Christmas at Halloween?

December 8, 2012

Jon Stewart is one of my favorite comedians.

I have a rabbi friend back in New Orleans who, like Jon Stewart, is of the Reformed Jewish faith. According to my rabbi friend, most of the teachings of Jesus are acceptable, but Christmas with Jesus as God incarnate is rejected. My rabbi friend and I understand that difference, and we remain good friends, eagerly reading each other’s newsletters. My rabbi friend also objects to Christian merchants who offer Hanukkah as a substitute for Christmas. Hanukkah at best is a minor festival and does not compare with the Christmas extravaganza with all its decorations, angels and nativity scenes – which brings me to Jon Stewart’s complaint. He notes that the decorations of Christmas have backed up all the way into Thanksgiving! “And now,” he says, “look out – Halloween!”

As a Christian, I admit to some comfort in seeing the lights of Christmas and the playing of Christmas songs in commercial stores. However, I’m not fooled. The merchants would do the same for any other holiday if there were enough people celebrating it. I do not equate the coming of Jesus with decorations; He did not come with Christmas lights hanging on the manger. The event was much more serious than that. The children in Bethlehem who were killed by Herod during Jesus’ birth is a case in point. Here’s my point for Jon Stewart. Christmas is only the beginning of the year for Christians. The Christian calendar does not follow the ordinary one from January to December. The Christian calendar begins with the preparation of Jesus’ coming – “Advent” (four Sundays before Christmas with many Christians decorating at that time).

Christmas celebrates the first coming in anticipation of the second coming. The scripture readings in the first Sunday of Advent tie together the first coming with the second – and then comes Easter, Pentecost and Advent again. OK, so where’s the point? It’s coming up:

It’s hard to say which event is the most important for Christians – some would argue Easter or Pentecost, but it’s really the entire year. If merchants caught on to that, the decorations would never cease and we’d all go broke buying presents! So maybe we would all be better off keeping the decorations for Christmas – and for Christians, keeping Christ in our hearts the rest of the year. So let’s agree, Mr. Stewart, we don’t need to back up the decorations of Christmas to Halloween!

Charles Somervill is First Presbyterian Church pastor.

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