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Coming full circle on Christmas
Like most American/western families, I grew up with Christmas being a big deal. My brother, sister and I had countdowns to the day. I even put up my own artificial tree in my room and lights in my window (I was a Griswold kid, with "observer light" sets and flashers). Christmas meant the usual things - our ritual of cutting down/hauling/decorating a huge tree, time off from school, the feasts of food, and of course presents on Christmas morning. Then came our much-anticipated yearly December 26th trip to West Virginia for the big family get-together at our grandparents' homes, with a second round of gift opening that we looked forward to almost as much as the first.
Some years after becoming a Christian in 1993, I became soured on Christmas for various reasons. That included a.) the fact that the true meaning of the holiday seemed to be lost in modern society, b.) the fact that Jesus likely wasn't born on December 25 or anywhere near that time of year, and c.) the pagan solstice-celebratory roots of what was eventually 'Christianized' into what the holiday would become. Since then, which is probably close to 16-17 years or more ago, I've not really participated in the holiday beyond the usual trips back to my parents' house in Pennsylvania.
The last few years, I've even worked on Christmas, then spent the rest of the day by myself at home. That's not all too unusual or unexpected for the average middle-aged single person. My siblings (both married now) have started their own holiday family traditions, which involve Christmas day at their places followed by the trips to visit family in the following days. Not much different from what our routine was when we were kids. I haven't put up any decorations or lights at home for many years, I think the last time I did anything was a lighted cross at my West Virginia house around 2002 or so.
I've written many times on my philisophical musings on Christianity, God, faith and existence (which I'd be honored if you took the time to read here). Now that I've completed a lengthy period of investigating Christianity and finding it true and sound, I'm beginning to come back around to appreciating the Christmas holiday. My feeling can be summed up pretty well by Phillipians 1:18: "What then? Only that in every way, whether in pretense or in truth, Christ is preached; and in this I rejoice, yes, and will rejoice." (NKJV)
The way I see it now, who cares if this is a Christianized pagan holiday and/or if the date is off? I believe what really matters is what the holiday means to us right here and now, not what it meant to somebody 3,000 years ago. We have the holiday (at least in western society) because of Jesus, plain and simple. I guess you could say that without Christ the holiday would probably be something else, maybe a winter solstice festival celebrating the upcoming longer days. But from what I can gather, pagan winter solstice parties aren't that popular and haven't been for a long time, at least everywhere I've seen here. It's the birth of Christ that has made Christmas what it is for us, and for that I'm thankful. I can live with its historical lineage issues simply on the Phillipians 1:18 principle.
Having said all that, don't look for me putting up a tree or lights again any time soon. I'm not back to that point yet, maybe someday. I do still own an artifical tree (the one set up every year by my paternal grandparents at their house). Who knows, maybe one year I'll set it up again.