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When Is Christmas?
Some say that Christ wasn’t born on December 25th. They claim that Christians took the date from a Roman holiday honoring the sun or a sun god. The Britannica Encyclopedia says Christians took the date to rival pagan feasts taking place during the Winter Solstice, which honored a new age brought by the sun. Depending on location, the Winter Solstice occurs on or around December 25th. Even though it lasts only an instant in time, many cultures have held festivals marking it as midwinter. According to some, Christmas simply grew to be one of the most popular events.
Nonetheless, every year by the time we’ve celebrated Thanksgiving, festive decorations acknowledging the birth of Christ appear in overwhelming numbers across the American landscape. A majority of homes have wreaths on their doors, candles in their windows and lights in the yards. Jolly old Santa Claus sits in the middle of the mall to greet youngsters. Christmas carols fill the airways. And this celebration continues until after December 25th, so when is Christmas?
While many open their presents on Christmas Day we open ours on Christmas Eve after we stuff ourselves with turkey. Usually I rush to put away the dishes and clean up our great room so we can make the midnight service at church. Then, we hurry out the door into the brisk, cold night. After a short drive I see the church lit up like a beacon in the still, quiet darkness. We park and walk quickly inside to find three seats on the back pew.
I settle myself and try to hush the thoughts of shopping, baking and wrapping that linger in my head by gazing at the green wreaths, poinsettias and brilliantly lit Christmas tree. When I turn in my hymnal to “O Come All Ye Faithful” and the choir and congregation start singing, the loud, joyous sound of the season captures my heart. After a family lights the Christ candle on the Advent wreath, which symbolizes Jesus as the light of the world, the minister reads the story of Jesus’ birth and proclaims his gospel of love. At the end of the service the ushers dim the lights and give each parishioner a candle. One by one we carefully tip our flame to the candle of the person beside us and sing “Silent Night.” The flickering lights gradually illuminate the sanctuary and the sweet melody takes me back to the first Christmas, when the angels announced Christ’s birth, the shepherds left their flocks and the wise men started their journey to the manger. After we blow out our candles the service ends with the powerful sound of the choir singing Handel’s "Messiah," and it is Christmas. Sadly, someone had to crucify Christ to atone for the sins of all of us, but triumphantly he rose to give us salvation. And he lives today. Christmas is when we open our hearts to him.
Love Turns the Tide is Gail’s first romance, but she’s been writing for as long as she can remember, publishing her first story in a grammar school newspaper. Much later, she worked as an editor and copywriter. Between freelance writing and feature stories she wrote at work she’s published several hundred articles. In 2004, the year her first book, Now Is the Time, came out, the American Christian Writers Association named her a regional writer of the year. When Gail isn’t writing she enjoys swimming and bargain shopping. She lives in Georgia with Rick, her husband of thirty-eight years.
Beginning January 1, 2013
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Friday, December 24, 2010
Jingle Bell Blog Fest: Gail Pallotta