Isaiah 9:6-7 For unto us a child is born, unto us a son is given: and the government shall be upon his shoulder: and his name shall be called Wonderful, Counsellor, The mighty God, The everlasting Father, The Prince of Peace. Of the increase of his government and peace there shall be no end, upon the throne of David, and upon his kingdom, to order it, and to establish it with judgment and with justice from henceforth even for ever. The zeal of the LORD of hosts will perform this.
Why do Christians celebrate Christmas worldwide? When did it begin and why do we give gifts? Some of the answers to these questions are obvious, but maybe not all of them.
The practice of giving a gift is traced back to the Magi in Matthew 2 presenting gifts fit for worship and man for burial. While some Christian groups may have practiced minor gift giving, but nothing like modern commercial America.
The practice of modern commercialized Christmas really mirrors the ancient pagan Roman Christmas Saturnalia festival. Saturnalia was a pagan god of agriculture celebrated from December 17th to the 25th. It was accomplished by excessive drinking, exchanging gifts like pottery, fruits, nuts or candles. They greeted each other with “ I O Saturnalia!” The Roman pagan equivalent of “Merry Christmas.”
It was actually the early Christian leaders who used this time to capture this practice and make it Christian to win over pagan society and witness for the gospel. They knew Christ’s actual birth was probably in the spring. The more modern practice in the west especially Britain and America began during the Elizabe-than period. It however wasn’t always accepted so readily. The Puritans made it criminal to practice December 25th until 1680’s where gift giving boomed.
By 1867, the Industrial Revolution was in full swing in the U.S. as Macey’s stayed open until midnight on Christmas Eve. In 1904 the magazine Harper’s Bazaar lamented the rampant commercialism of the day that sprung up over the last twenty five years. Sadly, things have not made a turn for the better. The American economy is dependent upon how much is spent over Christmas. It can mean a boom or a bust.
There is today more emphasis on spending, drunken revelry, light shows, cards, mandatory gift exchanges, a fat man in a red suit, etc. than Jesus Christ. He is somewhere in the third billing or honorable mention. Even we Christians too often seasonalize Christmas with programs, some Bible readings, good deeds, pleasant hymns, and nostalgia.
Wait! Before you accuse me of being a scrooge, I do enjoy Christmas, the glitter, nostalgia and some giving. I do, however, attempt to give the Omnipotent Sovereign King and witness for His Gospel, top billing.
What are your plans for this year?