It is not the possible loss of our wonderful traditions that angers me most. It is the apathetic way we Christians stand aside and allow the season to be just that, “A Season of Happy Holidays.” And when a minority dictates what will offend and what is acceptable, we generally keep quiet. I, for one, want my voice to be heard.
Do we have the fortitude to boycott stores that refuse to put “Christmas” in any of their advertisements or in their decorations? Those who refuse any reference to the birth of Christ as the reason for the season? Those that have prohibited the Salvation Army personnel to stand outside stores with the familiar kettle and bell asking for donations for people in need? Are we willing to be counted among those who care about Christmas and send letters of protest to stores that make huge profits from the season but are unwilling to admit what the season means and why we celebrate it? Why we buy gifts in the first place?
If you detect a sense of being “fed up” flowing through these lines, that’s exactly what I am—fed up with those who are in the minority yet are getting their way about our important age-old customs that speak of our faith. I’ve been active in sending messages of protest. According to Agape Press and the American Family Association, our voices are being heard. Big merchandisers are taking another view of Christmas and promise that, even though it is too late this year, next year will be different in their advertisements and approach to Christmas.
Many “pro” and “con” arguments are being aired about Christmas. To list a few let us look first at the date, December 25.
It is true that we don’t know the exact date of the birth of Jesus. December 25 is an “assigned” date, taken at the time of the Roman saturnalia which already existed and was pagan in nature. In my thinking, the date is not a matter of argument. The Bible tells us that “in the fullness of time” God became flesh and dwelt among men.
Another argument is that there wasn’t even an inn in Bethlehem, so how could there be “no room in the inn” for the Holy Family? For those doubters, scholars tell us that inns for wayfarers date back as far as the Exodus, Joshua, Jeremiah and Isaiah. Public inns existed throughout the Greek and Roman Empires. The wayside inns had water available for travelers, a walled-in space for protection, rooms for rent and a keep for animals. For those who argue that Bethlehem was too small to have an inn, the stopping place might have been a private dwelling with rooms to rent. The inn-keeper helped the Holy Family find room among the animals. His was a hospitality house much like Jesus referred to later in his parable of the Good Samaritan.
Agnostics argue that the information in Luke about a census is wrong and does not match Roman history of the period. Herod the Great died in AD 4 and Cyrenius was Governor of Syria in AD 6-9. How can there be truth in such a disparity in time?
Scholars place the birth of Jesus at 6 B. C., not AD 1 as we so often assume. Considered in this light, Jesus was born during the time when Herod ruled. Records show that Cyrenius functioned as military governor in Syria synonymously with the political governor, Sentius Saturnius. The reference of the census in Luke is of a general census of the Roman world for both taxation and military conscription. Gamaliel, the Jewish historian, stated that Judas of Galilee rose up in rebellion “in the days of the census.” We must remember that our calendar has undergone many changes from the pivotal point in time when Christ’s birth began to mark Anno Domini—“in the year of our Lord.” But there is history to confirm a census at the time of Jesus’ birth.
It takes faith to overlook the arguments of the naysayers against Christmas.
As we walk through the malls and drive through our towns during days leading up to Christmas, 2006, we will find changes from the familiar. In many places nativity scenes are banned because such a display might “offend.” The Christmas tree is called a “holiday” tree. The word Christmas is absent from advertising. Christmas carols are muted or the words have been changed so as not to mention the Holy Family. Imagine singing these words to the melody of “Silent Night,” that beloved carol made famous by Franz Gruber and Joseph Mohr. The new words go: “Cold in the night, no one in sight, winter winds whirl and bite, how I wish I were happy and warm, safe with my family out of the storm.” The pessimism of these new words holds no candle to the promise of the original words of “Silent Night.”
I have a very strong conviction that the majority of Americans still want Christmas in its truest sense as the apex of this “holiday season”. Why then do we stand idly by and let the minority water down, steal, and seek to hide the very meaning of Christmas?
I, for one, am ready to stand up and be counted for Christmas which I love and cherish. Keeping Christmas holy and full of its intended meaning is both a heart-acceptance and a mind-acceptance, something to hold in deep faith. I hope readers will seriously consider and join me in a “holy” Christmas, the time when God came to earth, Emmanuel, God with us. This news is transcendent and to persons among whom there is good will, it is held in highest reverence.
c2005 by Ethelene Dyer Jones; published Dec. 15, 2005 in The Union Sentinel, Blairsville, GA. Reprinted by permission. All rights reserved.