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Friday, December 16, 2011

An *Apologetic* regarding Christmas

Though I've blogged about the general subject of the biblical holidays, and touched on Christmas (and Easter), I wanted to put a few more thoughts down for consideration. In the past I’ve used many scriptures along with reason to examine the subject. In this post, I mostly want to use reason (*apologetic*) as an appeal to think about what we all (Christians) are doing and demonstrating to those around us. We (my family) are a learning, growing family, and my desire is to share my own thoughts, concerns, ponderings and apologetics with others in the hopes of coming to solid, biblical answers. Of course this will require on your part to examine what I say in light of the scriptures, and to use reason to come to your conclusions.



With that said, I wanted to ask a few questions, and make a few points...I hope they inspire search and discovery with you, the reader(s).



I often ask the questions “why”, “how” and “what” regarding many things: “why do we do things that way”? (At work), “how does that work”?, “what are we doing this for?”, etc. I do the same regarding my spiritual walk. Why do we (Christians) do what we do? From where did some of our traditions come from? Why do I believe what I believe? And many other such questions spring forth in my mind. Do those questions ever find their way to the front of your thoughts?



Why does Christianity celebrate the birth of Jesus on December 25th? Why do Christians put up Christmas trees? Why are both Christmas and the traditions associated with it so easily practiced by Christians and non-Christians alike? Why is it not a problem whatsoever for a Christian and a neo-Pagan to put up a tree in their home during this time? Why do both hold the 25th of December as commemorative? We don’t see that with any of the Muslim holy days. Are Wiccans celebrating the same times and holidays as the Muslims? Are Wiccans and Jews both celebrating Passover? Are the Wiccans and Pagans celebrating the Feast of Tabernacles?



As an example, click HERE to view a pagan calendar page from the “Pagan Calendar” website. Notice that Christmas is found right in the midst of a whole slew of Pagan observances. But I find Hanukah conspicuously absent, though this year it falls during the same week as Christmas. Notice that they even commemorate Aleister Crowley’s death on the calendar – a known Satanist and child molester!



I have asked the question before, and I’ll ask it again because it is a question I have asked myself in the past, and I think it is a valid question to be asked of us Christians – If the biblical holy days (Passover, Shavuot [Pentacost in Greek], etc.) are all shadows of, and point to Jesus, then why don’t the followers of Jesus celebrate the very feasts and holy days that we KNOW speak of and point to Him?!



Colossians 2:17 is often cited to as to why Christians don’t really observe the Sabbath and feasts of the bible – because they are merely “shadows.” But all that Christianity has done is replace biblically sanctioned and God-given “shadows” that were and are meant to teach us about Messiah and His redemptive work with “shadows” that are from Pagan, false worship systems (after all, is Christmas the “reality” of the birth of Jesus?)! All that a holiday is, after all, is a celebration and/or commemoration, using foods and symbols as a means of remembering a person, persons, or event. Therefore, a holiday is a day of “shadows” – a day of signs and symbols that represent the thing meant to be remembered.



Much has been written about the subject of the birth of Jesus. 99.9% of biblical scholars know and will admit that December 25th was and is most likely NOT the date of the birth of Jesus. And in fact, modern scholarship has stated that the Feast of Tabernacles (Sukkot) is most likely the time of His birth (there were also voices in the past that proposed this as well). Biblically, it fits. When Jesus was born on this earth, He “tabernacled” with man according to John 1:14. The book of Revelation tells us that the “tabernacle of God is with man” (Yeshua/Jesus was “all the fullness of the godhead bodily” according to Colossians 2:9 – or, in other words, Yeshua was the Tabernacle of God). There has been much study regarding this, and according to things such as the weather in Israel in December, the fact that a census was highly unlikely to be taken during the dead of winter, the timing of John the baptizer’s likely conception and birth, among other things, December 25th was not the day that Yeshua entered this world.



As it turns out, nothing about Christmas is really about the Messiah of the bible, except in the minds and imaginations of people. And this is the most problematic issue in my opinion. Does God’s opinion matter in this? I wonder…I just can’t help but think that the power of tradition has so gripped many Christians that a serious consideration of the matter, via the word of God, has not been taken seriously by very many people. After all, traditions are family and community identifiers, and they can be profoundly powerful.



