I enjoyed reading this article by Patricia King. She tackles the issues Christians have with Christianity. The date: Is it pagan? The tree: Is it pagan? Should there be a Christmas or the celebration of Old Testament Feasts such as Passover?
Passover is the time of the institution of the Eucharist and the symbolism of eminent Deliverance from slavery (Jews from Egypt and Christians from Satan’s rule). Passover leads Christ to the Cross.
Patricia King addresses these thoughts and concludes it is all irrelevant. The only thing that is relevant is the Love of God expressed through Christ as a gift of Grace to humanity.
SHOULD CHRISTIANS CELEBRATE CHRISTMAS
"When you remember His extravagant gift, how can you not reach out to bless others?"
The other day, I visited a museum in the Old City of Jerusalem. This museum featured some artifacts and remains of a priest’s home that was burned in the fire of the second tabernacle–approximately 70 years after Jesus died. Inscribed on the wall of the museum were the words of a Jewish Historian:
"The first tabernacle was destroyed because of idolatry, illicit relationships, and bloodshed. The second was destroyed because of pure hatred."
The Jews were divided in their perspectives at that time, and these differences in beliefs ended up in severe political and religious tensions. The factions became so volatile, that each group literally despised the other. In the midst of their quarrelling and divisive actions, the Romans came through the gates and burned the temple, killing men, women, and children. There were few survivors. Their houses were left desolate. The temple was burned to the ground. They were so focused on their differences that they failed to see the bigger battle.
Factions in the Church Today
I think of the church today with all our factions (divisions). One group stands against another due to differences in doctrinal and theological interpretations. We sometimes refuse to have anything to do with another due to differences of beliefs, and yet, we all believe that Jesus is Lord. We judge and condemn each other refusing to fellowship or labor together. Let’s beware–a house divided against itself will fall.
December is the month where the Christian world celebrates the birth of Christ. The traditional belief of the date of Christ’s conception was March 25 (around the spring equinox), and December 25th was nine months later. It is this date that we celebrate as the birth of Christ. Many have refuted this date as being accurate, and it is possible and even probable that it is not. Should this make a difference in our heart’s focus though?
Wars are arising in the Church even concerning the celebration of Christmas. Some challenge the celebration saying that it has pagan roots. They challenge the accuracy of the date, they claim that Christmas trees are evil because they were an object of pagan worship, and they say that caroling also has its foundation in paganism.
Some say, we should honor the Jewish feasts (Bible feasts) instead. Others in the body believe that to do so would be an expression of legalism and religion, and so the factions begin–the war rages.
Purity of the Heart is Important
"Man looks to the outward appearance but God looks to the heart."
Let us be careful not to get our focus off of what is important. Man looks to the outward appearance but God looks to the heart. If our desire is to celebrate the birth of Jesus at this time of the year, then let that be done according to the purity of the heart and with integrity of conviction before Him. The attention of the whole world is called to acknowledge the birth of the Savior at this time of year, even if they don’t believe.
Let’s pray during this time that the revelation of Christ will fill the earth. Would this not be a better way to spend our time, rather than being at war with each other over how we celebrate Him?
The Jewish Celebration of Hanukkah
Hanukkah is an eight-day Jewish festival that is celebrated in the month of December. This year, it is celebrated from sundown on December 15 through sundown December 23. Hanukkah means "dedication," and so this celebration has great significance.
History of Hanukkah
The holiday commemorates the rededication of the holy Temple in Jerusalem after the Jews 165 B.C. victory over the Hellenist Syrians. Antiochus, the Greek King of Syria, outlawed Jewish rituals and ordered the Jews to worship Greek gods.
In 168 B.C., the Jews holy Temple was seized and dedicated to the worship of Zeus. Some Jews were afraid of the Greek soldiers and obeyed them, but most Jews were angry and decided to fight back.
The fighting began in Modiin, a village not far from Jerusalem. A Greek officer and soldiers assembled the villagers, asking them to bow to an idol and eat the flesh of a pig, which are activities forbidden to Jews.
The Greek officer asked Mattathias, a Jewish High Priest, to take part in the ceremony. He refused, and another villager stepped forward and offered to do it instead. Mattathias became outraged, took out his sword, and killed this villager, then killed the officer. His five sons and the other villagers then attacked and killed the soldiers. Mattathias’ family went into hiding in the nearby mountains, where many other Jews who wanted to fight the Greeks joined them. They attacked the Greek soldiers whenever possible.
Judah Maccabee (the second leader of the Judean revolt against the Greek-Syrians), and his soldiers went to the Holy Temple, and were saddened that many things were missing or broken, including the golden menorah. They cleaned and repaired the Temple, and when they were finished, they decided to have a big dedication ceremony.
