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AND CHRISTMAS BACK INTO THE END OF THE YEAR
Editorial by John Charlton
(Dec. 10, 2009) — In just two weeks the wonderful Christian feast of Christmas will visit the world once again, as it does every year in its annual advent. In recent years however Christmas has been under attack by the liberal, main stream media. I remember distinctly one year during the Clinton administration, when many a news outlet and store stopped calling the celebration “Christmas,” and instead referred to the “Holidays” or the “Winter Holidays.”
It was a concerted effort to distance the popular culture from Christ Jesus, the one and only Incarnate Son of God the Father.
In recent years, also, the Christmas display in public places has become a target of secularists and atheists, aided and abetted by rancorous and vain judges, who claim that which Americans approved of in public places and on public property for generations is somehow contrary to the Constitution of the land.
Not that these same individuals care to uphold other parts of the Constitution — nay, they invoke it when it suits their fancy and vainglory.
Still another trend in recent decades is one no less lamentable, the moving of Christmas into November and beginning to decorate for it in October.
If Christmas decorations diminish to become only means for stores advertising their wares, then the true spirit and meaning of Christmas will be lost.
I, for one, remember that Christmas shopping began after Thanksgiving, and only then did one see Christmas decorations in stores. In private homes, Christmas decorations went up only the week before Christmas.
So much have things eroded that I am aghast each year to see neighbors discard their Christmas trees on Christmas afternoon, or just a day or two after.
Doesn’t anyone remember the old-tide song, which begins, “On the First Day of Christmas, my true love gave to me…”?
Let us put Christ back in Christmas, and let us remember what Christmas is all about.
First, one must understand that Christmas is not a pagan feast day, co-opted by Christians.
Yes, there were certain radical reformers of the 16th century whose personal hatred for Christians who kept ancient traditions went so far as to attack Christmas. In fact, when I visited the Plymouth Museum in Plymouth, Massachusetts many years ago, there was prominently displayed the book the Pilgrims used in their religious services, opened to a page which declared Christmas outlawed, on account of it being of “popish invention”!
Well since Christ is the High Priest of all, and “pope” is merely another name for a high priest, I guess you could say that Christmas was invented by a “pope,” but that was not what the Pilgrims meant by it. In fact, it was for more than 20 years the law of the Massachusetts Colony that it was a crime to celebrate Christmas. Today, the liberals who populate urban and eastern centers like Massachusetts carry on the recent traditions of hating Christmas, even though they have long abandoned the puritanical theology of their pilgrim forefathers.
No, Christmas was not invented by men, it was the fruit of the infinite mercy of the Triune God, who decreed from all eternity that man should not perish on account of Adam’s sin, but that through the Incarnation of the Son of God, he would be given a second chance: a means of redemption, and a merciful Redeemer, who would become man, like them in all things but sin.
This is the great Mystery and wonderful truth of Christmas: that God became man, so that men might become divine — not according to nature, because we cannot be other than what we are, but enlightened and transformed by grace, that we might dwell with Christ in light inaccessible, co-heirs with Him, in eternal life.
All the other traditions which surrounded Christmas from ancient times are derived from the historical fact of God’s Incarnation. We Christians are not like the modernists who deny the very possibility that the supernatural can enter into this world, who say that there is no such thing as miracles, or that Christ did not know He was divine.
Christians do not entertain such doubts, because we are a people of faith, and faith precludes all doubt when faced with prophecy and miracles. To this extent, we Christians are the true heirs of the promises God made to Adam, Moses and the prophets, for we believe what is written in all the books of the Bible, and do not suffer the writings of any man who would imply in any manner that there is error in that Book.
But to celebrate Christmas on Dec. 25th, is no tradition of men. The idiocy of those who claim that this celebration had its origin in the 3rd century never fails to astound me. We know from Scripture that Luke the Evangelist, for example, made diligent investigation of all the facts surrounding the life, death, Crucifixion and Resurrection of Our Lord (Luke 1:3). That is why his Gospel recounts so much of the birth and infancy of the new born Messiah. It is therefore inconceivable that the generation of first Christians to which Luke belonged would be ignorant of His birthday, just as it is neigh impossible that in writing his gospel about the infancy of Christ Jesus, that he had no recourse to the testimony of Christ’s mother Mary, whom tradition holds lived a decade or two after His Ascension into Heaven.
The text of Luke also proclaims the birth in December, because in that month, while it is not the custom of shepherds who heard their own flock to herd them in the environs of Jerusalem, it was the practice of the shepherds who herded those flocks destined for slaughter on the altars of the Temple. Moreover, there is no historical record of Christians in the first centuries ever celebrating Christ’s birth on any other day than Christmas.
From ancient times Christians celebrated Christmas to commemorate this unique event in the history of the ages. The song about the 12 days of Christmas, commemorates the custom of numbering the days from Christmas to Epiphany, the day upon which, according to tradition, the three wisemen came bearing gifts. That these wise men were three and bore gifts and were each of a different race of men, is depicted in one of the oldest frescos yet discovered in the catecombs of the City of Rome, dating back to c. 150 A.D.. Oh, and the wise men were not magicians, but astronomers of faith. And Christians had no qualms about depicting in art, such things as the Star of Bethlehem.
Other traditions such as the custom of the Christmas crechè, or public display of figurines, each representing a different personage in the story of Christ’s birth in a stable, began nearly 300 years before the Reformation and entered into the popular culture of Europe. The figurine of the Christ Child holds his arms outward, to remind us all that He came to die on the Cross for us, unworthy sinners; and well as to invite us in love to obey the gentle laws of His Kingdom.
Likewise the custom of decorating the home with a pine or fur tree, which goes back to the time before the Reformation. But the Christmas card is a peculiarly American invention: it originated in Boston, Massachusetts, among the German speaking immigrants, at Holy Trinity Church, on Shawmut Street. These same immigrants were the first to bring the Christmas Tree to America in the closing decades of the 19th Century.
The rest is history. But not in the sense of an end, in the sense of something that is to be commemorated for all the ages of ages. Merry Christmas to one, and to all!