You won’t find any mention of Christmas in the Bible. The early Christians did not celebrate Christmas because the primary focus was on His life, crucifixion, and particularly His resurrection. It wasn’t until around 200AD that a day was set aside to mark the birthday of Christ.
For some reason, the Christmas celebrations grew from a day of fasting and praying to a season of banqueting and celebration of pagan rituals in some parts of the world.
That dour Puritan Oliver Cromwell, horrified by the debauchery and moral decay, banned the celebration of Christmas in Britain for 22 years. An Act of Parliament in 1644 banned mince pies, the hanging of holly and all merrymaking during the Christmas period.
Around the same time, Puritans in America also enacted laws against Christmas. It wasn’t until the mid-1800s that Christmas became an official holiday in the US. Scotland took even longer, officially ending a 400-year-old ban on Christmas celebrations only in 1958.
Of course, December 25 is probably not the real date of Christ’s birth anyway. Celebrations of Jesus’ Nativity are not mentioned in the Gospels or Acts; the date is not given, not even the time of year.
Church father Clement of Alexandria somehow calculated that the actual date of the birth could be August 28, May 20, March 21, or April 21.
Whatever, Christmas Day is now December 25 – and January 7 for orthodox faiths that follow the old Julian calendar.
Rome’s Christians co-opted the December 25 date to celebrate the birth of their Son of God. For better or worse, there was also absorption of the pagans’ zest for merriment and abandon, as well as their penchant for decorating with evergreens.
The Puritans have been outnumbered and overwhelmed by a multicultural society that discovered the value of a holiday devoted to the consumption of food and loot.
But Christmas was not invented to satisfy the retailers. Nor to force a public holiday. It was not invented to make sure little children were good for a few weeks so that they could receive oodles of gifts.
The German philosopher Friedrich Nietzsche once described Christmas as “a vile interruption of routine”. But he was a cynic.
Christmas, after all, is the celebration of the birth of Jesus of Nazareth. To Christians, it is the celebration of the Incarnation of the Word.
Christianity is unique in this .Most religions allow for a distant deity, not a god who enters human history to be a part of the human situation.
The birth of Christ was a historical event in which the past and future became somehow merged in the present.
Does it matter that Jesus was unlikely to have been born on December 25?
Christmas celebrations will always cross fluid boundaries between sacred, secular and profane realms.
In some ways, the modern Christmas celebrations seem at odds with the mission of the man from Nazareth.
The commercial Christmas philosophy is often about greed and indulgence. The Christ message is about learning to give of ourselves.
But what matters most to believers is that the Christ child was born, probably in a stable or a cave in the poorest of conditions one night about 2000 years ago in the Middle East. And that changed the world.
That is the real point of any celebration this week.