By: Justin Wishart
What is Christmas? Some view Christmas as a secular holiday, or an event based on pagan celebrations. Christmas is, in fact, the celebration of Emmanuel, meaning “God with us”. The early church chose December 25th to celebrate God’s glory revealed to humanity. December 25th was originally the pagan celebration of Sol Invictus in the Roman Empire. Yet, the ancient church chose precisely the same day to set up a rival celebration to demonstrate the superiority of Christianity over Roman polytheism; the truth that Jesus came to us, through the virgin Mary, to redeem mankind. No longer do we need to live in fear of sin and death.
Later, more Christmas traditions were introduced to symbolize our faith in God. For example, the Christmas Tree aptly represents our eternal salvation. Just as the tree stays ‘ever green’, likewise our souls will forever rest in the presence of Christ. Christmas bulbs evolved from hanging apples on a Paradise Tree, remembering that we are all fallen and in need of the Saviour. Presents under the tree symbolize the gifts that the Wise Men gave to Jesus. The ‘gift exchange’ also reminds us that as God has given us so much, we should likewise be generous with others.
The star on top of the tree symbolizes the Star of Bethlehem, which revealed God’s power over nature. The angel on top of the tree points to the angels proclaiming the coming Christ to the shepherds, and how we must likewise proclaim the Gospel to others. Even ole Santa Claus can help us focus on the true meaning of Christmas. Santa Claus is based on Saint Nikolaos (St. Nick) who was a fearless defender of the Trinity (Father, Son, and Holy Spirit) during the Council of Nicea, a true hero of the Christian faith!
Christmas can seem to be a time of hustle and bustle and not a time of reflection. Use these Christmas traditions to have moments to remember and reflect on the true meaning of Christmas. Use them as opportunities to share your faith with others as well. As we recall the First Advent, we anticipate the promised Second Advent, when Jesus will once again live with us.
May everyone have a merry, and thoughtful, Christmas!