Isaiah 62: 10-12
Luke 2: 1-20
“God Is Here, Emmanuel”
Grace and Peace to you my brothers and sisters in Christ, Amen.
It is finally Christmas, and the Christ Child that we had waited long for to has been born. For the last four weeks we have been preparing for the coming babe, decorating with lights and garland and trees and ornaments and wreaths. In our own way, we have been preparing our own houses as royal highways for the Lord. And now He is here. Emmanuel, which means God Is Here, has arrived. And this is what Christmas is all about, the core, the center piece, the corner stone of which the season of Christmas rests upon; the birth of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ who was and is and is to come, the one who will gift himself up as the most precious of blessings, Salvation from sin itself. This is most certainly true, that Christ, which is the whole point of everything, is here, Emmanuel.
And know that Christ is here do we stop the Christmas music? Do we put down the decorations? Do we put away the Royal Highway? We still have 10 more days of Christmas left! Let us at least be merry and gay, not in the secular way, but in a joyous Christian way – let us be merry and gay at least a little longer as we celebrate alongside all the preparations; but merry in what way? If you have family, spend time with them and boldly give cheers to the Lord together in person. If you have friends nearby, do likewise and spread the good news. If you have a good voice, keep on singing the mirth of the Christ Child, as the song implies, “Go Tell it on the Mountain, that Jesus Christ is born.” And if you don’t have these things, if you struggle to find joy, know this, Christ who was born in a device meant to feed animals, who was born in a smelly loud barn stable, who was not allowed to be born in more comfortable conditions such as inside due to overcrowding caused by the census, who was wrapped in cloths meant for lambs, who was a king born in such humble estate, He was born to give joy for all, to include those who also struggled the same way Mary and Joseph struggled. He was born for the downtrodden. He was born for the persecuted, the poor, the wrongfully attacked, the anxious, the humiliated, the diseased, the abandoned; he was born for all people, to include those who struggle to find a light, for He will be your light.
Emmanuel… God is not some clockmaker who winds the clock, or world, up and then leaves it behind. He came to live amongst us. He took on flesh, to be like us, to truly know our pain and our struggle, and to die as well. He doesn’t abandon us, nor did he, like some scholastics would have us believe, but He is always with us, and as proof, he came to us in the form of a babe, God is with us, Emmanuel.
And speaking of scholastics, as well as all those evil ideologues who have twisted poor troubled souls with crafty but oh so unintelligent schemes into believing horrible false notions about Christmas in order to damage our faith in the Christ Child. These includes the malicious beliefs that Christmas is actually a pagan holiday, that Advent wreaths and Christmas trees are pagan in nature, and other things. Here is the fact, not one of our Christian Christmas traditions was founded on paganism. Not one. Do not believe those evil organizations that attack Christmas and Christianity, but instead believe that at the core of Christmas is the Christ Child. Focus solely on Him.
So what is the truth about our Advent/Christmas traditions? In each and everyone one of them is the core of pointing us in some way towards Christ. They serve as imagery of life and color and joy during this season; and the history of each of them are remarkably rich. The first is the date of Christmas. Oh how the parading Grinches love their idiotic nonsense on how Christmas was established to override the roman holiday of Saturnalia. Ignore the fact that Saturnalia is actually traditionally conducted at the beginning of December. Ignore the fact that Saturnalia was established two centuries after Christmas. Ignore that Christmas was established by second and third generation Christians a century after Christ. So why December 25? Did you know that practically all well-learned Judean-Christians during the time after Jesus believed that the world was created on March 25th? Did you know that the early Christians with many years of study together came to the consensus that Christ must have started and ended his life on the day most Christians believed Christ also started the world? And did you know according to their logic, these first century Christians, that if Christ started his life on March 25, then nine months later on December 25 must be the day of his birth. That is how we got December 25th. It was all about Christ’s birth, death, and creation itself.
Well what about our decorations? Let me tell you something fascinating, most of our Christmas decoration traditions were started by Martin Luther or Lutherans in general. And guess what, none of them are influence by paganism. Do not believe the drivel of those who lie to you about how our traditions are not Christ centered but pagan in nature. The most obvious symbol is the Christmas tree.
Now after the black plague, Germany was looking for something to counter the years of dread and death. So during the time of the Reformation, practically all people, Christian, Jew, and others, started to decorate their houses with more greenery. And during the wintery season, evergreen was the perfect decoration for it brought vibrant green into a home. It was a general consensus, but the Lutherans decided to use this as an opportunity to teach Christ. Martin Luther loved music, he loved images; he loved anything and everything that could be used to teach the truth about Christ. So he used this new tradition, which was not pagan in nature, to decorate the first Christmas tree. It was trimmed to maintain its triangle shape so as to incentivize the holy trinity, Father, Son, and Holy Spirit; candles where placed in it to represent the light that is Christ who came into the world; a star/angel on top for obvious reasons; and popcorn decorations which were white to represent the holiness and purity of this baby born without original sin.
Now because Germans are very efficient people, they used the trimmings of the Christmas tree to further decorate the house such as making wreaths. Now in Roman culture, the wreath is the roman version of a crown. You know the green laurel thing found resting on the ears of roman rulers? That is the Roman Wreath, or roman crown. And since Germany was the Holy Roman Empire, when they thought of crowns, they used the typical image of a crown in Jesus’ time, the roman wreath. It should also be noted that in the 200’s, a saint who went by the name of Lucia, made the point of wearing a wreath crown with candles tied to it to light her way as she carried food for the poor and hungry and little ones. She also intentionally wore this crown of candles as a way to teach Christ who is the light of the world. Now the foul mouth Grinches would tell you that wreaths and lighting of candles is based off of a Saturnalia tradition… Ignore the fact that Saturnalia was establish a century after St Lucia. But based off the example of St Lucia and her wreath with candles, Martin Luther, started the tradition of making wreaths. Traditionally a crown of evergreen laid on a table with a single white candle in the center to represent Christ is Here, Emmanuel, a centerpiece traditionally found on a Lutheran dinner table.
More candles were also added so as to help little ones count down the weeks for Christmas. Even our food drive and coat drives during Christmas is influenced by St Lucia. And our candle light service? You guessed it, St Lucia. Now there was usually more trimmings leftover so additional wreaths were made and decorated and hung on the Christmas as the first ornaments. Eventually we started hanging these wreaths elsewhere throughout the house, and by the 1920’s the usage of wreaths in America was no longer uniquely Lutheran, and yes wreaths for the majority of American history was a Lutheran tradition, but was used by most Christians.
And one last Christian tradition that surprised me. Santa Clause was also influenced by Martin Luther. December 9th was the day most Christians during the Reformation remembered St Nicholas who was widely popular. St Nicholas who was famous for giving children presents and punching heretics in the face, ignore that latter half we don’t need kids punching heretics in the face. But Martin Luther, fearful that as St Nicholas became more popular that the common person who forget the connection between gifting presents, of which was a common tradition on December 9th, and the most glorious gift of all, Jesus Christ – Luther established the practice of gathering presents on Christmas Eve, thus starting the merger of December 9th’s St Nicholas feast day with Christmas Eve, resulting in Santa Claus. Why because, Luther did not want us to forget that the most important gift of all was, is, and will always be Jesus Christ.
So as we observe Christmas these next ten days, let us sing, and keep our decorations and our traditions, with this most important message always in our hearts: the core of Christmas and all we do is Christ.
Let us pray,
Dear Heavenly Father, lead us away from the temptations of the Devil who teaches sweet distracting gibberish and instead always keep in our hearts the truth, which is that you indeed came into the world, our king and Savior, to reign now and forever. Amen.