Friday, December 18, 2009

The Grinches Who Came to Christmas - Skinny Santa

My friend Tony C blogged about Christmas this week. The comment thread turned into quite a discussion. Like teetotalers at a cocktail party, and dieters at a Thanksgiving feast, the church is again split on whether on not to celebrate Christmas - breaking rule #2! BTW - Can we have a skinny Santa? And where would we be without gifts and a tree?

Here are the top 5 reasons Christians hate Christmas:

- Pagan Roots
- Commercialism
- It's not the day that Christ was actually born.
- It's not a biblically sanctioned feast or celebration.
- Fertility symbols such as the Christmas tree and Santa Clause.
- And this one is for free - people who don't have faith in Jesus celebrate it making it worldly.

There you have it, 6 good reasons NOT to participate in any type of Christmas festivities. If you are a Christmas-ee and not a Christmas-or, you might feel a little empty perusing the above list.

Christians have been doing this seasonal madness for almost 2000 years. The celebration has taken on new traditions depending on the culture and the century. There were not many public church traditions until the 3rd century because Christians were heavily persecuted: burned at the stake or on metal chairs, fed to the lions, or jailed. If that is pure Christianity - the kind without tradition and celebration that you hope to go back to, then there are a lot of other things that you'll need to consider. The absence of a church building, hymnals, PA systems, printed Bibles, salaried pastors - you get the idea.

Every culture in the time of Jesus had celebrations including the Druids, the Romans, the Greeks and of course the Jews. They were timed based on the seasons and the cycles of the moon - well until astronomers got involved inventing the "year" based on the sun.

Just as the Jews asked for a King, Christians clamored for "Christian" celebrations. Like our modern worship services with electric guitars and special effects, these holy days were modeled after familiar secular and pagan celebrations of the period.

In the same way our evangelicals rail against Halloween by having a "Harvest Night," our spiritual forefathers had their own form of the local rituals with a scriptural twist.

The holy day of Christmas first appeared on December 25, in the city of Antioch, during the 2nd century. ( Antioch, at the time, was the most advanced Christian center in the world. They had a teaching school, and the church was founded by apostles and prophets. They were well known for their evangelism which was growing the church at a very fast pace. It is a church model we would do well to examine.

The church began to revere mighty men and woman of God calling them saints. They still do it today - Billy Graham, John Wimber, and whoever the latest Christian author with a moving message is. We even do books now - The Shack, The Screwtape Letters and Nooma videos. Oh, Billy Graham is probably the only one that will get a statue. Listen to any Evangelical sermon these days and you'll hear a name or two dropped as great Christians are still held in high esteem - even ones that have graduated to glory.

One of these saints named Nicholas, was born in 280 AD, in Patara, a city of Lycia, in Asia Minor. He became the gift giver of Myra. His gifts were given late at night, so that his identity would remain a secret (another lesson for Christians that need their names in the bulletin, on sanctuary walls and narthex plaques). The ruler of his time actually asked his subjects to worship Nick! His service to God was great, and he was canonized as a saint. You can see what's happened to make that tradition grow. Nicholas, with a humble gift for giving - that was his ministry - turned 21st century Christmas icon.

By the way, the same "sainting" has run a muck for St. Patrick who raised not one, but two of the king's children from the dead! The king's whole family was converted along with much of the pre-Irish kingdom. But who gives a rat's behind? Some fool will pray to him instead of the One who anointed him; missing their own opportunity raise someone from the dead. St. Valentine - same deal - he was a martyr who was imprisoned for his faith. He had been a friend to the orphan children and had a ministry feeding the poor. Those that loved him apparently wrote him love letters and tossed them through the bars on his prison cell. Valentine was a lover of God who gave his life for the work of the Kingdom. Only the foolish look to man, instead of the One who empowered him with the gospel message and heart for the poor.

That is how we got many of our "Christian" celebrations including All Hallows (saints) eve - Halloween. It's amazing how this tradition went from a holy celebration to the most demonic one of the bunch.

The sainting goes on. Pentecostals revering Smith Wigglesworth and Charismatics applauding the anointing and ministry of Kathryn Kuhlman and Benny Hinn. And the Baptist have theirs, Henry Blackabee and John McArtuhur - the 4 Square theirs; Jack Hayford. Over the centuries there have been many great men and woman of God. I am fan of Watchman Nee who stood against the wiles of the devil in communist China.

I am lover of Jesus, and the point is that you should be too.

My pet peeve in the Catholic church - Mary prayers. And my pet peeve in the evangelical church - Paul worship. Paul this, and Paul that... blah blah blah. Let me tell you Jesus was the one that said, "for God so loved the world that He sent his only begotten Son!"

