Being Christian at Christmas

Christmas, and the Christmas season, are kept by all kinds of people in America, not just Christians.  It has been co-opted from a Holy Day into a holiday.  America has made Christmas part of its secular winter holiday.  So, how can Christians be distinguished from all of those who keep Christmas as a civil holiday?  We can look to history to see how Christians did it in the past.  Historian Judith Herrin gives us a description of Christians in the old Roman Empire – there too Christians were surrounded by people of all kinds of beliefs including a variety of pagan religions, and there too winter holidays, a solstice, a birth of the sun, was a major feast as the days stopped growing shorter and began to lengthen.

“Unlike their contemporaries, the followers of Jesus were confident that death was not the end: they would rise again into a heaven of peace and light. This belief motivated them to behave in a correct Christian fashion, avoiding sin and encouraging faith, hope and charity, so that God would judge them worthy of eternal life in the next world. It set them apart from the Jews, polytheist and members of other cults that flourished in the early centuries A.D.” (Byzantium: The Surprising Life of a Medieval Empire, p 33)