As post modern Christians we have a lot of discussions about how to engage with our culture. I think one of the prime examples of how to do this successfully is found in our modern-day holidays. Especially Christmas. The ancient church usually gets a really bad rap for incorporating pagan festivals into the Christianity that they preached. It’s all too easy to pull up fundamentalist rants about how Christmas trees are pagan objects and how, by bringing them into our homes, we are worshipping nature and not Jesus. But lets have a closer look at this…
Festivals of light are celebrated in various cultures all around the world, especially in Europe. The theme of rebirth is one that seems to run throughout these Midwinter celebrations. We are reminded at the darkest and coldest time of the year that light and warmth will return. The days have reached their shortest and now begin to grow long again. The phrase used in Finland to recognize this is “talven selka taittuu,” meaning, “the back of winter is broken.” I can’t really think of a better way to engage with that aspect of ancient culture than to proclaim to them that,
“The people who walked in darkness have seen a great light; those who dwelt in a land of deep darkness, on them has light shined.” ~Isaiah 9:2
“I have come into the world as light, so that whoever believes in me may not remain in darkness.” ~ Jesus in John 12:46
I feel that feasts and festivals, holy days (the original form of holiday), are a very important part of life. The Lord instituted a number of days of remembrance and days of celebration for ancient Israel. It is only natural, and I think right, that as Christianity grew and spread we gained our own. If, as a part of the gospel spreading to new peoples and cultures, their native celebrations were adapted to reflect the truth of Christ, I see no difference between that and what modern missionaries do when they look for a “hook” in an un-reached people group’s culture which allows in roads for the gospel.
I am an unabashed and unashamed fan of Christmas. I believe in celebrating the moment when the Peace of God broke into our human violence. When his Joy broke into our despair. When his Love conquered our hate. When his Light shattered our darkness.
And so, may your days all be merry… and may they be bright,
With the Christ who's in Christmas as your guiding light.