Posted in the Merrick Forum
The Christmas Spirit Is Spreading
DO YOU look forward to Christmas? Or does its approach fill you with nervous apprehension? Millions of people ask:‘Whom will I get gifts for? What should I buy? Can I afford it? For how long will I be paying off my debt?’
Despite such concerns, Christmas remains very popular. In fact, the celebration has even spread to non-Christian lands. In Japan most families now celebrate Christmas, not because of its religious significance, but purely as a festive occasion. In China “Santa Claus’s cheery red face is plastered in shop windows in major cities,” says The Wall Street Journal, adding:“Christmas fever is gripping China’s newly rising urban middle class as an excuse to shop, eat and party.”
In many parts of the world, Christmas has been a great boost for local economies. That is especially true of China, which is now “an export powerhouse of plastic trees, tinsel, twinkling lights and other yuletide trinkets,” says the Journal.
Predominantly Muslim lands also promote Christmaslike festivities, although not necessarily on December 25. In Ankara, Turkey, and Beirut, Lebanon, it is not unusual to see shop windows dressed with tinsel-covered evergreens and gift-wrapped packages. In Indonesia, hotels and malls sponsor festive events, and children can dine with Santa or have their picture taken with him.
In Western lands, Christmas is now largely secular and commercial, with many ads “blatantly pitched at children,” said Canada’s Royal Bank Letter. Granted, some people still attend Christmas services at a church. But it is the shopping malls, resonating with carols, that have become the new temples. Why the change? Could the reason be connected with the origin of Christmas? What are its roots?
Before discussing such questions, it would be good to read the Bible accounts on which Christmas Nativity scenes are supposedly based.
WHAT THE GOSPEL WRITERS SAY
The apostle Matthew:“After Jesus had been born in Bethlehem of Judea in the days of Herod the king, look! astrologers from eastern parts came to Jerusalem, saying:‘Where is the one born king of the Jews? For we saw his star when we were in the east, and we have come to do him obeisance.’ At hearing this King Herod was agitated.” So Herod asked “the chief priests ... where the Christ was to be born.” On learning that it was “in Bethlehem,” Herod told the astrologers:“Go make a careful search for the young child, and when you have found it report back to me.”
“They went their way; and, look! the star they had seen when they were in the east went ahead of them, until it came to a stop above where the young child was.... When they went into the house they saw the young child with Mary its mother.” After presenting Jesus with gifts,“they were given divine warning in a dream not to return to Herod,[so] they withdrew to their country by another way.”
“After they had withdrawn, look! Jehovah’s angel appeared in a dream to Joseph, saying:‘Get up, take the young child and its mother and flee into Egypt ...’ So he got up and took along the young child and its mother by night and withdrew ... Then Herod, seeing he had been outwitted by the astrologers, fell into a great rage, and he sent out and had all the boys in Bethlehem and in all its districts done away with, from two years of age and under.”—Matthew 2:1-16.
The disciple Luke: Joseph “went up from Galilee, out of the city of Nazareth, into Judea, to David’s city, which is called Bethlehem,... to get registered with Mary ... While they were there,... she gave birth to her son, the firstborn, and she bound him with cloth bands and laid him in a manger, because there was no place for them in the lodging room.”
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