One of my mentors would frequently say, “God writes straight with crooked lines.” I guess that was his interpretation of a verse made famous by the TV series “Manifest.” Throughout the series, the actors cite Romans 8:28, which reads “And we know that all things work together for good to them that love God.”
God has a way of taking the shortcomings of life and channeling them into a higher good. God takes the messiness of life and provides us with clarity. God is constantly turning our crooked human lines into straight ones.
The celebration of Jesus’ birth on Dec. 25 is a prime example of God writing straight with the crooked lines of life. Most Bible scholars believe Jesus was not born on Dec. 25 or in the year A.D. 1. There is nothing in the Bible that supports our modern observance of Christmas. The Bible writers were capturing more important truths and not attempting to create a new holiday.
Having our modern Christmas fall on Dec. 25 is one of those unusual, crooked lines. Scholars note that there is a high possibility that Christmas falls into a long list of winter solstice holidays. The winter solstice occurs when the Northern Hemisphere has its shortest day – that is to say, the day with the least amount of daylight hours. This year, the winter solstice occurs on Dec. 21.
Those who worshipped in Stonehenge, the Druids, ancient Romans, and many hunter gatherer tribes observed the winter solstice. The word “yule” as in “yule log” is a direct reference to the winter solstice.
As we look closely into our modern Christmas celebration, we discover an uncomfortable truth. Christianity has co-opted the practices and observances of many different cultures to produce our modern Christmas.
The Christmas tree, yule log, holly, mistletoe and even Saint Nick were borrowed from other traditions. We would mislabel some of these groups as “pagan.” While the origins of our modern Christmas might be questionable, I believe most would admit that quietly watching the lights on the Christmas tree, kissing a loved one under the mistletoe, drinking cider before a fireplace, and singing Christmas carols with the neighbors add much joy and wholeness to our lives.
We are no different from our ancestors who felt the need to have a winter party. As the weather becomes harsher and the daylight hours diminish, we all feel the need to seek comfort and support from friends and loved ones. Early in my faith walk, I was a purist and did not want to incorporate non-Christian holidays into my celebrations.
Today, I rejoice in the crooked lines that produced our modern Christmas. This winter solstice holiday is the perfect time to remember that while our world was growing morally darker, God sent light into the world through the birth of an infant boy born in Bethlehem.
Just as the daylight notably increases between Dec. 21 and Dec. 25, the spiritual light of Christmas beams across our land year after year. The joy of our gatherings remind us of the joy of having God in our lives.
There is a very significant number of people who seem only to make it to church during Christmas and Easter. They seem to understand that at this time of the year, all of us need a party, and all of us need a Savior.
The Rev. Dr. Jon R. Black is senior pastor at Campbell Chapel A.M.E. Church in Bluffton.