by Rev. Dr. Dale Azevedo, Sr. Minister
What does Christmas mean to you?
I thought it would be fun to explore what the “true” meaning of Christmas is. Frankly, because Christmas is such a cultural phenomenon, there are many different, and sometimes conflicting, understandings of what it means. In fact, we each have our own understanding of what it means to us. For some of us, there may be obvious similarities, but I’m sure there are subtle differences based on who we are, how we were raised, and our personal experiences.
So, I went ahead and began to explore how different societal components interpret Christmas. Please keep in mind that this is my interpretation of how these various constituents either present or experience Christmas. They are broad generalizations and may be inaccurate compared with your experience of them. I found this to be a fun exercise and I invite you to join me in it!
Christmas is about demonstrating the love you have for others through the giving of gifts.
Christmas is about creating special memories that will last a lifetime and bring you joy now, and also into the future through fond memories.
Family & Friends
Christmas is about spending special time with the important people in your life.
Christmas is about giving generously in ways that make the world a better place.
Christmas is about spreading joy, love, harmony, and goodwill within the larger society.
Christmas, along with Hanukkah, Kwanza, and any other tradition you wish to celebrate, is about being thankful for all the blessings that a prosperous and peaceful society provides for you and the hope that it will continue for years to come.
Christmas is about presents, school vacation, fun, sweets, presents, and presents.
Christmas is about providing a happy, joyous, and perhaps meaningful experience for our children as a demonstration of our love for them.
Conversely, Christmas can be about the scarcity of resources and serves as a painful reminder that we cannot provide for our families as we would like.
Those Who Are Grieving
Whether we want it to be or not, Christmas is about those we miss. We may be able to celebrate with our loved ones still with us, but it is tinged with a sense of loss and loneliness and filled with memories of what was.
Social Media Influencers
Christmas is an opportunity to increase views. Whether focusing on campy traditions, discussing what fashion is best, or stirring up controversy, Christmas is rife with opportunities to sell oneself and one’s content.
The Bible doesn’t actually mention or discuss “Christmas”. In fact, the early church was largely opposed to recognizing or celebrating birthdays of any kind. It wasn’t until the 4th century that Christians began the practice that became Christmas, and it wasn’t widely recognized until the 9th! Saying that, the Bible does talk about the importance of Jesus birth. And, as usual, the Bible provides us slightly differing views on the subject. For Matthew, Jesus’ birth is the culmination of God’s saving work, the one who was foretold throughout history, the long-awaited one. For John, Jesus is the cosmic creator, the one who was in the beginning with God, now made flesh, to live among us, and eventually bring about our salvation. So, while “Christmas” may not be a thing in the Bible, Jesus’ birth certainly is. And becomes the event that leads to the celebration of the holy-day.
Christmas is the celebration of Jesus’ birth. That is it, in its entirety. It is not a celebration of family, friends, love, peace, gifts, generosity, or anything else. Those are all tangential meanings that all find their root in Jesus’ birth. Christmas is about God fulfilling God’s promise to bring about the redemption of creation. It is inescapably tied to Easter. Through the birth, life, death, and resurrection of Jesus, we are saved. At Christmas we celebrate the birth of Jesus as a reminder of Jesus’ ongoing presence with us and his eventual return to finalize God’s redeeming work.
If I am honest with myself, and you, then for me Christmas is about having a break after a very busy season. September through December is one of the busiest and most chaotic times in the life of the church. It can take a lot out of a minister (as it can many others, I’m sure). So, to be able to slow down for a week or more, spend some time with my family, and just regroup is precious. Don’t get me wrong, it’s also about cookies, family traditions, Christmas dinner, and seeing loved ones I don’t often get to see. I’m sure faith is wrapped up in there too, but since that is so intricately connected with work for me (and what much of the previous busy and chaotic months have been about), it can get a little buried. I wonder what my experience of Christmas would be like if I wasn’t serving a church? What would it mean to me? Would it be drastically different? I guess one day I’ll find out.
So, what does Christmas mean to you?
I hope you enjoyed this little experiment. I hope it made you think, reflect, and even chuckle a little. I’d be interested to hear some of your thoughts on all this. Do you think I missed the point on anything or anyone? Is your experience or interpretation different than mine? And what is your personal experience of Christmas? What does it mean to you? If you want, send me an email, and let me know. I’d love to hear it!