Monday, December 11, 2006

It's Almost Christmas!

I was at a pancake house in Chicago last week when I overheard the guy next to me complaining about Christmas. He said it was just an old pagan holiday and had nothing to do with Jesus and he wanted no part of it. After I listened to him rant for a few minutes I decided to join the conversation. (One should always listen for a few minutes before joining a conversation already in progress.)

I agreed that December 25 was originally the day that the Romans celebrated the birth of the sun. But when Constantine became a Christian in the fourth century, he changed it to the day we celebrate the birth of Jesus – the son. Constantine wanted to honor Jesus’ birth and also give credibility to Christians by giving them a holiday. Since the actual date of Jesus’ birth was unknown, he took an existing holiday, by then associated with a pagan custom, and converted it to Christmas. You can do that sort of thing when you are the Emperor. We have been celebrating December 25, Christmas, as the birth of Jesus for nearly 1,700 years.

Christmas is one of my favorite holidays because it reminds me of Jesus’ humanity. Even though He was God, He chose to be born as a baby, raised in a working class family, and preach love, forgiveness, and a simply lifestyle. Like the man in Chicago, I too am a little put off by people spending huge amounts of money to celebrate the birth of a man that they don’t know or hardly care about.

In modern day America where a person’s value is determined by how much “stuff” he has, it is only reasonable that we would honor our friends and relatives by giving them more “stuff.” In Luke 12:15 Jesus said, “A man's life does not consist in the abundance of his possessions.” This is a hard fact to get into our heads in a culture where the opposite seems to be the conventional wisdom.

Remember that Jesus Christ is Lord on this special day when we celebrate His birth.