Christmas is a wonderful time of year. It's also somewhat controversial.
Aside from the politically correct trying to make sure everyone says or doesn't say the wrong things during the winter holiday season, working to remove nativity scenes from public displays, etc, just among Christians, you'll find plenty of controversy.
Should we, or shouldn't we, celebrate Christmas? Given the history, the origins of the Christmas, should Christians even participate in this holiday with such obvious pagan roots? Are we being duped when we think any of the traditions of the season have anything to do with the birth of Jesus?
Growing up, my family opted out of Christmas most years, based on the history and origin of the season. White-washing the tree, saying Jesus was born at this time of year when historically, it is highly improbable at best and pretty much proven couldn't have been, and replacing the pagan feast days with a "Christian" holy day/season that swallowed up many of the pagan symbols and claiming them for Christ- all this pointed to and proved that Christmas had nothing to do with the birth of Jesus. It was an invention of men to get more followers into the Catholic church, making it easier for people to accept a new way of life, a new religion. Santa replaced pagan entities, and even eclipsed the place of Jesus in the celebrated season. How could this be something true followers of Christ should participate in and be duped by? This was obviously a clever scheme of the enemy to trick God's people.
Or, was it?
I would never attempt to deny the pagan history and origin of the Christmas season. I fully recognize it. It's history.
So, why would I embrace the celebration of the Christmas season? Why would I teach my kids about it? Why do we have a tree we drag in and decorate? Why do we hang our stockings up?
Because I believe Christmas represents a victory of the light of Christ over the darkness.
The pagan feasts kept during the winter solstice were times of fear, pain and darkness. Debauchery, lewdness, sexual immorality, public lawlessness, etc. were the norm, the 'joy' of the celebrations. Sacrifices made to the pagan god, Saturnalia, were made in fear and hope that the sun would return, that there would be hope in the world.
Jesus was born in Bethlehem of Judea, the promised Savior, the Light of the World and the One to set all mankind free from the darkness of sin and death. His life, death and resurrection, made true peace between God and man. To those who believe in Him, He gave the power to become the sons of God, entitled to eternal peace and joy.
The gospel, the good news of Christ came to the pagans. In Rome, through the process of several hundred years, Christians went from being fed to wild beasts in the arenas for the entertainment of the people and dignitaries, to finally being accepted as the personal religion of the ruler of the land. Eventually, Christianity spread to all the Roman Empire. Pagan traditions were replaced, the gospel began transforming the people, the culture, the government.
Were there problems? Yes. I'm not here to defend the actions or traditions of the Roman Catholic church during those times or since. The history shows many troubling and disturbing times, actions, etc. Much is appalling.
Despite all the controversy, the bottom line is, today, and for many, many years past, the Christmas season has shown the power of the gospel over the darkness. The light of Christ, the true Light of the World, has shown into the darkness. The cultures of the world were changed from traditions of evil to seeking to do good, looking out for the weak and the poor, seeking to remember the Gift, the sacrifice who ended all sacrifices, who took away the fear of darkness, replacing it with an eternal hope, joy and peace. Jesus brought peace and hope to this time of the year. It became a time to seek holiness rather than sin. I call that a win!
If symbols and traditions that used to represent bondage and darkness are now used to proclaim Christ, the hope of the gospel, the Light of the World, I am not outraged. I'm elated. The power of the gospel was shed abroad. Jesus prevailed and set people free.
Why do I celebrate? Because Jesus was born, lived, died, rose from the dead and lives forevermore. Because the power of the law of life has set us free from the law of sin and death. Because Jesus is Lord over all. Because every knee will bow, every tongue will confess that He is Lord. Because He loves us and came to save us. Because I am free.