This time of year is a paradox for me. In my younger pre-school years, we merely went to Church on Christmas Day. After my older brother, Gary, was in his second winter of school, and I my first, he discovered that there was a lot more going on for Christmas than our family did and let it be known! My dad hesitated. For many years I wondered why. After I began to research my family heritage, the hesitancy he had began to make sense. For you see, the ‘Pilgrims’ were Separatist. They felt Christmas was a pagan holiday of the Catholic Church, and sense the New Testament said we weren’t to keep holydays anymore then Christmas as not celebrated or kept. (The Resurrection of Christ and the Coming of the Holy Spirit were the only days remembered in the Church calendar.) Not even a Church service. In fact there is a story recorded in William Bradford’s The Plymouth Settlement that tells an interesting scenario around the Christmas Day theme. Since the book is copyrighted I will paraphrase the story…
William Bradford was Governor. The Fortune arrived to the colony on November 9th, 1621, a few weeks after the first thanksgiving feast on the new land. Now it was a few weeks later – Christmas Day. My forefather along with 8 other single men from the Fortune were in the colony now. The Governor called the people out for their usual work in the fields for at this time in the colony’s history they were communal. (Didn’t last much beyond this point, though.) Well, the new company excused themselves from such tasks for it went against their religious conscience to work on such a day. The governor gave them leave until ‘they were better informed’ on the matter. (For some of these young men were Walloons from Holland and some from Church of England in England. Not long established Separatists.)
So off they went to their work. But upon returning for the noon meal, Bradford found the convicted young men in sport on the street. He proceeded to take away their games and told them that it was against his conscience that they would go and play while others worked! Then reproving them he said if they wish to keep the day as a religious matter then they should remain in their houses, and there was to be no more games on their ‘day of devotion.’
And with that, it settled the issue with no more said to the matter.
Now, we add the native American feature to the picture. Before understanding that the Creator was Jesus, remembering His birth was unheard of. So, add that piece of the stick to the frame and I began to understand why the matter was settled in my lineage until that Christmas of 1962! That year my dad made some changes and I grew up with all the trims, bows and treats that is typical of today’s Christmas.
Interestingly enough, Christmas is still a paradox for me. For many years (also with my husband’s father holding to the Separatist’s view on the matter), we just read the Scriptures that recorded the Lord’s birth. (Our Church didn’t have Christmas services.) But when others would remember Christ in Christmas, it felt uncomfortable. Ignore His birth because someone picked a wrong date? (Some feel September would most likely be the date based on the census and recorded timing of John the Baptist’s birth. Others feel that it would be Spring during lambing season.) But the exact date isn’t the issue, remembering His coming is. So, we now remember His birth with a meal, time together as a family, reading His birth story, and singing of Christmas carols all with an emphasis of remember the Creator Jesus Who has provided the means to forgive all of our personal sins, if we but just ask for His mercy…
A Blessed day in remembering Christ!