By William F. Holland Jr., DD., C. ED.D.
Ordained/Licensed Christian minister
I’ve read articles over the years about how Christmas is a combination of Christian and pagan symbolism along with some folklore traditions and for the most part, this is true. I also realize that most people do not want to hear about such things. Beyond the bah-humbug, I will admit that even though Christmas is not as much fun now as it was when I was a kid or when our children were young, I still enjoy the season. I remember laying under the tree and how I was mesmerized looking up at all the twinkling lights. To me, Christmas has always been a special time and heaven forbid I use the term, “magical” but as a child, my overactive imagination had no problem believing the fables especially after I learned about Saint Nicholas that knows everything and can give every child in the world exactly what they want. Now that we are adults, it seems we still hold onto the memories of Christmas past and even have a little excitement left for Christmas future no matter how old we are.
I was thinking about some of the things I do not enjoy about Christmas like for example, the traffic when trying to shop is a headache and how it seems people are not always in a “Currier and Ives” festive mood. The high level of stress and anxiety to make sure everything is perfect can turn our joyous celebrations into something that resembles a torture chamber. The pressure of making sure the house is decorated just right, the food is delicious, and finding the perfect gifts, takes an exhausting toll on all of us. And let’s not forget about the intense commercialism that bombards us with advertising and turns everything into a money-driven frenzy. But, for the sake of all those involved, we will continue our merry traditions until we cannot do it anymore because spending time with our loved ones for the holiday makes us all happy. What is there not to like? The lighted tree, feasting at banquet tables with the richest delicacies of the year, and everyone enjoying themselves are the ingredients for a wonderful occasion. Let us not forget seeing the excited faces of the little ones as they unwrap their presents. We remember the carol that reminds us, “It’s the most wonderful time of the year.”
Still, in the back of my mind, I keep thinking about the spiritual parts and pieces of a supposedly Christian holiday. After all, I was also taught this was when Jesus was born. The concept of syncretism is the perfect opportunity to blend all types of ancient traditions and rituals with our sacred faith. We have a nativity with Jesus as the Savior for those who believe and Santa Clause with his magical powers for those who believe. I understand for those who are not Christians, this is no big deal because a party is a party, but the Bible says that the more we learn the more we are accountable for. Besides, everyone is going to do whatever they want. We all strain at a gnat and swallow a camel every now and then, right? Then if we pull the plug on Christmas, we can become so legalistic and narrow-minded that we offend everyone and end up living alone. I cannot see how this helps anything. Is trying to find a reasonable balance just another word for compromise?
I wonder how many would celebrate Christmas if it was only about Jesus coming to save us. What if there were no Christmas trees or the magical man dressed in red with a white beard? What if Mr. Kringle was without supernatural powers like being omnipresent and the ability to shape-shift and visit every home in the world in one night? Without the sparkling lights, Frosty the snowman, candy canes, the ham and pecan pie, the music carols, Rudolf, and a large pile of wrapped gifts, Christmas day would probably pass by quietly like Groundhog Day. Advent is a time of reflection and gratitude about Christ coming to save us from our sins. He seems helpless as a baby in a manger, but one day every person will acknowledge Him as Lord and give an account of how they lived. Somewhere between the wise men, the winter solstice traditions, and flying reindeer, may we find our reason for the season.
Dr. Holland is a Christian author, outreach minister, and community chaplain. To read more about the Christian life visit billyhollandministries.com