Christmas Already?

One of our local radio stations is already playing around the clock Christmas music. That seems a bit early for most of us. Thanks to Macy’s and its Thanksgiving Day parade we all have a collective idea that the Christmas season (and the shopping, in particular) starts the Friday after Thursday. That’s when all the big Christmas sales happen and stores go “in the black” for the year, thus earning for the day the label “Black Friday”.

But is December 25th really the day of Jesus’ birth? Believe it or not, one of the early Church Fathers, Basil of Caesarea, believed TODAY (November 20th) to have been the day. Another, Clement of Alexandria, thought that November 17th in the year 3 B.C. was the day. Others speculated that since the shepherds were in the field the night of Jesus’ birth, it must have been spring or summer.

So how did we get December 25th? In 354, the church decided it would “co-opt” the Roman festivals of the winter and dispose of the pagan celebration in favor of something more significant. In fact, Christians were already using that day since the early part of the third century to celebrate the incarnation and nativity of the Lord Jesus. As the pagan tribes of Europe came to embrace the gospel a gaping void was felt where their ancient pagan festivals once took place. It was culturally convenient and evangelically expedient to exchange one for the other. Joy replaced despair. Hope replaced fear. Christmas replaced new moon sacrifices. Christ replaced Baal, Molech, Apollo, and Thor.*

That’s the message of the gospel of Jesus Christ, is it not? It conquers fear, death, and despair. When we celebrate the birth of the Savior we know it to be more than a story of an emergency delivery in a stable. It’s the coming of the King of Kings who was on a rescue mission for the redemption of His people. We will celebrate it with joy.

Yes, the radio is already playing seasonal music. Isn’t it wonderful that our culture will still, by and large, sing the songs about Jesus’ birth at this time of the year? Yes, many sing those songs without thinking of their meaning, but they are sung nonetheless. May God grant us opportunity as His people to tell them the truth behind the tunes.

*-Much of this information was found in The Christian Almanac by George Grant and Gregory Wilbur, published by Cumberland House.