Last Saturday I headed to work in the quiet darkness of a typical winter morning, but as I drove through our sleepy little town I was captivated by the nostalgic beauty of the Christmas season. Houses and small shop windows glittered with lights. Evergreen wreaths hung on gates and doors while inside the bank a large tree glowing with red and white lights could be seen from the window. For a moment I was filled with the innocent wonder I remember from my childhood. I remember a time when Christmas was a season rich in traditions without question of their origin. It was a time to remember and celebrate the birth of our Savior; a time when Sunday school classes reenacted the events of His birth and when families read from Luke chapter two before any presents were opened or any feasts consumed.
As a child we would count down the days until Christmas, but we never really celebrated Advent – I don’t know that my parents were even aware of the traditions and readings of Advent. In recent years I have heard more about this tradition that was once predominately celebrated in the Catholic, Lutheran, Presbyterian, and Methodist churches. This year as I read through some of the Advent Bible readings, I have been deeply touched by the reminder of the prophecy that Christ’s coming fulfilled and the events surrounding His birth.
It has been a sweet reminder, since several years ago I learned more about the pagan origins that form the foundation for the majority of our Christian Christmas traditions and I wondered if we should celebrate this holiday at all. This was compounded by the consumer focus that had begun to dominate the season. I realized the Bible does not give us enough information to know the day or even the season of Christ’s birth nor are we told to celebrate His divine birth. And so, while my family did not completely stop celebrating Christmas, much of the wonder of the season was lost to me. I came to view Christmas more as an American tradition and a time to express my love and appreciation to dear friends and family. It was a time to share with others and be thankful for the abundance that was mine. While we still read the Biblical account of Christ’s birth, my prideful knowledge that December was not really the season of his birth unintentionally diminished our family’s focus on Christ’s birth. I rightly reasoned that every season was a time to remember our Savior’s birth and His death that redeemed us and bought our salvation.
But last week as I traveled to work on a December morning when the skies were still dark at 7:00 a.m., I was also reminded of the words of our Lord as recorded in John 8:12, “…I am the light of the world: he that followeth me shall not walk in darkness, but shall have the light of life.” Should Christians celebrate Christmas? I do not feel equipped or compelled to answer, but should Christians take time to reflect and remember that Christ has come into the world fulfilling the words of the prophets? Though I will not say when or how - we should all take time to reflect and remember.
While I feel that our lives should be lived in such a way that every season, every holiday and every day is a celebration of the grace that brought us salvation, during these darkest days of the year and at a time when a growing darkness has begun to cover our nation, I can think of no better season than this to reflect on Christ’s birth and remember that a light has come into the world.