December is disappearing faster than the meaning of Christmas

jsoutherniconWhat do you mean Christmas is this weekend? What on earth happened to December?

Usually December is a slow time for those of us in the news business. It’s hard to reach people due to vacations and pressing deadlines to get things done by the end of the year. I can usually spend much of December catching up on personal stuff that I’ve had to put off because the rest of the year is so busy. This year the personal stuff overwhelmed me.

The first weekend of December was Colton’s birthday. It’s hard to believe my youngest is 14 years old now. The following weekend I flew back to Colorado for Heather’s graduation from the University of Northern Colorado. My oldest child is now a college graduate and I am so proud for her!

Last Saturday was my 17th wedding anniversary. Sandy is an incredibly amazing woman to put up with me for so long and to be so loving and kind.

In between these events are office Christmas parties, holiday events to attend and/or cover for the paper, and humbling attempts to do some shopping for the aforementioned birthday, graduation and anniversary. It’s no wonder I’m sitting here staring at Christmas this weekend with a deer-in-the-headlights look in my eyes.

I don’t know why Christmas always seems to take me by surprise. It shouldn’t. It’s been the same day on the calendar a lot longer than I’ve been around. What is surprising is how relatively short the time is that we have celebrated Christmas. There are many conflicting accounts of how the holiday came to be, but the modern version that we recognize and celebrate today is less than 200 years old.

Like most every other Christian holiday, what we recognize as Christmas has been blended with pagan rituals and symbolism. Although the history and symbolisms could be debated ad nauseam, the bottom line is Christmas is a celebration of the birth of Christ, an event the early Catholic Church celebrated at the Christ Mass (or Christ’s Mass). The inclusion of the traditional trappings of Santa Claus, reindeer, Christmas trees, elves, etc., has evolved over time, most notably in the early and middle 1800s.

Unfortunately, there is a strong movement to move Christ out of Christmas. It has been gaining momentum for decades and I strongly believe there are more people today who naively believe Christmas has nothing to do with Christianity than there are those who know the truth.

Both Easter and Christmas – the two holidays held most sacred by modern Christians – have their roots and traditions so intermingled with secularism that they barely have any semblance to their original meaning. I find this bastardization of Christian traditions disturbing on many levels even though I am blatantly guilty of promoting the secularization of the holidays.

As a child I used to look forward to the arrival of Santa. As an adult, not only have I carried on the tradition of Santa with my children, I have been Santa. For two seasons in the early 2000s, I portrayed the jolly old elf in a mall back home in Colorado. My own children sat on my lap and shared their wish list without ever knowing who it was behind the beard.

It was about this time that I was going through a tremendous growth spurt in my Christian faith and became conflicted about how to celebrate Christmas. I still love the traditions of giving gifts and opening them around the Christmas tree on Christmas morning. We still do that and probably always will.

On the other hand, I don’t want to lose sight of the real reason we celebrate Christmas. It’s the time we recognize and honor God’s perfect gift to mankind – the birth of his son. It might be more appropriate that we make a nativity scene the centerpiece of our decoration, but even that is in error. I often call it a naivety scene, because the arrival of the shepherds and wise men did not happen at the time and place where Jesus was born.

What we know as the nativity is a mash-up of events that happened months or even years apart. Nonetheless, it is a better representation of Christmas than Santa Claus and a decorated pine tree.

In a column I wrote many years ago, I suggested that there be some kind of new council of Christians that convenes with the purpose of researching the historical timeline of Jesus and re-establishing the celebrations of his birth and crucifixion separate and independent of the traditional Christmas and Easter celebrations. Although there are no recorded dates for the birth, death and resurrection of the Christ, we do know that the dates currently in use have a very high probability of being wrong.

Since then, I have downplayed the idea of separating the Christian aspects of Easter and Christmas from the holidays because I feared that the new holidays would not take hold and the opportunity to use the traditional holidays as tools for evangelism would be lost. I now believe those opportunities are being lost because the secular celebrations so overshadow the religious aspects.

So, maybe it’s time to reconsider uniting Christendom with the intent of taking back our holy celebrations. I don’t know when or how something like that might happen. It may never happen, but if it does let my voice clamor with any of those who would join me in calling for such a venture.

Let’s just do it after December, OK? There is already way too much activity packed into this month and it’s quickly vanishing like the meaning of Christmas.

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