#197 December is Christian Month

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December is Christian Month. It starts with Thanksgiving and ends with Christmas: the most celebrated holiday event in human history.

 

December is Christian Month. It was not officially declared by any governmental entity. It doesn’t have to be. Just look around. It starts with Thanksgiving and ends with Christmas, the most celebrated holiday event in human history. Gift-giving, Christmas trees, lights, Santa Claus, office parties, and family gatherings are all part of Christian Month. Deloitte’s holiday retail sales analysis says consumers will spend $1,652 each on Christmas.

I made this observation while attending the CEO Summit at Liberty University recently. Independent reporter Lara Logan was complaining that every other group had their month. There is gay pride month, Hispanic Heritage Month, and Native American heritage month. She accusingly asked, “Why isn’t there a Christian month?” It was a formal presentation, so it was inappropriate for me to shout out, “December!” but December is quite obviously a Christian Month.

 

Black Friday

Black Friday got its name from the day when retailers went from red to black in profit terms. Without Christian Month, they wouldn’t make a profit. This year, shoppers spent $9.8 billion, an increase of 7.5% from last year.  Cyber Monday was shaping up to be a giant Christmas gift to retailers; 63% of Americans shop online for Christmas gifts.

By the time Christmas arrives, each American will spend just north of $700 on gifts alone. We give gifts because the wise men brought gifts to celebrate God’s gift to mankind: Jesus, the God-man.

 

Gifts

They brought gifts of gold, frankincense, and myrrh. Gold because he was a King, Frankincense was used by the Jewish High Priest in the temple, and myrrh is an embalming spice, which foreshadows His death on a cross.

Some people complain that Christmas starts too early but Halloween is not too early for me to celebrate the birth of my savior. People complain that Christmas has become too commercial, but that’s only if you let it. Others will celebrate however they wish. For me and my family, the reason for the season is the birth of Jesus: It’s a Christian month.

If baby Jesus was laid in a manger during Christian month, it was probably made of stone. Wood was scarce in first-century Israel, so farmers would take a large stone, and carve it into a dish shape that would hold water for their cattle and sheep. Jesus was likely laid in a stone enclosure, but he didn’t stay there long. His father took him out and cared for him, and his mother nursed him.

 

Why December?

Just under half of Americans start shopping for Christmas in October. That seems pretty early, but it helps spread out the shopping blitz as the holiday gets closer.

If the shepherds were out with their sheep when Jesus was born, it was probably September or October, when sheep were allowed to graze on a harvested field to eat the remaining straw and fertilize for the upcoming planting season. Christians moved the date to December 25 – Christian month – to put it exactly nine months after Easter, which was celebrated on March 25. That would mean Jesus was conceived and crucified on the same day of the month, the 25th.

Another reason for Christmas to be during the Christian month was to supplant the pagan festival of Saturnalia. Pope Julius made that change to coincide Christmas with the Roman celebration of the solstice on December 25 in the year 336. Pagans who lived in the northern hemisphere saw the sun slipping lower in the sky, and they believed they had to make a sacrifice to the gods, so the sun would return to warm them. There is pretty good evidence that the prehistoric druids, who lived in the British islands, celebrated the end of the year at a wood henge before they moved to a stone henge to celebrate the new year. Only faint evidence of the wood henge remains, but the stone henge still stands.

 

A Tax

A tax was involved in Christian month. Luke 2:1 reads, “There went out a decree from Caesar Augustus that all the world should be taxed.” Much like today’s licenses and permits for everything from plumbers to hairdressers, the tax and census that accompanied it produced a receipt that was necessary to conduct business. A tax was necessary to fulfill the Old Testament prophecy that Jesus would be born in Bethlehem. A few verses later in Luke 2, it explains how Joseph went “Unto the city of David, which is called Bethlehem – because he was of the house and lineage of David – To be taxed with Mary his espoused wife, being great with child. Jesus was born in Bethlehem, instead of Nazareth, where his parents lived.

 

Saint Claus

The best-known character in Christian month is a saint. “Sainta” Claus derives from a real person, Saint Nicholas, who was a fourth-century Bishop of Myra, in what’s now Turkey. He was a kind and generous Saint, who provided the dowery for a family of poor daughters. To make the gift anonymous, he tucked the coins in the girls’ socks, which may have been hanging on the fireplace to dry. This tradition of gift-gifting explains why Giving Tuesday occurs on the last Tuesday in November, leading into the Christian month.

Dutch families in New Amsterdam called Saint Nicholas Sinterklaas, which led to our current title, Santa Claus. He was portrayed as wearing a Bishop’s robe until Coke put him in red and white for an ad campaign in the Saturday Evening Post during Christian month in 1931.

December has been a Christian month since the 4th century. Shopping, gifts, the supplanting of pagan rites, taxes, helping the poor, and the star of the show, Santa Claus, are all bound up together in the most celebratory month of the year, Christian Month.

At the age of about 32, Jesus suffered a terrible death by crucifixion, perhaps the most terrible way to die. He was laid in a stone enclosure, but he didn’t stay there long. Ready for Easter?

 

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