Christmas will be different this year. I am sure you have heard this many times by now. There will be no large gatherings, family reunions, parties or Christmas plays. There will not be the endless days of shopping in person in stores, community events commemorating the season, or Christmas parades. Many of these events will be limited, if not cancelled altogether. So will Christmas be cancelled this year? The short answer is no, but I will explain.
Christmas has never been about any of these things that we do each year to celebrate it. The gift giving, the feasts, the parades, the plays and many other events are all designed to point to the real reason for the season, which is the birth of Jesus.
The first recorded Christmas celebration was in Rome on December 25, 336. For the first three centuries, Jesus’ birth was not even celebrated in a big way. It was His baptism, His death and His resurrection that are at the center of the Christian faith. People began celebrating Christmas to help new converts replace pagan rituals and celebrations held around the winter solstice. Christmas, essentially, was a declaration of faith in Jesus as the Son of God, the Savior of the world and the only one worthy of praise and worship. It was a rejection of all other gods for the one true God. Symbols like candles, evergreens, wreaths and even the mistletoe can trace their origins to pagan rituals that were transformed in meaning to celebrate the birth of Jesus.
For over 1,700 years, Christmas has evolved, changed and been celebrated in diverse and culturally relevant ways by people all over the world. The fundamental meaning of Christmas, however, has remained the same throughout the years. We are still unwrapping the gift of God’s Son and celebrating His birth as the Savior of the world. So even though Christmas will look different this year in terms of its form and expression, the spirit of Christmas will continue to be one of joy and celebration at the birth of Jesus, the Prince of Peace, the Messiah, the Savior of the world.
As long as we keep Christ in Christmas, it will continue to be a special time of the year when we remember that God loved us so much, He came to earth as one of us to save us. So do not let the fact that Christmas will look different this year take away your joy or peace at knowing that Jesus Christ was born or dampen your hope that He will come again for us one day. Let this be a season to declare with one voice that Jesus Christ is still the Messiah, the Savior of the world, the light that broke into the darkness, and the salvation that we all need. Have a very merry Christmas!
Yours in Christ,
Rev. Dr. Miguel A. Vélez