I typically try to keep my posts more substantive and edifying, but I need some outlet for a brief bit of nit-picking.
I am an annoying stickler for language. I understand the annoyance others experience, but remain nonetheless undeterred. Why? Words create perceptions. It's axiomatic. Just ask a drunkard if he'd prefer to be called an "alcoholic," or whether an adulterer would prefer to refer to his "affair," or (as has recently been highlighted) whether Mormons would rather be described as cult-members or "Latter-Day Christians." Words create perceptions, which is why we should choose ours carefully.
With that in mind, I am unnerved by the unrelenting references to "The First Christmas" or "The Story of Christmas" or "The Christmas Narrative" this time of year. You want to tell the story of Christmas? Fine. It goes something like this: Romans had a pagan celebration of the winter solstice surrounding Saturn's fertility cult that involved trees, lights, gifts, and parties - sound familiar? So, when the Roman Empire mandated Christianity to a pagan populace in the mid fourth century, they amalgamated their holidays with Christian themes and picked December 25th for the solstice turned celebration of the birth of Jesus. In contrast to the very early annual celebration of the resurrection (you know it as "Easter," better, Resurrection Sunday), Christians never celebrated the incarnation until this point. Later, around the 11th century, it was dubbed "Christmas," which is from "The Christ Mass." Yep, the Mass.
And that is the "story of Christmas" or "the first Christmas" or "the Christmas narrative." The plain fact is that the "first Christmas" was held hundreds of years after our Lord Jesus had died on the cross and ascended into heaven. Are there Roman Catholic priests or altars in Luke 2? Do any of the Gospels give a recounting of the Mass? Was Jesus born anywhere near the month of December? If the answer to all these (and other) questions is "No," then quit referring to the birth of our Lord as "Christmas"!
Now, before I am hastily labeled a hopeless curmudgeon, I would direct you to explicit proof to the contrary: the 7ft tree in my living room. Truth be told, I love the lights and the trees and my wife's pumpkin pies (with extra homemade whip cream on top!). But what does it have to do with the humiliation of our Lord Jesus, who became poor for our sakes, took the form of a bond-servant, and was born of a virgin in first century Bethlehem? Absolutely nothing.
Tell the story of Christ. Shout it from the mountaintops! And use every cultural opportunity to declare that all people everywhere must repent before Jesus or be judged by Him (Acts 17:30-31). Just please quit referring to His coming as "Christmas." It's confusing. People have no idea what trees and parties and gifts have to do with the Savior of the world, and because we sinners prefer the former to Jesus Himself, the real meaning of His incarnation is quickly lost in a sea of twinkling lights.
It's not the "First Christmas," it's the coming of the Savior. It is not the "Christmas Narrative," it is the birth of our Lord Jesus Christ. It is not the "Story of Christmas," it is the good news of the Son of Man who came to serve and to give His life as a ransom for many.
The last thing you ever want to do is confuse people about Jesus.