Articles in the LOOKOUT section of this website span a number of decades and are re-published on behalf of Adrian van Leen for research purposes. Original dates are being added to articles so as to place them in their correct historical setting(s). Adrian has endeavoured to be as fair and accurate as possible at the time of the original writing, but please note that the original article information may no longer reflect the subsequent or current actions, values, beliefs, positions, opinions, teachings or policies held by individuals, groups and/or organisations referred to in the original published article at the time of writing. As people change and move on, the same often applies to related Internet links; some links referred to in articles may have been changed or may no longer be available online.
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"Jesus is the Reason for the Season!"
Is that really true? What ‘season’ are we on about?
The season of commercialism, spending, buying, queuing, shoving, pushing and impatience?
The season of end of year break-up parties, celebrations, booze-ups – and the inevitable inappropriate behaviours, dangerous driving, road tolls and trauma?
The season of surf, sailing, sunburn and other ‘holiday’ adventures and mishaps?
The season of southern hemisphere heat, blow flies, burnt barbecue meat and bushfires?
Or the northern hemisphere season of bitter cold, snowstorms, and numerous winter woes?
Is Jesus the reason for these seasons? Is HE responsible for any of these seasonal realities? The answer is an absolute, emphatic NO. Jesus is NOT the reason for the season, when we contemplate these community ‘seasonal’ realities.
Why do people claim Jesus is the reason for the season? Upset Christians rejecting their minority status and demanding recognition, by the surrounding secular society, of their religious viewpoint? Active Christians reminding nominal and cultural Christians that Christmas is NOT about all those other seasonal realities, but about Jesus Christ? That is more valid.
IS ‘Jesus REALLY the Reason for the Season’?
Maybe not, but Jesus IS the real reason for Christmas - regardless of the season – regardless of all the seasonal activities and trappings. Jesus is at the heart of Christmas and what it’s all about.
What is Christmas? What’s it really all about?
There are numerous people making noises about the pagan origins and nature of Christmas. Some are atheists; some are angry lapsed Roman Catholics; some ultra-conservative or dogmatic fundamentalists of a Christian persuasion; some are members of (un)‘Christian’ cults; some are just highly opinionated people wanting promote their opinions. There Internet has contributions online from hundreds of such people. Unfortunately, most are not as objective and informed as they may like to think. They focus on dates, Roman and other festivals, and add all sorts of bits and pieces (such as quotes from some encyclopedias) into the mix and then pontificate on the pagan nature of Christmas with claimed authority, if not arrogance. Some even make their arguments sound reasonable or good - to a limited degree.
A number of researchers and writers have dealt quite well with the issue of dates, pagan festivals and supposed connections with Christmas - check out these websites for some worthwhile reading and consideration on this subject: http://www.touchstonemag.com/archives/article.php?id=16-10-012-v;
http://www.orlutheran.com/html/chrmas_pagan1.html - through to
The complexities of dating and calendars; changed calendars - e.g. Julian to Gregorian; and a number of other issues, enable us to say, with reasonable assurance, that we do NOT know, and probably will never know in this life, the actual true date of the birth of Jesus. It is probably reasonable to accept that, based on whatever knowledge and information that was available at the time, when the Church made the decision to focus on (or near - given differences between Roman Catholic and Orthodox traditions) December 25th as the date on which Jesus’ birthday was celebrated, it was probably a well-intentioned decision.
Combined with the development of a liturgical church calendar, it enabled people (especially those who were illiterate or poorly educated, to become familiar, and reinforced, in recalling the major events impacting the Christian community. This dating, even though inaccurate, has led to a focus (often out-of-focus) on Christmas around the world. Countries, communities, other faith groups, even many atheists, have become involved in the so-called ‘Christmas spirit’ (whatever THAT might mean to different people). It presents Christians around the world with a unique opportunity to share their faith, point out the original event and its significance, and encourage people to check out the true meaning and back ground of Christmas for themselves.
Some, who apparently understand little of the original Christmas event, have complained that Christians have got it all wrong, because Christmas actually focuses on Jesus death - and isn’t Christmas all about the celebration of babies and new life?
Well, YES and NO!
The actual word Christmas is a reference to a special mass, worship and communion, focusing on Jesus - his coming AND his death.
