During Sunday school, we had a good discussion on various Christmas traditions. Some are overtly religious such as going to the Christmas Eve Candlelight service while others could be perceived as fairly secular like shopping for presents or looking at Christmas lights.
There is no good Biblical rationale for celebrating the birthday of Jesus on December 25. In fact, there have been celebrations during this time of the year that pre-date not only Christianity but also recorded human history. Pagan festivals were celebrated during the darkest time of the year near the winter solstice when the sunlight was at a minimum. These gave hope that the longer daylight would eventually begin to return.
Some claim that the observation of Christmas merely replaced pagan celebrations such as the Roman cult of the Sol Invictus or unconquered sun. However, this should not keep us from celebrating during this time of year or even enjoying traditions that have been co-opted such as the Christmas tree.
The story of the Incarnation fits very well with the celebrations following winter solstice that observe the return of the sun. Both have to do with hope coming during a time of darkness.
Christianity, by celebrating the Incarnation of God, gives us an understanding of the love of God which penetrates the human condition. As God comes in the flesh as Jesus Christ, we see from the story of the death of infants at the hand of Herod that God is made vulnerable in a world where suffering is very real. While he escapes this immediate danger to his life, we see that it does catch up to him at the cross.
But this suffering and death is never the end of the Christian story. Even these are transformed in the Christian worldview.
And so we celebrate “God with us” at Christmas.
We recognize that this story transcends culture as it relates to all people because all people are in need of hope. All people struggle with darkness. All people need the light of the world!
If you are in the Edmond area this coming weekend, we will celebrate with candlelight worship. We will have a special live nativity this Friday (Dec 23) at 6 pm followed by Worship on Hurd, our contemporary worship service in Wesley Hall at 7 pm. On Saturday (Dec 24), we will have three separate Christmas Eve services at 4:00 pm (which will be geared more toward children), 7:00 pm and 11:00 pm. Then on Christmas Day we will combine all of our Sunday morning services at 10:00 am in the sanctuary. This will be a “come as you are” service for a more relaxed feel that morning as we celebrate Christmas together as the body of Christ. Nursery is available for all of these worship services except for the 11 pm service. The sermon and worship will be unique on Friday, Saturday and Sunday so for those who like to collect the whole set, there’s something each day of the weekend.
If you have someone you would like to invite, this may be a great way for you to share your faith with them. After all, we all need hope!
To read more of Sam’s articles, visit http://precedinggrace.blogspot.com
Photo via Flickr.com, used under the Creative Commons license.