23 December 2006

'Tis The Season

It must be Christmastime because my father just called with his annual "Jesus is the reason for the season" message.

I am definitely of the First Amendment mindset where it comes to religion, generally supportive of all and not favoring one over the other. If I had to describe myself religiously I would say I am a Deist. This bothers my parents, both who are ordained ministers and raised me in the Christian faith. In their mind I am an apostate, only one step above atheist, and they worry for my immortal soul. Someone should, I guess, because I sure don't pay enough attention to it. But I digress.

I made the mistake one year, while in a more Grinchy state of mind, of commenting that surely a man born in May or June (according to the research I have seen, Roman records put the tax collection and census in the summertime of 3BC) isn't responsible for anything that happens in December. Suffice it to say that I won't make that comment again. But the reason for Christmas, the season, is indeed the celebration of the Saviour's birth, regardless of what time of year the actual event was.

The simple fact is that the early Church, eager for converts, co-opted certain times of the year for their holidays. This gave a sense of familiarity to the holiday season for their new parishioners while at the same time removing the pagan aspects from the seasonal celebrations. For the winter solstice, the shortest day of the year, they chose to celebrate their Saviour's birth. It makes sense to pick this day. The winter solstice is regarded as the beginning of the new seasons, from that day forward the days will get longer and the new growing season begins. New life will fill the earth. Christians likewise see the birth of Christ as a new beginning, so the parallel is appropriate.

In recent years it has become fashionable for businesses and locales to eliminate Christmas, replacing it with "Happy Holidays", so as not to offend our non-Christmas celebrating friends. Bah humbug. WalMart, for instance, decided last year to replace "Merry Christmas" with "Happy Holidays". This year, due to pressure from the overwhelming majority of Americans who celebrate Christmas, the "Merry Christmas" greeting is back. I'm glad to see the Christian community banding together to stop this practice.

Even if your preference is for Kwanzaa (that most American of holidays, invented right here in the United States, in LA, in 1967) or Hanuka or Ramadan, there is no reason why I can't wish you a Merry Christmas, and no reason why you can't respond with a greeting appropriate to your holiday. If you are the non-religious sort a Happy Holidays or a Happy (Winter) Solstice would suffice. The basis of freedom, after all, is that you should be allowed to do anything which does not result in physical or financial harm to another being, and acknowledging the celebration of the season surely causes no harm. In fact, it can do much good. Denying the trappings of Christmas to those who celebrate Christmas is not protecting the separation of church and state (which is not found anywhere in the Constitution, by the way), it is just "denying the free expression thereof". That in itself is unconstitutional. And if you find a Scrooge that is offended by your greeting, so be it. Don't let it stop you from enjoying the season.

So break out those nativity scenes, and wish me a Merry Christmas. Tell me that Jesus is the reason for the season. I'll respond with a Merry Christmas of my own, from mine to yours.

God bless us all, every one.

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