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Embrace the true reason for the season

With all the gift-buying, party-hopping, and general merry-making going on, it is quite easy to lose track of what is truly important about this time of year, and the Christian holiday known as Christmas. Although people may want to celebrate the season for all the partying that it represents, they are urged not forget to embrace the true reason for the season — Jesus Christ and the spirit of giving He inspires.

Bishop Gilbert Thompson, assistant bishop of the Anglican Diocese in The Bahamas and the Turks and Caicos Islands says this time of year is steeped in tradition and history that most people don’t remember.  He says many people may imagine that it is a capitalistic occasion that was created to make money and give people a reason to party and have fun, but he says that belief is far from true.

“Christmas is the compilation of two words Christ and Mass,” said Bishop Thompson. “The proper name for this season in the Christian calendar is actually the Feast of Nativity of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ. It got its name Christmas because the first service held in the season was a Mass held at midnight. It was known colloquially as the Christ Mass. Overtime it was called Christmas and became one word. It refers to first Mass of Christ.”

Like a birthday is important to a nation or family, he says it is the same when it comes to the Christmas season with the church.

He says Christmas isn’t about the presents or fun but rather it calls believers to remember the real reason for the celebration, reflecting on the coming of Christ and His life and death. It’s during this period that all people should be feeling hope and joy more than ever.  Because of  Jesus’ birth and death, mankind has the opportunity to call themselves sons and daughters of God.

“God gave us the invaluable gift of His Son; we in turn as believers follow this act and give gifts to one another. This is where the tradition of gift-giving at this time comes from. It has changed and become a lot more commercial today, but as long as the intentions are still pure and you don’t get caught up in the secular aspects too much, there is nothing wrong with it.”

Bishop Thompson’s advice to Christians is to keep with the spirit of giving which is a major part of the season and take it beyond this time to touch others throughout the year.

Christmas is about sharing the good news and renewing yourself in the service of Christ according to Pastor Leonard Johnson, president of the Atlantic Caribbean Union of Seventh-day Adventists. Although his denomination does not celebrate Christmas in the traditional sense, they recognize and acknowledge the purpose of the season.

“We all know that Christmas — the birthday of Jesus Christ did not occur at this time of year and for many they feel it is unnecessary to partake in this season. But for the Seventh-day Adventist church we see the season as the perfect opportunity to share the goodness of God to others. It’s not about the festivities, but capitalizing on the spirit of giving in the season to bring hope and happiness to those in need,” he says.

Johnson said most people view the purpose of the season as the celebration of the coming of God as a babe, but they tend to forget that there is more to the season than that.

“The incarnation has already occurred but the second coming of Jesus is to come and this should be a primary focus at this time as well. The best way to honor Jesus and what He has and is to do for you is to live a life as He would.”

Pastor Johnson says it is easy for people to be more generous and giving at this time of the year, but he says the true test comes when people can live a life of service and generosity everyday.

“There is nothing wrong with following tradition by giving gifts and celebrating the Christmas with family, but Christians need to remember that it’s not about them or their children. It’s about Christ and to show appreciation for His coming as a babe. You should be neighborly and kind. When you keep the true meaning of the season in mind you will not overindulge, overspend or find yourself in financial  woes after the season.

“It’s not about the merrymaking and parties. This is a time churches need to take time to sensitize the nation and others about the coming of Christ and that He is coming again,” says the union president.

“We should be teaching the people about what this coming should mean to us and how we should be living. We should be renewing our faith and living so that we reflect God’s love and kindness to all. We should be looking for our brothers and sisters and really caring for one another every single day.”

During this time he says God does not want His people to be selfish and think only of themselves. And that they should not have to wait for a special day on the calendar to live a better life, but aim to be a better person a little more everyday. He says this season provides a golden opportunity to start by reaching out to people who are marginalized or less fortunate and give them gifts that not only help them temporarily, but give them a long-term sense of hope and a stronger belief in the good news.

While many religious people take this season very seriously and shun the worldly aspects of it, Bishop Ros Davis, senior pastor at Golden Gates World Outreach Ministries sees nothing wrong with celebrating the season traditionally. He says getting bogged down in the religious side of the season defeats the purpose of the occasion and you fail to live up to what God intended for you when He sent His son.

“Many religious people say you need to worship God and celebrate within the church at this time. You shouldn’t get involved in the secular side of the season or share gifts or other things, but I don’t think so. When God sent His son it was to set His people free and give them new life. So of course celebrating freedom from spiritual bondage is a wonderful thing. It is a glorious occasion to share with your family and friends. It’s the perfect time to reach out and show others the light through kindness and generosity. You can’t take things literally and ignore what God has intended for us all.”

Bishop Davis says the season is not about Santa Claus, but it’s not wrong to let your children believe in him as a representative of the spirit of giving. He says giving gifts and showing your children how to be generous by letting them reach out to the needy in this season is also good.

“There are many old traditions that people have that they celebrate at this time of the year, and as long as you remember Jesus is the reason for the season there is nothing wrong with indulging. This is the time of year families get together and to say it is wrong to hold parties or celebrations is incorrect because many times you will not see certain members again for a long time. It’s a time to get together and have fun … sing carols, eat well, share the joy and the wealth with others. It’s a season of giving and it should be a joyful and willing giving.”

Bishop Davis says people should remember not to get caught up in the small view of the season. Much like you celebrate the birth and death of important leaders with parties, marches and even holidays, the same courtesy should be given to celebrate the Christ-child and remember the great good His birth and death have for those who believe in Him.

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