Christmas is an amazing time of the year! The story is has captured the imaginations of people around the world, even in cultures that may not know the God behind the story. Dramatizations of the story go back to St Francis of Assisi in the 1200’s, as live drama and artistic representations. Many of us have taken part, as children and adults, in dramatically telling this Story. (There was even an article I saw online recently by a Muslim writer saying that he thinks it’s OK to tell Muslims “Merry Christmas,” because Jesus’ birth is part of their tradition as well, even though they don’t believe he was the Son of God. ) Christmas music and Christmas decorations are found in all sorts of places, even if controversial --but even the controversy indicates the power of the story. If it had no meaning, who would care?
Even the Christmas tree has its roots in the Church—there is a legend that St Boniface, one of the earliest missionaries to Northern Europe in the 8th Century, chopped down an oak tree that was worshipped by pagans, and a fir tree grew in its place. St Boniface pointed out that this tree points to heaven, the triangular shape symbolizes the Trinity, and it keeps its color all year as a reminder of eternity. It was also used in the travelling mystery plays in medieval Europe, referred to as the Tree of Paradise with apples hung in the branches. The modern version of the Christmas tree took shape in 16th Century Germany, where reformer Martin Luther was said to have taken an evergreen tree indoors and lighted it with small candles. (My husband’s family brought over a set of spring-clip candleholders from Lebanon; I never tried using them.) The combination of lights and the tree is a beautiful and powerful reminder of the Light of the World, and has become a valued part of the celebration.
Moses told the Israelites as they came out of Egypt that they were to tell their children what God had done for them every year as they celebrated the prescribed feasts. This is what Christmas does for us—every year we take time and energy to remember and celebrate that God sent His Son to be our Redeemer; to remember and share His lessons of light, love, peace, and giving.