Monday, December 20

Why Christmas?

Christians have celebrated the incarnation and nativity of the Lord Jesus on December 25 since at least the early part of the third century, just a few generations removed the days of the Apostles. By 336, when the Philocalian Calendar--one of the earliest documents of the Patriarchal church--was first utilized, Christmas Day was already a venerable and tenured tradition. Though there is no historical evidence that Christ was actually born on that day--indeed, whatever evidence there is points to altogether different occasions--the conversion of the old Pagan tribes of Europe left a gaping void where the ancient winter cult festivals were once held. It was thus both culturally convenient and evangelically expedient to exchange the one for the other. And so joy replaced desperation. Celebration replaced propitiation. Christmas Feasts replaced new Moon sacrifices. Christ replaced Baal, Molech, Apollo, and Thor.

Some have argued that this sort of thing was little more than an accomodation to the world. They deride Christmas celebrations as rank worldliness. In fact, they are beautiful pictures of the Great Commission in action. Christianity did not compromise with Paganism; it subsumed the old mores of the world into the new mores of the Church; it transformed the old barbarian rites and rituals into the new godly patterns of work and worship. In other words, Christmas converted cultures and calendars--demonstrating with particular practicality the fact that Jesus is Lord over the totality of life. Glad tidings of great joy, indeed.

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