Why Christmas Is Christmas
MANILA: "Christmas is a lie. There is no Christian church with a tradition that Jesus was really born on December 25th" – Judaism Online (simpletoremember.com). No, Christmas is true; the word means Christ's festival (American Heritage Dictionary). No, the Roman Catholic Church does not say Jesus was born on the 25th of December; it just says the date was given "to provide an alternative to pagan celebrations" on that date (Jon Sorensen, 16 December 2013, Catholic Answers, catholic.com). To bring the pagans to a world they did not belong to, a kinder world, in fact a world of love, Christian in origin.
Missing the point, "Is Christmas a pagan holiday?" RC Sproul asks (19 December 2014, ligonier.org). That author says:
There’s nothing in the Bible that would even indicate that Jesus was born on December 25. In fact, there’s much in the New Testament narratives that would indicate that it didn’t occur during that time of year. It just so happens that on the twenty-fifth of December in the Roman Empire there was a pagan holiday that was linked to mystery religions; the pagans celebrated their festival on December 25. The Christians didn’t want to participate in that, and so they said, “While everybody else is celebrating this pagan thing, we’re going to have our own celebration. We’re going to celebrate the thing that’s most important in our lives, the incarnation of God, the birth of Jesus Christ. So this is going to be a time of joyous festivities, of celebration and worship of our God and King.”
So we Roman Catholics have been participating in that joyous celebration and worship. Woe to you if you have not been.
United Church of God's hosts Darris McNeely & Steve Myers of Beyond Today's TV program make the case that Christ should not be in Christmas because the celebration is pagan in nature (14 December 2011, Beyond Today, ucg.org):
Steve Myers: There’s a controversy that’s come to light in Pittman, New Jersey. They have a sign that was hung up over their main street, over Broadway, and the sign says, "Keep Christ in Christmas." That brings up a controversy. Was Christ ever in Christmas?
Darris McNeely: (Regular viewers of Beyond Today) know that we take the viewpoint that Christ is not in Christmas. He never was in Christmas.
Steve Myers: I think the challenge is, is this how God wants us to be worshipped? Can we take Christ, force Him into a pagan day, is that possible? Or does God want to be worshipped the way He wants to be worshiped? Does God line out days and ways to worship Him? He says worship Me in spirit and truth. And so, is this truth? Is this how God wants to be worshiped?
Darris McNeely: You mentioned Steve, that these are pagan, that this is a pagan day. So many people understand that truth today. You can look up in any article or any encyclopedia on the subject of Christmas. And you probably already know that it is a pagan day, but you may also be saying, "I don’t care."
So what if the celebration is pagan in origin? Steve & Darris, so many things rest on pagan practice. Count them all:
Why do you kill the unborn? That's pagan practice.
Why do people draw or paint? That's pagan practice.
Why do we respect our elders? That's pagan practice.
Why do we put up a Christmas tree? That's pagan practice.
Why do you ignore the plight of others? That's pagan practice.
Why do we celebrate a spirit who travels the sky? That's pagan practice.
Why do we Filipinos keep family forever? That's pagan practice.
Why do you Americans divorce each other? That's pagan practice.
Why do you encroach on the territory of others? That's pagan practice.
Why do you make love? That's pagan practice.
Not as you say, the essence of Christmas is not "Worship Me in spirit and truth." That's superficial. God is not superficial. The essence of Christmas is Love, and you can find it in John 13: 34-35 (NRSV):
I give you a new commandment, that you love one another. Just as I have loved you, you also should love one another. By this everyone will know that you are my disciples, if you have love for one another.
It is the practice of love that is the essence of Christmas. See image: A practice of family is a practice of love. So what if there are vestiges of paganism in the practice of love?!
Why do we Catholics put Christ in Christmas? Because there is no meaning of Christmas without Him. You might as well say, "Happy Day!" without the word "Birth."
Why does the world commercialize Christmas? "The consumerism of Christmas shopping seems, to some, to contradict the religious goal of celebrating Jesus Christ's birth" – Stephanie Pappas (22 December 2012, Live Science, livescience.com). Because many people know that buying and giving Christmas gifts is so much easier than giving love. They do not celebrate the Christ in Christmas; they celebrate the celebration but not the essence. We commercialize Christmas because the sinners among us love it!
Not because it is pagan practice that it is bad; not because it is not pagan practice that it is good.
Contrarian Hope of Israel Ministries says about Christmas (as edited by John D Keyser, hope-of-israel.org):
Although the whole world celebrates Christmas as a "Christian" holiday, including millions of non-Christians, is Christmas really "Christian" at all? Consider this fact: Look high and low throughout the pages of the Bible, and you will find not ONE WORD of "Christmas" being celebrated by any of YEHOVAH's people! It is not even mentioned once! Neither the Messiah nor any of his apostles ever observed this holiday, nor the New Testament Church!
Christmas is an interpretation, just like the Ten Commandments are an interpretation. There is no count or enumeration of such "ten commandments" (or Decalogue) in the Bible, so are we going to believe that these are pagan in origin and that, necessarily, they are bad? The problem is that if you are non-Catholic, you rely only on the Bible as your authority on the Word of God. You do not consult Holy Traditions and the Teaching Authority of the Church.
In 2008, I invented what I called Christmas Science, and defined it as the science of trying to love (see my essay, "Christmas Science. Thinking Theory & Practice of Xmas," 25 December 2008, A Magazine Called Love, blogspot.com). I have since been trying to love even those who bash the Roman Catholics like me for celebrating Christmas with pagan rites, even for celebrating Christmas at all.
Today's essay was prompted by the Facebook post shared by Marlen Norte Sale 06 December 2015, "Ten Reasons I Don't Keep Christmas," and I commented, "I keep Christmas 365 days a year, no matter what others say. I try. Do you know the essence of Christmas in the religious sense?"
There, I have tried to answer my own question. So I say even now:
Merry Christmas to all! Don't forget Christ; don't forget love. Every day.