CHRISTMAS: To Celebrate or Not?

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I’ve given Christmas a lot of thought this year as there’ve been articles circulating Facebook and the internet for several months about Christmas being a pagan holiday that originated with the celebration of the birth of a sun god, and that the Catholics broke away from the Roman pagan sun-god roots and declared December 25th a day to celebrate the birth of Jesus instead. And much more. (I apologize for this being a little long, it’s a complicated subject.)

Then there’s the one of a tree taken from the forest and being covered with silver and gold. Of course, most think of Christmas trees, tinsel, ornaments, etc. I read those verses before in Jeremiah 10:3-5 and looked them up again. It speaks of the god(s) of that culture, a wooden statue carved in the image of a being or an animal then literally overlaid with melted silver or gold, and Ta-dah, it’s a god! (Insert tongue in cheek here) These carved images were actually worshiped. I agree, if I did that with a tree, or anything, I would definitely offend God.

I do understand the articles. People who write them have strong convictions and I don’t hold that against them whatsoever as I have my own strong convictions. That being said, I’ve been trying not to rationalize Christmas, but rather weigh out the celebration of Christmas as Jesus’ birthday against not celebrating it at all, and took a close look at what Christmas means to me.

Most people, especially Christ followers, do not believe Jesus was born on Christmas day or anywhere near it. No one really knows for sure the exact day of Jesus’ birth, but God and those there then.

I don’t agree with all the saint worship and traditions of the Catholic Church, and by the way, I was baptized catholic as a baby. Though we weren’t church attending Catholics by any means, my mom had her little shrine in the corner of her bedroom with statues of St. Lazarus and St. Mary. I especially don’t believe that one can become forgiven by another human being no matter whom they are—priest or pope. According to the Bible, ALL human beings are sinful with the exception of Jesus Christ Himself. Jesus died to do away with any reliance on priests. He is the only one able to remove our sins by His blood shed on the cross.

Nevertheless, my hat goes off to the Catholic Church back then for redirecting the focus onto the Savior of the world rather than the manmade and lifeless gods worshiped at that time.

As I weighed things out, I thought about the advantages of the huge open door the entire Christmas season becomes for those who wish to openly speak about God’s presence on earth that began with an infant, and to share the love of God. Something about the season prompts generosity in normally neutral people, and because they make it a point to give, they become the deliberate hands and feet of Christ for all good gifts come from God.

For some of the recipients, it’s the only time they experience the love of Christ and actually receive any kind of gift at all. Many hardened hearts are blessed and thousands discover peace and eternal life through Jesus.

And though this love should be available every single day, there’s something about Christmas that puts a spirit of generosity and love in the hardest of hearts, whether they choose to say Merry Christmas, Happy Holidays (which really means Happy Holy Days), Season’s Greetings, or nothing at all.

I personally prefer Merry Christmas and God bless you!image

It’s no secret the whole season has gone chaotic and irrational. We grit our teeth and put up with unpleasant out-of-town guests, and there are stressors like the cooking, traveling, school recitals and pageants, and the obligatory party from work. There are also those unaware of the genuine needs around them because for them it’s all about the festivities: the shopping, decorating, partying, pleasing everyone on their list, the unpleasant one-upmanship game, food, deserts, and cookie exchanges. Some even get up super early for the piranha-like frenzy of credit-card-maxing Black Friday sales, whichever day they have it, and endure the mall parking, extra-long lines, kids in need of naps, the pushing, shoving, and nearly running over one another.

I recently watched a Target TV commercial that left me saddened, nothing against Target Stores, literally referring to opening presents on Christmas day. The entire focus of the commercial is:

WHAT DID YOU GET?    WHAT DID YOU GET?     WHAT DID YOU GET?

I lost count as to how many times that question was asked during that short commercial.

I’m truly not trying to toot my own horn, but for the purpose of expressing what Christmas means to me, I share this. This year my husband and I did two Christmas boxes for Samaritan’s purse. A shoe box or plastic box is marked with a boy or girl image and approximate age. We included toys, school supplies, hard candy, personal hygiene items, and pretty much anything we wanted as kids and could stuff in the box.

Then I thought about the prison ministries. For instance, Angel Tree started by Chuck Colson. Prisoner’s kids regularly would go without a gift from their fathers or mothers, or in some cases both, if it wasn’t for Angel Tree. What an excellent way to reach out to those trapped behind bars, and a wonderful way they can let their kids know they may be behind bars for most of their child’s (children’s) childhood, but that doesn’t mean their hearts aren’t with their children.

The prisoner fills out a paper angel cutout with their child’s name and age, and writes the child a message. The child’s caregiver fills in the child’s clothing size and needs. The angels hang on Christmas trees, usually at churches, and someone picks an angel then buys the items listed and brings them to the church. The kids may ask for things like a purple jacket, green shoes, and a stuffed animal.

Prisoners and their children are deeply touched and often cry with joy that strangers will spend their own time and money on them. Those kids beam with delight when they open gifts with a note from Mommy or Daddy. They are delighted that their parent in prison hasn’t forgotten them. I wonder just how many of those little paper angels are pressed in a book, framed, or cherished in a special place in the child’s room.

Parents and kids alike wonder why a stranger cares about their needs as in most cases not many people genuinely cared for them all their lives. They’re told that these strangers love them and love God and that God’s love is huge. God moving through people’s hearts blesses children and spares them one more year of seeing their peers’ cool new stuff while they may not get anything at all.

