Gift-giving, as we know it, as we practice it, has absolutely no biblical foundation what-soever. The warm feelings this time of year engenders have absolutely nothing to do with Christ. It is a manufactured warmth, an atmosphere created of a kind of communal insanity invented by advertisers. The hoopla over His birthday does not honor Jesus nearly as much as our genuine efforts to love one another, all year long, not just during the holiday shopping season.
Doesn’t mean it isn’t done, just that, in 50 years and tens of
thousands of church services I have never, not once, heard a
pastor, a preacher or a teacher in the black church discuss, in
any depth, the origins and meaning of Christmas or compare the
foolishness we do with what the bible actually says. Fifty years
in, Christmas remains, for me, a cultural artifact moreso than a
sober time of reflection on the significance and meaning of
Christ’s birth. Christmas, as we know it, as we practice it,
could not exist without the
Mythologized Christianity most of
the world practices. The Mythologized Christianity is a religion
of assumption. It is not based on any real investigation of what
we believe or why we believe it, but is a cultural accretion
passed one generation to the next. It is, in fact, Stuff We Done
Heard Someplace, behaviors we have observed, practices we
emulate without ever wondering why or inquiring about the
origins of these practices. For many of us, Christmas simply is,
and even simple and basic inquiry into the origins of this
annual collective insanity raises suspicion not about the
behavior itself, but about the one questioning it. This is the
very definition of brainwashing, and we—you me, mama ‘nem—have
all been brainwashed into embracing This Foolishness With Santa.
Many of us, myself included, grew up believing Christmas to be a sacred and holy dating back two millennia to the birth of Jesus. There is perhaps no other day on any calendar and no other religious observance to which we ascribe the weight and significance, reverence and awe, as we do Christmas Day. Many of us, myself included, have never conducted an even basic inquiry into the origins and meaning of this holiday, practicing instead religion by assumption and indulging, as most of us are conditioned to do, a mythologized Christianity, a religion of blind abstracts without foundation in either doctrine or historical empirical evidence. Christmas Day, for example, is not an ancient holiday, not a sacred or holy event dating back to Christ’s birth. It is, in our culture, mainly a fabrication of Madison Avenue advertising firms satirized in the hit cable TV show Mad Men, a cunning and ruthless bunch of ingeniously creative minds whose purpose it is to bend reality and blatantly lie to the public in order to sell goods and services. Christmas is big business. There is, simply, nothing else to compare it to. $465 billion dollars is expected to be spent this year on Christmas-related gifts, travel, celebration and events. It is a perverse, emotionally manipulative event we all, myself included, have been socialized to embrace as we do no other event in our lives. Few of us question, even for a moment, why we do these things. Why we rush and spend and stress and run ourselves aground each and every year. How does any of this honor God? Where is God in all of this? Where, in Christian doctrine, is the proper place and proportion for Christmas?
This Foolishness: Stop telling your children that lie.
Christmas, as we know it, as we practice it, as we have
internalized it, has no biblical foundation. There is no
biblical model for this nonsense with Santa Claus and for going
into debt and stressing out and rushing here and there. The
Apostle Paul, whose letters to emerging churches never mentions
Christmas, never encourages us to honor the date of Jesus’
birth. The biblical model finds shepherds tending their flocks
around the time of Christ’s birth. Shepherds do not tend flocks
in winter. There is absolutely no biblical reason to presume
Christ was born in December. December, on the other hand, was
the traditional time of the Roman pagan feast Saturnalia, which
the Catholic church attempted to assimilate, as it did many
other pagan rites, into Christian doctrine by proclaiming an
annual feast to celebrate Christ’s birth conspicuously around
the same time as Saturnalia.
Contrary to our internalized Christian mythology, Christmas, as we know it, as we celebrate it, did not exist until the middle 1800’s, a relatively short time ago. A controversial ritual feast banned in many New England colonies from 1659 to 1681, Christmas was not widely observed in the early days of what would later become America. George Washington attacked Hessian (German) mercenaries on Christmas during the Battle of Trenton in 1777, Christmas being much more popular in Germany than in America at this time. The traditional family Christmas did not exist until 1843, when English novelist Charles Dickens published his novel, A Christmas Carol. Dickens coined the phrase, “The Spirit of Christmas,” and re-framed the holiday from a church-sponsored festival into a more intimate, personal, individual family gathering. Dickens also coined the phrase, “Merry Christmas,” and popularized many songs which would become canonized as Christmas songs, or carols, such as The First Noel, I Saw Three Ships, Hark the Herald Angels Sing and God Rest Ye Merry, Gentlemen. Thus, Christmas, as we know it, was born not two thousand years ago but a mere 168 years ago, and is largely based on the imagination of a fiction writer out to sell books.
The Christmas Tree, as we know it, has absolutely no biblical foundation. Such a tree is, in fact, explicitly banned in the bible, which describes the modern Christmas Tree, in alarming detail, as a condemned pagan symbol in Jeremiah Chapter 10. Yet, we see Christmas trees, with alarming causality, in churches. In churches. This is heinous ignorance, erecting such an abomination in a place where Christ should reign. The Christmas Tree, a German invention, did not become popular in America until a famous illustration of the British Queen’s Christmas tree at Windsor Castle was published in the Illustrated London News in 1848. The tree became a European sensation which caught on in the U.S.