If you frequent any social media, it's not easy to miss the heated debate over keeping "Christ" in "Christmas" while partaking in holiday traditions. It's also not easy resisting the urge to weigh in on your perspective of this controversial subject. It is, however, easier than you might think to find Christ wherever you may look.
Santa Claus is Real
For centuries, the tradition of portly, jolly, white-bearded man wearing the red suit has been celebrated by many different cultures around the globe, and is often recognized as "St. Nicholas." The name used commonly in the U. S. is actually derived from the name "Sinterklaas," which is how the Dutch spell "Sint-Nicolass." St. Nicholas was the only son of wealthy parents in Myra (which is now in Turkey) who died from a disease when he was a young child. He was raised by his uncle, the Bishop of Patara. Nicholas followed in his footsteps and was ordained into priesthood. He had a reputation for secret gift giving, such as putting money in the shoes of those who left them out, and helping to pay the dowry of young women by throwing money in the window. His reputation evolved among other Christians, which was common for early Christian Saints. He is believed to be one of the bishops who signed the Nicene Creed. He may not actually have lived at the North Pole (Turkey, rather) or employ a contingent of elves to build toys, but he was a man who acted out the love of God, and his acts of love later transcended him into the legends of him that many hold dear today.
O Saturnalia Tree...
The "Christmas Tree," among many other Christmas traditions actually originated from before Christianity was Christianity. Evergreens were often seen as symbols of eternal life by cultures as early as the Ancient Egyptians and Chinese, and were later used by the early Romans to celebrate the Winter Solstice. As one of the only natural occurrences of color in the winter time, the Romans used evergreen trees as decorations in Saturnalia, their celebration of the Winter Solstice, which was their most important holiday because it symbolized the approach of the spring, and the return of their crops. As the Roman Empire spread all over the Western Hemisphere, so did many of their customs, including the use of evergreens to celebrate Winter Holidays. Once Christianity emerged, early Christians would celebrate Christmas while the pagan Romans celebrated Saturnalia. Naturally, the evergreens, along with many other traditions, such as gift-giving and feasting were assimilated into the celebration of Christmas Day as we know it today.
It Doesn't Matter how you do it
All of these traditions, whether they originated from the birth of Christ or not, are rooted in the most powerful force on this earth, God's love. Sometimes it's hard to see just how much His love has permeated everything around us, whether it's the miraculous birth of Jesus Christ, to the celebration of St. Nicholas, one of the most generous wielders of God's love in Christian history. What's important, is how you celebrate His love to everyone you come in contact with. The traditions that we've come to know Christmas by are only kept because of the love that they inpire in one another, and the gratitude that we have for God's incredible gift to the human race, which was inspired by His love for us.
"A new command I give you: Love one another. As I have loved you, so you must love one another. By this everyone will know that you are my disciples, if you love one another." - John 13:35
Not by our facebook, not by how we celebrate holidays, or even what holidays we celebrate, but by the way we treat each other and demonstrate God's incredible love. Look for God's love in everything around you, and let it fill you with joy, not judgement. Instead of jealousy, take joy in seeing God's love fill the hearts that have not yet discovered Him, and pray that He begins His work in them. Have a Merry Christmas, everyone!