Okay, so we've established that fall is my absolute favorite season. Now we're heading into my most favorite holiday....CHRISTMAS!! :D
Keeping in mind that CHRISTmas and Resurrection Day are heart celebrations for many of us Christians, and we don't "need" the calendar day to determine whether to celebrate it or not (Romans 14:5-7). Indeed, Jesus was most likely not born "on" what we call Christmas day. However, I L-O-V-E seeing various manifestations of the Christmas holiday; and if the ancient Christian populations chose this day to do so, then I'm gonna roll with it, Baby!
There are decidedly Pagan elements of Christmas that we see today, but celebrating the birth of our Lord has a different avenue than what is secularly celebrated during this wonderfully conglomerate holiday season (again, Romans 14:5-7). The musical scene is different, the peace is different, the beauty of gifts is different, even the honorary attendant is different...if, indeed, there is one.
I acknowledge that, for some, this is also the most depressing time of year. They have experienced heartache that can't seem to mend, bitterness that can't seem to be broken, loss that they can't seem to recover, rejection they can't seem to challenge, addictions they can't seem to overcome, illness and sickness from which there seems to be no healing, oppression they can't seem to conquer, and loneliness they can't seem to fufill...the list goes on. My answer to this is not only to physically do what I or we can to help bring momentary comfort to these suffering people, but to encourage these people to also seek the Gospel and to personally receive It. It is indeed the greatest Gift for all of mankind. I readily admit that I have gone down the road of Been-There-Done-That, and going down Gospel Lane has been the greatest blessing in my life and continues to be so to this day.
I find myself singing Christmas hymns throughout the year, but I think that when you hear these hymns during the celebration season of Jesus' birth, there is a spirit that is particularly stirring within the heart of a Christian. There is a magical quality about it. It's as if the host of heaven is singing in yet another Christmas concert. Can you imagine the delight of the shepherds who were chosen to attend the first Christmas concert over 2000 years ago?? There are more details (heavenly as well as earthly) about Jesus' birth than for virtually any other person of the Bible.
I greatly enjoy Christmas. I enjoy the music. I enjoy the trees. I enjoy the decorations. I enjoy the goodies. I enjoy the company of those I love. I enjoy the fellowship of other Christians who celebrate Christmas with me. And, yes, I enjoy the gift exchanges.
One of my favorite activities is to drive around and see the lights. I love seeing homes lit up in the spirit of Christmas. Jesus had a particular star which pointed the way to Him, but it was hardly the only star in the sky! Our lights on houses remind me of the celestial stars that had to have shown particularly bright that night a couple of thousand years ago.
My favorite Christmas hymns and songs?
Carol of the Bells
God Rest Ye, Merry Gentleman.
Joy to the World
The First Noel
Angels, We Have Heard on High
Mary, Did You Know?
What Child Is This?
Little Drummer Boy
O, Little Town of Bethlehem
We Three Kings of Orient Are
Oh, Come All Ye Faithful
Hark, The Herald Angels Sing
Where's the Line to See Jesus?
The Twelve Days of Christmas
((the list goes on.... lol))
Not only do I love the songs themselves, but I love many of the various renditions of them, too! The Vienna Boy's Choir, Trans-Siberian Orchestra, The Celtic Woman, and a wonderful lady I'm blessed to be friends with is a beautiful singer, as well.
I found an interesting take on the Twelve Days of Christmas. This is one of those things that is not proven to be true in historical fact (a "truly" coded message for early Christians who could not openly worship as Christians), but Hugh D. McKellar in 1979 promoted a practical teaching opportunity and lesson as a means of teaching the catechism to young Catholics. This can help make learning about Christianity more meaningful, especially for young or new believers.
The Twelve Days of Christmas
"true Love" referring to God, Himself, bearing gifts to mankind.
"to me" is thought to mean the baptized believer.
A partridge in a pear tree..........Jesus.
Two turtle doves..........Old and New Testaments.
Three French hens..........Three kings bearing gifts.*
Four calling birds (or colly--blackbirds)..........The Four Gospels-Matthew, Mark, Luke and John.
Five gold/en rings..........Torah or Pentateuch, first five books of the Old Testament, Laws of Moses.
Six geese a-laying..........Six days of Creation.
Seven swans a-swimming..........Gifts of the Holy Spirit**
Eight maids a-milking..........The Beatitudes. (Matthew 5:3-10)
Nine ladies dancing..........The fruit of the Spirit. (Galatians 5:22-23)
Ten lords a-leaping..........The Ten Commandments.
Eleven pipers piping..........The eleven faithful disciples/apostles.
Twelve drummers drumming..........The twelve points of the Apostles' Creed.
This is a wonderful time of baking and cooking, too. There are favorite cookies we tend to only bake around Christmastime, Russian Teacakes and Ginger Cookies being more heavily requested. We bake a birthday cake for Jesus, as well. I love reading about, and seeing many traditions that take place around this world in celebrating Christmas. Almost every year we try to do a little something different. I also make a point of reading and/or seeing A Christmas Carol amost every year, too.
In remembering Jesus' birthday, there is also a sober reminder of WHY He was born--to save mankind from the sins of the world and to reconcile the relationship between God and man. As a Christian, this is the most beautiful gift for which none of us can repay.
Happy Birthday, Jesus.
Merry Christmas! "And God Bless Us, Every One." ~~Tiny Tim, from A Christmas Carol
*[personallly, I think this should better represent the three GIFTS of the kings--the King James Bible indicates that "kings", not "three kings", brought gifts to Jesus--however, the particular gifts mentioned are gold, frankinsense and myrrh--each representing each stage of Jesus' calling.]
** I admit I am not sure exactly what are counted as the 7 specific gifts of the Holy Spirit. I will need to research this further.