Sights, sounds, aromas, foods, family, friends. It all has such a powerful grip – and indeed, it should. All of the above are tremendous blessings, and are in and of themselves good things to look forward to and enjoy. But they can be a snare as well. God warned Israel not to follow the gods of the surrounding Nations as it would become a snare unto them.



A snare? Why?



Every people group and every religion on earth has it’s commemorations and customs. Those customs, when practiced for generations, and when one grows up in them from the time that they were born, becomes embedded within them – the sights, the sounds, the smells, the traditions, etc. These things can become so ingrained in them that it is very hard to break away from them. In many cases, that is not necessary. But sometimes, it is crucial.



I don’t think that I know of any Christian who would tell a person coming out of the Wiccan religion unto the LORD that it was ok to continue to follow the pagan calendar. That it was ok to continue to set up their pagan alter and burn incense unto Mother Nature… that they could continue to practice their Wiccan observances.  But what if the person were to say that the incense that they once burned to Mother Nature they now want to burn unto the LORD? That they want to now observe Saturnalia(1) unto Jesus (go to pagancalendar.co.uk and look at December 17, 2011)? Would we tell them that they need to put away those pagan practices?



If you would tell that person that now that they have come to Jesus for salvation they need to turn away from the pagan practices that they came out of, but you celebrate the birth of Jesus on December 25th by putting a decorated tree in your house, and hanging mistle toe, Christmas wreaths, etc., wouldn’t that seem a bit strange? Would it be ok for the ex-Wiccan to observe the Wiccan customs in honor of Jesus if it began to be the normal practice for the next 1000 years? Would time somehow “sanctify” the customs? If Christians were to begin to celebrate the holiday of Saturnalia in honor of Jesus today, would that upset you? Should it upset Christians 1000 years from now if the practice took root and became the norm for Christians in the future? At a certain point in the past, December 25th, and the normal customs and traditions that are practiced today by Christians in celebrating the birth of Christ, were purely pagan customs. The disciples and Apostles of Jesus didn’t celebrate Christmas, put up trees in their homes, etc. It would have been as abhorrent to them then, as it would be for a Wiccan turned Christian to start celebrating Saturnalia in honor of Jesus today, don’t you think?



My family no longer celebrates Christmas. We still honor the birth of Jesus. We still celebrate many holidays. But we now find great joy and pleasure in celebrating times and seasons that inherently speak of, point to, and give glory to Yeshua. I say inherently because the biblical feasts were created and given by God Himself, therefore the meaning of the holiday/feast derives it’s meaning from God, much like marriage. I don’t have to try to “put Christ back into Christmas” every year like we hear on Christian radio, because He’s already sitting there in the biblical feasts waiting for me! I don’t have to work to “remember the reason for the season” when celebrating Passover, for example, because the season itself is already biblically defined. I know the reason for the season because the bible tells me what that reason is! Halleluyah!



I know and am convinced that most Christians that are celebrating Christmas in honor of the birth of Christ have genuine hearts. And I do hope that everyone has a wonderful holiday season this December with their families, friends and Churches. But I hope even more that Christians would really begin to examine the things that they do in light of the scriptures, and make changes according to the word of God, rather than continue in the emotional snare of the traditions they have grown up with. I do not advocate for the complete overthrow of all traditions – but rather, for a replacement of those traditions that are contrary to God’s word with new traditions that glorify the LORD. Are practices that God once condemned as abhorrent, pagan practices no longer abhorrent to Him? And if not, then is it indeed ok for an ex Wiccan to observe Saturnalia in Honor of Jesus?



Why not celebrate the marvelous works of the LORD, not with holidays and practices that come from the pagan world with re-invented meaning (such as taking December 25th, the ancient birth date of Mithras, along with setting up decorated trees in our homes – condemned in Jeremiah 10, etc.), but with the holidays and celebrations given by the LORD Himself? If you want to celebrate the birth of our Savior (and who wouldn’t?), then why not do it at a time that fits biblically and theologically (such as at the Feast of Tabernacles)? The Jewish world wonders why we call Jesus the Jewish Messiah, yet celebrate the birth of the one we say is their Messiah with pagan traditions, and the pagan world wants to know why we celebrate our Savior with their pagan practices! Why do they both get it, while the Christians don’t? We (Christians) worship the King of the Jews, and use pagan traditions to do so! Goodness!