There are two significant aspects to the original Christmas event: 1. it was the incarnation of God in Jesus the Christ - God coming, clothed in plain humanity - experiencing the realities of frail human life; 2. the incarnation - the coming of God in the form of a helpless little babe was for a purpose. That intended purpose was never to remain as a baby, and keep the focus on a small, cute, cuddly, helpless human child. Contrary to what a great many people think, Christmas is NOT all about little babies, and giving gifts to bring a smile to the faces of little children (though there is absolutely nothing wrong with giving gifts or helping others smile!!).
The Biblical accounts of that first Christmas event explain something of the nature of his coming and makes clear the purpose of his coming. As Matthew records (Matthew 1:18-23):
This is how the birth of Jesus Christ came about: His mother Mary was pledged to be married to Joseph, but before they came together, she was found to be with child through the Holy Spirit. Because Joseph her husband was a righteous man and did not want to expose her to public disgrace, he had in mind to divorce her quietly. But after he had considered this, an angel [heavenly messenger] of the Lord appeared to him in a dream and said, “Joseph son of David, do not be afraid to take Mary home as your wife, because what is conceived in her is from the Holy Spirit. She will give birth to a son, and you are to give him the name Jesus, because he will save his people from their sins.”
All this took place to fulfill what the Lord had said through the prophet: “The virgin will be with child and will give birth to a son, and they will call him Immanuel” —which means, “God with us.” Luke further explains in his account (Luke 2:21-40):
On the eighth day, when it was time to circumcise him, he was named Jesus, the name the angel had given him before he had been conceived. When the time of their purification according to the Law of Moses had been completed, Joseph and Mary took him to Jerusalem to present him to the Lord (as it is written in the Law of the Lord, “Every firstborn male is to be consecrated to the Lord” ), and to offer a sacrifice in keeping with what is said in the Law of the Lord: “a pair of doves or two young pigeons.”
Now there was a man in Jerusalem called Simeon, who was righteous and devout. He was waiting for the consolation of Israel, and the Holy Spirit was upon him. It had been revealed to him by the Holy Spirit that he would not die before he had seen the Lord’s Christ. Moved by the Spirit, he went into the temple courts. When the parents brought in the child Jesus to do for him what the custom of the Law required, Simeon took him in his arms and praised God, saying:
“Sovereign Lord, as you have promised, you now dismiss your servant in peace. For my eyes have seen your salvation, which you have prepared in the sight of all people, a light for revelation to the Gentiles and for glory to your people Israel.”
The child’s father and mother marveled at what was said about him. Then Simeon blessed them and said to Mary, his mother: “This child is destined to cause the falling and rising of many in Israel, and to be a sign that will be spoken against, so that the thoughts of many hearts will be revealed. And a sword will pierce your own soul too.”
There was also a prophetess, Anna, the daughter of Phanuel, of the tribe of Asher. She was very old; she had lived with her husband seven years after her marriage, and then was a widow until she was eighty-four. She never left the temple but worshiped night and day, fasting and praying. Coming up to them at that very moment, she gave thanks to God and spoke about the child to all who were looking forward to the redemption of Jerusalem.
When Joseph and Mary had done everything required by the Law of the Lord, they returned to Galilee to their own town of Nazareth. And the child grew and became strong; he was filled with wisdom, and the grace of God was upon him.
This birth, and baby, was to be different. There was a definite purpose: He was to ‘save his people from their sins’ and he came to be God’s ‘salvation, which you have prepared in the sight of all people, a light for revelation to the Gentiles and for glory to your people Israel.’
In the incarnation of God at the birth of Jesus in Bethlehem so long ago, three aspects, or elements come together - the birth, death and resurrection of Jesus - he didn’t come to remain a baby in a cradle, but to die on a cross for the sins of all humanity, and to gain the ultimate victory and crown of life in the resurrection. Jesus was born for a purpose, a purpose he fulfilled. In Jesus, Christmas and Easter are linked - as aspects of God’s gift of LIFE. That is all part of the true message of Christmas, and the meaning behind the word.
As one Lutheran blogger has put it:
This Christmas Day, come see the Gift God gives you
Not one under a tree, but One who was nailed to a tree, shedding His blood to set you free.
Not a Gift you’ll bury in a closet [or cupboard], but One who was buried in a tomb only to rise on the third day.
Not a Gift you’ll hasten to exchange for something better, but One who worked a great exchange, taking your sins and giving you His righteousness.
(TACL Nov-Dec 2010, Vol. 31 No. 5)