Dec 6, 2013
Dec 6, 2013
There is always an attempt to de-emphasize the true, spiritual significance of Christian holidays and place emphasis on Santa, toys, bunnies, baskets, and candy. That is a sincere cause for concern. This article assumes that is understood. I respect those who may disagree and who may have a valid pause for concern.]
Every Christmas season, I receive emails such as: “I’m sorry, but every time I tried to watch the sermon the decorated Christmas trees in the background were disturbing to my spirit. I turned it off. I am discouraged and disappointed because of the trees.”
Her statement begs the question, “Can we redeem holidays?” Redeem means to recover the ownership of something. Can we, in good faith, redeem Halloween, Christmas, and Easter with their roots saturated in paganism, superstitions, and the occult?
Redeem and celebrate are not unfamiliar to Christians. God “redeems” man from a state of darkness and we “celebrate” this transformation of heart. Simply stated, it’s about why, who, and how we celebrate.
For example, Halloween, a mixture of Celtic pagan superstition and early traditions is associated with witchcraft and satanic activity. This is not something to be celebrated, nor can it be redeemed as it stands with themes such as horror, death, and fear.
We have children and we can’t always avoid the gory and grotesque decorations, so we change the theme in order to redeem. We use the opportunity to redefine Halloween to “good overcame evil day.”
We don’t celebrate Halloween per se’; we remember Jesus’ victory on the cross and how He overcame evil. Many churches offer Fall Festivals and celebrations for this very reason—to redeem the theme of Halloween.
What about Christmas? Rooted in pagan practices, it is abused and commercialized, but can it be redeemed?
Christmas, unlike Halloween’s message of horror and death, celebrates eternal life through the birth of Christ. Most Christians I know don’t falsely worship the tree and the decorations referred to in Jeremiah 10:1-10; we worship the Creator of heaven and earth.
Early on, Christmas was a combination of “Christ’s Mass” celebrating Jesus’ birth and St. Nicholas Day. St. Nicholas was Bishop of Greece and was portrayed as a man who saved kids from slavery and helped the poor. After the Reformation, many discontinued St. Nicholas Day because of the unhealthy fixation on Saints. The Puritans did not celebrate Christmas for this very reason, but the Germans celebrated Kris Kringle (Christ child).
Eventually, Christmas morphed into what it is today: a mixture of religious and secular activities. I’m not aware of the early church celebrating Christmas; Easter was the Superbowl holiday.
Rich in symbolism, the Christmas tree can point to the cross: once a dead and barren tree, supporting a lifeless Savior, it now stands evergreen as the symbol of eternal life that darkness cannot overcome (cf. 1 John 1:5). In my opinion, Christmas is really a heart issue: who and what do we worship…consumerism or Christ?
Gift giving can also represent peace and goodwill among men (cf. Matthew 2): “The gift of God is eternal life in Christ Jesus our Lord” (Romans 6:23). It can, however, lead to extravagant spending and debt; this should be avoided.
Let’s look at this another way: it is my guess that there are a number of Christians who do not acknowledge holidays because of how they originated, I respect that. But let’s follow that line of thinking in other areas: should we not acknowledge days of the week whose names originate from false gods…Sunday from the sun god, Monday the moon god, and so on?
Again, these issues are heart issues. God does not desire superficial sacrifice and “religiosity”; He desires a broken and contrite heart. Pleasing God is the most important issue of the heart. We can avoid celebrating holidays, yet still be rigid, arrogant, and judgmental. The heart is the main focus of this article.
Considering that liberty has its limits, if all that we do honors God, He is pleased. Again, the key is to avoid arrogance and judgmentalism, and to avoid worshipping the wrong things. Strive to follow Paul’s advice and not “dispute over doubtful things,” and “live peaceably with all men” (cf. Romans 14:1 & 12:18). For example, what the online viewer, previously mentioned, failed to realize was that I did not place the trees on the stage…the building was not ours. She neglected to err on the side of grace.
Whatever your position, the question to ask is, “Is my stance leading to love, joy, peace, contentment, gentleness, and kindness. Or is it leading to rigidity, arrogance, legalism, divisiveness, criticism, and anger over non-essentials?” The former is the filling of the Spirit; the later is the slippery slope of judgmentalism. If not clebrating truly draws you closer to Christ, wonderful, but don’t judge others who feel differently.
There are those who derail Christmas and its commercialism, yet purchase a $3000 Plasma on credit, book expensive vacations each summer, and never serve the community or help those in need. Time is spent posting videos exposing the roots of holidays, but no time is spent in prayer truly seeking God. Other’s ridicule the secularization of Christmas and Easter but allow their family to watch ungodly entertainment.
Again, celebrating holidays is often not the issue; the issues is what, or who, we choose to worship…the attitude of the heart. Holidays, in many cases, are redeemed when the focus is on Christ.
Many years ago the Sunday school teachers in my church would teach preschool classes a little chorus that included the line “My best friend is Jesus.” As those children grew to adulthood, they naturally put aside juvenile songs like this one. But sadly, they also frequently seemed to abandon the idea of Jesus being a friend.
