“It’s beginning to look a lot like Christmas; soon the bells will start.
And the thing that’ll make ‘em ring is the the carol that you sing
Right within your heart”
“It’s Beginning to Look a Lot Like Christmas” —Meredith Wilson
Originally written by Meredith Wilson in 1951, with references to his hometown in Mason City Iowa, this Christmas classic was recorded by Perry Como and Bing Crosby that year, though the Como version, done with The Fontane Sisters, accompanied by Mitchell Ayres & His Orchestra became what many know as the “classic” version of the song.
But what does Christmas “look” like?
This time of year, many like to get on social media and lambast the parents who have a tree full of toys for their kids for “spoiling” their children.
Then two posts below that you’ll find a post from someone encouraging giving the toys because your kids will only be kids once. Of course, two posts below that, there’s the post from someone saying that “everyone has lost the REAL focus of the season - the birth of Jesus!”
So what really IS Christmas?
Let’s first start with a very basic thing. December 25th is not Jesus’ birthday. I’m sorry if that is a spoiler to you. It’s simply the day that the early Christian church chose to celebrate the day.
Plenty of research has put the actual day of his birth in a wide range from late May to mid-October, and it’s quite certain that it happened about year 3-6 B.C., not at 0 A.D., which is what has been commonly assumed.
So why did the early church choose December 25?
Quite frankly, others were celebrating at that time, and they figured they could blend in easier by doing the same. It also lends to the traditions that have become part of the holiday.
Various religions and cultures that worshiped the sun held festivals in late December around the shortest day of the year, believed to be so short due to the sun’s power being at its weakest at that time.
To ward off evil spirits in the home, worshipers would bring in evergreen branches and were known to be the first to bend those branches into wreaths. The branches were believed to ward off evil spirits.
To keep the spirits distracted from attacking their home, shiny balls and lights were hung in the branches. Lights were even hung on the outside of the home to scare away witches.
These pagan worshipers would hold large family feasts to gather and pray for the sun god to return and keep the family safe through the winter. One of the drinks popular in those feasts, dating back in records for hundreds of years before Christ’s birth? Eggnog!
Seeing this traditional family-focused get-together already in place, the Christian church in Rome in 336 A.D., more than 300 years after the death of Jesus, were the first to celebrate Christmas.
The same decorations and feasts were incorporated, making Christmas an “outreach” for the early church.
With oral traditions over the years, our ideas of the first Christmas have been morphed as well.
Where was Jesus born? Most would answer some image of a barn, replete with barnyard animals and hay, miles outside the edge of town. According to the interpretation of the story, the innkeeper had no room at the inn, but did offer space at the stable, where Jesus was born.
Looking at the design of a home at the time and considering the travel options, it’s important to consider that Jesus’ parents didn’t have to travel out of town at all.
They were housed in the home’s garage.
The animals that were there were likely to be travel animals - oxen, donkeys, and camels. However, the oft-drawn sheep, goats, and even barnyard fowl in manger scenes would be a stretch.
In fact, it’s important to consider that there is only one Gospel that even has any description of the birth of Jesus, Luke.
Matthew mentions his birth but really picks up the story at Epiphany, the visit of the Magi. John picks up the story at Jesus’ baptism, as does Mark.
Luke’s Christmas story takes up all of…two verses in the entire Bible.
Before we get on a pedestal to tell anyone how to do Christmas “right,” perhaps it’s a good idea to realize that our idea of Christmas is incredibly manufactured and very recent.
Instead of focusing on putting one another down over how best to celebrate the Christ child’s birth, perhaps it’d be best to focus on granting one another the things He lived His life to bring.
Grace and Peace.