Axial Tilt: The Reason for the Season

Just yesterday, someone caught me off guard by wishing me a Merry Christmas. It was in one of those retail places I had assumed I would never hear the phrase again. I pulled it together long enough to axial-tiltreturn the good wishes, but not soon enough to thank her for doing it. As you are well aware, we live in a time when the very word, Christmas, is verboten much of the time let alone wishing someone a merry one.

I’ve discovered that, for many in our society, it’s not enough to merely remove the word. They find it necessary to divert our attention from the deepest meaning of the Christmas celebration. It’s almost like it’s okay to celebrate giving, compassion, and joy just as long as we don’t actually celebrate the One who gave all that to us.

Case in point… I saw a sign on the Internet recently that said, “Axial Tilt is the Reason for the Season.” Indeed…

The Angle for the Winter Solstice

Axial tilt, of course, is that 23½-degree angle at which the earth rotates on its axis. Technically, the axial tilt is the reason for the season. In fact, it’s the reason for all the seasons—winter, spring, summer, and fall. It’s also responsible for the vernal and autumnal equinoxes as well as the summer and winter solstices.

That little sign distracted me long enough to go check my scientific facts. I already knew most of what I found from Junior High Earth & Space science class. That info was trapped deep in the hidden recesses of my mind. What I hadn’t realized was that it’s also thought to be a significant factor in climate change. Imagine that. (Let’s just save that one for another day.)

I wonder if people think they can distract us long enough to forget about the fact that we’re actually celebrating Jesus’ birthday. Yes, I know. He may not have actually been born on that date. But until we find his birth certificate, it’s as good as any and will have to do.

“Who’s got time to think about Jesus?”

The sad truth is many of us have all but forgotten the real reason for the season. Like my rediscovered scientific factoids, it’s hidden deep in the recesses of our minds. We know it, but we get distracted from it. Buying presents, decorating, jesusisthereasonfortheseasonplanning trips, and getting ready for parties consume us. Who’s got time to think about Jesus?

The simple answer to that one is, “We should.” Of all people, we should be the ones to make time to think about him. We should set aside time to consider who he is and what he’s done and provided for us. This whole Christmas thing was begun so we wouldn’t forget how important his birth happens to be. Yet we tend to embrace the trappings and forget why they came about in the first place.

Do yourself (and others) a favor this year. Set aside time to get into the spirit of things—the real Spirit. You’ll be glad you did.

[Dave Zuchelli is a graduate of Pittsburgh Theological Seminary and is currently the pastor of Smith Chapel, in Great Falls, VA.]

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