The Meaning of Christmas
The Charlie Brown Christmas Special, which first aired on December 9, 1965 and years thereafter, was one of the highest rated Christmas specials of all time during the Christmas season. I have watched that Christmas special numerous times over the years from my childhood and afterwards. I have enjoyed that show because the character Linus in the Peanuts gang explains to Charlie Brown what the true meaning of Christmas is. He read the passage from Luke 2:8-14 from the Authorized King James Version giving the account of the virgin birth. That's what makes that show so special. In the story, Charlie Brown was very depressed because of the over-commercialization of Christmas. Charlie Brown was trying to figure out what's the importance of Christmas. Why do we celebrate it? Linus answers that question very beautifully when he read the account of Jesus' birth from the gospel of Luke. Of all the children's Christmas specials I've watched over the years, this one's my favorite.
Charles Schultz, the creator of the Peanuts gang, came up with creating this special years before and he had every intent to include the account of Jesus' birth before it was produced. He wanted the true meaning of Christmas to be the theme of this Peanuts' Christmas show. Television producer Lee Mendelson and animator Bill Melendez were concerned about Schultz's adding that portion in the Bible from the gospel of Luke into the show. "Religion" was supposedly a controversial subject in television special. That was probably as a result of the U.S. Supreme Court handing down major Supreme Court decisions in 1962 and 1963 concerning prayer and Bible reading in the public school system. Schultz said, "If we don't do it, who will?" I thank God for that. I don't think the show would be worth it's meaning if it wasn't centered around the true meaning of Christmas. The reading of the Bible is what made the program what it is.
For centuries there's been controversy whether or not Jesus was born on December 25th. Scholars say that the origins of Christmas were more pagan than Christian. I'm sure there's much truth in that. Some said that when Christmas was recognized in Rome around the 4th century A.D. it was celebrated to celebrate the Roman holiday Saturnalia a holiday in honor of Saturn, the god of agriculture. Beginning in the week leading up to the winter solstice and for a full month thereafter, Saturnalia was a hedonistic time when food and drink were plentiful. There was plenty of drinking and gluttony during that time when Rome was turned upside down. Slave would become masters for a month and peasants would command the city. Schools and businesses were closed.
Why was December 25th chosen as the day to celebrate Christmas? Historians say it was more than likely due to the winter solstice. The first recorded date of Christmas being celebrated was in 336 A.D. It was celebrated during the time of the Roman emperor Constantine. Pope Julius I officially declared that the birth of Jesus would be celebrated on the 25th of December.
I won't take any more time to mention the history behind in this post. I'll do that in a separate post. I want to focus on "What is Christmas all about?" in this post and next Sunday's. Today in American culture we've placed the focus on Santa Claus, gifts, decorations, the Christmas tree, Christmas dinner, Rudolph the red-nosed reindeer, Black Friday, and other events. Some of these aren't bad but without the celebration of the Lord's birth, it's meaningless. Even though I'm aware during the early part of our nation's history in colonial New England that celebrating Christmas was banned in Boston and that the early Puritans mentioned the fact that the Bible doesn't mandate that we celebrate the birth of Jesus doesn't mean we shouldn't celebrate the birth of Jesus. As I've said before, without Jesus' birth, there would've never been a death, burial, and resurrection of Christ. The birth of Jesus is worth celebrating and I'd much rather celebrate the birth of Christ on December 25th than all the false emphasis given to Santa Claus. The problem I have with Santa Claus is the fact that godlike attributes have been given to Santa Claus which aren't true. Anyone who knows the song "Santa Claus is Coming to Town" is familiar with the line which says, "He sees you when you're sleeping, he knows when you're awake, he knows if you've been bad or good, so be good for goodness sake." The truth is only the Lord can see you when you're sleeping. As far as goodness is concerned, no man possesses anything good in him apart from God. The only thing good about man is God. God created man and has endowed man with talents and abilities to serve Him. And Jesus died for man so he could be saved from sin and serve God. Those who are born again know that the only thing good about him is the Lord himself. Man wouldn't exist if God didn't create man.
I'll conclude this in next Sunday's post where I'll discuss the Lord's birth, which is what Christmas is all about.