Today’s message is from Pastor Pam Sutherland of the St. Paul United Methodist Church & Fort Gibson United Methodist Church.
I grew up in a musical family although most of us couldn’t carry a tune in a bucket! Nevertheless, I have fond memories of my family gathered around the piano singing Broadway show tunes, pop music, and of course Christmas carols. To this day, Christmas is not Christmas without the smooth voice of Andy Williams singing White Christmas, It’s The Most Wonderful Time of the Year, and Happy Holidays. They are classics from his 1963 Christmas album still played on the radio, in shopping centers, and on Youtube, today.
None of those songs, however, have anything to do with the actual meaning of Christmas but rather the season – the holiday season. As the holiday season approaches, and the music of the season is popping up on radio stations (a little earlier this year) so are the social media posts demanding that Christ be put back in Christmas, and railing against the term “happy holidays” as if to use that phrase means you’ve taken Christ out of Christmas.
It is the holiday season, however. Thanksgiving is just around the corner (a day celebrating the harvest and other blessings of the past year by giving thanks to God); Hanukkah, also called the Festival of Lights, (a Jewish festival commemorating the rededication of the Second Temple in Jerusalem) falls on the first Sunday of Advent; and Kwanzaa begins on December 26th. This last holiday was introduced in African-American culture in 1966 to celebrate life, and as a ritual to welcome the first harvests to the home (not unlike the Old Testament harvest feasts). It was created as a response to the commercialism of Christmas. By the way, Christmas itself was “invented” around 336 AD in the Roman Empire and was a relatively minor affair, not celebrated with a specific liturgy until the ninth Century.
The point is, let’s not get caught up in the negative rhetoric about the holiday season. God instituted many “holidays” in the Old Testament to remind people of His goodness, His provision, and to bring times of joy into the hardships of life. During this season of holidays, celebrate God, celebrate life, celebrate your blessings, sing the songs, do those things that bring you joy. Regardless of the secularization and commercialism of Christmas (which has been going on long before you and I were born) Christ is still in Christmas if He is the focal point of your celebration. A friend gave me an embroidered picture several years ago that reflects my sentiment about Christmas. It says, “Christmas Lives In My Heart All Year”. That is true because Christ lives in my heart all year and I celebrate His birth and life, death and resurrection, all year long.
If we truly want to keep Christ in Christmas, let’s not scowl at those who say “Happy Holidays”, or demand that the world put Christ in Christmas, let’s show them the Christ of Christmas during this holiday season by doing what Christ did. Love your neighbors, forgive those who have hurt you, feed the hungry, help shelter the homeless, and share the Good News of Christmas – God is with us! Let’s offer the hope of Christmas to a world that desperately needs it!
“The virgin will conceive and give birth to a son, and they will call him Immanuel which means ‘God with us’”. (Matthew, 1:23)
As Thanksgiving Day approaches, I am thankful that God is with us, not just on Christmas, but every day of the year.