I hate Christmas -- that's right, I hate Christmas -- not the commercialization (although that stinks, too), I truly, genuinely, down to my bones hate Christmas.
To help you understand this, I'm posting a copy of a piece that ran in the local newspaper last year -- and this is the "nice" version (I still have the original piece I wrote which is a little harsher -- OK, much harsher).
Anyhow, here's the nice version -- feel free to post whatever comments you wish about what a mean, awful, terrible person I am...
Confessions of a self-professed Grinch
By Ken Grant
Every December, when that great song, "You're a Mean One, Mr. Grinch" comes on, my kids demand that I turn up the radio so they can sing – or gleefully scream – the lyrics at me.
Grinch, Scrooge, the Anti-Claus, take your pick of titles – I gladly wear them all.
I honestly do not like Christmas, I do not enjoy any aspect of it, and I'm finding that more and more people are admitting that they're not all that thrilled with it, either.
I can already hear the cries of heresy coming from faithful Christians and even not-so-faithful-but-we-show-up-for-church-twice-a-year types alike. But, if we take a moment to look at the origins of Christmas, we might find that the truly Christian thing to do might be to shift our focus to something more substantive and meaningful every December.
Nowhere in scripture are Christians commanded to celebrate the birth of Christ. I challenge anyone to find a scriptural reference to the First Century Church celebrating Christmas. In fact, two of the four canonized gospels don't even mention the birth of Jesus.
By contrast, the followers of Christ are admonished to observe two things: Communion and Baptism. All other feasts, festivals, and observances are entirely optional (see Colossians 2:16).
So, when did we start this Christmas tradition? Allow me to quote from George W. Cornell:
For more than 300 years after Jesus' time, Christians didn't celebrate his birth. The observance began in fourth century Rome, timed to coincide with a mid-winter pagan festival honoring the pagan gods Mithra and Saturn. The December date was simply taken over to commemorate Jesus' birth, since its exact date isn't known. Consequently, the fusion of the sacred and the profane characterized the celebration from the start.
The reality is that celebrating new life following the winter solstice is something that's been done for some time – much more than 2,000 years. Switching the celebration from Ra the Egyptian sun-god, Adonis the Syrian god, Mithras the Persian sun-god, and any number of Norse gods (Oden being the most prevalent) to the birth of Christ seemed to have occurred almost seamlessly – in fact, nearly EVERYTHING that we associate with the Christmas tradition (evergreen trees, holy, lights, candles, etc.) can be traced back to one or more of these pagan origins.
To be perfectly honest with you, I don't know how ministers go through this every year. Let's think about this for a moment. The average minister has 52 Sundays a year to teach, to preach, to explore the deep and rich mysteries of scripture found throughout the Bible. Out of those 52 Sundays, the minister is forced by tradition to focus on a small handful of passages for at least four of those Sundays every year – re-hashing the same themes year after year after year.
And again, this is for something that really has very little to do with the crux of Christianity . I challenge anyone to show me where Peter preached about the importance of the birth of Christ. How about an epistle from Paul where he explains to a growing church the need to have a manger scene set up by the second week of December?
The message of Christ is profound – he did not call his disciples to look at his baby pictures . He told his followers to pick up their crosses and follow him to death. Paul tells us that presenting ourselves as living sacrifices is our reasonable act of worship. Peter's sermon at Pentecost focused exclusively on the death, burial, and resurrection of Christ. Again, the two practices Christians are ordered to observe – baptism and communion – are symbols of sacrifice, death, and resurrection – not of incarnation and birth.
Of course, it makes sense for just about anyone to be more comfortable focusing time and attention on a harmless, cute baby than to deal with the man who calls you to sacrifice your pride and your ego to follow him to an uncertain future.
I am not advocating that everyone quit celebrating Christmas. But I am asking for two things. First, figure out what it is you are celebrating and why you are celebrating it. If it's just tradition or a warm, fuzzy feeling, that's OK – just be honest about it. Second, please don't tell me that I "must" celebrate with you.
By the way, the kids don't seem to mind the fact that their father is a Grinch.