For many Americans, the Thanksgiving holiday weekend marks the beginning of the Christmas holiday. Christmas shopping begins in earnest, the Christmas tree is set up, our thoughts turn toward Christmas parties, joy, Santa Claus, and for believers, the Christmas Story.
The reality is, however, the Christmas Story believers around the world celebrate is just that; a story. Historically, there is no evidence whatsoever that any of the story we hold so dear is anything but myth. In fact, much of the celebration we have come to know as Christmas had its origins in pagan worship and practices, some quite brutal and horrific. Knowing this, nevertheless, we too, set up our Christmas tree, hung the stockings from the mantel and lovingly set up the Nativity.
The first ornament placed on our tree is a hidden ornament; a metal “nail” hung on a sturdy branch near the trunk of the tree hidden within the branches. The nail is the first placed to remind us that Christ would later die nailed to a tree for the salvation of all who would believe, and hidden since its meaning is within our hearts. For me, the essence of Christmas has nothing to do with the commercialism that has come to define the season, nor the myth of its origins; the essence of Christmas is the knowledge that I am loved by the Creator of the Universe to the extent that He was willing to sacrifice Himself, clothed in the flesh of the humanity He created in order to reconcile flawed and fallible humanity with His perfection.
As I decorated the rest of the tree, many of the ornaments hold special meaning for me, and for us as a family. Some are angels, some in honor of meaningful events and people in our lives, and some in remembrance of the reason we choose to celebrate. I have ornaments for the names of God and Yeshua; Prince of Peace, Mighty God, Wonderful Counselor, Everlasting Father. As I hung the Prince of Peace ornament my thoughts turned to peace. Would there ever really be peace on earth? I can’t answer that question.
The very life of Yeshua brought division to the world and in so doing His life was antithetical to the concept of peace, and yet He is hailed as the Prince of Peace. Regardless of how any of us may feel about Yeshua, the fact remains His birth, life and death split time. No other religious or spiritual figure has ever done the same.
Will we see peace in our lifetime? Globally it’s not likely. The reality is, however, that peace begins and ends with each one of us. Peace begins in our hearts and projects outward from there. Without inward peace there will never be peace in our lives, our families, our workplace, our communities. Like begets like. Strife in a heart begets more strife and spreads outward. A heart seated in peace begets peace, and that peace will spread outward, as well. Peace will never be born of strife, of hatred, of war. Romans 12:18 says, “If possible, and to the extent that it depends on you, live in peace with all people. “(The Complete Jewish Bible) Peace begins with each one of us. We cannot afford to wait until a day when someone else, a leader, spiritual or otherwise, mandates peace; that is not going to happen. The Christmas season, in spite of its brutal and pagan origins, is a season when the thoughts of many turn to peace; making peace with themselves, within their families, and the desire to mend broken relationships.
Historically, there is no evidence that any of the story we have come to believe as “The Christmas Story” is true; the virgin birth (the Hebrew term Bible translators have coined “virgin” simply means “young woman”), a babe born in a stable and placed in a manager, three wise men and the census decreed by Caesar Augustus that led to the birth of “the Christ child” in Bethlehem are all rooted in myth. That knowledge, however, does not deter me from the celebration of Yeshua, the One whose birth, life and death, split time, the Prince of Peace, the One who would sacrifice His blood to reconcile fallible man to Himself. For me, Christ will remain in Christmas…..