As believers learn more about God, they rightly elevate Him to be the Lord of their life and acknowledge Him as sovereign Ruler over all the earth. It is easier to think of one so high and mighty as Creator, Savior, and Lord than to “lower” Him to the position of a friend. But Jesus makes a point of telling His disciples that He is both a transcendent deity—the Son of God—and their companion (John 15:15).
His offer of friendship extends to modern disciples as well. Like the original 12 followers, we are privileged to say that Christ laid down His life for us in a supreme act of love and devotion (John 15:13). What’s more, His Spirit reveals the truth of Scripture to our heart so we can learn more about God and His ways. In other words, Jesus has made known to us the things He heard from His Father. A man doesn’t tell secrets to servants; he tells them to his friends (John 15:15).
Teaching children to sing of their friendship with Jesus is a wise idea. But I wonder when some grown believers will learn to sing of that special relationship again. May we never become so religious, so pious, or so full of our own maturity that we cannot say, “My best friend is Jesus Christ.”
“But whoso keepeth his word, in him verily is the love of God perfected: hereby know we that we are in him.” (1 John 2:5)
The New Testament is emphatically clear that we are saved entirely by the grace of God through faith in Christ. “For by grace are ye saved through faith; . . . it is the gift of God” (Ephesians 2:8).
But how can we know for sure that our professed faith in Christ is genuine and we are really saved? Many who claim to be Christians are not truly saved, for Christ said: “Not every one that saith unto me, Lord, Lord, shall enter into the kingdom of heaven” (Matthew 7:21).
Now, note that John’s main purpose in writing his gospel was to win people to saving faith in Christ. “These are written, that ye might believe that Jesus is the Christ, the Son of God; and that believing ye might have life through his name” (John 20:31). Then the ultimate purpose of his first epistle was to assure them they were saved. “These things have I written unto you that believe on the name of the Son of God; that ye may know that ye have eternal life” (1 John 5:13).
His epistle, in fact, gives us several tests to prove our faith. One is in our text—we keep (literally “guard against loss”) His Word. Also: “Hereby we do know that we know him, if we keep his commandments” (1 John 2:3). Then: “We know that we have passed from death unto life, because we love the brethren” (1 John 3:14).
Thus, we can not only have salvation, but also assurance of salvation if we love and guard His Word, seek to keep His commandments, and love all others of like precious faith. Finally, we have the indwelling witness of the Spirit. “Hereby we know that he abideth in us, by the Spirit which he hath given us” (1 John 3:24). HMM
Give unto the LORD the glory due unto his name: bring an offering, and come before him: worship the LORD in the beauty of holiness. —1 Chronicles 16:29
Man was made to worship God. God gave to man a harp and said, “Here above all the creatures that I have made and created I have given you the largest harp. I put more strings on your instrument and I have given you a wider range than I have given to any other creature. You can worship Me in a manner that no other creature can”….
The purpose of God in sending His Son to die and rise and live and be at the right hand of God the Father was that He might restore to us the missing jewel, the jewel of worship; that we might come back and learn to do again that which we were created to do in the first place—worship the Lord in the beauty of holiness, to spend our time in awesome wonder and adoration of God, feeling and expressing it, and letting it get into our labors and doing nothing except as an act of worship to Almighty God through His Son Jesus Christ. I say that the greatest tragedy in the world today is that God has made man in His image and made him to worship Him, made him to play the harp of worship before the face of God day and night, but he has failed God and dropped the harp. It lies voiceless at his feet.
Help me, Father, to pick up the harp and bring You the glory due to Your name. I’ve come to know You in a deeper way; may I respond with heartfelt worship. Amen.
For ye are the temple of the living God. (2 Corinthians 6:16)
To really know Jesus Christ as Savior and Lord is to love and worship Him!
As God’s people, we are so often confused that we could be known as God’s poor, stumbling, bumbling people, for we are most prone to think of worship as something we do when we go to church on Sunday!
We call it God’s house. We have dedicated it to Him. So, we continue with the confused idea that it must be the only place where we can worship Him.
We come to the Lord’s house, made of brick and stone and wood. We are used to hearing the call to worship: “The Lord is in His holy temple—let us kneel before Him!” This is on Sunday and in church—very nice!
But on Monday, as we go about our different duties, are we aware of the continuing Presence of God? The Lord desires still to be in His holy temple, wherever we are; for each of us is a temple in whom dwells the Holy Spirit of God!
“If any man sin, we have an advocate with the Father, Jesus Christ the righteous.”—I John 2:1.
What words of tenderness, what sentences of persuasion, will the anointed use when he stands up to plead for me! “Jesus Christ the righteous.” This is not only his character, but his plea. It is his character, and if the Righteous One be my advocate, then my cause is good, or he would not have espoused it. It is his plea, for he meets the charge of unrighteousness against me by the plea that He is righteous. He declares himself my substitute, and puts his obedience to my account. My soul, thou hast a friend well fitted to be thine advocate; he cannot but succeed; leave thyself entirely in his hands.