The Spirit of Christmas within the
Orosa Family Clan
by Joe O. Aliling
About 2003 years ago, a child was allegedly born in a manger inside a stable in Bethlehem. This child would later be known to my own kindred within the Orosa Family Clan, and throughout all ages, as Jesus Christ. "For God so loved the world, that he gave his only begotten Son, that whosoever believeth in him should not perish, but have everlasting life." (John 3:16)
The legend of Santa Claus, the Christmas tree, the decorations of tinsel and mistletoe, and the giving of gifts are all expressions of the spirit of Christmas. But the true spirit of Christmas is much deeper than all these. In December 1919, Clarence Baird wrote "The Spirit of Christmas" in which he said:
"Of all the holidays there is none that enters so fully into the human heart, and stirs so many of the higher sentiments. The thoughts, memories, hopes, and customs linked with it are bound by antiquity and nationality collectively; and by childhood and old age individually. They embrace the religious, social, and patriotic sides of our nature. The holly and mistletoe entwined among the evergreens, the habit of giving gifts to those we love, the presence of the Christmas tree, the superstition of Santa Claus, all combining to make Christmas the most longed-for, the most universal, and from every standpoint, the most important holiday known to man."
Origin of Christmas
Many of us know that the Christmas season originally started as a pagan worship holiday. Long before Jesus' earthly ministry, the ancient Aryans worshipped Mithra, their god of the heavenly light of the bright skies. Later on, under the Roman empire, it was worshipped as the deity of the sun god, Sol Invictus Mithra.
In the first century after Christ, Pompey launched his military exploits along the southern coast of Cilicia in Asia Minor. In his conquests, many prisoners were brought captive to Rome. This introduced the pagan worship of Mithra in Rome. The worship became popular, especially among the Roman soldiers. Mithraism flourished during the Roman Empire and became the chief competitor of Christianity in the religious beliefs of the people at that time.
The festive season for the pagan worshippers of Mithra took place immediately after the winter solstice, the shortest day of the year. It was the time of the year when the sun stood still after its annual dip into the Southern Hemisphere. The beginning of its ascent from this low point was regarded as the rebirth of Mithra. The Romans celebrated his birthday on the 25th day of December every year. There was great merriment on this holiday, e.g., festivals and feasting, gift giving, and houses decorated with evergreens.
Through the centuries, Christianity gradually gained victory over Mithraism, which had been its strongest rival. The festival day celebrating the birth of Mithra was used by the Christians to commemorate the birth of Christ. Thus, the pagan worship of the sun, deeply rooted in Roman culture, was replaced by one of the greatest festivals among Christians. This ancient Christian celebration has lived continuously through the centuries.
Christmas has come down to us as a day of thanksgiving and rejoicing. It is a day of good cheer and goodwill to our fellowmen.
What is Christmas spirit at this day and age? True, the legend of Santa Claus, the Christmas tree, the decorations of tinsel and mistletoe, and the giving of gifts are all expressions of the spirit of Christmas. But the true spirit of Christmas is much deeper than all these.
As responsible Christian parents, we are duty-bound to offer our children an opportunity to find out for themselves whether, or not, Jesus Christ was really born here on earth. We have to give them the privilege of knowing Jesus Christ personally so they can determine for themselves, individually, whether or not the principles he taught are true. Our children have to "search, discover, and share" (by, for and amongst themselves) whether Jesus Christ's atoning sacrifice is their greatest heritage.
Many years ago, a church denomination made this significant statement: "Christmas is both reminiscent and prophetic - a reminder of two great and solemn events, which will yet be regarded universally as the mightiest and most wonderful happenings in the history of the human race. These events were predestined to take place upon this planet before it was created. One of these was the coming of the Savior in the meridian of time, to die for the sins of the world; and the other is the prospective event of the risen and glorified Redeemer, to reign upon the earth as King of kings."
In his epistle to the Galatians, Paul showed his grave concern over their apparent disbelief and their forsaking of his teachings regarding Christ. He wrote to them: "But it is good to be zealously affected always in a good thing, and not only when I am present with you. My little children, of whom I travail in birth again until Christ be formed in you...." (Galatians 4:18-19). Here, Paul expressed his pain and suffering until Christ be "formed" in them.
It is possible for Christ to be "formed" in our lives?
And when such an experience actually happens in a man's life, is Christ "formed" in him? This means that we take Christ into our hearts and make him a living contemporary in our lives. Thus, Christ is not just a general truth or a fact in history. When we strive to be Christ like, he is "formed" in us. If we open the door, Christ will enter. If we seek his counsel, Christ will counsel us. For Christ to be "formed" in us, we must have a belief in Christ, and our obedience to his commandments is not a restraint upon us. By these commandments, men are set free.
The real Christmas comes to him who has taken Christ into his life as a moving, dynamic, vitalizing influence. The real spirit of Christmas lies in the life and mission of Jesus Christ. Clarence Baird further defined the real spirit of Christmas:
"It is a desire to sacrifice for others, to render service and to possess a feeling of universal brotherhood. It consists of a willingness to forget what you have done for others, and to remember what others have done for you; to ignore what the world owes you, and think only of your duties in the middle distance, and your chance to do good and aid your fellowmen in the foreground - to see that your fellowmen are just as good as you are, and try to look behind their faces to their hearts - to close your book of grievances against the universe, and look about you for a place to sow a few seeds of happiness, and go your way unobserved."
In contemplating about the Christmas season, John Wallingford wrote:
Christmas is not a day or a season, but a condition of heart and mind. If we love our neighbors as ourselves; if in our riches we are poor in spirit and in our poverty we are rich in grace; if our charity vaunteth not itself, but suffereth long and is kind; if when our brother asks for a loaf, we give ourselves instead; if each day dawns in opportunity and sets in achievement, however small; then every day is Christ's day and Christmas is always near."
Let us pray that, at this day and age, the Spirit of Christmas will continue to touch the hearts of many, most especially amongst our own God-loving kindred within the Orosa Family Clan.
Merry Christmas to all!