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Einblick

The Last Christmas


     You've probably heard it all before. Christmas is ubiquitous and popular, and with it comes a horde of obligations and calls to virtue. "Share the true meaning of Christmas," or "keep Christ in Christmas." These aren't necessarily bad calls. True, we must maintain the biblical narrative as displayed in the Gospels, and true, we must remember the point of Christmas. But so many people understate it--even the ones who claim to be invested in it absolutely. The coming of Christ to this earth was not just humble. It was not just a gracious miracle. It is arguably the greatest event in history.
      The simplest argument could be built from God's character. We are human, and while we are not insignificant to each other, our importance pales in comparison to God's authority and morality. Our history is a story of each man, and their importance measured by the impact they had on the human race. God's impact on our world is immeasurable--He created it. Not only that, He continually guides history (against deism and all its forms) making Him truly responsible for anything that happens. In other words, He is at the beginning of all chains of causes and effects. For Him to do all this, and then enter His own scheme? What else could declare from the rooftops that His birth is more important then everything else?
     You could also consider the course of history more specifically and more generally simultaneously. The Fall happened--God gave a promise of a Messiah. A Messiah who would deliver the entire physical world and all human beings from sin and death. What else do we struggle with our entire lives but these? So what else is greater to us than its solution? God brought the world to a universal flood, preserving a family to be the progenitors of the human race despite the destruction. He chose one of those men later to be the father of a nation, a nation he preserved for exactly the right time and the right place. The salvation of Jacob's sons through the grain in Egypt. The exodus, the forty years of wandering, to place Israel in a fertile valley, largely ignored by the collapsing empires around them. Giving these people an authentically moral law, a law that they needed someone authentically moral to keep for them. A king was given knowledge that he would be a forefather. But I ramble.
     Then, about three years before what mistaken monks called 0 B.C., a baby was born. All history was an upward slope to this event. Adam saw part of it. Noah saw even more. Abraham understood a race and a people. Moses glimpsed the beginning of God building a directive legal system. David was closest of those I mention. As the author of Hebrews says, "time would fail me...." There had to be shift, an exact moment when time began to slope downward, an exact change from when God was not physically in the world and then physically in the world. That was the birth of Christ.
      This is the reason we celebrate. Why we have a Christmas at all. We're celebrating the consummation of all time.
     John interjecting here! I heard history and Christmas, so I just had to hop on over and see what it was all about. As Daniel mentioned, all the great people from the Bible could see the buildup leading to the eventual birth of our Lord and Saviour. What we call Christmas, however, only really started to take shape hundreds of years after Jesus's lifetime. As the Christian faith spread throughout the entire Roman Empire, and eventually became the official faith, parts of it began to blend with local culture.
  The blend that matters specifically is that of Saturnalia with the birth of Christ. What is Saturnalia? It was an ancient Roman holiday that honored, well, Saturn. Officials held banquets in the Forum, societal norms like gambling and the relationship of master and slave were overturned. Saturnalia consisted of a festive atmosphere, with continual partying and private gift giving. The holiday culminated on the winter solstice, and the air hung with the bittersweetness that comes from when people know that all good things must come to an end. Sound like a holiday you know?
After Saturnalia, the Christian influences of Christmas grow even fainter. While you do have traditions like Nativity plays, and caroling, you can also the increasing amounts of secularity. Traditional Christmas foods, Yule log, decoration of trees, the Grinch or Frosty the Snowman, and, of course, the omnipresent Santa Claus. None of these things are necessarily wrong, but it is fascinating to see the slow replacement of the Christian faith in this holiday season with that of secular icons.
     Well, I think I've said enough. Excuse my interjection, Daniel!
     You can never get too much of history. It informs and wonderfully guides action. Thank you so much, John.
     As John mentioned, Christianity slowly lost its grip on Christmas. There are some drawbacks to this. Christmas cannot typically be redirected by Christians, but at the same time, the more the birth of Christ and the related events are exposed to our culture, the better they can understand what it truly means. How will they understand God unless someone tells them?
     To further complicate things, we do not know which Christmas is the last Christmas. We are not granted the assurance of a today tomorrow. From what you know of people, how many of them live in the present? How many live in the past, reliving golden days? How many live in the future, dreaming of things they desire? It is good to remember old times. It is wise to plan and seek goals for the future.
     But what is not good is to forget today in favor of yesterday or tomorrow. Today is when we live. Every Christmas is last Christmas. If your life ended, if all lives ended, the day after Christmas, what would you do Christmas day? You would do all the good you could possibly do. Instead of listing on this rather morbid possibility, enjoy Christmas. Enjoy having the chance to share the most important event in history with your family. By Littlewood's Law, a miracle happens every million seconds. You don't know--perhaps one could occur.

Merry Christmas from Einblick

-Daniel and John
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