“Can Christians ever manage to reclaim Christmas as a holy day?”
I find the question at the head of this article to be in some small way offensive. Not so offensive that I am going to organize mass efforts against the notion, but offensive enough that it caused me a moment’s pause and indignation. The reason is this; the question assumes that Christmas has already become bereft of all spiritual meaning. True, the holiday is highly commercialized and can even be tied to heathen celebration from the very earliest years. What I am asking you to consider in the following paragraphs does not deal directly with either of those things.
I submit to you, rather, that Christmas will never lose its value as a holy day. You have doubtless heard a reference to ‘the spirit of Christmas’ at least once in your life. For some the phrase means simply the spirit of goodwill, of caring and giving between individuals; a time of increased sensitivity to others and decreased selfishness within. These are not only Christian ideals; they are fundamental principals of our guidebook, the Holy Bible.
For Christians, the phrase expands so much further. It is not just a time of rediscovering ideals; it is a time of true worship. During this season as we share in the traditionally accepted methods of celebration, we also ponder in our hearts and remind others that this is not just any occasion; this is the celebration of a birth. At this time more than any other we are aware of the previously physical form of our Lord and Savior. We recall that, had He never agreed to be sent to earth as an infant, He never would have died on the cross: that momentous event which has lead to our salvation and the guarantee of eternal life in Heaven after we die.
We do not know the exact date of the Lord’s birth, and so we heartily embrace the general month in which we believe it took place, on the universally accepted date. We decorate our homes with boughs and an evergreen: the only tree which does not die through the winter, but is ever-living like our Savior. We adorn our homes and our trees with lights, for He is the true Light of the world. We place atop the tree a star as a present reminder of the star that shone over Bethlehem, heralding the birth of the Messiah to those who were watching. We hang on our trees small figures of angels, a beautiful reminder of the Heavenly host who brought the good news, not to kings or men of riches, but to lowly shepherds in a field; a reminder that “the Son of man is come to seek and to save that which was lost.” (Luke 19:10) We exchange gifts with one another, gifts being free for the receiving, just like the gift of eternal life that Jesus offers.
We revel in the fact that Jesus Christ came to Earth as a baby for you and for me, and that He was sent all men (“For all have sinned, and come short of the glory of God;” Romans 3:23). What a miracle that God was sent for all of us! We rejoice that He came for the least of us, not only to the rich or those who proclaim to be righteous. (I know, it is ironic how many Christians turn on the grace that God has shown to them and become self-righteous themselves, but that is another article altogether.)
Christmas has never lost, and will never lose its place as a holy day in the hearts of those who celebrate it truly. The world has all but wiped Christ out of Easter, yet we go on year after year praising God for His death on the cross. Will Christians ever manage to reclaim Christmas as a holy day? I say with extreme confidence that it has not really lost that significance in the first place. Like Christ, who has long since ascended to Heaven, it will forever contain its place in our hearts, in our homes and in our churches. Perhaps, the next time you are shopping for presents in a crowd of bargain-crazed individuals you will think for a moment that it is quite possible that the person next to you is simply buying a gift as an outward celebration of something that is rooted much, much deeper in their heart and life.