I have a confession to make. I’m a Pastor, and I’m not that into Christmas. I know I am supposed to be super excited about Christmas, but I’m just not. Don’t misunderstand me. I love Jesus. Jesus is the best. It’s just this fake, made-up birthday party that I just feel weird about. I would actually say I have a Hate/Love relationship with Christmas. The things I really hate about Christmas actually have something I kind of love about Christmas at the same time. Here’s what I mean by my weird relationship I have with Christmas:
I Hate the Commercialization… But, I Love the Giving
Ugh, Black Friday, no parking spaces, long check-out lines, and the credit card debt! What does that have anything to do with Jesus? Did you know that Americans comprise about 3% of the world population but buy about 40% of the stuff. Children grow-up thinking that Christmas is all about presents. Why wouldn’t they? Every commercial tells them so. The average family spent $862 on Christmas presents last year, and spent approx. $192 on interest fees on their credit card because of those gifts. This is craziness.
But… I guess it’s actually pretty amazing that people give so much during Christmas time. Even outside of our families, over 10% of our country’s gross domestic product is charitable giving. The Red Cross and other such organizations often times receive over half their funding from just the US when it comes to world disasters. So Americans spend a lot, but that’s partly because we give a lot. Ok, I feel a little better.
I Hate the Paganism… But, I Love the Redemption
I hate to break it to you, but there are very few Christmas traditions that don’t have pagan origins. We most likely celebrate Christmas on December 25 because of the Roman celebration of the birthday of their god Saturn. It was a festival filled with sexuality and debauchery. I’m not even real sure all that encompasses debauchery but it sounds bad. The Christians in the latter days of the Roman Empire were so disgusted by the sinfulness that they wouldn’t let their kids even go outside for the whole day and instead held a special mass. They called it the Christ Mass and decided to celebrate Jesus’ birthday instead of Saturn’s. Birthdays themselves were kind of pagan. Egyptian gods and pharaohs celebrated their birthdays. The Romans celebrated the births of several of their false gods and their Caesar’s. The Jewish people definitely didn’t celebrate their birthdays, and thus neither did Jesus. Besides, He was probably born in March or April of 4BC. Did you know the Nordic people brought evergreen trees in their homes during the winter because they believed spirits lived in them that kept the trees alive during the winter and they thought those spirits would keep them alive during the winter too? Odin (who looks a lot like Anthony Hopkins with an eye-patch and is the father of the Avenger Thor) is probably where the representation of Santa came from. He had a horse with 8 legs, but 8 reindeer is similar. It’s a shame because Saint Nikolaos was actually really awesome, and then Coca-cola made him a fat-guy in a Coca-cola classic red suit. I could go on-and-on about yule logs, mistletoe, and egg nog (actually, there’s nothing pagan about egg nog, it’s just gross.) The Pilgrims even outlawed Christmas when they came to the New World because they were so disgusted by the paganism of the holiday.
But… I suppose this is a display of how redemption works. Christianity doesn’t mix with other cultures or traditions. Christianity transcends culture and transforms people. Humans look the same before and after salvation, but they’re radically different. They’ve been redeemed. Christmas is no different. It once took elements that had pagan origins, but then redeemed them with new purpose. I’ve never met someone who trusts their plastic Walmart tree to protect them from the harsh winter (well I live in Florida, “harsh winters” would be an exaggeration of the 1 time per year it drops below 40°, so I’ll let someone from like Minnesota tell me if there are still people that honor the Nordic gods.) There’s no doubt there’s a lot of stuff that has nothing to do with Jesus during the winter solstice, but I think most Christians (including myself) do talk about Jesus even more during Christmas time. There’s special focus on His incarnation (God becoming man). The incarnation is arguably the most mind-blowing thing that has ever happened in recorded history. It’s worth spending 4-5 weeks every year talking about.
I Hate the Guilt… But, I Love the Principles
Everything is complicated about the holidays. Who am I supposed to give a gift to? I have to evaluate every relationship in my life to not only figure out if they are going to give me a gift, but also how nice a gift they are going to give. You don’t want to buy someone the 3rd Hobbit movie if they get you an all-expenses paid cruise. I actually like to give presents, but I feel equally as bad when I buy them a thoughtful present and they got me nothing or even worse, like a whoopie-cushion or something. I feel bad that they feel bad. Then there’s family you only see during the holidays. There’s the family you really love and have such a fun time being around, and you feel guilty that you don’t spend more time with them throughout the year. Then there’s the family you honestly can’t stand being around and you feel guilty for feeling that way. Also, there are those who only go to church around Christmas time. I guess they feel guilty and want to give a little shout-out to baby Jesus. Pastors are just excited to fill their sanctuary and they think they can preach the perfect sermon to keep those people coming back all the way through Epiphany. I guess when people bring up themes like giving and family and going to church, my thought is that people should be doing that all the time. We should be celebrating the incarnation every day, not just waiting until December.
But… What am I really complaining about? Mary Magdalene bought Jesus like $40,000 perfume and poured it on His feet. Judas thought it was a waste of money. Man, I do not want to resemble Judas in any way. I also have to remember that there are others like me who like giving gifts. I can receive a gift and just be thankful, and if I want to give someone a gift, I can just do it. I’m the only one complicating it. The principles of giving and family and going to church are all good things. Maybe I think people should do all that 12-months a year and not just 1, but if in this hectic, hustle-and-bustle American life we need an annual reminder to be kind and mend fences then I guess it’s better than nothing.
What about you all? Are there any other aspects of Christmas that you have a Hate/Love relationship with?