Friday, December 3, 2010

To Christmas or not to Christmas that is the question.

We are coming into the holiday season where some Christians are coming into conflict with each other. Is Christmas a holiday that Christians should be celebrating or not? Right now my family is in the week of Chanukkah, as being in the process of moving into a Messianic style of Christianity, we now are learning to celebrate some of the Jewish holidays. This is not required of Gentile Christians according to Scripture, in fact it is not even encouraged, but it is allowable for those who would like to do so. We have found that it helps us to keep our focus on God when we celebrate holidays that God originated, or that celebrate an act of God, and that have no pagan associations (except for the pagan traditions man has added to them, which I personally try to eliminate). 1 Cor. 7:18-20 tells us that if a person is called in uncircumcision, in other words, if a Gentile is called to be a child of God, he should not seek to be circumcised or become a Jew. We are only to keep God's commandments, by which He means the Ten Commandments, not the 613 civil, health, kosher, and etc. laws (except for the exceptions outlined in Acts). This also includes not having to keep the Feasts of God. It however does not include the Sabbath. That is one of the Ten Commandments and we are still obligated to keep that. We are, however, allowed to celebrate these Jewish holy days if we so choose. Rom. 14:5-6 tells us that if a man esteems one day as more important than another and is doing so for the Lord, and is convinced in his own mind that he is doing correctly, he may do so. If he prefers to consider every day the same, he is also allowed to do that. The festivals are not a requirement, but they are allowed. If one does choose to celebrate the Jewish Feast days, one should keep in mind that it is permissible to not celebrate them the way Judaism does. That is because many of the traditions are not ordinances given by God, but simply man-made traditions that have evolved over time. One should check the Scriptures to see what is required. Chanukkah is not one of God's mandated holy days, even for Jews. It is simply a celebration of a miraculous historical event. More importantly, many of these Jewish traditions are also of pagan origin, just as many of the traditions of Christian holy days are, and should probably be eliminated from the Christian celebration of these Jewish holidays, if we are to be consistent in removing paganism from our lives.

As to whether or not we can or should continue to celebrate Christmas, first one must consider that the day to which the Christmas celebration was assigned back in Constantine's day was originally the birthday of Mithras, the bull-headed god. Constantine was responsible for reassigning many of the holidays, statues, traditions, etc. that belonged to paganism to Christianity by putting a Christian facade over them. Naturally this was a bad idea, and some of these things are explicitly forbidden by God, such as idols. However, every day of the year belongs to God, regardless of who else would like to claim the day for themselves. If we are to take the Scripture in Romans at face value, it says that if we celebrate a day unto the Lord and esteem it more important than other days, as long as we are celebrating it unto the Lord, and are convinced that it is all right, it is all right with God. Satan may want to lay claim to days as being his, but he is really only usurping them from God. God owns every day and we can honor the Lord any day of the year no matter what Satan's followers are doing on that day. So, is it all right to honor God on a day when Satan wants honor? I think it is even more important to honor God on a day when Satan is claiming worship. The problem comes in with whether or not Christians are honoring the Lord on that day. If the gifts and Santa Claus are the object of the day, then I think it would probably be better to not celebrate it. If however you have made the day all about the Lord, and you are convinced that you are honoring God, then I think you are probably just fine in celebrating it. For our family Christmas has always been about having a day to gather as an extended family and rejoicing in the fellowship as Christians. Gifts are relegated to a back seat in importance. We view the holiday as a special time to see family members that we do not often get to see. We also do not always celebrate it on December 25. We choose a day that is convenient for everyone and we get together on that day. As my husband has always had a job that usually required that he work on Christmas day, it became just one more day on our calendar, and our focus was on whatever day we had the family gathering. This has been good for our children in a number of ways, one being that they do not feel that the day is the most important day of the year as some people seem to feel. I have seen families torn apart by the treatment of newly married couples when one family insists that the newlyweds spend the day with them every year and the other in-laws get angry, as they never get to share the holiday. This will never be an issue with my children, as we will get together whenever it is convenient during the holiday season. They will never feel caught between two families. The day has not become an idol for us as it has for some. For a while we did have some problems with a new member of the family, as she felt that if we did not celebrate the day on the date it was on the calendar, then there was no point in getting together. She missed the whole point of our gatherings. She had made an idol of the day rather than being grateful for the opportunity to think of the Lord's first coming and for enjoying a family gathering.

