Tuesday, December 23, 2008

It's a Christmas Time Blog!

-->Christmas is a time of joyful celebration. Come December, it seems like there’s just a huge change of mood. People are happy and energized for the holiday season. Carolers are in the streets, dressed up and singing boldly. The masses are excited to go out and spend money on friends and family—love is in the air. If I were Pastor Gary, I might have just broken into song. But seriously, can you feel the change? Can you sense the energy and excitement? It’s the Christmas Spirit.

I have to admit that when Christmas time rolls around I get excited. My family, to fan the flame of the Christmas Spirit has traditions. In fact I think that traditions are one of the most fun things about Christmas. On Christmas Eve every year we’d go out to my grandparents house and exchange gifts, and on the ride home we’d sing Christmas songs. On Christmas morning, my dad, who never cooked any other time all year, would put together an awesome bacon and eggs breakfast topped off with a choice between orange juice or sparkling cider! It was also a tradition of ours to go out to the Christmas tree lot and pick out a Christmas tree in the first week of December. Family traditions are one of the joys of the season.

Of all the Christmas traditions, the Christmas tree tradition is the most widespread. The funny thing is that few of us really know the background of the Christmas tree? Why have a Christmas tree? Why decorate it with lights? Why put a star on top?

Well, I did a little research as to why we have Christmas trees. I’m sure there is more to it than this, but one of the reasons we use Christmas trees can be traced back to 16th century Germany. In 16th century Germany it was common for Christian churches to put on plays at the beginning of the advent. The play was of Adam and Eve in the Garden of Eden, and on stage they had what they called the Paradise Tree. They decorated it with colorful flowers and apples. After telling the story of Adam and Eve, and after both of them had eaten an apple from the tree, there would be read the biblical prophecy of a coming savior to save us from our sins.

There is also a legend as to why we decorate the Christmas tree with lights. It is said, that on a cold December night as Martin Luther was walking home, he saw the glimmering of the stars through an old pine tree. He was struck by the beauty of the sight and decided that he would decorate his Paradise tree with candles. Apparently, the trend caught on, and slowly Europe started following Luther’s lead.

The star on top of the tree symbolizes the star that led the wise men to see baby Jesus. Sometimes, instead of a star, there is an angel, which represents the multitude of angels who appeared to the shepherds and cried “Glory to God in the highest, and on earth, peace—good will toward men!”

The final step of the popularization of the lighted Christmas tree came during the Victorian Age when Queen Victoria and Prince Albert were portrayed in the Illustrated London News standing with their children around a decorated, lit Christmas tree. Being the popular rulers that they were, the lighted tree quickly became fashion. Soon enough, around Britain lighted Christmas trees went up in the house.

And now everyone has a Christmas tree. And we decorate it now with some of the most meaningless, hilarious things. Not to say that it’s bad, I just think it’s kinda funny. It seems that you just accumulate weird ornaments along the years and then they become way too sentimental and you can never get rid of them. We had this one growing up that I made when I was in kindergarten. It was a milk cap with a picture of me glued to it covered in glitter. There wasn’t enough glitter to actually hide the fact that it was a simple, plain blue milk cap. But there was just enough glitter to get all over you whenever you pick it up to put on the tree.

These things are part of the joys of Christmas. It’s even kind of fun to know how and why the Christmas tree came to be a living room constant in December. The truth is that the Christmas tree, however well we know all the history and symbolism behind it, is a mere addition to the true joy of Christmas. The true joy, which comes from knowing Christ our Lord. This true joy is what we call the Christmas Spirit. And it’s something that I contend we take quite seriously. This Christmas Spirit should be the mark of all Christians everywhere—and not just during the Holiday Season. We should bear this mark all year round.

I can’t say it better than J.I. Packer,

We talk glibly of the” Christmas Spirit,” rarely meaning more by this than sentimental jollity on a family basis. But what we have said makes it clear that the phrase should in fact carry a tremendous weight of meaning. It ought to mean the reproducing in human lives of the temper of him who for our sakes became poor at the first Christmas. And the Christmas spirit ought to be the mark of every Christian all year round…The Christmas spirit does not shine out in the Christian snob. For the Christmas spirit is the spirit of those who, like their Master, live their whole lives on the principle of making themselves poor—spending and being spent—to enrich their fellow humans, giving time, trouble, care and concern, to do good to others—and not just their own friends—in whatever way there seems need.

Enjoy the Christmas Spirit and let your Christmas Spirit give others joy. Because Christmasis a time of joyful celebration.


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