Hanukkah is over and we are full steam ahead and right in the midst of the Christmas season blitz. For many, Christmas is about Christ and his birth, fellowship with family, friends, good food and fun. For others, Christmas is about cash (getting, giving, spending), shopping, feeling warm and fuzzy, etc etc. Some, dare I say believers don’t even blink an eye when it comes to Christmas and it’s celebration of commercialism, Santa, reindeer, and other outdoor decorations that light up the 1st century manger scene replica like the 2010 Vegas strip, and ”any reason to party must be a good one” mentality. Many believers though do make it a point to keep the focus of “Christ in Christmas” and are conscious of their motives maybe more during this season than at any other time of the year.
For the past 12 years or so I have been at odds about the true meaning and spirit of Christmas. It started in the late 90′s while I was in high school that my parents from one year to the next said “we’re not really going to celebrate Christmas anymore”. “What? Are you kidding me? How crazy?” my brother and I thought. We didn’t grow up in a religious home but from our birth we had taken part in one hell of a Christmas celebration each year with plenty of presents, decorations, stockings stuffed full, good meals, fun, and a few talks, prayers and readings about Jesus for good measure! How could we give this up cold turkey after nearly 20 years? How could they give this up cold turkey after 40 years? How could anyone in their right mind give this up at all, ever?!?!?
“Paganism” they told us. “Christmas is full of paganism and mysterious origins that don’t compute with what the Bible says”. I didn’t know what on God’s green earth paganism was but, if it was what we had been doing all these years then it sure was a lot of fun to me. My parents begin to systematically explain that Christmas wasn’t Christ’s true birthday but was an adopted day from the ancient Romans and Persians who celebrated the Sun God on or around the winter solstice which falls in late December. They told us that the Catholic Church had adopted December 25th as the birthday of Christ in the 3rd Century when Christianity became the religion of the State and made converts out of the pagans and their customs. I didn’t understand why they cared so much about being “pagan”. At the beginning I was in shock and just felt that it would be a passing phase within a year or so, but my parents continued to research and study this area of new interest while at the same time beginning to gradually read and study the bible a bit more. I wasn’t much convicted or convinced either way for about 7-8 years, though I did find a lot of the information they shared to be interesting and mysterious indeed. It led to some humorous and knee-jerk response type conversations with my buddies and friends at work.
It wasn’t until the beginning of 2007 when I went to see a Hebrew/Jewish Roots teacher and I picked up a series of his on the history of Christmas and Easter that I became full on convinced of the errors and misrepresentation of Christ that these holidays put forth. I have since lightened up a bit (no pun intended) in regards to these holidays and how others celebrate them. I have thought about how many people might never consider Jesus or hear the gospel at anytime other than Christmas or Easter. About how many people are genuinely seeking peace and good-will towards others during the Advent and Lent seasons. About how many millions if not billions celebrate the birth of the Savior of the World on Christmas and proclaim the Resurrected Messiah of Israel during Easter. The dates and customs of these holiday’s might be suspect and can be debated but the fact that millions or perhaps billions are proclaiming Jesus as Messiah is not. Granted, it might not be the most accurate or historical depiction of the Gospel accounts or the most historical and biblical Yeshua (Jesus) but great strides are being made in these areas in the faith and theological worlds. Is not one of the greatest commandments “to love your neighbor as yourself” and our most basic calling as believers to “proclaim the gospel“? Didn’t Paul say “But what does it matter? The important thing is that in every way, whether from false motives or true, Christ is preached. And because of this I rejoice. Yes, and I will continue to rejoice” Philippians 1:18. I know my own journey has been chock full of information and mis-information along the way and I’m still seeking, searching and learning. I feel that it is up to each community of faith and individual to weigh the evidence of anything against the Scriptures with a fair, honest and balanced weight. As Paul also said “Test all things and hold fast to that which is good” 1 Thessalonians 5:21.
So I guess my main point in having this conversation is to admonish and encourage all in their respective walk of faith and practice.
Keep Christ center during this season, but not only during this season.
Remain in His steadfast love and joy in His Spirit this season, but not only during this season.
Promote peace and good-will toward others and charity during this season, but not only during this season.
Pray, seek and study to show yourself approved and be informed about your faith and expression of it during this season, but not only during this season.
The biblical life of faith is not just a compartment or component that is expressed or lived out at a certain point in the day or a certain day of the week or at certain times of the year. There is no great divide between sacred and secular, this is a myth. The life of faith is all-encompassing.
May grace and shalom be multiplied upon you in the matchless name of Yeshua the Messiah!