Christmas has come to Lakeshore. It came to Wal-Mart and television commercials much earlier, as I’m sure you well know, but we have just begun to acknowledge it here. As nice as it would be to be able to celebrate a holiday for two entire months, where the season even overlaps several other holidays, I feel like dragging Christmas out as long as we can, whether it stimulates the economy or not, will ultimately water it down to the point of only being as noticeable as new fall tv shows or the summer box office movie explosions. But enough for the soap box. Advent has begun, and that, to me, is where we really begin to think about the coming of Christ.
As we prepare for our Christmas and Culture day this Saturday, it has been such an enjoyable experience to decorate the hill with garland, wreaths, and ribbons. To pull out the Nativity set and the Christmas trees. To work with staff and volunteers as if it’s the day after Thanksgiving, and this is our very large house. As we do this, I’ve thought about millenia of traditions that are still being carried out today in a land that is across the ocean from where it began. All of this, from the time Christmas was first celebrated, was begun to help teach and remind us of God’s love.
We have been hanging garland for days now. Corky, Travis, Jim, and Josh began hanging greenery on the outside of the building about the time the temperature dropped. There’s something a little strange about decorating for Christmas if there isn’t a nip in the air. I was worried for a little while if we would even be able to use our fireplaces for the Christmas celebration. It seemed that it might be 70 degrees outside, and if we did get something going in the fireplace, it would feel akin to when the air conditioner inevitably breaks each July. But, the cold has at last come, and those burning logs in the fire place will create about the most inviting area you’ll come into contact with on Saturday.
The night is coming very early these days as well. Vickie and I were decorating the tree in the Conference Center, and when we finished, it looked to us like it was about 10:00pm. It was in fact, 6:00pm. In my research for Christmas traditions and origins, I’ve discovered that this dark time of year had some influence on when Christmas was chosen to be celebrated. There seems to be several reasons for this, based on what I’ve looked up–there were many pagan holidays all over Europe that celebrated the winter solstice (this was the day with the shortest amount of daylight in the year). They celebrated, because they knew that each day would begin to have more and more daylight afterwards(I’m sure many of us would share the pagan sentiment there). The church wanted to get away from pagan celebrations and emphasize observances that would involve worship and reminders of Christ’s story. Remember, back then, the Bible was only read in Latin. These holidays were an important way for people to learn about God. So, there was a push to have Christmas during the winter solstice. And, it’s still the case–December 25 is often the shortest day of the year. But, the idea wasn’t just to kick out a pagan holiday. They also saw the symbolism of how light will begin to enter the world again. How fitting that we would celebrate Jesus’ birth on the day that actual light also begins to return to us.
There are so many ways that have been added year after year that can help us see Christ and his birth. The evergreens are around so much to remind us of eternal life. On and on and on. I think you can even find connections to Christ in more secularized Christmas stories like Frosty and Rudolph. Remember that Santa Claus started out as an 8th Century Turkish priest (If I remember my details correctly). There will likely even be new ways this year that remind us of Christ’s birth that we hadn’t even thought about before. It is such a mysterious time of year. You never know how God will show himself. After all, on the first Christmas, God managed to make feeding troughs, barns, and sheep tenders holy things. Who knows what will be next?
This Saturday, we are putting on our Christmas and Culture Day. This year we’ll be celebrating some of the traditions that make an English Christmas. We have around 65 registered to join us. We are looking forward to a fun day. Pray for safe travels and that our guests find some peace from the stressul, commercial version of Christmas. Also, remember the family of the dead raccoon that Josh found today on the side of the hill (cause of death unknown).