Christmas in Black and White

santaSeveral years ago Phillip Bump wrote an article for The Atlantic that examined the Christmas Eve workload of the jolly old elf.  Using data from the CIA, Bump focused his article on Santa’s deliveries to the world’s 526,000,000 Christian kids 14 years of age and younger.

To get a present to all of these kids, Bump determined that Santa would need to deliver presents at a rate of 22 million kids an hour for the 24 hours of Christmas Eve. If you run the figures on your calculator, you’ll find that equates to 365,000 kids a minute or about 6,100 a second.  Not to worry though, we are talking about Santa.

Do you remember your perceptions of Christmas and Santa when you were a child?  Did your eager anticipation of Christmas consume you?

I remember how quickly I would hurry home after school, so I could watch Santa’s Workshop in black and white on an old TV.  The days from Thanksgiving to Christmas would pass by with the agonizing speed of a turtle.

As a child, I thought Christmas would never come; and, truthfully, I gave very little thought to its significance.  The desire that I had for the brightly wrapped gifts carefully placed beneath the bright lights and icicles hanging on the Christmas tree, had little to do with the Christ of Christmas.

So, what is Christmas?  It certainly isn’t big box stores opening on Thanksgiving Day, or the pushing, shoving, and elbowing of frenzied shopping.  Christmas is the birth of Hope.  It is a time to step away from the hustle and bustle of the mobs and the malls to find a moment of solitude to reflect on the miracle of the manger.

Christmas is that day long ago when Jesus stepped down from the glories of heaven to be born in a lowly manger; to live a sinless life; to die the death of the cross; to rise again on the third day; and to return to heaven to intercede on our behalf.

The essence of that babe from Bethlehem is summarized by Paul in the colorful language of I Timothy 3:16:

Beyond all question, the mystery from which true godliness springs is great:  Jesus appeared in the flesh, was vindicated by the Spirit, was seen by angels, was preached among the nations, was believed on in the world, was taken up in glory.

May you have a Merry Christmas is my wish for you.

The Year of the Naked Christmas

xmasI’m growing weary of the societal onslaught designed to strip Christmas of its dignity and clothe it in the seams of secularization.   One of the latest examples is the action of the “Executive Leadership Team” at the Salem VA Medical Center.  These mindless minions have banned Christmas trees, Christmas celebrations, and Christian speech, including the traditional Season’s Greeting of “Merry Christmas.”

Should the traditional Season’s Greeting be restricted to the “Ho, Ho, Ho,” of Santa Claus or should two letters be added to “Ho” and the greeting be: “Holy, Holy, Lord God Almighty” as we celebrate the gift of God’s Son?

Is Christmas to be the inflated plastic toys that line the shelves of stores like Home Depot who want your money, but deny the message of Christmas?  Is it to be a way for stores to profit while they reject The Prophet who is The Way, The Truth, and The Life (John 14:6)?

I realize that Thanksgiving is this week and Christmas is still a month away, but I’ve come to loathe the commercialization of Christmas.  When we forget the rich Christian history of this holy day, it becomes a remnant of empty boxes and crumpled wrapping paper.

The hope-filled Spirit of Christmas has transformed lives throughout the history of mankind.  One such incident is the World War I story involving Charles Brewer, a 19-year-old British lieutenant.

On Christmas Eve of 1914, Brewer and other soldiers of the Bedfordshire Regiment of the 2nd Battalion were shivering in a trench when they faintly heard the sound of singing coming from the trenches of the German soldiers.  After a moment, Brewer recognized the song was the familiar Christmas carol, “Silent Night.”  When the Germans were finished singing “Stille Nacht,” Brewer and other soldiers began to cheer, and they sang the English version of the song.

According to history.com, “When dawn broke on Christmas morning, something even more remarkable happened. In sporadic pockets along the 500-mile Western Front, unarmed German and Allied soldiers tentatively emerged from the trenches and cautiously crossed no-man’s-land—the killing fields between the trenches littered with frozen corpses, eviscerated trees and deep craters—to wish each other a Merry Christmas. Political leaders had ignored the call of Pope Benedict XV to cease fighting around Christmas, but soldiers in the trenches decided to stage their own unofficial, spontaneous armistices anyway.”

