Christmas Day falls on a Saturday this year. And, the winter solstice and longest day of the year falls on December 21.
Citing various online sources convey that Christmas is an annual festival commemorating the birth of Jesus Christ, observed primarily on December 25th as both a sacred religious and a worldwide cultural celebration among billions of people around the world. It’s also called Noel, Nativity, Xmas. The English term Christmas means “mass on Christ’s day” or “Christ-mass.” Although the date is in question, the tradition of observing it goes back to at least the 4th century. The first Christmas feast was held on December 25 in Rome in 336 A.D., during the time of Roman Emperor Constantine, but it did not become a major Christian festival until the 9th century. The celebratory customs associated in various countries with Christmas have a mix of pre-Christian, Christian, and secular themes and origins. It’s also a commercial phenomenon, generating a lot of spending and giving. Historian Kenneth C. Davis once told “CBS This Morning” that “Christmas is really about bringing out your inner pagan.” That “inner pagan” is something to keep under control.
And, how did Santa Claus come about? History.com states, “The legend of Santa Claus can be traced back hundreds of years to a monk named Saint Nicholas. It is believed that Nicholas was born sometime around 280 A.D. in Patara, near Myra in modern-day Turkey. He was much admired for his piety and kindness,” particularly toward children and those in need. Evidently, St. Nicholas was a very good man; whereas Santa Claus, though symbolically generous, is a myth that many people love and from which much money has been made.
On a different note, the Scriptural accounts of the birth of Jesus, especially in the Gospel of Luke, and numerous books with Christmas themes are often uplifting. Also, there are many Christmas movies – from “Remember the Night” and “It’s a Wonderful Life” to “Home Alone” and “A Christmas Story.”
In college, I unofficially minored in film studies. I certainly watched a lot of films and took several film courses. (Although much more selective, I still love movies.) My two favorite Christmas themed movies are “It’s a Wonderful Life” and “A Charlie Brown Christmas” – both of which I’ve viewed many times. At different periods of my life, I have related to both George Bailey and Charlie Brown. (That’s another blog.) “It’s a Wonderful Life” is a Frank Capra film that was ranked by the American Film Institute as the most inspirational film. I’ve seen most of the top 100. I’m biased but I agree. Capra is the only film director with two films in the top five, although Steven Spielberg is listed three times in the top ten. I’m fairly certain I’ll be watching George and Charlie again this year.
Well, at Wide Horizon, folks here enjoy good movies too. The Activities schedules this time of year are filled with Christmas inspired articles, readings, programs, talks, residents sharing, music and inspirational movies. Activities staff have again festively and colorfully decorated Wide Horizon. Uplifting inspirational messages of joy, hope and love have been placed throughout the main building. Wonderful good works are performed and observed daily. Our active days here include selfless service to others. There are also many moments a quiet reflection and sincere appreciation for Christ Jesus. We are blessed.
Mary Baker Eddy, the Discoverer of Christian Science, wrote in part about Christmas, “The basis of Christmas is the rock, Christ Jesus…The basis of Christmas is love…” (from “The Significance of Christmas” in The First Church of Christ, Scientist and Miscellany, pp. 259 – 260).
So, as much as I appreciate the actor Dwayne Johnson aka “The Rock” and enjoy his movies, it is Christ Jesus who is the guiding light, the “rock” of truth and love, regarding the true Christmas celebration. It is Jesus who has influenced and changed my life the most. It is selfless love I strive to practice. It is a life that gives unto others I attempt to live.
Lastly, may you feel, hear and know: “The spirit of Christmas is joy. The message of Christmas is hope. The meaning of Christmas is love.”
D. Brian Boettiger