Then there is Compassion International. A small donation can buy amazing things for children in a poverty stricken country. My husband and I sponsor kids year round so they can go to school, get better health care, and get at least one good meal each day. On Christmas and their birthdays we send extra so that they know they are loved. We are blessed with thank you cards and letters from the kids, and sometimes pictures of them with their gifts. Compassion sets up a place where these kids go and “buy” things with their sponsor’s Christmas gift, and sent a picture of one girl’s huge smile as she held new pants, a shirt, a jacket, underwear, snacks, and a pair of shoes, all for $20! Another little girl especially warmed my heart. She wrote she bought cereal, milk, a shirt, a skirt, underwear, and one large bag each of flour and beans. Regardless what they choose, their lives and the lives of their families are made better, even if only one day a year.

Years ago, the business I worked for adopted several families in need. I had the privilege of delivering presents and food to one particular family; this mom of five was a victim of domestic abuse. I saw firsthand the joy in the kids’ faces and the relief in the mother’s teary eyes. It was well worth it knowing their lives were brightened.

One year, I picked an underprivileged child’s paper ornament from a nearby elementary school’s Christmas tree. The kids’ names are kept private. It thrilled me beyond measure to play a role in a child’s joy when she unwrapped the pants, shoes, and inexpensive toy she requested. It truly blesses one more to give than to receive!

imageAnd though we should give year round, that spirit of God’s love at Christmas is contagious and hard to beat. Christmas opens the arms of His love for the homeless as they are given hot meals and gift bags with personal items we take for granted along with, socks, gloves, and scarves.

My chiropractor trades an appointment for an unwrapped toy one day a year so that underprivileged children in our area don’t go without. Most of this wouldn’t happen if it wasn’t for the celebration of the reason for the Christmas Season. And the reason is Love, a Love that is personified in Jesus Christ!

These are just a few of the various ministries I have personally experienced that soften the broken hearts of children and adults alike with kindness, generosity, and the love of Jesus.

Whether the gift recipients choose to personally know Jesus or not, this is a way to reach out in and out of our own communities and change lives. We do what we do because of the love, mercy, and grace God has shown us.

It’s true that the Bible doesn’t say to celebrate the birth of Jesus. But then, it doesn’t say not to. It doesn’t say to celebrate birthdays at all, so should we stop celebrating our own or our kids’ birthdays? Just sayin…

When Jesus was born, all of Heaven celebrated with a glory that spilled from lowly shepherds in the fields of Bethlehem to wealthy wise men in the east. As soon as these wise men saw His star, they set out to find Him.

That’s a heck of a birth announcement, don’t you think? Not even Donald Trump himself can top God’s birth announcement. Do you agree? And when the wise men finally found little toddler Jesus, they worshipped Him and gave Him King-worthy gifts.

After weighing things out I reached a conclusion not just because as a child Christmas and my birthday were the only times a year I was showered with gifts and shown the attention I didn’t get the rest of the year; or because Christmas has been my favorite holiday and I enjoy the music from December to July. Yes, really.

For me, Christmas is a time when people, of faith or not, open up a spot of generosity in their hearts and bless family, friends, neighbors, but even more so the underprivileged. Most of the world benefits from these acts of generosity, and I’m not talking about the manufacturers and retailers. It seems to me that not celebrating Christmas hurts the very people God wishes to reach.

The brokenhearted, the downtrodden, the poor, widow, and orphan.

God is the Author of love and I see His Love all over Christmas Day. When asked which was the most important commandment Jesus answered,

“The most important one is this: ‘Hear, O Israel: The Lord our God, the Lord is one.  Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind and with all your strength.’ The second is this: ‘Love your neighbor as yourself.’ There is no commandment greater than these.” The story is in these verses. Mark 12:28-34

I can’t imagine Christmas without Angel Tree or a goody-stuffed shoe box for a needy child, or any of the other ministries. These ministries prove someone cares and that God loves people. For some kids, it may be the only new toy or new item of clothing they will ever receive. These acts of kindness bring comfort and become bright lights in many otherwise dark worlds.

imageOh what an unbelievable gift God has given us! God created the first CHRISTmas and gave the first gift. He Himself came to earth as Jesus, to dwell within this creation and show them His heart.  You may want to read Does God Celebrate Christmas?

Who can explain the mystery of God’s pure love turned flesh in the body of an infant, and why shouldn’t we celebrate that to all His glory!

Why did God come to earth to begin with? To ransom all sinners! That’s everyone one of us willing to come to Him; and to keep us from a horrible eternity. Life is short and eternity is forever. That is one decision I do not want to mess up! God summons us to spread that news and love and what better way to spread it than by soothing hearts, feeding the poor, and visiting those in prison while sharing with them the miracle of the Christ Child!

“The Spirit of the Lord is on me, because he has anointed me to proclaim good news to the poor. He has sent me to proclaim freedom for the prisoners and recovery of sight for the blind, to set the oppressed free…” Jesus       Luke 4:18

Really! What’s not to celebrate! Merry Christmas and God bless you!

By ~ Elizabeth Yalian 2013-2014 ©http://hiseyeisonthissparrow.com.

9 Comments

Filed under Awed by His Love and Grace, Christmas, Following Christ Has Changed My Life, God and Jesus

9 responses to “CHRISTMAS: To Celebrate or Not?

  1. These are excellent points, Elizabeth! Too often, people get caught up in tiny details that really don’t amount to much, if anything. Love that Dale Evans quote, too 🙂 ♥ ❤ Pinned this post @ http://www.pinterest.com/pin/12596073933637997/

  2. Reblogged this on Stumbling into Grace and commented:
    The WAY to celebrate Christmas

  3. Thank you for your honesty Elizabeth and mentioning all of the wonderful outreaches. Your heart for the hurting and lost shines through your words. God bless and merry Christmas.

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