There are more questions I could raise, but I think this is sufficient for now. I simply want to get people thinking. Again, I hope everyone has a wonderful holiday season, but also takes the time to really think about what it is that they are doing, and why.

(1) The following was taken from pagancalendar.co.uk:

Saturnalia

Calendar

Roman

Date

Dec 17 Every year

Description

Saturnalia is the feast at which the Romans commemorated the dedication of the temple of the god Saturn, which took place on 17 December. Over the years, it expanded to a whole week, up to 23 December.

The Saturnalia was a large and important public festival in Rome. It involved the conventional sacrifices, a couch (lectisternium) set out in front of the temple of Saturn and the untying of the ropes that bound the statue of Saturn during the rest of the year. Besides the public rites there were a series of holidays and customs celebrated privately. The celebrations included a school holiday, the making and giving of small presents (saturnalia et sigillaricia) and a special market (sigillaria). Gambling was allowed for all, even slaves; however, although it was officially condoned only during this period, one should not assume that it was rare or much remarked upon during the rest of the year. It was a time to eat, drink, and be merry. The toga was not worn, but rather the synthesis, i.e. colorful, informal "dinner clothes"; and the pileus (freedman's hat) was worn by everyone. Slaves were exempt from punishment, and treated their masters with disrespect. The slaves celebrated a banquet: before, with, or served by the masters. A Saturnalicius princeps was elected master of ceremonies for the proceedings. Saturnalia became one of the most popular Roman festivals which led to more tomfoolery, marked chiefly by having masters and slaves ostensibly switch places. The banquet, for example, would often be prepared by the slaves, and they would prepare their masters' dinner as well. It was license within careful boundaries; it reversed the social order without subverting it.

The customary greeting for the occasion is a "io, Saturnalia!" — io (pronounced "yo") being a Latin interjection related to "ho" (as in "Ho, praise to Saturn").


In addition, here is the description for Brumalia, a holiday celebrated on December 25:

Summary

Brumalia

Calendar

Roman

Date

Dec 25 Every year

Description

Brumalia was an ancient Roman solstice festival honoring Bacchus, generally held on 25 December and possibly related to the ancient Greek Lenaia (held in honour of Dionysus). The festival included drinking and merriment. The name is derived from the Latin word bruma, meaning "shortest day" or even "winter".

The Brumalia was also celebrated during the space of thirty days, commencing on 24 November. This was instituted by Romulus, who entertained the Senate during this time. During this feast, prophetic indications were taken of the prospects for the remaining part of the winter.

It also a festival annually held by Connecticut College.


And finally, here is the description given for Sol Invictus, also celebrated on December 25:

Dies Natalis Invicti Solis

Summary

Dies Natalis Invicti Solis

Calendar

Roman

Date

Dec 25 Every year

Description

December 25 - Dies Natalis Invicti Solis (Festival of the invincible sun God) see Sol Invictus

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Sol_Invictus
Sol Invictus ("the undefeated Sun") or, more fully, Deus Sol Invictus ("the undefeated sun god") was a religious title applied to at least three distinct divinities during the later Roman Empire: El Gabal, Mithras, and Sol.

Unlike the earlier, agrarian cult of Sol Indiges ("the native sun" or "the invoked sun" - the etymology and meaning of the word "indiges" is disputed), the title Deus Sol Invictus was formed by analogy with the imperial titulature pius felix invictus ("dutiful, fortunate, unconquered").

A festival of the birth of the Unconquered Sun (or Dies Natalis Solis Invicti) was celebrated when the duration of daylight first begins to increase after the winter solstice, — the "rebirth" of the sun.

The Sol Invictus festival ran from December 22 through December 25. Eradicating the remnants of this much-celebrated pagan holiday is likely the reason why Christmas was picked by the early Catholic leaders as the birthday of Jesus Christ.

        

1 comment:

Jessica said...

just embedded the truth or tradition video above the posts on my blog... praying someone will watch it and that the Lord will touch their heart on this subject.