Monday, December 15, 2008

No, He's not.

"Jesus is the Reason for the Season"

I see this banner in many places and on church billboards. OFten times it is used as a way to remind people to be humble over the holidays and to slam others of us into feeling guilty for the commercialism and excess that we bring forth in the name of Christmas.

For those people, I would like to say, "No, he's not."

While our Christian forefathers and brethren have woven the tale of Christ's birth into this time of year, and slapped the "Christ's Mass" to it, the celebration of Him is not altogether true in the reasoning for the season.

The Encyclopedia Britannica (1949, article 'Christmas') says—
"CHRISTMAS (the 'Mass of Christ') ... Clement of Alexandria (about 200 AD) mentions several speculations on the date of Christ's birth, and condemns them as superstitious ... The exact day and year of Christ's birth have never been satisfactorily settled. When the Fathers of the Church in AD 340 decided upon a date to celebrate the event, they wisely chose the day of the Winter Solstice, which was firmly fixed in the minds of the people, and which was their MOST IMPORTANT FESTIVAL."
The Encyclopedia Americana (1946, article 'Christmas') says the same—
"CHRISTMAS, the 'Mass of Christ'… In the 5th century the Western Church ordered it to be celebrated forever on the day of the old Roman feast of the Birth of Sol (the Sun)… Among the German and Celtic tribes, the Winter Solstice was considered an important point of the year, and they held their chief festival of Yule to commemorate the return of the burning-wheel (the sun)." Webster derives 'Yule' from Old Norse Jol, meaning 'Winter Feast.' Schaff-Herzog says: 'The Scandinavian Juul, and the Anglo-Saxon Geol, mean 'wheel,' and refer to the Winter Solstice.'
And Everyman's Encyclopedia says—
"CHRISTMAS (the Mass of Christ) … It is certain that the time now fixed could not by any possibility have been the period of Jesus' birth. The choice of this season was probably due to the general recognition that the Winter Solstice was the turning point of the year."

To sum, basically, the "reason for the Season" is actually paganism and the tendency of Christianity to slap a Saintly feast day and celebration on already existing customs in order to further the religion.

So if I really wanted to incense people who have not studied theology and history, I could say the ancient pagan birth of the Sun god is the reason for the season, or the death of Osiris in Ancient Egypt is the reason for the season, or the winter celebration of Yule is the reason for the season. Constantine and the fathers of the modern Church just decided to give it a facelift and repackage it as a Christian holiday.

Why do I say this? Because every year I hear some Christian preachers condemn, judge and chastise the excess. More than not I hear it from further removed Protestant faiths. I find it perplexing considering that the holiday and feast day for Christ was selected for celebration and amid a time in pagan and pre-Christian religions that was intended to feast and celebrate.

The frustrating thing that most aggravates me is the juxtaposition of celebration and joy against the temperance of old world Christianity. It's ok to celebrate this time of year, but only in the way deemed appropriate by the leaders of a church.

Funny, if one were to read and study what Christ and his apostles followed and spoke, they would realize that the judgment, the holier-than-thou attitude and the handing down of laws and decrees and the creation of a class system is exactly what he stood against. Never once in the Bible do we read of any celebration Christ had for himself in regards to his birthday. But we do hear about his embrace of heathens and pagans and non-Jews because they were more open to what he had to say, and they celebrated and understood life sometimes more than those who were moored in man's law created in the name of their God.

I suppose what incenses me the most is the tendency of people to embrace to the letter what is meant for interpretation. If people truly followed the teachings of Christ and not the old testament or what the leaders of the churches that have sprouted over the years following his death have to say, they would live a life more like that of the Hindu or the Buddhist.

I get frustrated when people will deny the facts behind the creation of what is known as the Bible. They are selected writings, sanctioned by groups of men who determined how they wanted their Church to unfold. Both the New and Old testament are. No matter which version is presented or interpreted, they are oral communications then written down and then reinterpreted into a new language and then pared down from hundreds of writings into the ones that a group of men decided should be handed out as "The Word."

Why do I bring this up? Because the hypocrisy of condemning a group of people for being "Godless" or heathenistic because they do not go to church, or because they purchase gifts or decorate their homes to celebrate the Christmas season is absurd. This seasonal celebratory time existed long before Christ's manger was strategically placed next to the pagan "tannenbaum" (aka Christmas tree). (Germanic tribes lighted trees (Tannenbaum) and celebrated the fest of light "Lichtfest" around the shortest day of the year, December 21. The Christmas tree is dated to 16th century Germany, and it was popularised across the Western world in the 18th and 19th centuries.)

So I say this, to the puritanical Christian faiths, Jesus is not the reason for this season. You can't celebrate the season and say that he is. The only ones who got it right were the Jehovah's Witnesses and faiths like theirs, who don't celebrate the season because of the rampant heathen origins.

As for me, I have two Christmas trees. One green, one cotton tree (which is another blog for another day). I have a manger and little baby Jesus (thank you Ricky Bobby). I acknowledge my faith origins and follow the traditions established by my culture, my faith and my familial traditions. But I don't for one second condemn those who choose to simply celebrate Christmas or the Holidays simply to have a tree and buy presents and decorate their yards. Because that's where it started. A celebration. A reason to find joy in the winter of the year.

And it's OK to celebrate Jesus' birth on that day too. It's just not OK to forget that a handful of men decided to put the birthday party there over the top of already existing traditions 500 years after Christ had died.

And before random interlopers begin lambasting me as an atheist, a devil, a heathen, a blasphemer... I am none of those. I am an inquisitive intellectual who has no tolerance for ignorance, and I find it absolutely frustrating to be preached upon by those who have not pursued the origins of their faith or their traditions and follow incomplete theories of men, rather than seeking the truth in the Universal truth and what the founders of the faiths have spoken. Jesus, Muhammed, and Buddha (all walked into a bar...) taught and followed a faith looks nothing like the modern faces of the religions that represent them today. I have belief and I have faith. I do not believe that you can box a God into a human description or limit the power that comes with it (Him, or her if you prefer) with language, a specific organized religion or even deifying.

And I will celebrate the season how I choose, just as the people who originated it did, and just as the Christian church later dictated.

1 comment:

Squarer Pegs, Rounder Holes said...


I made these same points to YOUR AUNT (read: my mother) but due to my leaving the Christian faith, I must have been brainwashed into thinking what history wrote.

Celebrate as you will. SEASONS GREETINGS.