Moving on from the question of should we even celebrate or not, we come to the whole Santa Claus issue. Obviously this has nothing to do with Christ, therefore if we are truly celebrating the day unto the Lord, we should not have this be a part of it. Next we have the Christmas trees, mistletoe, and holly berries. Some look to Jeremiah 10:3-5 to say that Christmas trees are forbidden, but that is not exactly to what Jeremiah is referring. "For the customs of the people are vain: for one cutteth a tree out of the forest, the work of the hands of the workman with the axe, they deck it with silver and with gold, they fasten it with nails and with hammers, that it move not. They are upright as the palm tree, but speak not: they must needs be borne, because they cannot go. Be not afraid of them for they cannot do evil, neither also is it in them to do good." This verse is not actually about trees. The pagans would cut down trees and carve large statues of their gods out of them. Then they would overlay them with silver and gold, nail them upright to a palanquin (a carrying device similar to a litter) and parade them around town. It does say in the verse that they carry it because it cannot move on its own. In fact, Catholics in many countries still continue this practice with the Virgin Mary statue. This is a verification of this explanation versus it being a Christmas tree, as this custom, which carried over from paganism into Christianity, still exists. Nobody carries around Christmas trees now, nor did then do it then. They carried statues of the gods.

Notice that the verse mentions that the object, which some like to think is a Christmas tree, does not speak. Why would the pagans expect a tree to speak? They wouldn't. However they might expect a statue to speak. Scriptures also say not to be afraid of them as they can do neither evil nor good. A tree would not be expected to do either, but a statue of a god that people believed was real would be expected to do either good or evil. Next, pagans believe that all of nature has a spirit and they worshiped the trees, therefore while they did sometimes hang idols of their gods on live trees, they would probably hesitate to cut them down and bring them inside and decorate them as we do. I believe given all of this evidence, it is clear that Jeremiah was not speaking of a Christmas tree as we know it, rather of the idols they carved, covered in gold and silver, and paraded around town on a palanquin.

Lastly, people do not put up Christmas trees to worship them, at least most people do not. They are seen as a decoration for the season and nothing more. I put up seasonal decorations for every season. In the spring I put around lots of spring flowers. In the fall I have lots of decorations using leaves, gourds, berries, pine cones, etc. I also put pumpkins around. As I live on a farm and we grow corn, I also put cornstalks around. I see no reason why I cannot enjoy and be thankful for the beauty of the fall harvest and the changing colors of the leaves that God has given us. I see nothing pagan in enjoying God's creation, and that attitude follows into the winter season. I like putting up what little greenery can be found at this time of the year to bring some of the beauty of outdoors inside, as I do all the rest of the year. It is merely bringing the beauty of the outdoors, which I love very much, inside to cheer me. I do not worship the greenery, so I do not find anything wrong in having it around my house. But again, it is a matter of personal conscience. If someone feels it is wrong, as Jehovah Witnesses do, then for them it is wrong. The same goes for mistletoe and holly berry. These are plants that God created, nothing more. If they are in season and all that there is that I can find to bring some color into the house, I will use them. Everything God has made is good. Satan has tried to corrupt whatever he can and use it for his own purposes, but that does not make the object itself bad. It is what you use it for that counts.

So, given all the above Scriptures and reasons, I see no reason why, if done in the right spirit and way, a Christian cannot celebrate Christmas or even have a Christmas tree, even though it is the wrong time of year to celebrate Yeshua's birth, but this is my conscience. You all have to wrestle with your own conscience and come to your own conclusion.

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