For the celebration, the Maccabees wanted to light the menorah. They looked everywhere for oil, and found a small flask that contained only enough oil to light the menorah for one day. Miraculously, the oil lasted for eight days. This gave them enough time to obtain new oil to keep the menorah lit.
Today, Jews celebrate Hanukkah for eight days by lighting candles in a menorah every night, thus commemorating the eight-day miracle.
What a wonderful celebration! At this time, we can remember to worship God as a God of Miracles. At this time, we can remember Jesus, who is the true Light of the world.
Some dear friends of ours, David and Stephanie Herzog introduced us to the Hanukkah celebration. The Herzogs and their children, celebrate Hanukkah in a wonderful way. They light the menorah every night and have gifts for the children to open each day. They celebrate by opening their home to family and friends, as they serve special meals, and enjoy times of visiting, prayer, worship, and showing hospitality. We as a family, were so touched last year through the Herzog’s family celebration, that this year, we are going to celebrate Hanukkah. I love it.
What About Christmas?
"Christmas to us is a wonderful celebration and remembrance of the birth of our Savior."
Do we need to abandon our tradition of celebrating Christmas in exchange for Hanukkah? What if December 25th is not really the actual birthday of Jesus? What if the origin of the Christmas tree is a pagan practice?
As a family, we celebrate Christmas. The Bible says, "to the pure all things are pure." Christmas to us is a wonderful celebration and remembrance of the birth of our Savior. I love reflecting on the extravagant gift of our Heavenly Father’s wonderful love at this time, even though we are called to remember Him at all times, not just in this season.
Our tradition is to give gifts to others at this time in the same way, our Father has blessed us. It is a holiday filled with love, kindness, joy, and blessing. As a ministry, we are busy preparing boxes of gifts and turkey dinners, complete with all the trimmings to give to the poor. We have special projects to care for single parents and orphans.
When you remember His extravagant gift, how can you not reach out to bless others? Caring for the poor blesses His heart, and so this is our gift back to Him. We do this all throughout the year, but during this season, we have special added touches that we really enjoy.
In our tradition, we do have a tree. I have never thought of this as a pagan ritual. For us, it has a different meaning. An evergreen tree to me is a symbol of life. Jesus is the Tree of Life and as we abide in Him, we have life. If we mediate on His Word day and night, we will be like a tree planted by rivers of water. Isaiah says that we are like trees of righteousness, the planting of the Lord that He might be glorified. The lights on the tree remind us that He is the Light of the World and that we reflect His light and beauty in the earth.
Our tradition includes filling our home with family and friends. We host special meals and celebrations with our team and those we love. We light the fire, burn specially scented candles, bake cookies, and decorate our home and center with beautiful reminders of His love, joy, and peace.
A Special Season to Be Enjoyed
"Let us not walk with judgment towards each other as to how we are going to celebrate the season."
December is a special time of year. For some, it is a celebration of Hanukkah remembering Christ, the miracle working God and the Light of the world. To some, it is a celebration of Christmas remembering that Christ came into the world to save sinners. And to some, like ourselves, it is a celebration of both. To me, it all sounds wonderful. It is all about Him. Let’s celebrate in as many ways as we can with a heart full of passion. He is worthy!
Let us not walk with judgment towards each other as to how we are going to celebrate the season. Let us simply walk in our own convictions, and then, go love everyone with extravagant love!!! Enjoy and embrace your conviction to the fullest, but don’t judge another.
So don’t let anyone condemn you for what you eat or drink, or for not celebrating certain Holy days, or new moon ceremonies, or Sabbaths. For these rules are only shadows of the reality yet to come. And Christ Himself is that reality. Colossians 2:16-17
In the same way, some think one day is more holy than another day, while others think every day is alike. You should each be fully convinced that whichever day you choose is acceptable. Those who worship the Lord on a special day, do so to honor Him. For we don’t live for ourselves or die for ourselves. If we live, it’s to honor the Lord. And if we die, it’s to honor the Lord.
So why do we condemn another believer? Why do you look down on another believer? Remember, we will all stand before the judgment seat of God.
Yes, each of us will give a personal account to God. So let’s stop condemning each other. Romans 14:5, 6a, 7, 8, 10, 12
Have a wonderful time this season, enjoying reflections of His goodness and expressing it to others. May your home be filled with the essence of His glorious presence.
–Love Him and love each other.
–Make the season special!
Joy to the world, the Lord is come.
Let earth receive her King!
Glory to God in the Highest, and on earth Peace and Good Will towards men.