by Peter Leavell
When I was a youth, I read an article written by a Christian fiction writer I admired. Don’t have a Christmas tree in your home, she said. They are pagan.
When taking a present from under the tree, you’re bowing to the tree. Worshiping it. Adoring it. Christ is all we should bow to.
The thought stayed with me. And yes, I used the argument to belittle others and try to make myself look spiritual. I only did the reverse.
Now that I have a Liberal Arts degree from a University that has a great football team, and read enough theology and philosophy, I think I understand things better.
Christmas is an enigma.
Giving gifts? Absurd.
Flashing lights. Slippery sidewalks. Red noses. Laughing families. Hot cider. Reflection and peace. Stories we watched just one more time.
Where did Christmas come from?
Painful, I know. But Jesus didn’t set dates for holidays like God did with the Passover.
Christians didn’t want any association with riotous paganism. Increase Mather, a Puritan preacher, knew the origins of Christmas and banned the holiday between 1659 to 1681.
But Jesus’s birth should be celebrated. And what better way to celebrate than to supplant a raucous festival with one centered around love and selflessness?
Rome. (I’m fresh off writing a manuscript of Rome.) Saturnalia. A weeklong festival celebrated between December 17-25. This week, the Roman laws were no longer enforced. None. Here’s why—drunken people walked naked, sang, and raped people (per Greek observers). Every community picked a foreigner to enjoy every pleasure imaginal, and at the week’s end—they killed him.
Glad the holiday was replaced yet?
Constantine and Church elders believed the foundations of Christianity should displace such horrible practices, and after Constantine died, a Nativity feast was celebrated in 354 AD. But many of the traditions stayed, such as marching through the streets drunk, naked, and singing. Not too terribly Christian.
For the next thousand years, not much was written about the holiday, except that the more pagan practices fell away during the celebrations. That was, until Pope Paul II in 1466 reinstated the pagan rituals, which were enacted on the Jews. Jews were stripped naked and run through the streets, while Rome’s onlookers laughed. As late at the 1800’s, Jews in Rome were dressed in costumes and marched through the streets and pelted with snowballs and ice.
Not everyone reveled in the bad parts of Christmas. In fact, most simply partied. Christmas was a time of revelry, wild fun. But as time wore on and home grew more comfortable, the party was brought indoors with quiet traditions like the tree, mistletoe, presents, and Santa Claus.
Today, rededication to the reason for Christmas has added solemnity and focus to the holiday.
Christmas is so much more than remembering a child’s birth. Yes, Christmas has pagan roots. Yet, didn’t we? Wild then controlled. Selfish revelry then holy sacrifice? Solitary hedonism then communal worship. In total, Christmas is the birth of so much more, the meaning will take far more than twelve days to discover the holiday’s nuances.
Perhaps discovery should take a lifetime.
Do I have a Christmas tree? You betcha. Never went without one. Of course, I scoot on my back, reach over my head, and grab a present.
by Rachel Hauck
It’s the holiday season and if you’re anything like me, you’re busy. In fact, you’re probably more busy than I am because I don’t have children.
I have a book due and it’s overshadowing the Christmas season. But it’s not the deadline’s fault, it’s how I write. I fast draft a very ugly novel, then I rewrite. Almost from scratch. I layer and fine tune, change and deepen.
I write fast but nevertheless, it takes me a while to think things through. To figure things out. To take the norm and turn it upside down, inside out.
When I calculate how many pages I can rewrite and edit a day, and how many days until the deadline, adding in a visit from a friend and a short visit attached to a business trip, I come up a wee bit short. I can’t afford to take off the holiday!
But I’m going to anyway because despite how much I love writing and how much I am bound by honor to make my deadline, there are moments when “other things” are more important.
Ack, I know. From a writer’s perspective, what is more important? It’s taken me eight years to admit it’s okay to take a break for family, for a vacation or for other worthwhile causes like ministry or even lunch with friends.
But did you now the Lord gives to His beloved in seasons and times of rest? He does!
Unless the Lord builds the house, its builders labor in vain.Unless the Lord watches over the city, the watchmen stand guard in vain.In vain you rise early and stay up late, toiling for food to eat for he grants sleep to those he loves.Sons are a heritage from the Lord, children a reward from him.Like arrows in the hands of a warrior are sons born in one’s youth.Blessed is the man whose quiver is full of them.They will not be put to shame when they contend with their enemies in the gate.
Then a pastor friend talked at dinner the other night about “rest” and letting the Lord use him even in a season of rest.
It’s hard for most of us to step back and not do. We feel like it’s more holy and Christian. Or it’s the American way. We may even feel like we don’t know what to do with the rest and quiet.
Maybe we should learn to get used to it. God does want us to rest. He blesses rest. Especially when we rest in and on the Him.
I know that when we writers are not at our computers working, no one covers for us. If I don’t get my 20 pages done, a co-writer isn’t going to take up my slack.
But wait, if the Lord is my co-writer, maybe… just maybe… He will make up the difference. So I can enjoy time with my family over Christmas.
So if you’re debating writing over Christmas, reconsider. At least for a day or two. Trust the Lord to take up the slack, give you words and story in your rest.
Now do what your therapist says… Enjoy Christmas!
by James L. Rubart
This is the season for gift exchanges. But isn’t that an oxymoron?
- A gift is something given with no expectation of anything in return.
- An exchange is when I give you something, you give me something back.
I’ve had times where I’ve given friends gifts at Christmas and not received one in return and it hurt a bit. You too? Whew. Nice to know I’m not alone.
Jesus had a few thoughts about giving: In Luke 14 he says, “When you give a dinner or a banquet, do not invite your friends or your brothers or your relatives or rich neighbors, lest they also invite you in return and you be repaid.”
What? I’m not supposed to get something back?
A number of years ago a friend of mine gave a secret scholarship so a writer could attend the Mt Hermon Christian Writer’s Conference. She says it’s a treasured memory, primarily because she gave it without any possibility of the person giving anything in return. Hmmm, I think there’s a lesson here.
Dying To Self
When we truly die to self or maybe better said, fully align ourselves with Christ (not not the easiest task) we’re able to give from a full heart with no expectation of what will come back to us. There is such freedom and joy in that!
No matter how long you’ve been on this writing journey, there are people ahead of you. And no matter how short, there are people behind you. So go crazy, and take a moment to tell that person ahead of you how much they have inspired you. That is a significant gift.
Then turn around and take a moment to tell that writer a few paces behind you how you believe in them, and to grab onto hope and never let go. That too is an incredible gift.
Because deep inside, whether we’re a bestseller, or are just starting our first novel, we are an insecure lot who wonder if we matter, wonder if we have worth. And the gift of encouragement we can give each other is worth more than gold.
man’s body. He thinks he’s still young enough to water ski like a madman and
dirt bike with his two grown sons, and loves to send readers on journeys
they’ll remember months after they finish one of his stories. He’s the
best-selling, Christy BOOK of the YEAR, INSPY, and RT Book Reviews award
winning author of eight novels as well as a professional speaker. During
the day he runs his branding and marketing company which helps businesses,
authors, and publishers make much more coin of the realm. He lives with
his amazing wife on a small lake in eastern Washington. More at www.jameslrubart.com