Earlier this month I was sitting in a Florida Starbucks listening to one of many Christmas snow songs. This one was Colbie Caillat’s Mistletoe, which has the repeating refrain—“It’s not Christmas if the snow don’t fall.” It got me thinking—how essential is snow to Christmas?
That day, I also heard “It’s beginning to look a lot like Christmas.” At that precise moment it was pouring rain outside, the temperature was 81 degrees with absurdly high humidity. Strange for a December, but that’s Florida. Go to the Home Depot here this time of year and you will find not just Christmas decorations, but garden stuff for the soon approaching winter growing season! Outside you will find palm trees with lights around them making them look like candy canes—for those cold nights of…..50 degree temperatures when people are tempted to put a fire on.
It’s quite a stretch for one who spent his whole life in northern climates. Our last November-December out West, we had about three and a half feet of snow. It even snowed Christmas Eve.
All over America, snow songs abound at Christmas. Even at church recently (here in Florida), we heard songs like “In the Bleak Mid Winter,” and “See Amid the Winter’s Snow.” We went to one Christmas program in a mega church and they had this amazing imitation snow, right during the “I’m Dreaming of a White Christmas,” segment.
I may be dreaming of a white Christmas, but there’s a 99.9% chance it will not happen in Orlando (though I actually had a friend tell me he saw it snow here once, but it melted before it hit the ground!)
Christina and I were both reminiscing about our change of scene and she reminded me—“you know, on that first Christmas, they also had palm trees, and likely no snow.”
I assured her that I have actually been in Jerusalem during a snow storm in December! But she was right. Besides that, we really do not know which month Jesus was born.
Of course, there are some who insist that Jesus could not have been born in December. Palestine is very cold that time of year, they say. Surely shepherds would not be out in the fields with their flocks that time of year, they insist.
Others retort that Palestine is not that cold even in December (These days the average high in Jerusalem is 57F and the low is 42F). It is not exactly a Minnesota winter. Besides, shepherds and flocks were needed for the temple all through the year.
The truth is, the New Testament does not tell us the exact time Jesus was born, except that it was in “the fullness of time when God appeared.” Some church fathers thought he was born in May (Clement of Alexandria), others said January (Hippolytus).
No one knows for sure. All we know is that December 25 is when Western Christians have celebrated the birth of Christ for ages. And January 6th is when Eastern churches celebrate his birth. Both are winter dates.
Bottom line is—it was probably NOT snowing that first Christmas. They may quibble about the dates, but none of the fathers talk about snow being part of the story!
Not only that, but for most of the world, Christmas is not a snowy affair. Since most Christians live in the global South and East—try to imagine them dreaming of a white Christmas! And for cold climate folks, global warming may be bad news for white Christmases anyway.
Look, what is essential for the celebration of Christmas is not snow, but worship! And that can take place anywhere—as long as it is acceptable worship done in spirit and in truth.
As we approach this Christmas, Christians around the world will be gathering for worship, and then for celebrations with their family and friends. This is the heart of Christmas and it can take place in any climate.
In other words, much as I miss the white stuff, snow is really not a Christmas essential. Sorry Bing and Colbie, all our Christmases are not white. It can be Christmas even if the snow don’t fall.
So in that spirit, may all your Christmases be…….white…..bright– bright with the joy of celebrating the glorious news of our redeemer’s first advent.