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    by Fred Price

Date Posted: December 19, 2003

Don't you just love this time of year? The family get-togethers, exchanging gifts, playing in the snow and caroling. Even the works of charity in the food and gift drives for the less fortunate make us feel better for those we've provided for and about ourselves as we feel a warm glow of accomplishment and satisfaction! Yet in making new memories and remembering old times together, let's not forget what is really important. Think back with me for a moment and...remember.

A cool starry night - a quaint little stable at the outskirts of town. As we peek through the front entry-way we can see the mistletoe still hanging where Joseph strategically placed it in anticipation of sneaking a kiss with Mary as she bustled about preparing the ham, turkey, potatoes, beans, and pecan pie. Tacked up around the single little window over-looking the pasture are fragrant holly sprigs, giving the stable grounds an earthy smell as it mingles with the aroma of hay, straw, grain, and well, you know, "fertilizer!" Later as Joseph sleeps off the big meal he had earlier consumed, Mary lifts the fussy Jesus from the antiqued manger bed and prepares to feed him by the light of the bulbs on the Christmas tree standing in the corner between the cattle and sheep stalls.

To her surprise, visitors came knocking, looking for any left over food that might be available and a moment of warmth out of the elements as they take a break from watching their sheep, protecting them from wolves or any other creatures that might fancy a free meal. Besides, they were all so confused. Was that a falling star? An angel? Or a fat, jolly old elf in the skies a short while ago? Then, to her astonishment, three very wealthy men paid a visit as well, bringing gifts; which were added to the others already under the tree. And then, as baby Jesus finally went back to sleep and Mary herself began to nod off...Does she hear something? Yes! Angels singing her favorite carols as Santa Claus streaks across the sky exclaiming, "Unto you a child is born!" Merry Christmas and Happy New Year!

What? That's not right, is it? Sadly, many today, even in the church, might have a hard time telling what is right and what is wrong with this "memory." New, contemporary images and re-interpretations of Christmas have crept in and made it very difficult for us to tell the difference between fact and fiction. It hasn't happened overnight but gradually, as almost all change does. Many times we don't recognize it until it's too late. But, these images can and do change our vision of Christ, His miraculous birth and His purpose in coming.

Dec. 25 - Christ's Mass, was set aside as a day, a Holy Day, to celebrate the virgin birth of Jesus Christ; the miraculous beginning of God's interaction in the affairs of men through His Son, the starting point of our acknowledgment of a miraculous life and ministry. But the celebration has become filled with elements of myth, commercialization, cartoon characters and even paganism. No, you say?

The date, set in the fourth century, coincided with the German celebration of the winter solstice. Holly, some of which is a stimulant when made into a drink, is associated with Christmas primarily because of it's evergreen properties, always alive. Mistletoe was used by the ancient Druids to cure infertility, (thus the kissing under it) and was thought to have magical powers. The Christmas tree, again ever green; was first used by the Germans and called a paradise tree, symbolizing Eden. It wasn't until about the 17th century that the French began using it in their Christmas observances from where it spread throughout the rest of Europe and finally crossed the channel into England in the 1840's; from there it was brought to the U.S. Gift-giving, supposedly based on the Magi's generosity, was introduced by the Dutch. St. Nickolas Day, Dec. 6, and St. Nickolas Eve with gift-giving, was a Dutch practice stemming from the tradition of St. Nick being the patron "providing' saint of children. Consequently a Dutch man, Sint Nikolaas, patterned his life after this tradition; generously making and distributing gifts to the children of his village. British settlers took over the custom, incorporating it into their Christmas Eve and Christmas Day celebrations.

The Catholic Church's patron Saint of Christmas was also named Nicholas, born in the third century to Christian parents in Asia Minor. A very busy man of faith and highly acclaimed by the church throughout Europe, Asia Minor, and Russia, he none-the-less is remembered most in America by his association with Christmas. The connection stems from a noble deed attributed to him in the aid he provided three young women. They were about to be sold into servitude by their father because of the family's terrible financial condition. Nicholas secretly deposited three bags of gold in their home, rescuing the family from poverty and the three sisters from slavery. His anonymous gift became associated with the tradition of gift-giving at Christmas. Combine all of these, along with any of your own personal observances and you have the Holiday of Christmas and the character of Santa Claus.

There is nothing wrong with celebrating Christmas; having a tree, exchanging gifts, going to Christmas parties and family get-togethers; as long as we realize the danger of buying too much, traveling too far, partying too hard, and forgetting the reason for the season. The ONLY reason for this season is JESUS CHRIST. We must understand that for the most part, people really have gone from seeing this as a Holy Day to a Holiday. The emphasis has been changed from Christ's Mass to Christmas to X-Mas. We don't have time for Christ anymore on His birthday!

We can have a Merry Christmas and hope for a Happy New Year because of what was announced those many years ago, "....behold, I bring you good tidings of great joy, which shall be to all people. For unto you is born this day in the city of David a Savior which is Christ the Lord." Luke 2:10,11

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Biography Information:

Fred Price - married (48 years), father of two grown children, grandfather of six.

Fred retired earlier this year after 42 years as a factory worker.  He has always had a heart for young people and the challenges they face today.  Over the years Fred has taught Discipleship Groups for High School and college students.  

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