Yesterday at jury duty a young woman, after find out that I was a pastor, asked what I thought of all the “holiday” vs. “christmas” stuff. If I thought that a Christmas tree was really a Christian symbol I might be more upset about it being called a “holiday” tree. Most of what we call Christmas these days is more a celebration of the secular consumer holiday.
And much of what we call Christian tradition was an acclamation of the older pagan holiday rituals surrounding the winter solstice. Consider this from the Encyclopedia Britannica Online:
“One of the best-known festivals of ancient Rome was the Saturnalia, a winter festival celebrated on December 17â€“24. Because it was a time of wild merrymaking and domestic celebrations, businesses, schools, and law courts were closed so that the public could feast, dance, gamble, and generally enjoy itself to the fullest. December 25â€”the birthday of Mithra, the Iranian god of light, and a day devoted to the invincible sun, as well as the day after the Saturnaliaâ€”was adopted by the church as Christmas, the nativity of Christ, to counteract the effects of these festivals.”
My opinion is that most of what American culture portrays as Christmas is much more like Saturnalia than it is a real “Christian” holy day. The Christian Christmas, for instance, doesn’t really begin until December 25th. Then the celebration continues for 12 days until Epiphany with the coming of the wise men. The four weeks before Christmas are a time of fasting and prayer, devotion, confession, and service, not parties, lights, cards, and cookies. When we celebrate the Christmas season beginning on the day after Thanksgiving … we are celebrating a secular holiday. Therefore, it doesn’t matter if we call it a Christmas tree or a Holiday tree. What really matters is whether we are living and celebrating the Coming of Christ in our lives and into the world.
Thanks for putting up with my Sermon for the day.