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« Growing Up Ignorant | Main | The Fall of Babylon »

Christmas: Reality or Perception?

The oxymoronic cliché that has been with us for a while, “perception is reality,” should not be true.  Indeed, it is not true.  But, if people perceive something to be true, then the factuality becomes immaterial to the induced behavior.  It may as well be true, even if it is not.  Eventually, the perception becomes bigger than the reality that birthed it.

Christmas is one of those perceptions.  Over the years, the way we have celebrated the Christmas holiday has morphed into an event that bears scant, if any, resemblance to its humble origins.  Given the modern version of Christmas, it is incredible that Luke poured everything he knew about Christmas into twenty short verses; Matthew’s story of the wise men spanned all of twelve verses, and neither Mark nor John dealt with any of the particulars of the nativity scene in their renditions of the gospel.  (Talk about missed opportunities!  They must not have known how big this was going to be.)

Christmas, the Holiday, has rumbled along through the centuries, picking up meanings, traditions, customs and celebrations widely and deeply until it has become an admittedly bloated cultural tsunami.  No holiday in the Western World compares to the ubiquitous December event.  The month of December itself has become synonymous with Christmas.  One could almost say that winter is known best for Christmas.  And whence come green boughs and red bows, holly, fir trees, snowflakes, reindeer, sleighs, bells, garlands, carols, turkeys, eggnog, parties, lights, tinsel, little drummer boys, shoes, stockings, milk and cookies, elves, programs, visions of sugarplums, fancy wrapping paper, ornaments, snarled traffic, jammed airports, shopping sprees, maxed credit cards, ribbons, cards, fruit cakes and partridges in pear trees? 

Most of these trappings of Christmas represent augmented perceptions of the underlying reality.  Perhaps the purists would say it’s all a sham. That’s certainly one way to look at it.  But, it is still a real perception, and, sometimes, the perception has value too.  If the first falling snowflake melts on the tip of someone’s nose and creates the perception of Christmas, and, if that perception creates a reverence for Christ, however, slight, I am grateful.  If getting a Christmas card from a relative a thousand miles away who is thinking about you makes you think about Christmas, and if that perception evokes kindness and gentleness in your heart, I am find value in that.  If the perception sparks a quest in some searching soul to burrow beneath all the accoutrements and find Jesus, I am thrilled.  I fear that, too often, the self-appointed “perception police” who are constantly on search and destroy missions for anything they find offensive wind up unwittingly killing the kernel of truth that lies at the bottom of the perception. 

One of these days, all our perceptions will come under the brilliant light of truth, and we may be shocked at the things we thought had credibility but were nothing but empty cultural festivities.  And yet, we may find that even our inaccurate perceptions were useful in that they reminded us of the truth.  At the same time, we must focus on the certainties we have in our grasp.  We know that Jesus came, lived, died, was buried, rose again, ascended to heaven, and is coming again.  We know that He gave us the opportunity, the power and the plan to be saved.  Those are realities, not perceptions!  I’ll take whatever Christmas perceptions are out there if it means that an untoward and materialistic world cannot get away from the reality of Christ!

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Reader Comments (2)

Wow, again you leave speechless with your indepth thoughts an use for huge words. This is amazing and this thought can be applied in every aspect of our lives. Let us not be quick to condemn someones actions or lack of when it comes to celebrating secular traditions. If we are steadfast in prayer that God get glory in everything, than surely even the oldest, staunchest elders could find some good even in toothe fairies :)

November 16, 2010 | Unregistered CommenterTracy Manuel

Well said. :)

Christmas has become, culturally at least, a huge commercial production; indeed, when I was a child, it was evident to me that Christmas, in typical *practice*, at least was really something more of a "winter holiday" celebration, the icons being snow, snowmen, and pretty boxes with bows -- and only secondarily about the birth of Christ, which seemed to me to be obviously an "add on" rather than the primary purpose of the holiday.

I don't doubt that I did get some of that attitude probably from my father, who didn't think much of Christmas, and who did not follow the practice of gift giving or putting up a Christmas tree -- he told us, "that's a pagan tradition" :) -- and we certainly never believed in a real Santa Claus as kids, either.

To this day, I view Christmas warily, and my favorite holiday of the year is, by a far, far, FAR margin is THANKSGIVING. :) It has, to me, the spirit of just being together with family and friends, and thanking God for the bounty we *already* have, as opposed to Christmas, which I fear can teach children the wrong values -- "what do I get?"

I sometimes wonder if Christians shouldn't move the celebration of Jesus' birth to a *separate* holiday that is divorced from what is essentially a pagan winter solstice celebration (and I don't use the word "pagan" pejoratively, just factually). It would make sense, anyway, as most scholars don't believe Jesus was born on or around December 25, anyway, and it appears that this date was chosen by the Romans to absorb the pagan winter holiday when Rome became officially "Christian."

November 16, 2010 | Unregistered CommenterTim Garcia

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