Monday, December 25, 2006

The True Meaning of Christmas

A picture of the Christmas tree at the Barrett house.

When I was a child my family went to a Methodist church every Sunday. I remember that at this time of year a popular topic of conversation among the church-goers was how the true religious meaning of Christmas had been lost in recent times by the increasing commercialization of the season. At some point it struck me that although a lot of the people in the congregation talked this way my father and the minister did not. When the minister talked about what our religious duty was he never mentioned restoring the true Christian meaning to Christmas and purging the holiday of all its unchristian elements.

I asked my father, who had also studied for the ministry at seminary, about this and he explained to me that our minister did not believe that Christmas needed to be restored to its original religious meaning because in seminary they had studied the history of the church. They had learned that the supposed Christian meaning of the holiday – the birth of Jesus –was a non-historical graft onto an existing pagan celebration. Celebrating and gift-giving was the original meaning of Christmas. There was no true Christian meaning that needed to be restored.

It was about 45 years ago that I first heard people talking about how the true meaning of Christmas had been lost recently. Amazingly people are still saying exactly the same thing. I guess that must be something that people enjoy saying to each other.

Merry Christmas and Feliz Navidad!

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