The Reason for the Season

Nit-picking has its place, but Christmas is about faith, hope and love.

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Posted in , Oct 17, 2011

Edward Grinnan reminds us that faith and hope are what Christmas is about.

Now the birth of Jesus Christ was on this wise. . . . —Matthew 1:18

It’s that time of year again when all the nitpicking killjoys try to ruin Christmas for me.

I’m talking about the folks who delight in exposing the inaccuracies of our cherished Christmas images.

First off, the date is wrong, they point out. No right-minded emperor would call for a census in the middle of winter. More likely Joseph and Mary journeyed to Bethlehem earlier in the year when it was warm. In fact, not only did we get the season wrong, we got the year wrong. Most historians agree Jesus was born in about 6 BC, which makes no sense.

Then there are the three wise men. Wrong again. No evidence exists that there were any specific number of wise men, apart from the fact that three distinct offerings are mentioned in Matthew. Nor is there any reason to think they were kings, and they most certainly weren’t there at the birth of Christ. In fact, scholars speculate they may have arrived several years later.

And we have all the pagan underpinnings of the holiday to worry about: The tree harks back to pantheism; December 25 was chosen by the early church to replace the ancient festivals celebrating Roman gods; and mistletoe in pre-Christian Europe was a symbol of fertility.

Fine, fine. I’m happy to know the facts about Christmas. I don’t want to be ignorant. But for me Christmas is a swelling of the soul, filled with light and hope and love and the promise of eternal life and all that fills your heart. The facts are the facts. But Christmas will always be Christmas.

Lord, your birth redeems the world from darkness. You enter our lives in infinite and unexpected ways, even as a child in a manger, and your presence is beyond dispute.

This article is excerpted from Daily Guideposts 2012.

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