Saturday, December 5, 2009
Keeping Christ in Christmas
Jesus Christ is the reason that we celebrate Christmas; therefore, without Christ, there would be no Christmas. A dictionary definition of Christmas is "a holiday on December 25 celebrating the birth of Jesus Christ" (New World Dictionary of the American Language, Second College Edition, 253). An encyclopedia entry on Christmas begins "Christmas is a Christian holiday that celebrates the birth of Jesus Christ" (World Book Encyclopedia, Vol. 3, p 528). These two independent sources confirm my statement that Jesus Christ is the reason for the Christmas season. Even though the people of the world do not know the exact date of Christ's birth, most Christians observe Christmas on December 25. "The word Christmas comes from Cristes maesse, an early English phrase that means Mass of Christ" (World Book, p 528). Most of the information that we have about Christmas comes from the Christmas story as found in the New Testament. St. Luke 2:1-20 tells the story of how Joseph and Mary went to Bethlehem to pay their taxes. While they were in Bethlehem, Mary went into labor. The inns in Bethlehem did not have enough room for all the people coming to town, particularly Joseph and Mary, but Joseph was able to find some privacy for Mary in a stable. After Jesus was born, Mary wrapped Him in swaddling clothes and laid Him in a manager. The new little family was still in the stable when shepherds came to visit them. The shepherds were alerted of the birth of Christ by an angel. They went with haste to see the new baby. St. Matthew 2:1-11 tells us that wise men in the east saw a new star in the sky and recognized it as the one prophesied to arise at the birth of the Messiah. They followed that star to Bethlehem, but by the time they arrived the family was living in a house (v 11). The wise men brought treasures of gold, frankincense and myrrh to the new King. We do not celebrate Christmas simply because a little baby was born. We celebrate Christmas because the Son of God was born. He was born of a mortal mother in order that He could experience all the pains, experiences and problems of being mortal. Because He was the Son of God, He had the power to withstand the temptations to sin and to overcome all of the other problems of mortality. We celebrate the birth of Christ because of the person He became. As an adult He taught about faith in God, repentance, baptism by immersion, receiving the Holy Ghost, and enduring to the end. Jesus Christ was killed because of the priestcrafts and iniquities of the Jews. Jesus allowed Himself to be killed in order that He could pay the price of the sins of all mankind. The reason He came to earth was to make an atonement for all those people who believe in Him. He overcame death by His resurrection that all mankind may live forever more. As we go into this Christmas season, let us remember the Man whose birth we celebrate. Let us be like the shepherds and the wise men who followed heavenly instructions and found the Babe. Let us seek this Jesus who was born in Bethlehem. We can seek Jesus Christ by developing Christ-centered family traditions. When we put Christ at the center of our Christmas celebrations, we bring the true spirit of Christmas - the Spirit of Christ - into our homes. Some ideas that you might consider are: 1) Emphasis Christ rather than Santa by focusing on Christ. Decorate with nativity sets and pictures of Christ. Read the scriptural accounts of the birth of Christ. Act out the nativity story. Sing or play Christmas carols about Christ. Count your blessings. Show gratitude by thanking Heavenly Father for the greatest gift of all - our Savior and His Atonement. 2) Simplify gift giving because Christmas is a celebration of the birth of Christ - not an excuse to empty the stores. There is no need to go into debt for Christmas. If we spend only what we can afford to spend, we can reduce financial pressures and feel more peace. 3) Spend time doing those activities that bring peace into your home. 4) Serve others in ways that are appropriate for you and your family. Go Christmas caroling. Invite a lonely person to join in your celebration. Volunteer at a local charitable organization. Give homemade treats to neighbors. As we remember that Jesus Christ is the reason that we celebrate Christmas, we can make each Christmas better than the previous one. We can bring the true spirit of Christmas into our lives - not only at Christmas time but throughout the year.