Tuesday, December 20, 2016

That's (Not) Christmas to Me

Most people can tell you what "Christmas is to me." Funny thing. A lot of what Christmas is to a lot of people is not Christmas to me. But, then, I am a bit of a curmudgeon at times.

We know, for instance, that Joseph was much older than Mary when he married her, but the kind old man walked to Bethlehem while he let his wife ride the donkey. Of course, the idea that Joseph was older comes from extrabiblical writings that supported the Roman Catholic "perpetual virginity" of Mary. You won't find a hint of it in Scripture. And, if you look, you also won't find that donkey she rode. That's not Christmas to me.j

We know plainly about the three kings or wise men that rode camels into Jerusalem, inquired about the newborn king, then found the newborn in the manger and worshiped with the shepherds. Hey, we even know those guys' names. There was Melchior, a Persian scholar, Caspar, from India, Balthazar, a Babylonian scholar. In fact, we have confirmation written into Lew Wallace's Ben-Hur: A Tale of Christ (1880). There you have it. Everyone knows it. Except, as it turns out, it's not in your Bible. Oh, sure, wise men (or magi or kings, depending on the translation) road into Jerusalem, asked about the new king, and visited Jesus in Bethlehem, but that's all that actually comes from your Bible. No manger. No mention of three. No names or origins. No, the "three" comes from the number gifts given, even though 4 of them could have given gold, 6 others frankincense, and another 2 myrrh (pulling numbers out of the air for effect). And the rest of it comes from other Roman Catholic apocryphal writings. Scripture, in fact, indicates that they traveled a long time and went not to a stable, but a house (Matt 2:11). And, if you recall, Herod ordered the deaths of all male children under the age of 2, a quite unnecessary thing to do if, after diligently inquiring when they saw the star (Matt 2:7), Herod knew He was only just born. Killing all 1-year-olds would have been overkill (to make a bad pun). I include the wise men in my Christmas, but have no love for the "three", their names, or their origins. (In fact, I personally greatly doubt that they were as scattered as the tradition holds.)

Oh, and then there are those angels. We love those angels. Imagine the choir that serenaded those poor frightened shepherds with the "good tidings of great joy." Many a Christmas song has been written to mimic their singing. Except, of course, the Bible doesn't say they sang. The Bible says "And suddenly there appeared with the angel a multitude of the heavenly host praising God and saying, 'Glory to God in the highest, And on earth peace among men with whom He is pleased.'" (Luke 2:13-14) Now, maybe they sang it and maybe they didn't, and maybe Christmas to you requires that they did, but that's not Christmas to me. What they said was what was important.

There is so much more. For some it's snow, of all things. Then there is the lights, the gift exchange (or just given), the trees and decorations, the annual neighborhood competition of who can put up the most brilliant display and the disdain of those who don't play, the Christmas songs blaring from every speaker in every store and beyond ... these are Christmas. Just not to me.

My point is not to be negative. My point is not to knock Christmas. My point is that the traditions of Christmas are not the point; Christ is. We often get so wrapped up in wrappings and tied up in tinsel that we miss the real thing. While we're thinking of gifts and lights we're missing the Gift, the Light of the world (John 8:12). The Christmas story is one of God's gift of His Son to whomever believes in Him and shall not perish, but have eternal life (John 3:16). Everything else is just ... glitter -- not gold, not even valuable, just shiny. Not Christmas to me.

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