For kids around the world, time is measured by Christmas. The anticipation, the excitement, the joy of presents and no school and good food and presents. (Did I mention presents?)
It is the time when we celebrate the birth of Jesus, and for the whole world — Christians and non-Christians — time is measured by his birth. B.C. stands for Before Christ, and A.D. stands for Anno Domini, the year of our Lord. Even those who use B.C.E. and C.E. (Common Era) make the switch at the birth of Christ.
There really was Jesus, and there really was Santa Claus!
Way back in the 3rd and early 4th Century, they say, a Greek bishop named Nicholas of Bari would go through the streets on the night of Christmas eve. He would throw gold coins into the open windows of the poor, and they would sometimes land in the shoes or stockings that had been left by the fire to dry.
Thus was born the tradition of hanging our “stockings by the fire with care.” That line came from a poem by Clement Moore, a Protestant Episcopal professor who, in 1823, wrote it for his children. He called it A Visit from St. Nicholas. Most of us know it as The Night Before Christmas.
And Saint Nicholas (St. Nick, Santa) still brings presents every year.
Naughty or Nice?
The Bible says that Jesus will one day return in judgment, and in Revelation he is pictured riding on a white horse. Tradition had Saint Nick being a kind of forerunner, checking every year to see how the judgment might go. That became, of course, the “naughty and nice” list.
Just a quick side note that “naughty and nice” are not exactly how the Bible speaks of the judgment of Jesus, but it’s a good place to start.
In the Middle Ages Nick rode a horse, too, but there were no horses in Norway then, so there he was carried in a sleigh pulled by reindeer. That spread around the world.
So did candles on Christmas trees, a tradition apparently started by Martin Luther in Germany. The candle flames represented the stars above Bethlehem when Jesus was born. Of course the stars on the tops of our trees today represent the star that guided the Wise Men to the newborn King of Kings.
One of the best things about Christmas is “the Christmas spirit.” I hope you have that this year in abundance, and that the Christmas spirit spills over into every day of your life.
Two wonderful examples of the Christmas spirit are A Christmas Carol, written by Charles Dickens in 1843, and The Gift of the Magi, written by O. Henry in 1905. The first is all about redemption, and the second is all about giving from the heart.
We can be “nice” like that all year long. We call it doing good, and that can be done any day. Somehow, though, Christmas brings out the good in us all. Maybe it’s Jesus being reborn in our hearts. Maybe it’s thinking of others and giving gifts that makes us better. Or maybe who we are at Christmas is who we really are, and we just need to remember.
A song to remind us
As I wrote in this Friday’s newsletter (please sign up if you haven’t already) there is a Christmas song to remind us. It’s called Old City Bar by Trans Siberian Orchestra. Some of my favorite lines are:
If you want to arrange it
This world you can change it
If we could somehow make this Christmas thing last
By helping a neighbor — or even a stranger
To know who needs help, you need only just ask.
Here’s a link to the original, with lyrics. Enjoy!
God Rest Ye Merry, Gentlemen — and Gentlewomen, too
God rest ye merry means “may God keep you in joy and gladness.” And so my Christmas wish for you is that God would “rest you merry.” May your Christmas spirit be your every day spirit, and may you spread that Christmas spirit everywhere you go.