Saint James Anglican Church

Joseph Howe Drive at the Armdale Rotary, Halifax, Nova Scotia, Canada             


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Advent and Christmas 2001

 

" He is the radiance of God's Glory, the stamp of God's very being ..." Hebrews 1:3 (New Revised English Bible)

 

The Children's writer Dr. Seuss gave us a wonderful story about the attempt of a mean spirited villain who makes some interesting discoveries about the nature and meaning of Christmas. I encourage you to read, or read again, his classic story How The Grinch Stole Christmas. The title itself is very interesting. How could anyone steal Christmas? Well the idea is perhaps not so far fetched. Dr. Seuss's "grinch" attempted to steal Christmas by stealing the trappings and trimmings of the holiday.

 

Early Christians have sometimes been accused of stealing Christmas from the pagans of ancient Rome. They certainly are accused of shamelessly converting the trappings and festivities of an ancient Roman holiday for use in the Christian celebration of the Birth of the Lord. Each December 25, shortly after the winter solstice, ancient Rome celebrated the annual rebirth and return of the sun. The focus of this holiday was the return of the unconquered sun of righteousness. The daylight gradually lengthens as darkness is dispelled and defeated. The holiday enjoyed great popularity in the Rome of the fourth century. When Christianity became the official religion of the Roman Empire the feast of the birth of Christ was assigned to December 25th. It seemed more practical to take over the trappings of this holiday than to either compete with it or suppress it. Some might say that things have come full circle. The modem sentiment to "put Christ back in Christmas" is not far removed from the notion that Christmas has been stolen from the church by the secular world. Gift giving, tree lighting, social festivities, works of charity, and even the themes of peace and goodwill all may be engaged without reference to the birth of the Christ child.

 

Christians may continue to engage all these activities knowing that humankind possesses a wonderful gift. It is not found in the trappings of the holiday. But it may be found in the powerful humility of Bethlehem. There in the person of the holy child of Bethlehem is the radiance of God's glory, the stamp of God's very being. The Son of God takes our human nature and we behold God's glory. We behold our future as God's people. We behold the destiny of the created order. We are no longer left to strive for peace and justice all alone. God enters into human community and pours out peace and salvation in Christ. The earliest of Christians celebrated this event with all the festivity their time and culture had to offer. They knew that not even the sun with all its warmth and splendour could compare with the gift of the word made flesh. Once again at Christmas, the church celebrates the giving of this gift. We have no need to fear that the meaning of Christmas will be stolen. How can anyone steal a message that is meant to be shared with the whole world.

 

Archdeacon Rod Gillis