Sunday

Christmas Traditions - Truth is free but can cost dearly

This post could be a little controversial (to say the least), but please be assured that I do not wish to offend any one of you!!! Instead, I wish you all every possible blessing for the coming year! I hadn’t intended to write about this topic at all, but when we arrived home tonight after a day of church and fellowship – and much talk about Christmas carols and other celebrations – I felt compelled to write a few words. Initially I just wanted to wish you all the very best for the upcoming season, but then my fingers took matters into their own hands. Hence the controversial bit...

Let me tell you a true story: There once was a young couple who had found forgiveness in Jesus Christ and was determined to serve Him in spirit and truth. The following Christmas they apologized to their young children about having told them lies about Santa; he simply had to go. No more milk on the porch for his reindeer, and no more Christmas carols that talked about him. Christmas that year was wonderful: Church in the morning, shining eyes under the Christmas tree, everyone enjoying their long awaited presents, wholesome Christmas songs, and a feast for lunch. And then, finally, a well-deserved lazy, hot summer afternoon, relaxing from the hectic of Christmas. Soon life returned to normal.

During the following year, the wife stumbled upon Jeremiah 10:2-4 and was shaken by the prophet's description of pagan rituals that sounded so similar to her own Christmas tree. And what made it worse was the preface of the Lord's words, "Do not learn the way of the Gentiles." Those words kept ringing in her ears: “Do not learn the way of the Gentiles…” She realized that Jeremiah hadn't talked about her tree, but the similarity was too striking to just forget about it. So she began to ask questions. People said, "Don't be silly, Jeremiah is just talking about the pagan rituals of his own day," but she wasn't satisfied. During the following Christmas season they threw out their Christmas tree and decorations, focusing exclusively on Christ.

And then, during the next year, she began to research the whole Christmas tradition. In her own home country, the Christmas tree had always been the most important part of Christmas. Each year her family had enjoyed going to the woods to purchase a huge fir tree that would just about reach the lounge room ceiling. Decorating it with gold and silver and real candles was an almost holy family tradition to be undertaken on the afternoon of Christmas Eve. When the tree was finally ready, the family would go to church. And afterwards, when it was dark, Santa would knock on the door in his red suit. He carried presents in a large sack in one hand and a switch made from leafless twigs in the other - just in case the children had been naughty. The switch was never used, of course, but it invoked enough respect to actually make children behave better during the month of December.

Everyone loved Christmas – but was it for the right reasons? Baby Jesus was mentioned only at church (if one went to church at all) and then forgotten. The tree was the real focal point; even churches sported huge fir trees near their altars with small nativity scenes at their feet. And whosoever knocked on your door during this season was asked inside to admire the tree. The wife began to search her bible and follow traditions into their historic past. She discovered some disturbing facts:

(1) The Bible places Christ’s birth somewhere in the European fall, around the month of September, i.e. after the completion of harvest but before the onset of colder winter nights. How do we know? The shepherds were still out in the fields, and a census involving extensive travel was recommended neither around the harvest season, nor in winter when travel was more difficult due to deteriorating weather conditions.

(2) The wise men did not visit the infant Jesus (together with the shepherds), but arrived considerably later when he was already a ‘young child’ in a ‘house’ (Matt.2:11). King Herod enquired about the rise of the star the wise men had followed and determined the age of this new king-child to be anywhere up to two years old (Matt.2:16).

(3) The Bible does not speak about ‘three’ wise men, but about three symbolic gifts the wise men brought. The number of those wise men remains undetermined (Matt.2:1).

(4) Jesus did not once tell his disciples to remember His birth – only His death and resurrection. Furthermore, they were to remember this not once a year (at so-called Easter, which word is of pagan derivation) but every time they broke bread and shared the Lord’s Supper.

(5) Most Christmas customs already existed BEFORE Christ’s birth – in form of pagan traditions. December 25 was a European celebration of the winter solstice, the rebirth of the sun god, heralding renewed lengthening of days. Yuletide, mistletoes, trees, presents, merrymaking – all were pagan customs already in existence. But when Emperor Constantine began the unholy church-state union that soon developed into Roman Catholicism, this new so-called Christianity embraced many pagan traditions that became entrenched until this present day. Christmas is one such example. The winter solstice celebrations were simply christianised.

The wife and her husband also recognized that God hates such syncretism (a mixing of pagan customs with Christianity). The Old Testament repeatedly emphasizes that God is a jealous God who hates ANY pagan influences that pervert His people. And we’re not even talking here about the ‘-mas’ part of the word Christmas, a coupling of the words Christ and Mass (offering). Every time a mass is said, Christ is supposedly offered up again (i.e. around the clock, every day of the year!) – a practice that is totally contrary to the Biblical Christ dying ONCE for all (Hebr.10:10-14).

So what do you think this couple did? Some of their Christian friends had already taken Christ OUT of Christmas and celebrated it as a worldly holiday, complete with tree, Santa, and all the usual Christmas cheer. That didn’t seem right in their eyes. Other friends had put Christ INTO Christmas as they themselves had done the previous year. But now that they had come to know more facts, they struggled to do the right thing. If they stopped Christmas altogether, they would risk offending family and friends, but if they kept celebrating it despite knowing the truth about its origin, they feared offending their Lord and Savior. They finally decided to tell their children about the traditions of men and stopped having Christmas altogether. The first years were really hard. It was depressing to go without all this ‘cheer’. But time is a great healer, and each year things got a little easier.

Well, now you know why we no longer celebrate this festival. Initially we tried to explain the truth to family and friends, but no one seemed to be concerned. Instead, they thought we had become fanatical nutters. It was VERY hard to swim against the stream and stand for the truth concerning Christmas (just as it is hard to stand for ANY truth). But now, some 20 years later, I have learnt to be more gracious about the whole thing. It’s not my duty to make others see the light, so to speak. After all, a man convinced against his will is of the same opinion still…

I can now send greetings and best wishes for a joyful season and a good new year to those who celebrate as unto the Lord. To those who are Christians and don’t, I take off my hat (well, if I wore a hat, I would). I understand their suffering and admire their singleness of mind. Truth is expensive – it may cost us dearly in many different ways. But our suffering is nothing compared to that of our Lord, who paid for our sins with His blood, sweat and tears. His sacrifice is incomparable, and so we count it all joy when we are privileged to suffer for His name’s sake.

Heartily in Him, Margaret

2 comments:

Allegra said...

Great post! We don't really celebrate Christmas either! In fact, people would be shocked to learn how many of our "Christian" practices are actually pagan practices. But you are right on about showing grace to those who have different beliefs. One of my favorite authors/bloggers Stephen Jones put it nicely: It's OK to let people think differently.

It really is! I like to think of myself as educated on a lot of topics and I will glady share my info with anyone who WANTS to hear it. But if they don't want to hear it, let it go.

Margaret Lepke said...

Thanks, Allegra. It is encouraging to hear of others in the same boat :)