I thank Dr. Babar for asking me to write a brief article about Christmas. I can only imagine what a non-Christian audience must think about a religious holiday that has turned into a frenzied shopping spree! If you don’t know how that happened to a beautiful religious day, I will tell you in a moment.
The date of Christmas is always December 25 since it is not a date determined by the moon as Easter is. It commemorates the birth of Jesus who, to Christians, is the Messiah, long-promised by the Prophets. It is not, however, his birthday, as such, since that day is not known.
Christmas is also a season in the Christian calendar, not merely a day. The season of Christmas lasts 12 days, beginning with Christmas Day itself. Eight days later on January 1 — but in no way related to New Year’s Day — is the commemoration of his circumcision, as required by Jewish law on the eighth day after a male child is born. And then on the last day of the Christmas Season, January 6, we have a feast called The Epiphany which commemorates the visit of the Magi or Wise Men to Jesus. Since the Magi are not Jews, as Jesus was, this day is a reminder that the message of Jesus is a universal message, open to all people of whatever nationality, color or race.
It’s the Wise Men who can be blamed for the shopping frenzy (sort of). The Gospel of Matthew tells us that they brought three gifts to the Baby — gold, incense and myrrh. And so Christians have exchanged gifts at this time in commemoration of the Wise Men’s gifts. Until a century or so past, the gift exchange was a low-key event among members of a family; but in later years it has turned into the nightmare to be seen on Shelbyville Road on any evening of December as people shop for gifts!
Christmas for Christians is a time of feasting with special foods sometimes only to be had at that time of year; a time for visiting with friends; a time when children and others travel to spend the day with family or close friends; a time to go to church (perhaps at midnight on Christmas Eve which tradition says was the time when Jesus was born). Despite the crass commercialism to be found today, the central truth still shines through: God is faithful to God’s promises, and God has sent the Messiah.
The Rev. Richard Humke
Episcopal Priest (Retired)
Note: Thank you so much Reverend Humke for taking the time to share your thoughts on Christmas.