What an absolute mess. I mean worse than my house and I’m a bachelor. Air Force bases are taking down Nativity scenes. Federal judges ruling that Crosses must be removed from Veterans’ memorials. Just a few weeks ago, certain military Catholic Chaplains were threatened with arrest if they celebrated Mass for service members while the government was shut down. And now there’s even a media fight over what color Santa Claus’s skin might be.
The only new development with respect to Christmas, that I find tolerable is the atheist billboards.
No, I don’t agree with the atheist billboards that have been cropping up over the last couple of years mocking religion in general and, now, Christmas in particular, but at least they are actually entering the arena of ideas and making public discourse on the playing field. I find it underhanded to file injunctions against things people disagree with that aren’t illegal, like the deal with Nativity scenes at the Air Base and other military facilities.
The world is a mess, or at least America is. I had to clear my mind of all the political schmutz that I just mentioned so I could actually focus on Christmas.
So what are we celebrating at this season?
If you look at the malls and the advertisements that come by mail, radio, TV and Internet, one might think we’re just celebrating rampant consumerism. Sell, sell, sell! Buy, buy, buy! Have the best present under the tree! Or better yet, put a bow on a luxury car in the driveway! Or better yet… If that’s all we have because everything else has been undermined or discredited, then we what are we left with?
So where did the present-giving come from?
Well, in Europe, they have Father Christmas, Sinter Klaas, and Kris Kringle. In America, we have Santa Claus: the magical gentleman, with white beard and red suit, who flies around the world bringing presents to all nice children. It is widely regarded that many of these traditions grew from the legend regarding the generosity of St. Nicholas. St. Nicholas was a 4th century Greek Christian Bishop of Anatolia (now in Turkey). However, the actual roots of other Yuletide traditions of northern Europe, such as mistletoe, Yule logs, holly wreaths, and decorated trees, predate Christianization and….well, let’s just say none of these customs is actually mentioned in the Gospels.
Gift-giving, however, is mentioned in the Gospels.
In Christian traditions, the gift-giving of Christmastime may be more rooted in the account of the three Wise Men. The three Kings journeyed from the east, following the Shining Star of Bethlehem brought gold, frankincense and myrrh to the Christchild. As my Italian Catholic grandmother used to say, ‘Keep Christ in Christmas.’
So, again, what are we celebrating?
We celebrate the miraculous conception and birth of the Son of God who came not to condemn the world, but that through Him the world might be saved.
And yet… are we, as Americans, celebrating in way that’s worthy of Who He is in history and Who He is to the Christian religion? Do Christians honor Him by turning the other cheek, tearing down the Nativity scenes quietly, and allowing the secularists to marginalize them further in society? Or is someone like the Duck Dynasty guy who says something coarse and that has certainly been quoted out of context, but at the same pushes faith back into the civil discourse, honoring Him as well? I certainly won’t pretend to have the full answer to that, but I think it’s something the faithful will have wrestle with. I submit that we each spend enough time in study, prayer and contemplation to comprehend the purpose for which the Almighty has placed each of us here and then carry out that purpose as best we understand it.
We were each of us born with talents and potential — gifts. These were gifts that G-d gave to each of us, but not just for us. The talents He put within us were for our friends and neighbors and others, too. We must each discover the our own gifts and develop skills and abilities to use those gifts. Ideally we would make a living sharing our gifts with others, just athletes, actors and farmers do. One way to honor G-d, not just at this season, but throughout the year, is to use the gifts He put into us to make the lives of those around us better.
- Christmas in Europe (ool.co.uk)
- The history of Santa Claus (mwright0198.wordpress.com)
- Merry Christmas (fredrivenburg.wordpress.com)
- Santa Claus, St. Nicholas and Christianity (guardianlv.com)
- Megyn Kelly and why Santa Claus’ skin color matters (communities.washingtontimes.com)
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