by Aaron Warner
Type in “holiday” to your search engine, and you’ll come up with literally hundreds now recognized on any number of calendars. December alone sees World AIDS Day, National Peppermint Bark Day, and Eat A Red Apple Day, all within the first twenty-four hours. This phenomenon extends throughout the calendar year, so that every day has any number of obscure, albeit well-intended observances.
The term holiday combines “holy” and “day” typically intended to be focused on a day recognized for its religious holiness. Holy, as an adjective, derives this simpler meaning from the Hebrew kodesh, which comes from the root word “Kadash”, by which is meant “to be set apart for a specific purpose”. Israel being a people set apart for the purpose of revealing God to all of mankind. Initially God revealed Himself through the nation of Israel by blessing them in comparison to their neighbors. Israel, to this day even, carries with it blessings that effect the entire world. The Jewish people invent an inordinate amount of medical and scientific devices and subsequently are awarded a stunning amount of globally recognized prizes, Nobel and Pulitzer, for being such a tiny fraction of the global population. Though only 2% of the US population they make up 37% of our Nobel Prize winners. Indeed, the God of the Hebrew Bible seems to have made good on this promise:
“…and all peoples of the earth will be blessed through you.” (Gensis 12:3)
This blessing wasn’t merely to be from Jewish innovation, God intended Israel to be the source through whom His messiah would come. God was so adamant about this that He speaks of His messiah, or “chosen one”, in virtually every book of the Hebrew scriptures, most notably Isaiah where He describes the blessing extending from His birth:
For to us a child is born, to us a son is given, and the government will be on His shoulders. And He will be called Wonderful Counselor, Mighty God, Everlasting Father, Prince of Peace. (Isaiah 9:6)
Many to this day argue or debate over whether or not Jesus is the Messiah; however, billions have confessed with their lives that He is precisely that. Despite being a lowly carpenter, born in even more humble circumstances, and at a time when illiteracy was high in His relatively obscure and backwards part of the world, Jesus Christ emerged as the central and most galvanizing figure in all of human history. Standing among twelve relative nobodies, He declared to an Israeli fisherman named Peter:
“Blessed are you, Simon Son of Jonah…I tell you that you are Peter, and on this rock I will build my church, and the gates of Hades will not overcome it. (Matthew 16:17 & 18)
Some two thousand years later, His promise has been made good many hundreds of millions of times over as the world recognizes Christ as Lord, both in and out of His churches, and more than any other holiday.
Christmas as a holiday, like Christ Himself, far surpasses all others. Which other holiday is looked to year-round, with a library of songs dedicated to it? Which other holiday sees lights filling the countryside in celebration of the life and promises found it, where entire neighborhoods almost magically set aside their cares and worries in anticipation of it? Which other holiday gives birth to generosity and good will among those who have spent the year at odds? Which other holiday blesses the entire world, believing and non, with gifts and joy and prosperity and opportunity to look to the year ahead with a renewed hope of better days ahead? A holiday that has the faith of billions built into its message: salvation and promise of redemption.
The author is a frequent Vermont Daily Chronicle contributor and Hartford resident.