Merry Christmas, Ya Filthy Animal!
Amidst COVID lockdowns spanning the globe, mounting fears, heated debates, and the deep depression many individuals are facing in light of increasing social isolation, all stemming from a global pandemic: This 2020 Holiday Season deserves some extra special attention, and celebration. As a person who takes great joy in celebrating the Christ in Christmas, I must acknowledge the holiday season itself has a much deeper significance for humanity. By this point it is relatively common knowledge that Christmas is a holiday established to replace ancient Babylonian, Roman, Celtics, Norse and Druid rituals that traditionally took place during the Winter Solstice. This year however, I have been seeking to understand more clearly why we celebrate Christ’s birth in December. There must be some more value in the celebration beyond a token acknowledgment of Jesus “Jesus is the reason for the season.” Easter is a far more important holiday to the Christian life; the resurrection of Christ is the foundation of our faith after all. So why are we so much more passionate about celebrating Christmas than we are about celebrating Easter? As far as other religious holidays celebrated around this time every year, they too must carry some weight in this conversation. What is the all important reason why these celebrations were designated to take place every year around this time? There is a distinction that I want to make clear here: The reason we celebrate, and what we celebrate do not need to be the same thing. You can celebrate a holyday and dedicate its meaning in your heart to whatever you believe. I look at why we celebrate as the real trigger, pushing us to make a choice as to what we will celebrate, if anything at all. For some added context, I want to be clear that I am speaking from the perspective of someone who lives in the northern hemisphere. My life and perspective has been soaked by such influences which I recognize span centuries long before my awareness, but have shaped me all the same. Now, December is the coldest and darkest time of the year here. This is a reality that I had not fully understood growing up in sunny Southern California as I did. A place where the difference between summer and winter months can easily go unnoticed. My moving to Canada has aided in providing some much needed context for a deeper understanding of the seasonal importance for celebrating winter holidays. I find the choice to celebrate the birth of Christ specifically during this dark time of year to be both poetic and redemptive. When the days are short, and the nights are cold and dark we look to the Star of David for hope. It is in our darkest moments that we require some greater hope. The Jewish holiday this time of year is also known as “The Festival of Lights.” Part of the Hanukkah tradition is lighting a series of candles, representing a light of hope that despite unfavorable circumstances doesn’t burn out, miraculously. We learn to be especially appreciative of these traditions when the nights outside are long, cold and dark. We need these reminders to hold onto hope when things get dark, and times seem to go against us. That is why this Holiday season is so much more important! We must celebrate hope with greater abandon, as we push through to a brighter tomorrow. For me, celebrating Christmas at this time of year means recognizing that my God came down to join humanity in our coldest, darkest moments. Born into abject poverty, He came willingly to provide a light in the darkness, the hope of a brighter sunrise. The fact that we embrace that hope more tightly during the darkest time of the year is beautifully poetic. Christ’s birth is an illustration of how He came to us in our time of need. (We celebrate His invitation for us to come to Him during the Easter Holiday, as we remember His resurrection.) For me, celebrating this December will mean looking for all the ways God touches my life. Focusing on the gifts instead of the struggles, because He came to struggle with me. I am not alone, we all face hardships that we must overcome in that pursuit of real life. Christmas lights brighten the night, bringing life and color to an otherwise dark world. A Christmas tree is a vibrant reminder that life endures. We share gifts with one another in celebration of the gift offered to us by a compassionate and loving God. Jesus may not be everyone’s reason for the season, but He is who I choose to celebrate when facing these darker times in my life. That hope pulls me through. So, what are you celebrating this season during this darker than average December?
Family? Food? Shopping?
Whatever you celebrate I urge you to remember to look for the light in the darkness. Your life has great value, and you must remember that it is always darkest before the dawn.
I urge you to celebrate Joy this Holiday season. Celebrate Family. I invite you to celebrate the birth of Christ with me too, of course. But whatever you do, remember to celebrate life this holiday season!