What is true meaning of Christmas?
Nearly 2,000 years have passed since the birth of Jesus Christ. Since then, the holiday celebrating the recognition of his birth – Christmas – has picked up some new traditions and stories: Santa Claus, wrapped gifts, decorated trees, talking snowmen and a red-nosed reindeer.
So what is the true meaning of Christmas today, Dec. 25, 1998?
“I think Christmas has become kind of a dual holiday: There’s the Christian one and the commercial one, also, or the secular one,” said Gene Winterfeld, pastor of Hope Lutheran Church of the Sierra.
Do the two compete? Are they compatible?
“They kind of walk side by side,” Winterfeld said.
Still, today’s commercial aspect to Christmas does, to some degree, take away from the true, Christian meaning of the holiday, local church officials believe.
“I think the true meaning of Christmas has been diluted, or watered down, a little bit,” said Wayne Chalk, singles pastor of Lake Tahoe Christian Fellowship. “I don’t say that in a judgmental way toward the commercial aspect that’s part of the season. But it’s taken away from the true meaning of Christmas. The true meaning from the Christian perspective is to honor Jesus Christ and honor the recognition of his birth.”
Stephen Blocher, pastor of Lake Tahoe Community Presbyterian Church, said that historically, prior to the commercialization of Christmas, the holiday was more of a time for reflection about the birth of Christ, not necessarily a time of vast celebration.
“(The commercial aspect of Christmas has) evolved amazingly. Our wonderful system of commerce has fueled it into a real feeding frenzy, and once you celebrate that way for a few years it becomes tradition,” Blocher said. “I’ll be the first to admit I’ve grown-up with the commercial part. But, the real wonder to Christmas is to stand each year in awe, to think about what it must have been like to be aware of God’s presence. You can’t add anything to Christmas to come near the experience of the first Christmas. The real meaning of Christmas is not in the gift giving but to focus on the gift God gave us.”
Although Santa Claus and the giving of presents came hundreds of years after Christ’s birth, the origins of gift giving were there from the beginning because of God’s gift to mankind as well as the gifts of the three wise men.
“The holiday spirit can be a Christian experience as far as being a good time or happy time for getting together and sharing gifts like the wise men did,” said John Peterson, pastor of South Shore Christian Assembly. “We all do our shopping for family and friends. As far as saying too many people focus on gift giving, I don’t know if I can say that.”
Peterson said that the way Christmas is celebrated today can bring people to Christianity but also keep them away.
“I think a lot of people promote Santa Claus, and I think that takes the focus away from the true meaning of Christmas,” he said. “On the other hand, it awakens some people because they haven’t had the opportunity to learn about Jesus before.”
Regardless of whether people focus on the Christian aspect of the holiday or the more secular celebration, Winterfeld said, the spirit is there either way.
“This is the only time some people are nice to others. This is the only time some people give gifts,” he said. “Those who celebrate the Christian part go to church and celebrate the birth of Christ. Those who don’t are still giving gifts and experiencing kindness and happiness.”
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