You may dislike some of the Christmas traditions - I do too. What I find interesting, however; is that every denomination now has their own traditions. I could walk into any church meeting, and find something that has been made into a tradition or a religious act that has little or nothing to do with connecting to God. Just closing a prayer ins Jesus' name every time is religious!

Trees, lights, gifts - if they keep you from God, don't buy them. Just remember, they are not illegal in the Bible. Me, I kinda like them.

Tradition that preserves an avenue for God to advance the Kingdom is good! Anything else grieves the Holy Spirit. Beauty and generosity are often signs that God is afoot.

There are no specified Christian celebrations - everyday is a day for celebrating. You're right! And because we are no longer Jew nor Gentile in Christ, we should not celebrate Jewish holidays or be all legalistic about church Saturdays either. But from a mostly 9 commandment country, one that rarely takes a real sabbath, we should try to establish some dedicated time with the Lord. If you are working 7 days a week you are breaking a commandment - one of the 10 big ones.

Not celebrating Christmas - it's not one of the 10.

Church, a time is coming when the Antichrist will be here on earth ruling for a season. He will ask you; or your children; or your grandchildren to worship him. Christmas will no longer be a holiday - no longer will it be a point in which Christians have a season they can call their own. The mainstream church will have to go underground to survive. Like it was in time of Daniel, Christians will be persecuted and put to death for any act that defies the worship of the ruler.

And when it's gone - when the remembrance of your beloved Savior's birth is treated as a lie. Will that make you happy? Will you be blessed that you can no longer be public about your faith, or invite a friend to a Christmas service?

If you really hate Christmas - then look for a good Chinese restaurant on your Federal holiday. Chances are it won't last another decade here in America. Some of restaurants are attractively decorated, donning their perversions of Jolly Ol' St. Nick. I hope you won't find their Buddahs dressed in Santa coats offensive - that would probably not be a good time to share your faith in the Savior born to save a wretch like me.
Happy Day to those the think Christmas is a commercial sham. Merry Christ-Mass for those of you that find something deeply touching about a Savior born in Bethlehem; one the prophets of Israel predicted; Emmanuel - God with us; born of a virgin in a dirty little stable under a miraculous star - His Father messaging the shepherds with angels - a man - a God - one day every knee shall bow to Him. He is the one named Jesus. My God, my Savior, my eternal companion.
But you probably haven't really thought about that since last Christmas.
And one more thing - did you know that Christ hung on a tree?


Michelle said...

First I want to say... I left a very thoughtful comment the other day and you rejected??? It was on would you die for your faith???

Second I want to say... Bahumbug

Third I want to say...I wish I could meet you in person so I could argue with you about this. :)
Because right now... I don't have enough battery life to say all I want to say. And you can ask Tony C about the fact that I would argue with you until the cows come home.

photogr said...

OK David:

So what did you get your wife and kids for Christmas?

Traditionally we clelbrate Christmas with conservative gifts to each other. Not really knowing what date Jesus was born, we celebrate that too on Christmas eve by singing songs of praise and me playing the piano ( very badly).

Over the years we have become more aware of the true meaning of Christmas. The birth of Jesus, and the reverance to that fact is openly celebrated in our home by all.

Granted the time of the Anti christ is near. Granted we will be forced to worship him. Granted there will also be a rebel movement for God that will also do battle with him till they are killed. What glory that wil be when Gods Army defeats the Anti christ at Armageddion and we are there to witness it.

But what glory will that will be. Becoming a martyr in service to God. What glory that will be in Heaven. What glory that will be wearing crowns related to our sacrifices in serving the Lord.

Many of the flesh will die for their belief but will be exalted in heaven for all eternity.If only we stand up for God and not loose our faith.

Are you ready to make that sacrifice?

David said...

@Michelle - yes, your comments have been published.

I am wondering as a Christian, what should we celebrate if not some event in the life of Jesus? Is every day supposed to be the same as the next? Are to only remember his death and resurrection and forget that He was born a babe?

@Larry - I can't tell you until after Christmas. But we are simple folks on a budget. We generally do things the produce time together instead of stuff. We like gift cards for restaurants, interesting performances - my wife once got me tickets for a date at the Boston MFA to see Ralph Lauren's car collection and then we went for pizza.

I must say Mary Anne is a very thoughtful gift giver on any occasion. She works hard to find things that are unique and very personal.

We have a family tradition of going to the local shrine for a spaghetti dinner, and walk thought the meticulously lighted grounds while Christmas carols play.

There is an old fashioned Christmas stroll with real sleigh rides and candle lite streets at a historical museum. It is just warm and cozy, and the have a 19th century music "sing along" in the chapel.

We do like the tree, the lights and a few gifts (no lists) - good food, family and dreams of sugar plums.

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