As the international date line has Christmas morning first appearing in the South Pacific, followed by New Zealand and Australia, we might assess what sorts of sports items might be in those 'imaginary sacks'. At our local Post Office is a box marked 'Letters to Santa" - I assume many children have written to Santa for sports items.
Cricket, football, toy racing cars, golf clubs and tennis racquets. Swirling hoops too would be in the sleigh sacks, and push bikes (now there's a typical Aussie Christmas gift). This very Christmas imagery is familiar to us all. Christmas has several aspects to it in our society.
For Christians, Christmas Day celebrates Jesus' birth. This has been recognised right from the earliest times as, for example, the Gospel of Matthew has three chapters on it and the Gospel of Luke has two.
Today seems a good time to look at Christmas in our society -
By the third century there was general agreement that Jesus' birth be celebrated on 25 December which happened to coincide with the winter solstice (whether this was deliberate is uncertain) and the Eastern Orthodox traditions using the Gregorian calendar celebrated the same birth, but to us, it's the 7th January.
When Emperor Constantine became a Christian, then the celebration became a 'folk' community celebration. Although Constantine decreed his Christian belief, it did not follow that everyone in the entire Empire became followers of Jesus, but the Christian customs were adopted, such as Christmas.
This is what is meant by 'folk'. Over many centuries the 'folk' version of Christmas took on many ways of celebrating, such as family reunions and friends giving gifts. Christmas in many part of the northern hemisphere has a relationship with snow. In Australia, that iconic Arnott's Biscuit tin showed Santa and the swagman boiling the billy in the bush. Horse and Reindeer standing side by side.
The third concept of Christmas is one of rejoicing as it follows a different set of pre-determinates.
There was fulfillment of prophecy that a Messiah would be born. Moreover that Messiah would be born in Bethlehem. And again, that Messiah would be born to a virgin who was to be impregnated by the Holy Spirit. When born his name would be Immanuel meaning God with us. There are 19 such promises recorded in the Old Testament. Each one can be ticked off with the birth of Jesus. Little wonder Christian rejoice over Jesus' birth.
The birth of Jesus therefore centres on two things. The fulfilment of these prophecies and secondly, the purpose of His coming. This is the unfolding story of His life, of the Cross of Calvary and His resurrection giving all humanity the possibility of reconciliation and eternal life.
In the same way that God gave Jesus as a gift to all the world (that means each one of us), so too we give gifts to those we love – our family members and our friends. Christmas is a kind of a complete story, but it is the start and not the finish. Followers of Jesus celebrate all His life at Christmas.
Yes, Christmas has a clearly defined historical root, it is indeed a 'folk' celebration as the entire world celebrates it, and for the followers of Jesus, it has a far more poignant reflection, and that is our Salvation. So Christmas is, and should be, a joyful time!
May you and your family have a most joyful Christmas in 2010 – and may your children enjoy those sports items in their Christmas sacks / stockings.