I think it’s time for the government to end this sterilization program and let our Veterans have their Christmas trees and its time merchants  begin  focusing less on the jingle bells of their cash registers and more on the message of Silent Night.

A Christmas Riddle

images (1)Is the myth of Santa a riddle or a taradiddle?  The contrasting stories I saw yesterday certainly paint different pictures of old St. Nick:

  • Story #1: Georgia Church Posts Message Saying ‘Santa Is Satan’
  • Story #2: Secret Santas in Massachusetts Pay Thousands of Dollars to Close Out All Layaway Orders at Three Toys ‘R’ Us Stores
  • Story #3: Ho Ho No: School bans Santa from winter concert
  • Story #4: Santa and his elves wash windows at Mission Hospital

It seems that people have different opinions of the red-suited giver of gifts.  Is he the demon or the delight of December?  Is he charming or harming to our children.  Is he innocent folklore or a fatuous troll?

A Pew Research survey released in December of 2013 found that Santa is not just a childhood fixation:

  • 69% of parents with at least one child under age 18 said they planned to pretend that old St. Nick would visit their house on Christmas Eve.
  • 22% of parents who don’t have kids that believe in Santa still expected to participate by gift-giving in Santa’s name.
  • 11% of people who don’t celebrate Christmas still planned to get a visit from Santa.

Frank Riga, emeritus professor of English at Canisius College, says the myth of Santa Claus can enhance creativity and imagination in children.

Our focus needs to be on more than Santa and enhancing creativity and imagination.  A new survey (Pew Research) suggests that most Americans report a belief in the biblical Christmas story as historical events that actually occurred. Nearly 75% of Americans believe:

  • Jesus Christ was born of a virgin
  • Angels appeared to shepherds to announce the birth of Jesus
  • Wise men were guided by a star and brought gifts of gold, frankincense and myrrh to Jesus
  • 80% of the adults in the USA believe the newborn baby Jesus was laid in a manger.

What will be your main focus this Christmas season?  Will it be the red-suited Claus or the angelic clause?

Then the angel said to them, “Do not be afraid, for behold, I bring you good tidings of great joy which will be to all people.  For there is born to you this day in the city of David a Savior, who is Christ the Lord.  And this will be the sign to you: You will find a Babe wrapped in swaddling clothes, lying in a manger.”         Luke 2:10-12

Peace On Earth

Christmas Bells 11516When Jesus came to this world, it was not to address the peccadillo needs of a few, but to fill the chasm of sin that separated man from God.  He did not come to just please the whims and fancies of the human race, but He came to pacify of the righteous demands of a holy God.

His coming was full of promise; yet, the people to whom He came rejected Him.  John said:

He came into the world—the world he had created—and the world failed to recognize him. He came into his own creation, and his own people would not accept him. Yet wherever men did accept him he gave them the power to become sons of God. These were the men who truly believed in him, and their birth depended not on the course of nature nor on any impulse or plan of man, but on God (JB Phillips)

Whenever I read the verses above, I am intrigued by four words:  “the power to become.”  When people accept Jesus, not an idea nor a philosophy, but the person of Christ, they receive “the power to become” a child of God.  This spiritual transformation is the real hope of the Christmas story.

At this time each year I see people go to great expense to decorate their house–to transform it from the ordinary ho hum to an extraordinary display of flashing lights; yet they still miss the meaning of Christmas.  While they are willing to pay homage to a diorama of Christmas, they fail to worship the Christ of Christmas.

Longfellow wrote the words to the song I Heard the Bells on Christmas Day.  In the third stanza of the song, he stated the condition of mankind without Christ:

 And in despair I bowed my head:

“There is no peace on earth,” I said,

“For hate is strong and mocks the song

Of peace on earth, good will to men.”

As you celebrate Christmas this year, remember peace on earth is only possible because a piece of Heaven was born in a manger.