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The real celebration

Thanksgiving is over, Christmas is right around the corner. I realized Christmas was coming when some stores started getting their Christmas items out just before Halloween. I went to Wal-Mart before Thanksgiving and they were already playing Christmas music. Of the holidays that we celebrate each year, Christmas, which has the word "Christ" right in it, seems to be the least religious of them all. The reason the Christmas music and decorations start so early is not at all in honor of the One whose birthday we should celebrate, it is so that we remember to spend, spend and spend. I am told that it's good for the economy, it's good for jobs. But is it really good for us?

The reason I don't like to see Christmas decorations out so early or hear Christmas music before Thanksgiving is not because I am a scrooge, it's because I truly love Christmas. What makes it special is that it only happens once a year. To maintain the uniqueness of it all is to not allow it to be a common ordinary thing that goes on and on, day after day, week after week and now month after month. The old saying is, "Familiarity breeds contempt." It looses much of the wonder and grace. It becomes a form and a ritual that we go through that has lost much of its real meaning (just like some other religious exercises).

For a while now it has been more politically correct to say "Happy Holidays" than to say "Merry Christmas," even though the word "holiday" is from our Christian heritage meaning "holy day." Today this "holy day" means nothing more then a day off, maybe with family. For most, even in America, Christmas is not a true Holy Day; it is a day to celebrate consumerism. In most Holiday films we see the nice little story of tension, turmoil, division, heartache, until someone in the story discovers the true meaning of Christmas - giving, family, love, etc. As nice as all that is, that is not the true meaning of Christmas.

Christmas is about worshipping the true Giver - God Himself, 'Glory to God in the Highest!" (Luke 2:14). Christmas is about sharing the Good News - "God so loved the world." Christmas is about receiving the best Gift - Jesus. "...that He gave His only begotten Son." (John 3:16). Christmas is about the wonder, not of the love of family, but the love of God to sinful humanity. Love so amazing that He sent His Son to become a man, so that he could receive the wages of our sin and give eternal life to as many as receive Him.

St. Nicolas did a great thing in showing the love of God in a practical and tangible way by giving to others as a way to celebrate Christmas, but I am sure he would be grieved today to see that we have been so caught up in the decorations, feastings, travel plans, shopping, buying, giving, parties, activities, that we, for the most part, have forgotten who we are celebrating. Not the what, but the Who - it really is all about Jesus.

Allen Refsland


Wadena Assembly of God church