Profundity of Christmas examinedMinisters say holiday should be a time for family, gratitude

Christmas is a combination of so many things that the totality of it may be hard to grasp.
A holiday, a commercial extravaganza, a religious observance, a time of reflection — Christmas is all of those and more and clergymen say more focus is needed on its true essence to dispel confusion.
The Revs. Curtis Benninghoff, Michael Sis and Mike McGuire say the best approach is to see it in terms of its sacredness.
“I don’t think Christ was born on Dec. 25,” said the Rev. Benninghoff, pastor of the First United Pentecostal Church in Midland. “He was probably born in October, but I do believe in honoring the sacredness of Christmas, the fact that our savior came to dwell among us and purchase our redemption.
“God became man, became flesh, and it’s easy to get sidetracked on trying to decide a date rather than honoring what’s represented by the day. Paul tells us in Colossians 2:16 not to judge a person according to a holiday.
“The value of the day can be overshadowed by the fact that we may not have the date correct.”
Having grown up in a family with six children, Benninghoff said, “We never got a lot of gifts, but Christmas was always a joyous time to celebrate family by getting together.
“Some of what’s missing today is that families don’t gather like they used to.”
After nine months of a global health crisis, Benninghoff said, the right kind of Christmas is sorely needed. “If we have ever needed peace and good will in our world, we sure need it in 2020,” he said.
“Pray that we have that again and enjoy your family and the time you get to spend with those you love. A lot of people get their identity from what they do instead of who they are as a person, but human beings are not human doings.
“The true character of a person is who I am, not what I’m doing at the moment.”
The Rev. Sis, bishop of the Catholic Diocese of San Angelo, said the word “Christmas” is from the Old English “Cristemaesse” for “Christ’s Mass.”
“The central theological point of Christmas is the Incarnation of God,” Sis said. “It’s a celebration of the fact that the eternal Son of God took human flesh and became one of us.
“Of course, the actual initial moment of the Incarnation was nine months earlier when Mary became pregnant with Jesus; but Christmas is a celebration of the same mystery of the Incarnation.”
Noting that the date of Dec. 25 is not in the Bible, the bishop said, “This date was established by Pope Julius 1 in the Fourth Century.
“From then on, every western church calendar has listed Dec. 25 as the date for the birth of Christ.”
Sis said one of Christmas’s common symbols is the color red “for the suffering and death of Jesus Christ, who gave his life for our salvation.
“Green is a symbol of life and hope,” he said. “White and gold are symbols of Christ as the light of the world and the purity of our sinless Savior.
“Christmas lights express the joy of the birth of Christ and the fact that Jesus Christ describes himself as the light of the world. John 1:5 says, ‘The light shines in the darkness and the darkness has not overcome it.’”
Sis said Christmas gifts “remind us of God the Father’s gift of his only son to the world.
“Having received such a precious gift from God, we naturally respond by wanting to give gifts to others,” he said. “Gifts also remind us of the gifts of the wise men to the baby Jesus: gold, frankincense, and myrrh.
“Christmas is about much more than Rudolph, the Grinch, Frosty and little elves. It is primarily about Jesus Christ, who took a human body so he could offer himself as a sacrifice of love for our salvation.”
The Rev. McGuire, pastor of Crescent Park Baptist Church, cited Isaiah 7:14 in saying Jesus “had to be born of a virgin.
“Going all the way to the Garden of Eden, Genesis 3:15 said the seed of a woman would crush the head of the serpent,” McGuire said. “That’s without a human male father and was in fact the Holy Spirit.
“Christ did not have the same sin nature that we do. He had human nature, but was able to live a perfect life and never give in to sin.”
The pastor said much of what is associated with Christmas “is not Biblical.
“One of the biggest problems is that the wise men did not come at the same time as the shepherds,” he said. “There was a gap of probably two years.
“The other is that people try to explain away the Star of Bethlehem by saying it was just a conjunction of planets. But that doesn’t fulfill what Scripture says. How could a conjunction of planets in space lead them to a particular house to find the child?
“Christmas is a time of joy, a time of family and a time of getting together, but the real gift is the gift God gave in Christ, who grew up to be the atoning sacrifice for our sins.”