Christmas Love That Has No Boundaries
Merry Christmas, Happy Hanukkuh, Feliz Navidad, and Happy Holidays are all appropriate greetings heard this time of year. From November 1 through January 15 there are approximately 29 holidays observed here by seven of the world’s major religions – all with their own celebrations and customs.
But the U.S. has predominantly been a Protestant Christian nation. Extensive 2014 research by the Pew Research Center (of more than 35,000 Americans) finds that 70.6% describe themselves as Christians. The research finds that though we are growing more diverse, the fact remains that the United States remains home to more Christians than any other country in the world. And a large majority of Americans, including me, continues to identify with some branch of the Christian faith and Christ Jesus.
With such a large percentage of Christians in this country, I ask, why does there appear to be so much media attention aimed at keeping “Christ in Christmas?” Just when did the Christ leave it?
Christmas is so much more than just a cultural holiday celebrated by one of those seven major religions. It is a time of year that touches me – and other Christians – deeply. It includes the beautiful account of the humble birth of the Christ child. But even more than a story of a unique and miraculous event, Christmas is the message of God’s promised Messiah – the message of God’s saving truth and love bringing hope and peace to the whole world.
Though Christmas often seems highly commercialized by gift giving, this does not discount the fact that Christmas is the gift – God’s gift of love to the world. The founder of Christian Science, Mary Baker Eddy, said it beautifully, “Christmas to me is the reminder of God’s great gift,—His spiritual idea, man and the universe,—a gift which so transcends mortal, material, sensual giving that the merriment, mad ambition, rivalry, and ritual of our common Christmas seem a human mockery in mimicry of the real worship in commemoration of Christ’s coming.”1
Just a couple of holiday seasons ago, one of my closest friends invited my family and other friends to her home during Hanukkah (The Festival of Lights), Rosh Hashanah (the Jewish New Year) and Yom Kippur (Day of Atonement). During these Jewish celebrations, we feasted on potato pancakes, fried donuts, chopped liver, beef brisket and other delicious treats I had never eaten. She read to us from a siddur ‒ a Jewish prayer book. She also described the significance of these holidays and related the importance and symbolism of the dishes served.
As we all participated in religious activities totally outside our own, there was a definite feeling of God’s love that was being expressed all around the room. And, interestingly, while respecting and celebrating my dear friend’s Jewish customs, never once did I feel like Christ had been taken out of my Christmas. Instead, I learned a beautiful lesson ‒ that the substance and message of the Messiah, God’s saving love, has no boundaries. By the way, on Christmas Eve, my friend came to our home and we celebrated my family Christmas traditions.
It doesn’t really matter what the history of the Christmas holiday might be or even that the official day of Jesus’ birth might have been at an entirely different season of the year. For me, what matters is that December 25 is the day we accept as a day for celebrating the birth of the Christ child – the promised Savior foretold by Isaiah 2700 years ago, who would redeem the world from sin, disease, and death. Jesus showed through his healing ministry that God’s love is all-powerful. And that same Christ healing is still going on, as effective and practical today as it was in Biblical times.
We don’t need fancy holiday slogans or online campaigns to keep Christ in Christmas. Instead, let’s consider that when we imitate Christ Jesus’ example of compassionate, healing love for all mankind, we can experience the true substance of Christmas – love, peace and hope ‒ not only during the holidays but all year long.