Why Celebrate Christmas?

   Before anyone jumps to conclusions, let me assure all readers that this article will not question the value of celebrating Christmas. It may challenge some of the ways in which we celebrate, but its purpose is to invite attention to how we can best observe this holiday.

   In North America, Christmas is likely the festival that precipitates more gift exchanges, social gatherings, programs, travel and days off than any other. Each of these elements have value in and of themselves. It’s when they are done to excess and create distress in our families and personal lives that their value should be questioned and their structure re-examined.

   On the evening of Christmas Day or maybe on Boxing Day, after all the busy stuff is over, I have often found myself peacefully listening to Christmas carols or a Christmas concert. There are no more gifts to buy, programs to attend, or gatherings to participate in – as meaningful as those things have been. At that point, however, I am finally relaxing and enjoying what this great festival means to me. In a sense, Christmas is officially over and I’m just beginning to enjoy its real significance.

   To me, Christmas is a time to celebrate God’s love for all people and the focused and special ways in which that love was (and is) expressed. This love is entirely beyond my ability to understand. It brought God, a deity, from the perfection of heaven to live as a person among a frail and flawed human race. The life Jesus lived during his brief stay on earth was in no way cushy or comfortable.

   Jesus was born to an unwed mother. While that fact didn’t likely cause him much discomfort at that time, the stigma associated with such parentage may well have been present and active as he grew up. His father was a carpenter, neither highly educated nor wealthy. A person of humble means.

   His birthing suite was a stable. I grew up on a farm and spent many hours in our barns. To this day, I am quite comfortable with the sights and smells of barns. I’ve also witnessed the births of our two children in a sterile hospital suite. It’s not hard to understand that the human birth experience does not belong in a cold, drafty, noisy, smelly barn. But that’s the place where God chose to enter our human world.

   Shepherds were the first people to hear of the birth of Jesus. They were some of the lowliest people of that day. Not highly educated, not wealthy, not popular in social circles. But they paid attention to the unfolding events and went to worship this Christ child. He was only a few days old when he was put on King Herod’s “Most Wanted” list and spent the next two years being hidden by his parents in order to save his life.

   During Jesus’ public ministry, the religious leaders of the day challenged him, opposed him and tried to have him arrested and killed. And eventually they succeeded. Sort of.

   God’s arrival on this earth, in the person of Jesus, was lowly and without great public fanfare. He showed himself first to common people. And maybe this is a clue as to how we can best celebrate this great historic event. Maybe it’s in the simple, quiet experiences that we will best be able to absorb and be influenced by God’s love.

Calendar of Events

December 23 – January 7, closed for Christmas

February 4, 7:00 PM - Vespers Service

February 16, Guys & Dolls Gala

February 17, Winter Carnival


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About the Author

Barry is the Executive Director of the Mennonite Heritage Village. While he does not consider himself to be a historian, he places a high value on the preservation and interpretation of the Mennonite and pioneer stories that help people of all ages understand and appreciate their heritage. Learn more about the MHV.