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O' Christmas Tree or Nativity?

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Ah, the debate between the secular Holiday or the Christian Christmas. I do love debates! Do you know to what I'm referring?

Should we set up a Christmas tree or a nativity?

Can we just do both, or does that send mixed messages?

Is it harmless to let our children believe in Santa, or should we consider it lying?

How many presents is ok, and how much is too much?

Should we read the Christmas story before the big day, or does it matter?

Which traditions should be considered Christian and which secular?

I know, hefty questions for a season that is supposed to be fun and festive. But the answers you have to these questions will be the foundation you have for your traditions during Christmas year after year. Being like Christ and following His direction takes careful contemplation.

My family has yet to buy a Christmas tree to put in our home. I feel compelled to say immediately afterward that we aren’t opposed to them. We didn’t know the origin of them before this year, and even after learning the likely origin, we still aren’t opposed. As a couple with young kids, we have yet to cement our family traditions, and we simply didn’t know how trees fit into our Christmas. I’m the type of person who is big on meaning, and I just couldn’t squeak out a reason for having an evergreen tree in my house in relation to Jesus being born. Also, on the real side of things, I didn’t want to buy it or work to put it up (especially if I couldn’t explain to myself why it was there).

We decided to watch a documentary about the origins of Christmas as a holiday, even though I didn’t really think there would be anything terribly new to learn. I figured it would explain how Christ’s followers had chosen this time of year to remember His birth, even though He wasn’t born in the winter, and the secular nations hijacked the celebration from us and made their own reason for the season. Boy, was I wrong.

It wasn’t anything like that.

I strongly recommend learning about the origins of Christmas for yourself, but here are some highlights that were especially interesting.

At one time, the celebration of Christmas was a tumultuous and dangerous event that was generally associated with immorality and the like.

In 1644, England banned it from being celebrated because it was so bad.

The Puritans tried to permanently be rid of it in America by banning its celebration as the new colonies were being formed.

It was a secular holiday celebrated at large that the church tried to adopt as one of its own.

As I said, please take your own time to understand the origins of Christmas for yourself, and discover how the holiday went from there to a minister writing a poem to his children about a man coming to visit them through a chimney, to where we are today. History has a lot to teach us.

But how does that help us understand what to do about “Christ” in ‘Christ’mas, and all of that?

Here is how it helped me. First, above all else, I’m a child of God by His grace. I want to take time during the winter month of December, with all my brothers and sisters in Christ, to remember Christ being born on earth, in order to live a sinless life, so that He could die in our place on the cross.

My Savior was born.

That is the most important thing I can teach my children during this season. I want to remember who Christ is and what God is like. Much can be learned about both through the story of the nativity.

Second, I’m an American. I live in the American culture in Ankeny, Iowa. People around here put up lights, evergreen trees, snowman, reindeer, elves, bells, bulbs, holly, etc. There are ways I can participate in these activities that make me a part of the community. They allow me to build relationships. One major reason people in the past wanted a holiday during this time was because of how cold and depressing is it this time of year (amen!). Lights and activities help bring up people’s spirits. I love the lights. They make me happy. I want to put them up for no other reason then I like them. God gave us things to enjoy and He loves a grateful heart.

If you want lights or something else to have more meaning, you can add to it something that points you back to your Savior (Christ is the light of the world, Jesus was a gift to us so we give to others, the star on the top of the tree and the star that led the wise men). This is a great way to look at all of life ,and not just a few special seasons. The number of ways we can remind ourselves of Christ are endless. Those reminders won’t mean the same thing to another person, but that doesn't mean it's not a good reminder for you and your family.

Does this mean we fully embrace every tradition out there in relation to Christmas in America? Not quite. We still need to think through what things we do and don’t adopt and why. Not all of them follow the principles of self-sacrifice, patience, truthfulness, self-control, good stewardship, and purity that the Bible clearly lays out as ways we can exemplify Christ.

Talk to your friends in Christ, your spouse, your kids, your parents, or your grandparents about Christmas traditions and how you can best practice them while reminding yourself of Christ and being grateful for all God has given. Especially, a Savior Who is Christ the Lord.

Merry Christmas!