With all the traditional celebrations, abuse and lawsuits of the season, a few thoughts have been buzzing me today. Thought I’d share them, and see if I can type my way to a conclusion.
- Our Savior was most likely not born on any date anywhere close to December 25th. Does that mean that it’s wrong for a Christian to celebrate Christmas, or decorate a tree, or give gifts? Of course not. It’s never wrong to celebrate our Saviour in any way, and that we choose to schedule celebrations annually is not the same thing as observing and treating Holy Days.
As an entertaining note from myth and history, a man known as Dionysius is the one who set the date for the celebratory feast. And the Greek god Dionysus was referred to as the twice born.
- Some people, notably the ‘freedom from religion’ crowd, are attempting to unconstitutionaly establish atheism as the state religion. These people are religious zealots though they cavil at the term. The fact that they have no practices or worship of their own does not mean they are not religious. They assert their central tenet, “there is no god”, and demand that anyone who would gainsay them have irrefutable proof. And that is the proof of the religious aspect of their faith.
They have no proof, yet demand proof from others. And in the absence of proof on either side, they demand that all other religious practice be shut away from them. This is religious intolerance on a scale matching Dark Ages europe or modern Islam. It does not deserve to be taken seriously, let alone supported, in civil society.
- The war on Christmas is ongoing. It is a cultural conflict. Some who follow Christianity have a desire to keep the Christ’s Mass holy. Some others see a need to secularize the season, and eliminate all Christian symbology. I think both are wrong, and that the secularists have gone so far that they are violating the Constitutional prohibition against restrictions on the free practice of religion.
- The substitution of a ’secular’ Happy Holidays is very amusing, given that the word ‘holiday’ derives from the phrase Holy Day. As a Christian, I am not bound to observe any particular day as holier than any other, and yet I receive wishes for a Happy Holy Day from secular sources.
- Back to Christmas, some Christians take offence at ‘pagan’ symbols being included. I note that the Christmas celebration was not in the early church. Christ’s birth was of no importance to early Christians. About year 350, the Christmas celebration was started. There is good reason to believe that December 25th was deliberately chosen to co-opt and redefine pre-existing pagan celebrations. So, from a historical perspective, it would make as much sense to complain about Christian symbols in a pagan celebration.
But the deeper answer is also simpler. Symbols are symbols because they have special meaning. No symbol is useful unless two people, the one using it and the one seeing it, agree on the meaning. For example, what is the inherent meaning of a green light? It has no meaning until you learn what is intended. In the same way, those ‘pagan’ symbols have had nearly all pagan meaning removed from them by time and lack of use, and they have been invested with the meaning of Christmas. Do any significant number of people today use the evergreen tree as a symbol of a rebirth of life from the death of winter? Or use the winter solstice feast to celebrate the renewal of the sun? Or have both of these become symbolic of the resurrection of Christ?
No conclusions today. But peace to you all this season, and may God be with you.