Sunday, July 14, 2024

What’s Christmas to us?


EKHON| UKHRUL: 25th December, Christmas, is a Christian festival celebrating the birth of Jesus Christ. The English term ‘Christmas’ means ‘mass on Christ’s day’. Mass is the ritual re-enactment of Jesus’ Last Supper, that was celebrated just before his impending sacrifice for the sake of all human kind through his crucifixion. Jesus instructed the disciples to perpetuate this banquet in his memory. By partaking this sacred meal, the members of the church are spiritually strengthened to make that sacrifice their own by serving God through serving others. The precise origin of assigning December 25 as the birth date of Jesus is unclear. It was first identified by Sextus Julius Africanus in 221 AD and later became the universally accepted date. One widespread explanation of the origin of this date is that December 25 was the Christianizing of a popular holiday in the Roman Empire that celebrated the winter solstice as a symbol of the resurgence of the sun, the casting away of winter and the heralding of the rebirth of spring and summer.

Christmas is a beloved holiday for many people of different religions, observed by Christians and non-Christians alike, marked by an increasingly elaborate exchange of gifts and merriment. Whether you are celebrating a secular or religious Christmas, it is a day for fun, love, and happiness. Some celebrate St. Nicholas Day on December 6 and his feast day is celebrated with gift-giving. He was a saint known for his generosity and was the inspiration behind the character of Santa Claus.

The love of God is shown through Christmas, “For God so loved the world, that he gave his only Son, that whoever believes in him should not perish but have eternal life” JOHN 3:16. After Jesus was born, a small group of wise men visited Him. They recognised the kingship of Jesus and they “worshipped Him. Then they opened their treasures and presented Him with gifts of gold, frankincense and myrrh” (Matthew 2:11). This Christmas, we too can offer up our worship and thanks to God by helping the poor and those in need with gifts of money, clothes and food.

Our lives, country and world are far from perfect. There are always challenges and struggles we face both personally and collectively. The good news of Christmas is that even when the world or our circumstances change – the message of Christmas is timeless. Because Christmas is about the birth of God’s Son – Jesus. It is about how he came to give us love, hope and joy. That message doesn’t change from year to year. When there is so much bad news and devastation in the world, this is good news worth celebrating. But this year, Christmas celebrations are cancelled in Bethlehem, and for obvious reasons. It’s impossible to celebrate while people in Gaza are going through genocide, when even children are being massacred in such a brutal manner. All the heads of Churches in Jerusalem have decided that Christmas celebrations will be mainly prayers with no festive celebrations. We pray for joy in our hearts, hope in our God, love to forgive, and peace upon the earth.

To celebrate Christmas, Christians use Advent to reflect and prepare for the second coming of Christ. Outwardly, we decorate our home with lights and nativity scenes and do things to get ourselves in the spirit. Many Christians like to attend Midnight Mass on Christmas Eve, along with regular services on Christmas Day.

The message of Christmas doesn’t change if you are surrounded by family or missed by loved ones. It is not affected by the house you live in – or don’t live in. God’s love is for everyone. You are not alone. You are loved, and you can feel hopeful and joyful. Go to church and worship. Thank God for sending his only son to save us. That is the true meaning of Christmas.

Some advantages of Christmas is that the whole family can sit down at the same table and enjoy Christmas dinner or partake common meal prepared by the church. On Christmas Eve, devout Christian household goes to church for Mass. Many other Christian families attend Christmas morning services. Another advantage of Christmas comes in the form of gifts. Santa Claus always brings presents for the polite, well-behaved children, and many parents use this custom to motivate their children to be good all year long.

Some disadvantages of Christmas is that almost all businesses and services are closed. Poor people face financial difficulty to celebrate Christmas. Material things often overshadow the spiritual side of the Christmas, especially when we buy a lot of unnecessary items. One of the biggest disadvantages of Christmas is that many people see it as a pretext to show the rest of the family how rich they are.

Why does Christmas continue to be popular? Throughout the Bible, God plainly reveals that He will not accept vain worship, even if it is intended to be in His honour. Christmas is alleged to be an unbiblical tradition manufactured by human reasoning. It’s rooted in paganism and is expressly forbidden by the commandments of God. Mr. Armstrong explained in The Plain Truth about Christmas, “Most people today take that command of God lightly, or as having no validity whatsoever, and follow the tradition of men in observing Christmas.”

In spite of criticisms, Christmas is celebrated fervently by everyone. What really matters is ‘was Jesus actually born’? Christians believe in the virgin birth of Jesus. He was conceived by his mother, Mary, through the power of the Holy Spirit. Therefore Jesus is the manifestation of both human and divine. Someone said, the first Christmas was “when God in the person of Jesus came into our world.” The date and month of his birth appear to be irrelevant while celebrating Christmas. Sometimes God’s design is too deep for human mind to comprehend. We simply have to believe it. Perhaps, the popularity and continuity of Christmas can be read as though God the Father approves the festival.

What would God want for Christmas? Micah 6:8 gives us the answer in part: “No, O people, the Lord has told you what is good, and this is what he requires of you: to do what is right, to love mercy, and to walk humbly with your God.” This verse tells us what God really wants from you and me. Scripture says that God requires us to do three things; do what is right, love mercy and walk humbly with God. The message of Micah is still pertinent today. Trying to be religious, no matter how well intended, can never compensate for a lack of love: “If I gave everything I have to the poor and even sacrificed my body, I could boast about it; but if I didn’t love others, I would have gained nothing.” (1 Corinthians 13:3) What does God want for Christmas? The answer is simple: you. He came to earth more than 2000 years ago in order to die on a cross to rescue us from sin and death. In a word, He was born for us. He rose again so that we would rise with Him. Jesus wants us.
Merry Christmas.

By Kh. Siile Anthony
Former Director HRD NEC & Joint Registrar JNU.


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