It’s the second week of Advent and I’m feeling the pressure to be more holy (or holy at all, in my case). So I’m lighting my Advent wreath and reflecting on how I celebrate our Savior’s birth. Can I love God and love our modern (sometimes tacky) celebration of Christmas, too? Must they be mutually exclusive?
Merriam-Webster defines the word secular as: Relating to worldly concerns; not overtly or specifically religious. That doesn’t sound so menacing to me. And yet I’m constantly hearing about the evils of the secular world in which we live. It seems that lately our priests’ homilies are filled with warnings about being consumed by our secular society. On the first Sunday of Advent we were admonished for placing gift-giving, holiday decorating, and Santa Claus before Christ. Somehow those things are equated with secularism and by association deemed contrary to what Christmas should really be about.
Sometimes I think that we get so caught up in protecting our traditions we forget that some of our most sacred Christian celebrations – Easter and Christmas were placed on the calendar to take advantage of earlier non-Christian feasts. People were already partying at the spring and winter equinoxes so why not just slip Christ’s resurrection and birth into those time slots? Did we in fact Christianize earlier pagan feasts? I don’t know – maybe. But who cares? Is Christ’s birth and life on Earth less significant if he wasn’t actually born on December 25th? Is his resurrection any less meaningful because of when we celebrate?
Living in the world today, spending too much money on silly Christmas presents and decorating a tree doesn’t define our belief in Christ any more than the likelihood that we celebrate his birth on what was once a pagan feast day.
The Lord is patient with you, not wishing that any should perish but that all should come to repentance. 2 Peter 3:9
I know that “Jesus is the reason for the season” but as a Christian I believe that he’s also the reason there’s a world to live in. So I’ll try to relate to it the best that I can. It just so happens that some of his creation likes a little tinsel, eggnog and “Jingle Bells” blasting from their iPods. I suspect that God is not offended but merely amused when I’m “Rockin’ Around the Christmas Tree” or playing Santa with my grandkids. And for the record, in our house, we all sing “O Come O Come Emmanuel” at the dinner table after lighting our Advent wreath, too. Somehow it works because at the center of it all is love. Isn’t that what Jesus asked us to do?