Glimpses

Sunday, November 27, 2011

Christmas Controversy


Christmas Tree?… Holiday Tree?… Happy Holidays?...  Merry Christmas?

There is controversy over the use of the word Christmas in the celebration of the holiday that lands on the 25th of December. While discerning the actual origin of the tradition I ran across information that indicates the use of this type of tree goes back farther than Christ's birth, and was used for a "variety of celebrations around the winter solstice" (History of the Christmas Tree).
It is interesting to have such heated debates over what is and is not appropriate to call a tree. We are a country whose foundation is built on "freedom of speech" (among other things), and yet, every opportunity since the phrase "politically correct" became part of our standardized language, we stifle differences of opinion. Why is that? What difference does it make whether we call a tree a "holiday tree" or a "Christmas tree?" If you celebrate "Christmas" because you believe it is the time that Christ was born, then it can be your Christmas tree. If you don't believe in Christ, or Christianity as it is laid out, and want to call it a "holiday tree" what difference does it make to those who do things differently?
I have to wonder if those who are screaming the loudest about saying "Merry Christmas" instead of "Happy Holidays" have some kind of inside information about when Christ was born that so many who have spent their lives researching do not. Was he born in December at all?
According to Daniel B. Wallace's study, posted on Bible.org there is no real date ever mentioned (most who have studied agree with him that it is difficult, if not impossible to pin point the actual date).  Wallace said:
The Gospels tell us that his birth was shortly before Herod the Great died. Herod's death can be fixed with certainty.
Josephus records an eclipse of the moon just before Herod passed on. This occurred on March 12th or 13th in 4 B.C. Josephus also tells us that Herod expired just before Passover. This feast took place on April 11th, in the same year, 4 B.C. From other details supplied by Josephus, we can pinpoint Herod the Great's demise as occurring between March 29th and April 4th in 4 B.C.
This would indicate that Jesus was born in the spring, yet even Wallace reminds us that the reason his birth date was not remembered in history, is that it was not important to the churches of old, they were far more focused on his death, and resurrection. He does say that while no one really knows for "absolute certain" when Christ was born that " an early winter date seems as reasonable a guess as any. And December 25th has been the frontrunner for eighteen centuries. Without more evidence, there seems no good reason to change the celebration date now" (Wallace, Christ Birth).
Another website whose author is not listed goes through a series of scriptures to come to the conclusion that Jesus was most definitely not born on December 25th, but tells us that the bible says that  "Christ was born in the fall and not on December 25th. The latter date was the great pagan holy day of the ancient world. It was the birthday of the sun god, when at the winter solstice, the sun that had been in decline grew stronger again and regained new life. It was Baal’s birthday. It was Tammuz’ birthday" (Christ's Birth).
So before any facts are even in order we are fighting about what to call a holiday that has yet to be defined by many. It is personal preference that the "birth of Christ" be celebrated on December 25th, and it is personal preference that the tree be called a "Christmas tree" for many Christians. Why would it offend anyone if it were called something else? If it is because it is used as a celebration tool then it would be wise to recognize that the tree has been used by many for their spiritual beliefs, not just Christians, and not just for Christmas. The tree is a symbol of our own celebrations, in our own languages, for our own reasons. The diversity of ideas is what makes humans unique.
The stories of Jesus that I have read, would indicate him to be a man of peaceful means, who travelled with beggars, thieves, and harlots to preach a way of life that was different than that which was known at the time: to teach humanity that there are better ways to treat one another. Do you think he would address the issue with the same hostility?
My holiday tree is 4 feet tall, and made of recycled plastic. I've been known to keep it up for an entire year at a time because I like the soft colouring of the lights in the room. It reminds me to be kind to people, even when they are ignorantly cruel, it reminds me that there are things far more important in this world than the commercialized insanity that promotes greed. The gifts I give to those I love, I give when I feel like it, there is no date that has to correspond, no meaning other than the joy of sharing something I might have, that they might need. Every day offers opportunities for us to be grateful for something, to share something, to believe in something. What will you be focusing on this holiday season?

References
Christ's birth: When was Christ born? American Presbyterian Church. Retrieved November 27, 2011 from Web: <http://www.americanpresbyterianchurch.org/christ%27s_birth.htm>.
Wallace, D.B. The birth of Jesus Christ. Bible.org. Retrieved November 27, 2011 from Web: <http://bible.org/article/birth-jesus-christ>.
Additional Resources
All about the Christmas tree: Pagan origins, Christian adaptation, and secular status. Religious Tolerance Web: <http://www.religioustolerance.org/xmas_tree.htm>.
Christmas. (n.d.). Christian Answers Web: <http://www.christiananswers.net/christmas/mythsaboutchristmas.html>.
History of the Christmas Tree: <http://www.christmastreehistory.net/>.
The chronological history of the Christmas tree. (St. Boniface Story) The Christmas Archives Web: <http://www.christmasarchives.com/trees.html>.
Richard, E., (2011). The date of Christ's birth. Bible Studies at the Moorings. Retrieved from Web: <http://themoorings.org/apologetics/chronology/Chrmas.html>.
Birth of Christ recalculated. (1998). Marantha Church, Inc. Retrieved from Web: <http://www.versebyverse.org/doctrine/birthofchrist.html>.


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