Diplomatic Notes

What does Christmas mean to you?

Every year around this time of year people are engaged in a variety of activities unique to the season. The lawns of houses are lit up with lights, parties are happening in communities, churches present special programs, the city center is lit up and people seem to be in a different mood. Stores and malls are crowded with shoppers, offices and businesses stage Christmas parties, people receive Christmas bonuses and gifts pile up under the Christmas trees. There is nothing quite like Christmas. Some people look forward to it, others loathe it. Did I forget Christmas carols? Yes, Christmas caroling is another rich Christmas tradition.

These are the trappings of Christmas but my question is what does Christmas mean to you? Lest we forget, there is a Christ before the “mas”. Christmas literally means a celebration of Christ. Some people are offended by Christmas to the extent of attempting to bar things like nativity scenes from government properties and eliminating greetings such as Merry Christmas. Some people don’t believe in God or Christ and they are offended by Christmas.

The truth is, whatever you believe about God or Christ, the term “Christ-mas” indicates that the holiday is about Christ. Whether you believe in God or not, it does not make sense to try and cancel Christmas when Christmas is so obviously about Christ. It is fine if you say you will celebrate the lights, the parties, the fantasies of Santa Claus and the reindeer or whatever aspect you are comfortable with – but if you don’t believe, just leave those who believe alone and let’s all celebrate the season according to our preferences.

Most people do not really pay attention to the meaning of Christmas or the reason for the season – but for those who do, why should anyone try to interfere with their beliefs? So, what does Christmas mean to you? Whatever it means, go ahead and celebrate your way and let others celebrate how they want to. I would prefer if Christmas was not so commercialized – but if there are people who believe in commercialization, so be it.

I will tell you what Christmas means to me. Years ago, before I came into a spiritual relationship with Christ, it was about partying. We used to party for weeks leading up to Christmas. Christmas was about getting drunk and high for days; it was about chasing women and buying gifts; it was about Junkanoo and being in the shack pasting for months leading up to the parades. That’s what Christmas meant to me at the time – having fun.

While attending my second college in Oklahoma, I experienced my first white Christmas and also my first Christmas where Christ was the focus of Christmas. Things had changed. It was my first year of no rum, no drugs, no wild parties and no Junkanoo. It was also a happy shift for me. I experienced joy that Christmas because I came to know that my sins were forgiven, that the meaning of Christmas was really about “Emmanuel” (God is with us). God entered our world to save us. It felt good for me because my life was transformed. I was a different person. I went from violence to peace, from promiscuity to faithfulness, from blind celebrations to celebration with meaning and purpose.

Years later, Christmas is still a time of great joy for me. I love the lights, I love the decorations, I love the Christmas carols and the Christmas parties (the mild versions) and get togetherness. Christmastime, today, is family and friendship. Christmas Sunday and Watch Night services, downtime to relax and refresh. Christmas is Christmas dinner and right after dinner, it’s NBA time for the Christmas Day NBA marathon. I love Christmas most of all because I have an attachment and understanding of the Christ in the “mas”.

This is what Christmas means to me. What does it mean to you? Enjoy Christmas, whatever your perspective may be but do not try to eliminate Christmas, just enjoy your way. 

• Pastor Dave Burrows is senior pastor at Bahamas Faith Ministries International. Feel free to email comments, whether you agree or disagree, to pastordaveburrows@hotmail.com. I appreciate your input and dialogue. We become better when we discuss, examine and exchange.

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