The word Christmas comes from two words, Christ and mass, the “Mass of Christ”, which was named accordingly by the early Roman church in the 4th century.
Some say Christmas has a pagan background. Actually, when Jesus was born the Roman culture celebrated all kinds of holidays. The following is an excerpt from gotquestions.org
"Saturnalia honored the god Saturn and was celebrated from December 17 to about December 24. Later, the Romans began celebrating Sol Invictus or the “Unconquered Sun,” associated with the winter solstice and observed on December 25. When Rome eventually instituted Christianity as the state religion in the fourth century, the Roman church converted Saturnalia and Sol Invictus to a Christian holiday, the Feast of the Nativity, in order to commemorate Jesus’ birth, thus providing a spiritually positive alternative to a pagan celebration. The sinful customs and debauchery associated with Saturnalia were “cleaned up,” and some of the customs were absorbed into the celebration of Christmas. Christians have “redeemed” December 25 and have celebrated it as the birth of Christ ever since the fourth century."
Where did the whole gift giving idea come from? Aren’t we contributing to the commercialization of Christmas? No matter what we do commercialism takes place. It’s a supply and demand concept. What about the sale of Bibles, Christian literature, curriculum and liturgical items? These can fall under commercialism as well. Our lifestyles are filled with commercialistic practice. Just because the markets have capitalized on selling products during the holidays does not mean we can’t participate in gift exchanging during Christmas.
The gift giving concept comes from the Christmas story where the wisemen gave gifts of gold, incense and myrrh to baby Jesus. Giving is a foundational concept for Christianity and commanded by God. God gave His Son. Jesus gave His life as a ransom for us. Paul said it is better to give than to receive. We are commanded to give to those who are in need. As Jesus has loved us and gave His life so we too must love others. Giving is a form of love for others and the releasing of idols, such as greed, pride, selfishness and covetousness. Gift giving is not a matter of obligation but always comes from the heart. The celebration of Christmas and gift giving should never be burdensome. How can it be? Christmas represents the greatest gift given and the greatest received, bringing joy to the world. Giving represents joy.
So friends, as you celebrate Christmas, be sure to stay focused on the reason for it all. And remember, it’s Jesus’ birthday, what gift are you giving Him?