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Reason for the Season?
“Jesus is the reason for the season.” As I’ve grown in my appreciation and understanding of our Lord’s birth and the history of Christmas, I’ve also grown less fond of this slogan. Let me tell you why.

I don’t really care for this slogan, because I’m not really sure I know what it is supposed to mean, and to whom it is directed. “Jesus is the reason for the season.” Well, maybe. It all depends what “season” one means. If the season refers to the season of Christmas, well then Jesus is of course the reason for that season. But if “season” refers to December or to the time of the Winter Solstice, then no—Jesus is not the reason for that season.

If the slogan is intended for Christians who, in their hustle and bustle and obsession with customs and traditions, and in their involvement in parties, family reunions, and gift-giving, then the point has merit. Christians like you and I need take time out to remember that Jesus is the main point of this time of year.

But if the slogan is intended to be a rant against the world by huffy Christians—those who feel that the Advent season has been hi-jacked by other celebrations, customs, and commercialization—then the slogan has little or no merit. When some Christians are offended as someone says, “Happy Holidays”, they correct the speaker by saying “No, it’s Merry Christmas.” These Christians think to themselves, “Now all these Johnny-come-lately festivals and are requesting equal billing. That’s ridiculous. Jesus IS the only reason for the season.”

Yet, in an historical sense, Christians are also Johnnys-come-lately. Many cultures have been holding festivals at the time of the Winter solstice for centuries. In the northern hemisphere, December 25th is the date in the modern calendar that the sun (after reaching its southern-most path over the horizon, reverses itself and begins to proceed northward again. The Egyptian God Horus was born on this day, the Romans began their end of the year Saturnalia celebration on December 25th, during the Roman empire celebrated December 25th as Sol Invictus day. And though no one knows when Jesus was actually born (and its hard to conceive that a Roman census was held in the wintertime), a group of bishops in Rome, designated December 25th as Jesus’ birth date in the fourth century A.D.—three hundred years after the fact.

After several centuries of “having December to ourselves”—in Europe and the Americas—the field has become crowded once again. Christians need to “learn to share”. One thing is for sure: arguing with others about the reason for the season is not an attitude Christians ought to adopt. In fact, Christians’ stubbornness and possessiveness will not allow us to be “the light shining in the darkness” in this most important time of the year.

When that clerk in the store or that Walmart cashier or that waiter wishes you “Happy Holidays”, why not respond with “Thank you. I hope and pray that you have a very Merry Christmas and a Happy New Year.” This kind response will almost always diffuse any issues before they materialize. Remember that there is no greater time to be an ambassador of grace, peace, and love than at Christmas time!

Let’s be reminded of just what Christmas is all about. The Christmas angel certainly knew the answer. She told the trembling shepherds “Do not be afraid. I bring you good news that will cause great joy for all people. Today in the town of David, a Savior has been born to you. You will find a baby wrapped in strips of cloth and lying in a manger.”
Beloved, “Jesus is the reason for the season”. Even better is the thought that to forgive us, God sent Jesus—that is the true Christmas message!

We have enjoyed eight Christmases together, and, as you know, this will be our last. So, for the last time, I have the honor and privilege to wish you and your families a very Merry Christmas and a Blessed New Year.

In Christ’s Love and Service
Pastor Merritt Waters

The Heart of Christmas
Since it’s true, I’ll just go ahead and admit it. I am a Christmas geek. I love this time of the year with all the decorations, parties, carols and just about anything and everything Christmas, except the commercialization, of course. Which means I once again will enjoy it all without any guilt whatsoever. And I hope you will too.

However, in my quieter moments, I wonder whether my delight with all things Christmas camouflages what matters most about Christmas. That’s why I hope you will join me in doing something essential and urgent in these days leading up to Christmas––getting to the heart of Christmas.

Here is heart of Christmas: For reasons we can never begin to comprehend, God decided to overlook all our sin and become one of us in order to give us what we absolutely need, but can never get on our own––salvation. In other words, God loves us so much that He doesn’t turn away from us. God embraces us, and is deeply involved in our lives.

So why does this matter?

The heart of Christmas changes everything. It affects how you see yourself, what matters most to you, and how you deal with others. It affects the ways you spend your money, how you vote, and how you feel about your life. If you let Christmas take root in your heart, it will shape your life forever.

But, this can only happen if you focus more on the baby Jesus in the manger than you do on all the wonderful things that accompany the season. So, the question you must answer is, “How serious are you about the heart of Christmas?”

This is not a question about how enmeshed you are in the Christmas frenzy, or how exhausted you are when the family leaves or the decorations come down. It’s not a question about how sick you are of hearing “Santa Baby” or how depressed you are when it’s time to pay off the credit card.

May the reality of the incarnation that is the baby Jesus who has come to us as one of us live in your heart –– now and forever.

Merry Christmas.
Bishop Gary Mueller, Vice President
General Commission on UM Men