What Is Christmas About to You?

By Mark A. Kellner | Posted December 23, 2019

“Christmas comes but once a year,” the old saying goes, and it’s true: There is only one day on the Christian calendar when most believers celebrate Christ’s birth. In Eastern churches, it arrives in early January; for Roman Catholics and Protestants, it's December 25.

Visitors from non-Christian cultures on learning that this day is held in high regard in nations where Christianity has been historically dominant might be surprised to find what Christmas has become in today’s Western culture. Instead of focusing on the birth of Jesus—“O come, let us adore Him”—the concerns of many are far more material.

For example, drive to Freeport, Maine, about two hours north of Boston, and you’ll find the famous L.L. Bean clothing and outdoor gear store open on December 25, perfect for what would be the ultimate last-minute Christmas gift. It’s something the firm has done for decades, and there’s no sign of it stopping now.

Most U.S. shopping malls and larger retailers will be closed on Christmas Day, but not all: You’ll find most Walgreens and Rite Aid drug stores open, along with some dollar stores and the Starbucks chain. Supermarkets for the most part will close, although Albertsons may have some outlets open.

Online Shopping Shreds Schedules

In the Internet age, however, the question of what’s open or closed becomes less important. Online shopping sites, from Amazon.com on down, will be open, allowing you to purchase something for delivery and print out a “gift notice” to tuck into a Christmas stocking. (It might not equal an actual present, but it’s the thought that counts… right?)

Christmas has traditionally also been a time of gathering at the dinner table for a festive meal, but more and more families are opting to dine out instead. In Boston, Washington, Miami, and San Francisco (among other cities), media outlets offer listings of restaurants that will be open on Christmas Day, some well into evening hours.

Having some stores and restaurants open on Christmas Day is a convenience for those of us who need something at the last minute (batteries, anyone?) or who want to leave the meal preparation to someone else. This creates an opportunity for other people who would rather work than take the day off.

Some positions have long come with the potential for Christmas Day work, such as police, fire, and other emergency services; doctors and nurses; air traffic controllers; weather forecasters, and local news reporters. But such workers also generally receive additional compensation, in the form of overtime pay, something that’s not always available to those working for service establishments and convenience stores open on Christmas Day.

There is one other group for whom Christmas Day means showing up for work: Professional athletes in several sports, including basketball and soccer (which the rest of the world calls football). Those interested will be able to view several games in each field on December 25, meaning work for the athletes and the television crews broadcasting the events.

Where Is Jesus in All of This?

Looking over the roster of activities intended for December 25 that have little to do with Jesus’s birth—shopping, dining, sports, even movie openings—one might wonder as to the whereabouts of Jesus in the midst of all this. Is “having a good time” more important than remembering the Savior of the World and His arrival here as an infant in a stable?

Pastor Doug Batchelor made this observation about what Christmas has become: “It is one of the most important holidays in the year, by which every other holiday is measured, and indeed the economy of the nation is measured by Christmas. It’s not only that way in North America, but it is a custom that sweeps around the world.”

The National Retail Federation, a trade group, projected Americans will spend close to $730 billion on Christmas gifts this year, an increase of as much as 4.2 percent over 2018. Those numbers are huge, and, indeed, holiday sales can represent the difference between profit and loss for some retailers. That breaks down, a Gallup survey said, to approximately $920 in gifts per person, up from $885 per person the year before.

How reverently most Americans regard Christmas, and the story of Jesus’s birth, is another question. As we noted here two years ago, opinions are changing: “Only 57 percent of Americans surveyed in 2017 say they believe the Bible’s Christmas narrative ‘reflects historical events.’ That’s down from 65 percent just three years [earlier]. Only two-thirds of Americans surveyed say they believe Jesus was born to a virgin. Just 75 percent say the infant Jesus was ‘laid in a manger,’ even though Luke and other Gospel writers reveal that He was.”

If you want to a better perspective on Christmas, Pastor Doug’s sermon “The Christian and Christmas” is a great place to start. And for a rewarding look at what the Bible prophesied about the coming of Jesus—the true “reason for the season” after all—check out this Bible study on “Heaven’s Best Gift,” which details what Zechariah predicted about Jesus centuries before the events happened. Think of these resources as our Christmas gift to you!

Mark Kellner
Mark A. Kellner is a staff writer for Amazing Facts International. He is a veteran journalist whose work has been published in Religion News Service, The Washington Times, and numerous computer magazines.

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