Pastor Rick Murray – Santa Ynez Valley Presbyterian Church

These days, shortly after the children are done trick-or-treating, we turn to what is most often termed the “Holiday Season.” Everyone is busy with decorations and presents and family gatherings, and it truly is a special season. 

Those of us who follow Jesus celebrate His birth. Some of us get defensive and engage in a “culture war” with those who want to celebrate but don’t care much about the original reason for all the hoopla. 

I think it would be wiser for Christ-followers to simply celebrate the season and remember its purpose. No need for us to be defensive. Rick Warren came out with a little book a few years back with the title, “The Purpose of Christmas.” In it he makes the claim that the season is purposed around three things: Celebration, Salvation, and Reconciliation.

I agree with him. We celebrate an amazing event that occurred over 2,000 years ago — an event that actually happened in history, even though we are not actually sure when it happened. Some scholars think we should be celebrating Christmas in the spring, others can’t say one way or another. In fact the early church, as it began to be accepted in the pagan world, chose to celebrate the birth of Jesus during a time when people were celebrating anyway. The winter solstice was always a big celebration in ancient times and the church leaders of the day thought, why not Christianize the holiday? It seems to have caught on.

Salvation is a huge reason to celebrate. We followers of Jesus believe we are saved from something and for something. Saved from our bad choices and saved to serve others.

Reconciliation is linked to salvation and part of the way followers of Jesus can serve others — we make peace. The angels make the announcement, “Peace on Earth!” and would it not be great to make some sweet peace in this polarized culture we find ourselves in today? Yes, it would! I would love to see folks from all over the valley celebrate Christmas and remember its purpose. 

There are plenty of opportunities to do just that, including the pageant at our outdoor theatre in Solvang, and of course at churches all over the valley, including the one I serve.

Merry Christmas!