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Sunday, December 16, 2007

Christians didn't always celebrate Christmas... and some still don't

There's a fascinating article from the Associated Press about how the celebration of Christmas is actually a fairly recent thing. And how some Christians today do not mark the occasion at all...
As Christmas draws near, Pastor John Foster won't be decorating a tree, shopping for last-minute gifts or working on a holiday sermon for his flock. After all, it's been 50 years since Christmas was anything more than a day of the week to him.

He's one of very few American Christians who follow what used to be the norm in many Protestant denominations—rejecting the celebration of Christmas on religious grounds.

"People don't think of it this way, but it's really a secular holiday," said Foster, a Princeton-based pastor in the United Church of God. He last celebrated Christmas when he was 8.

His church's objection to Christmas is rare among U.S. Christians. Gallup polls from 1994 to 2005 consistently show that more than 90 percent of adults say they celebrate Christmas, including 84 percent of non-Christians.

That's a huge change from an earlier era, when many Protestants ignored or actively opposed the holiday. But as it gradually became popular as a family celebration, churches followed their members in making peace with Christmas.

The change didn't happen overnight. Through much of the 19th century, schools and businesses remained open, Congress met in session and some churches closed their doors, lest errant worshippers try to furtively commemorate the day.

"The whole culture didn't stop for Christmas," said Bruce Forbes, a religious studies professor at Morningside College in Sioux City, Iowa."Government went on as usual, business went on as usual, school went on as usual."

There's plenty more at the above link.

It's enough to compel one to wonder: what does Christmas mean anymore? And do these people have it right: that it's something that shouldn't be made profane by celebrating it as we have come to do?

What do you think?


Anonymous said...

I've read and learned enough to know that what we currently celebrate as "Christmas" is a left-over tradition of Pagan Rome, re-heated and re-served when Constantine became a "Christian" and adopted pagan customs into the "Holy Roman" empire. Christ was actually born in September sometime, while Baal's birthday was December 25th, which his whorshippers celebrated by putting up a tree and tying little gifts and candles to its branches.

I can see how true-blue "Protestants" probably didn't/don't celebrate Christmas because, as I've already stated, it was a Catholic holiday and that's what they were protesting.

Historically, as a Baptist, I'm not protestant. The faithful line from which modern-day Baptists descended pre-date the Constantine's Holy Romans all the way back to first-century Christians in the book of Acts.

That said, I still celebrate Christmas in the, dare-I-say, "traditional" fashions, with a trimmed tree and gift-giving. It is not a stumbling-block to me. I'm not worshipping Baal with my Christmas tree. I enjoy that Christmas is a time when Nativity scenes are out in front of churches, putting the birth of Jesus Christ into the minds of an unbelieving world. Without the birth, there would have been no death on the cross and no grace by which to trust in the precious blood that was shed to wash us from our sins.

So ... how's that for a comment?