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