The headlines this week declared how retailers were disappointed in their holiday sales so far. With the lingering effects of the recent recession people seem to be placing more of their belief in the true meaning of the Christmas season than their cash. I would imagine the man whose birth we celebrate at the end of December would be pleased we are getting back in touch with its deeper meaning of why we celebrate his arrival.
Jesus is the name of this important figure and people around the world exchange gifts, candies and food to mark the time of his birth. His short but eventful life has inspired others for thousands of years with a message of hope, love and forgiveness that is always available to us through a connection with him. There is no other individual who has left as bigger mark on humanity as Jesus. He is that special to those of us who follow his teaching. More importantly, Jesus shows us through his example, how to walk
through life with dignity, value and respect for ourselves and others and the promise that joy and peace is available every day. Like the season of spring that follows winter, our spirit can be renewed and awakened by the power in the name of Jesus.
Scholars have argued for years about the true birth date of Jesus. Some say it may actually occur in the beginning part of the spring season. It is rumored the Catholic Church designed this different date recognition to bring a connection to Jesus’s birth to other celebrations that took place at the winter solstice; an important benchmark for many cultures and religions the Catholic Church wanted to introduce Jesus to.
Understandable, people would have a right to be upset about such an important detail, but from a community building and marketing approach, I must admit it was brilliant. I will also admit in today’s Christmas season, it looks like marketing has marched forward while the meaning of Jesus’s life, words and actions is left hanging like worn out tinsel in the mist of high-tech led lights and moving ornaments.
The Christmas tree actually is an excellent example of early connection building into a holiday transition that has commercialism at the forefront. In the Northern Hemisphere the winter solstice occurs when the shortest day and longest night of the year meet. It marks an important point in the cycle of seasons and has been celebrated long before Christianity took hold. Part of the festivities for this important date included the making of wreaths and boughs out of evergreens that we brought indoors to celebrate growth that would take place again after winter. Pretty symbolic stuff to our ancestors and something the Catholics recognized as important and needed to
be included in their holiday.
The Germans are usually credited with starting the Christmas tree tradition in earnest as their belief in Jesus. They hung their first versions upside down, suspended from the ceiling in reverence to Jesus having hung from the cross. In the newly settled Plymouth colony in the Americas, the Pilgrims were so serious they forbid trees, carols or any ‘joyful expression’ regarding Christmas. I wonder if Jesus would have even said a ‘no bah humbug’ to that!
It was England’s Queen Victoria and her hubby Albert who brought the Christmas tree into high fashion, everyone one either side of the ocean wanted one in their home. Today’s tree come in every color, with or without lights, mimicked evergreen styles and every size. But like the retail trend I started this article with, the tree is finding its original roots again in a country chic renaissance. A back to the bare realistic look of nature for the Christmas tree is taking place. Minimal ornaments or those that are handmade are the trend now as is sparse lighting mimicking the soft twilight of the stars through the evergreens.
Maybe all of us this holiday season can remember the sparseness of the material Jesus embraced and focus our resources on helping others while celebrating the true meaning of Jesus’s life, the minimal message that love, forgiveness and joy are available daily to you through him.