bethlehemstar

This post is not intended to convince you to celebrate Christmas. Nor is it any attempt to justify those who have chosen to observe this holiday. Yes, we have heard the arguments about Christmas having pagan origins, etc., and thus Christians should not participate. Though this post won’t be arguing or explaining why we came to a different conclusion, we are interested in hearing the one best treatise you can offer detailing the biblical reasons for shunning these festivities.

We start on the 6th of December and finish on the 6th of January.

Quite a few years ago, we found that we did not have enough time in one day to fit all of the activities of our Christmas celebration. As many families have done, we eventually decided to expand to include the 24th as well as the 25th. We also moved the stockings back to the 6th of December, which is St. Nicolas Day. Later we slid the schedule around and, instead of the 24th, we started including the 6th of January, which is Epiphany. As a result of the reduced stress, Christmas Day is much more enjoyable.

Mind you, these adjustments were evolving over the span of 20 years of marriage, so here is how the season has been playing out each of the recent five years, or so.

We save our Christmas music, both singing and listening, for the Christmas season, so it is more special. Between Thanksgiving and St. Nicolas day we limit ourselves to one album per day, then it is exclusively Christmas music until Epiphany.

Actually, the first Sunday of advent is always before the 6th of December so, you could say, that is the beginning of our celebration. Though we have no special feast, etc., just the candle lighting and oral reading of some Scripture passages relating to the coming of Christ. We have four red candles surrounding a central white candle, all wreathed about with evergreen sprigs. In typical fashion, we successively light additional candles during each of the four Sundays preceding Christmas. While the candles are burning, we read aloud the verses regarding our Lord Jesus coming, both in the past and in the future. Once the reading is done, sometimes we snuff them, and other times we have let the candles burn for awhile.

Present day Turkey is the region where St. Nicolas of Myra lived. We don’t grudge (much) calling him a saint because, for all we know, he was a true Christian. Some traditions have twisted the meaning of the word saint, but we are using the biblical sense. It was Nic’s instruction to keep his giving a secret, not to be revealed until after his death. So, it was not until the 6th of December, 346 AD (or was it 343?), that many found out the identity of their benefactor. Instead of telling our children lies, we teach them about the history and legend of St. Nicolas and the lessons we can take to heart about the giving focus of Christmas.

Not that we have any expertise, we aim to have a Turkish feast. The gifts in the stockings roughly follow the theme of the gifts of St. Nic, i.e., wooden toys, clothing, food and money. We draw names so that each person is assigned another member of the home, without general knowledge of who is assigned to whom. Between St. Nicolas Day and Epiphany we each try to think of ways to secretly do nice things for our assigned person. In honour of the day, we make an extra donation to one or more charitable causes that honour Christ.

In preparation for Christmas Day, we make or buy gifts and cards to give to our family and friends. Giving is a way of showing our love. For God so loved the world that He gave. Love, through giving, is the focus of the Christmas season. God’s Gift is the pinnacle, the shining star, the perfect example. Just as we are reminded of the gift of His Son’s death during communion, to help us remember it every day, so we are reminded of the gift of His Son’s life during this season.

We also decorate with a tree, lights, ornaments, garlands, tinsel and cards, as they arrive. Do we need to mention that we don’t worship the tree?

During the days leading up to the 25th, Joseph and Mary, represented by cloth figurines, make their way to Bethlehem, represented by a cloth stable. The children have fun finding Joseph and Mary in different places in the house each day, along their journey.

On Christmas Day, we read the Christmas story from Luke and we go to church. This is the day that we open gifts that have been given to us from friends and family outside our immediate household. The feast is a somewhat typical American Christmas dinner.

Between the 25th and the 6th, we find the wise men travelling to Jesus’ house in Bethlehem. Said home is on the floor under the star, which is at the top of our tree.

Epiphany, the 6th of January, is the celebration of when magi from the East came and fell down and worshipped the Christ Child. Wise men still seek Him. For Epiphany we read the Christmas story from Matthew, which is the one that includes the wise men. We have Persian food for our feast. This is the day that we give the gifts to each other, within our household.

Our Christmas celebration even somewhat invades our Resurrection Sunday celebration, when we display a cross, made from the trunk of our Christmas tree.

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