my childhood. It appeared that Santa had sold his season, and his soul, to Warner Brothers Studios. I was comforted by the irony of the scene — the character that had commercialized Christmas a century ago had fallen victim to his own devices.
Christians have always had a strained relationship with Saint Nick. Although his origins are rooted deeply in church lore, his association with the secularization of Christmas has made him a persona non grata in many churches and Christian communities. But many of us forget that Christmas itself is a holiday of dubious origin. For example, the Puritans were stridently opposed to the celebration of Christmas. They could find no biblical support for the holiday, and they believed (correctly) that it was originally a pagan festival now masquerading as Christian one. This view was widely held in America throughout the 19th century. In 1855, newspapers in New York reported that Methodist, Baptist and Presbyterian churches would be closed on Christmas Day because “they do not accept the day as a Holy One.” And by the 1860s only 18 states officially recognized the holiday.
Christmas only gained acceptance among a majority of Protestant Christians when it gained wide acceptance by the American public in general. And that can be attributed to the rise of Santa Claus in the secular pantheon. Old Saint Nick became a marketing juggernaut for retailers who by the 1920s had embraced Christmas as the premier season for shopping. Church leaders no longer objected to Christmas on the grounds that it was a pagan holiday. Instead their concerns shifted to the ungodly materialism and indulgence of desire they saw being promoted in the name of Christ.
The New York Times conducted a survey of Christmas sermons in 1931 and reported a common theme: “the suggestion that Christmas could not survive if Christ were thrust into the background by materialism.” Another popular sermon of the period railed that Advent had become little more than a “profit-seeking period.”
Sermons about the pagan origins of Christmas or the danger of rampant materialism in Christ’s name are unlikely to be heard today. In recent years the dominant message heard from the Christian community during the holiday season has been precisely the opposite. Today, it seems many Christians are offended when unchecked materialism in December is not explicitly associated with Christ. The irony.
Since 2005, Fox News has deployed its minions to wage their war on the “War on Christmas,” and the American Family Association has pushed for a boycott of stores for not using the words “Merry Christmas” in their seasonal marketing. Like many public institutions, some retailers opt to use the inclusive phrase “Happy Holidays” which these groups interpret as a slam to Jesus Christ- the real “reason for the season.”
It amazes me that in less than a century Christians have gone from opposing over-consumption at Christmas to demanding it be done in Christ’s name alone. The explanation may be in the numbers. Two-thirds of the U.S. economy is based on consumer spending, and 50-75 percent of most retailers annual profits are generated during December. This means the weeks before Christmas are the high holy days of consumerism. If Christians engaged the Advent season as they did in generations past, by modeling moderation and self-denial or by ignoring the holiday altogether, it would likely destroy (what remains of) the economy.
To ensure economic survival consumers are stirred into a buying frenzy every winter with the goal of making this year’s shopping season more prosperous than the previous. Santa Claus has been the mascot of this manipulation since the early 20th Century, but if more Consumer Christians have their way the season of shopping would be inaugurated by the appearance of Jesus Christ at the end of the Macy’s Thanksgiving Day Parade instead.
Sadly, the “War on Christmas” and “Christmas Under Siege” campaigns pushed by some conservative Christians says more about the church’s captivity to consumerism than its commitment to the love of Christ and their neighbors.