Learning about learning
I was asked to preach last Sunday for our church's Christmas celebration service. Ordinarily, that wouldn't be a big deal, but I'd initially been asked to give a children's message on the symbolism behind the Candy Cane, and I needed to work that into the sermon. Whooo boy! I didn't think "and they wrapped him in swaddling clothes, laid him in a manger and handed him a candy cane" would work well, so we took a look at the different symbols surrounding Christmas - many we never would think are connected with the birth of Christ. After all, he is the whole point of Christmas.
Here are my slides, which unfortunately didn't get to be projected because of a bit of a snag changing out the light bulb, but what the heck, I've done enough training that I was able to punt. There isn't much detail on the slides, so I've included the text below if the symbols of Christmas are new to you. Many major religions celebrate a holiday in December. For me, it's Christmas, and celebrating the life changing difference that knowing Jesus means to me. I'd love to tell you more about that some time if you aren't sure what Christmas is really all about.
Looking for Christ in Christmas
If a martian landed in the United States during December, it would be hard pressed to understand what the frenzy is all about, unless it happened upon a church on a Sunday. Many keep the focus on shopping for the right presents, cooking special foods, partying with friends and getting together with family. From a commercial perspective, certainly there is an economic boom in this time of year as many dollars are spent on those gifts.
A Birthday Party with No Guest of Honor?
Imagine hosting a large birthday celebration. The cake is made, the house is decorated, the presents wrapped, and the guests have all arrived. The candles are lit, but there is no guest to blow out the candles! In many ways, that's what we, even in the church have done with Christmas as we get caught up in the bustle of the holiday and the preparation for the pageants and special programs.
What Have We Done to the Holiday?
In all fairness, we do live in a society that is changing. My friend Jane Bozarth posted this comment on her Facebook page:
"Heard people who work in HR of all places, lamenting the fact that the holiday party is now called a "Christmas party". Our staff consists of 2 Jews, a Muslim, three atheists and a Wiccan, and I don't know what else. smh."
She raises a great point about office parties. Certainly none of us wants to be celebrating something we don't believe in. One of her friends commented that we should just break the party down into 15 minute increments and let everyone celebrate the holiday of their choices.
In government offices, there is a great hullabaloo about putting up a Christmas tree these days, now that the putting up of the manager scene is long gone away. That doesn't mean that churches must stop celebrating!
Our country has changed as more and more nations are represented in the population. When we were predominantly European, Christmas was an assumed heritage as much of the population had Christian roots. Today, we are varied. That does not mean that the message must be silenced and the good news sealed up. Many of the holiday symbols we view as generic still have Christian roots, and those of us who celebrate Christmas can be reminded of the message they contain and share the good news they proclaim. Just as Jesus used every day objects as teaching props, we can too, if we know their stories. Let's examine our holiday symbols and see their origins. Much of this research comes from Angie Mosteller's Christmas Traditions pages if you'd like to learn more.
Symbols of Christmas
I've lived all my life in the northeast corner of the United States, and we have traditions that may differ from yours. Most of these point to Christ, if you look for the message they contain.
There are some obvious symbols that we see at Christmas time that need no explanations. The angels represent the angels that shared the story with Mary, Joseph, and the shepherds, and the star reminds us of the star of Bethlehem that led the wisemen to Jesus. What about the secular symbols?
Pointing the way - Learning to be the light
When John the Baptist lived on earth, his job was to focus others on their need for a savior and to point the way to Christ. How are you preparing the way for others? Knowing the symbols of Christmas gives us conversation starters. Knowing the story of Jesus' birth lets us share the point of why we celebrate. It's not just about knowing the story though. It's about living the story, and pointing the way to why Jesus came - to save the world from their sins and point the way to God. Seeing changed lives, and lives impacted by Christ lets our story be the story that points others to Christ. Knowing Jesus is the best thing I've ever done. I'd love to tell you more about it. Drop me a line and let's chat.
If the story is new to you, listen to Linus share a part of it from Luke 2 in a Charlie Brown Christmas, then check out the latter slides in my presentation above, which tells an illustrated version of the story from the beginning.
Here's What christmas is all about
Merry Christmas. May the joy of Jesus become part of your life too.
Teacher by training, learner by design.