Declaration of Independence

We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable Rights, that among these are Life, Liberty and the pursuit of Happiness. - That to secure these rights, Governments are instituted among Men, deriving their just powers from the consent of the governed.

Tuesday, December 20, 2011

Christ-Centered Christmas

                    There are many reports of atheists and other non-Christians trying to destroy Christmas because of their non-belief in Jesus Christ.  They seem to be particularly insulted or offended by nativity scenes.  The latest report I read was about a live nativity scene at Occupy DC.  Another nativity scene, along with a menorah, was placed by a main road at Travis Air Force Base in California. An airman was offended, and the Military Religious Freedom Foundation, a civil rights group, demanded that it be removed or relocated.  After a legal review of the matter, the office of the Air Force Judge Advocate General determined that the display does not violate the Constitution.  "While we appreciate the concerns raised by the Military Religious Freedom Foundation (MRFF), the Office of the Air Force Judge Advocate General, upon review, concluded the inclusion of a Wing Chaplain sponsored Nativity Scene and Menorah as part of a broader, secular holiday seasonal display does not violate the establishment clause of the United States Constitution."

                    Nativity scenes are not the only Christmas traditions that the grinches want to steal.  Even the federal government of the United States is getting in on the act.  A recent news item reported that the congressional franking commission that reviews all congressional mail has declared that mail bearing such greetings as "Merry Christmas" or"Happy New Year" will be barred by the franking commission.

                    What these grinches seem to be unaware of is that Jesus Christ is the reason why we celebrate Christmas.  Without Christ, there would be no Christmas.  Without the tradition of Christmas in our nation, there would be no federal holiday, and many millions of Americans would be working on Christmas Day.  Without the Christmas season President Obama and his family would not have an excuse to spend $4 million taxpayer dollars to travel to Hawaii for a seventeen-day vacation. 

                    As Christians understand, Jesus Christ is the reason why we have the Christmas season; without the birth of the Son of God 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 encyclopedic 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.

                    Most of the people of the world do not know the exact date of Christ's birth, but Christians remember the birth of Christ 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 we have about Christmas comes from the Christmas story as found in the New Testament.

                    In St. Luke 2:1-20 we read about how Joseph and Mary went to Bethlehem to pay their taxes and how Mary went into labor soon after their arrival there.  The inns in Bethlehem did not have enough room for all the people coming to town, particularly for a woman about to give birth, but Joseph found some privacy for Mary in a stable.  After Jesus was born, Mary wrapped Him in swaddling clothes and laid Him in a manager.  The little family was still in the stable when shepherds came to visit them after an angel alerted them of the birth of Christ. 

                    In St. Matthew 2:1-11 we read 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 the new star to Bethlehem, but their trip took so long that the baby had become a "young child" and the family was living in a house (v 11).  The wise men brought treasures of gold, frankincense and myrrh to the new King and also the wrath of King Herod.  Joseph took Mary and the Christ Child to Egypt for safety.

                    We do not celebrate Christmas simply because a little baby was born.  We celebrate Christmas because the Son of God came to earth.  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.  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.  At 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 worth consideration are:  1) Emphasize 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 on both ourselves and others as well as 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 or family 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.

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