by Steve Fair
The birth of Jesus Christ will be celebrated this week. Christmas was declared a federal holiday in the United States in 1870. It was an attempt by President Grant to unite the nation after the civil war. Most private companies in the United States close on Christmas and give their employees the day off. Three observations about the Christmas holiday:
First, early Christian believers didn’t celebrate Jesus’ birth. Celebration of Christ’s birth started in the fourth century when the church fathers in Rome decided to set December 25th (winter solstice) in order to ‘Christianize’ the popular pagan celebrations on that date.
Winter solstice is the day of the year with the shortest period of daylight and the longest night of the year. This year winter solstice is December 21st. In the ancient world, winter solstice was celebrated with gift giving, feasts and festivals. Sound familiar?
It is unlikely Christ was born on December 25th. Most Bible scholars say shepherds would not have been in the fields with their flocks in the winter, implying a warmer month as the actual date of Jesus’ birth. But Jesus Christ was indeed born and His birth should be celebrated by believers. How that is done should be a matter of personal liberty. Scripture neither commends or condemns celebrating Christ’s birth.
Second, Americans celebrate Christmas in a big way! A whopping 75% of annual retail sales in the U.S. are during the Christmas season. In 2022, holiday retail sales are forecast to reach $942.6 billion dollars. 41% of Americans are willing to take on debt due to gift giving. The average American family spends $1,000 on Christmas. Americans spend $6 billion on Christmas trees. 93% exchange gifts and 74% attend holiday parties. According to USA Today, 10% of people return their gifts to the store and 47% of those who got gift cards didn’t get the full value from the card.
Third, most celebrating Christmas miss the reason for the season. The number of Americans who worship Christ is declining. According to a poll by Pew Research, Christians will be a minority in America by 2070 if current trends continue. Sociologists call the people who are shelving their Christian roots, nonverts. These young adults(30 years and under) are more secular than their parents and grandparents. 42% of young adults do not consider themselves religious. They miss the true meaning of Christmas and Christianity because they don’t realize they are sinners. They don’t show any interest in Christ because they don’t understand their need of salvation. They don’t understand the wages of sin is death and plummets people into an eternal hell. They ignore the remedy/treatment because they don’t even realize they have the disease.
The trend toward atheism and agnosticism has been a slow but steady decline in Europe. In the U.S., it has been steep and quick, starting in the early 2000s. To compound the problems, churches have resorted to secular tactics to fill their pews. They have sought relevance and ditched reverence. The Gospel has become secondary to schemes, activities, and programs.
Two thousand years ago, the Creator of the universe, the eternal God, took on humanity. With Christ’s birth, God and man were fused together in indivisible oneness. The real significance of the birth of God in human form is overlooked, trivialized and minimalized in the very holiday created to celebrate His birth.
Theodor Seuss Geisel was a children’s book author and cartoonist. He wrote 60 books under the pen name, Dr. Seuss. In “The Grinch who stole Christmas,” the title character says in anapestic meter: “Maybe Christmas doesn’t come from a store. Maybe Christmas perhaps means a little bit more.” You are right, Mr. Grinch!
Steve Fair is Chairman of the 4th district of the Oklahoma Republican Party. He can be reached by email at firstname.lastname@example.org. His blog is stevefair.blogspot.com.