Early in the year at a teen Bible study, I remember the comments of a Christian girl. “We didn’t celebrate Christmas growing up.” Her family is not alone. Many of the conservative Puritans in between the years, 1659-1681, didn’t celebrate Christmas either. Christmas time in England was a royal mess, a combination of Mardi Grass and Halloween carnival. The Puritans couldn’t stand the pagan festivals and Catholic associations. I am well acquainted with the history of Saturnus and Mithras, St. Nicholas, Pope Julius I and December 25, and St. Francis of Assisi and nativity scenes. Actually, in what I have read about the historical monk, Hagios Nikolaus (A.D. 270-310), the Bishop of Myra, I tend to like. He seems to have been spared much of the increasing Catholic corruption in the upcoming years.
I like the Christmas season. I don’t practice “separation because of association.” I agree with Martin Luther. Let Christianity stamp its place right on top of pagan and Catholic overtones of the date, December 25. Christ conquers all. “He shall be great, and shall be called the Son of the Highest . . . and of his kingdom there shall be no end.” I enjoy holly and evergreens. I love the smell of Christmas fir trees; and I appreciate manger scenes in front of churches, in restaurants, and on fireplace mantels. It all means much, reminding me again and again of my Savior.
And what about all the gift-giving? Author Ace Collins writes, “Today, shoppers spend more than $4 billion per Christmas shopping day, or about $2.8 million each minute, during the holiday season in the United States alone. The average person in the U.S. spent more than $1,000 on Christmas gifts in 2002.” Yes, I am sure the Puritans would be shocked.
But friends, it is ok to shop, to buy, and to give when done in love. It is not even Christmas yet, and I have been given so much. (1) The other day, an Idaho hunter wouldn’t even let me get out of my car to pump air in my deflated tire. He didn’t want the rain to spoil my Sunday clothes. (2) Neighbors have given me plenty. One neighbor has lent me all his company’s sheetrock tools for my addition. (3) Just yesterday, a policeman clocked me over the speed limit on the freeway. With my mom in the passenger seat, I was racing to a Bible study in Ucon. The officer let me off the hook. With a smile, he said, “A Christmas gift.” (4) And of course, my family and church family have showered me in gifts of kindness.
All of your giving reflects the Giver. The Giver cannot be thwarted or stopped. Christ triumphs over paganism.