In December, many of us were extremely busy putting up our Christmas trees and decorations, baking Christmas cookies, sending out Christmas cards, buying and wrapping presents, attending Christmas programs at school and church, and getting together with our families. In the process, we stressed ourselves out, stretched our budgets, and got very irritated simply so we could celebrate Christmas. Since we go through lots of trouble to celebrate Christmas, it only makes sense we know why we celebrate Christmas.

People have all different ideas about what Christmas is about. This is evident by all the different Christmas specials on television. One says Christmas is about spending time with our families. Another says it is about giving instead of receiving. Still another says it is about being kind to other people. Still others say it is something else.

Even though these are all wonderful ideas and things we should definitely do, they are not what Christmas is really about. Christmas is really about celebrating the birth of our savior Jesus. On Christmas Eve/Day, we celebrate how Jesus, Who is the one true God, humbled himself and was conceived by the Holy Spirit and born to a virgin named Mary in a stable in Bethlehem in Judea because there was no room for them in the inn.

During the Christmas season we also celebrate how Jesus is a human being like us in every other way as well. As a human being, Jesus got older and grew taller. He learned how to talk, walk, and feed himself. He had half-brothers and -sisters and worked as a carpenter in Nazareth along with his stepfather Joseph. Unlike us, however, Jesus never sinned. Jesus needed to be a human being so on Good Friday he could suffer real pain and die so all of our sins could be forgiven so we who believe in him as our Savior will one day go to heaven.

For hundreds of years Christians have been celebrating Christmas. It was originally named Christmas, which means “Christ’s Mass,” because Christians held a Mass or celebration to remember Jesus Christ’s birth. At first, not all Christians celebrated Christmas. However, around the third-fourth century A.D. the Roman Catholic Church chose Dec. 25 as the day to celebrate Christmas because many people celebrated the pagan holiday, Saturnalia, on this day. The Roman Catholic Church hoped that by changing this pagan holiday into a Christian holiday many people would become Christians.

Today, the season of Christmas begins on Christmas Eve, Dec. 24, and goes until Jan. 5. The color of the paraments on the altar and pulpit has traditionally been white to symbolize how Jesus was holy or sinless and how he came into this world to forgive our sins so we could be holy as well. We have many traditions to help us celebrate Jesus’ birth on Christmas. We put up a Christmas tree, which looks alive, to remember how Jesus came to give us life with God. We put up Christmas lights to remember how Jesus is the light of the world. We give presents to remember how on Christmas God gave us the greatest present of all: our Savior Jesus.

As Christians, it is easy for us to become so distracted by all the different things we need to do to celebrate Christmas. Let us make sure we always remember what Christmas is really about. It is about celebrating the birth of our savior Jesus.

The Rev. Scott Schultz is with Cross of Christ Evangelical Lutheran Church in Portage.