Archive for the ‘Christmas’ Tag

We Just Go Nuts At Christmas   1 comment

Hi, this is Brad because Lela is probably cooking Christmas Eve dinner.

Ah, Christmas, season of goodwill toward … uh, well, not my fellow man judging by the guy who flipped me off in the parking lot when I took the parking space he wanted and the woman who shrieked at the store clerk because the latest Star Wars bauble was sold out.

Peace on earth might come about if someone could find and destroy the musak machine and slip tranquilizers into the alcohol supply, but I know that’s dreaming.

What exactly gets people in such a tizzy? Is it being forced to give gifts to people they probably can’t stand the rest of the year? Surely it can’t be that you actually have to vacuum before guests come over! I thought we were the only people who neaten up before letting non-residents into the house. No?

Yeah, okay, I’m glad to know I’m not alone. I grew up in a very Irish Catholic family … BOSTON Irish Catholic, so for most of my childhood, Christmas started with going to church on Christmas Eve afternoon to confess my sins so I could take communion at the candlelight service and then going home to Christmas Day which was essentially a drunken party where the adults got into huge fights over football and broke the furniture wrestling in the living room. I haven’t made peace with that yet, but Lela has mostly made peace with her family’s issues and I would love to be in the same mind-space because I know it’s a healthy place to be. Meanwhile, I live in Alaska and do my best to avoid the Saturnalia while concentrating on Christ’s birth. Yeah, IF he makes it heaven, the pope who decided it was a good idea to hide Christmas in Saturnalia is going to have some explaining to do.

But let’s take a deep breath and consider Christmas for a moment. A cousin (or, er, I think he’s really my father’s second ex-wife’s kid by a third marriage) is all up in arms this year about Christmas. He keeps posting Facebook memes (like that word? Lela taught it to me) about how God is a sadistic bastard for sending his kid down here to be killed.

I decided not to respond directly, but hey, Lela has a blog for a reason.

So, just to set the record straight —

Jesus is God come to earth as a flesh and blood human being so He could understand us.

I know! We make a big deal about how Jesus is the Son of God, but that’s really not the true relationship. Jesus consistently referred to Himself as “Son of Man.” Why? The simplistic understanding is that “Son of God” focuses on His deity and “Son of Man” implies His humanity. Both are true.

Jesus was, during His lifetime on earth, a human being, but He is and remains God, the Second Person of the Trinity with all of the divine nature fully in Him.

 

Jesus was born of a human woman and conceived by the Holy Spirit. He had no human father in the physical sense. Jesus was and remains divine and He was human during His lifetime on Earth.

But there is a more important and sophisticated historical insight buried behind the simplistic explanation. In Daniel 7, the Bible introduces “the Son of Man” as a very exalted figure. It must mean something that Jesus adopted the term as His favorite self-designation.

Mark 10:45 “The Son of Man came not to be served but to serve and to give his life as a ransom for many.” That’s just one example.

On the face of it, Son of Man is an ordinary phrase for “human being.” Jesus was born as a human. But if you know about Daniel 7, you know He was claiming a very exalted role in the history of redemption. Mark 10 suggests He meant to fulfill that role.

Jesus subtly revealed His identity to those with eyes to see, but He didn’t announce it so blatantly that everybody would come and make Him king. He steered a very narrow course in disclosing His identity, rather than openly announcing, “I’m the Messiah, I’m the King of the World. Come and acknowledge me as King.”

Instead He would make claims that were explicit in certain settings and implicit in others. Only when the time was right—mainly when He was on trial for His life, and they asked, “Are you the Christ, the Son of the living God?”—did he say, “I am, and you will see the Son of Man coming with great power and glory.” So He confessed His open deity right at the point where He knew He would be crucified for it.

It would be very cruel if God sent a helpless baby to Earth to die for our sins, but in reality, Jesus was God Who voluntarily stepped down into human flesh so that He could understand us. I don’t completely understand why that would be necessary … maybe it wasn’t and He was just curious as to why His creation keeps wandering from His loving-kindness … but whether I fully understand why or how it was possible for God to become a human being is not nearly as important as what He accomplished in doing it.

He put a human face to deity. He understands why we struggle with sin. He gave Himself to fulfill His own requirements rather than have us do it. There is absolutely no reason to be angry at God for sending Jesus to die in a barbaric way because God Himself sent Himself to earth knowing that we humans would kill God rather than admit that He loves us … but He also knew that some folks would recognize His sacrifice and let Him save them.

Pause and take a moment to consider that the baby in the manger was God Himself submitting to our messy existence so that He might love us all the more by understanding us fully. The creator of the universe enduring hunger and crappy diapers, skinning his knees and doing chores, puberty, ridicule, shame, cold, sleeplessness and hatred, and even torture, humiliation and death by one of the most barbaric forms of execution ever devised … and He chose to do it because He loves you, and wants you to be reconciled to Him, which will bring peace to you that could, if you let it, spread to others.

Merry Christmas.

Peace on Earth

Goodwill to Mankind

Santa That Ole Demon   2 comments

 

Hi, this is Kyle – Lela’s son and this is my first post on the blog.

My English teacher assigned us to make her afraid of Santa, so this is my contribution.

 

Santa seems like a jolly old elf, but in reality he is a demon. Even Satan can appear as an angel of light, so why would we assume that a jolly fat man wouldn’t be evil?

Think about it. He sneaks into people’s houses by sliding down their chimneys in the middle of the night. Most of us would shoot someone who did that, but we let Santa in every winter as if he’s welcome.

He then requires us to provide him with milk and cookies so that he will leave presents, but if we fail to give him milk and cookies, he steals children instead, takes them to his workshop and forces them to make toys.

If his “elves” (slaves) fail to work as he wants them to, he then feeds them to the reindeer to give them magical powers so that they can fly his evil night journey of sliding down chimneys, accepting bribes and stealing more children to use in his workshop … or feed to his demonic reindeer.

Yeah, my mom gave me permission to do this.

Merry Christmas and remember, you can board up that fireplace.

Freedom in Christmas   2 comments

This is part of a series. Check it out.

One of the symbols of life found in the celebration of saturnalia was the use of evergreens. These plants stayed green all year long so were often used in different cultures as symbols of life and rebirth. They were sometimes decorated as a form of worship in religious ceremonies dealing with fertility. Evergreens are traditionally used in Christmas celebrations because, during the coldest of winter when snow was on the ground, the “Christmas tree” was always green. This is why some ancient cultures would use them in their various forms of celebration and sometimes even worship.

The mistletoe was considered a curative plant and was used in many ancient medicinal recipes. The Celts even believed that the parasite plant contained the soul of the tree on which it lived. The Celtic druids used mistletoe in their religious ceremonies. The priests would cut it up and distribute it to the people who would place the cuttings over the doorways of their homes. This was supposed to protect the dwellers from various forms of evil. The ancient Swedes called it a symbol of peace and it would be tied above a table of negotiation as a symbol of reconciliation.

It is entirely possible that the Roman Catholic Church deliberately incorporated these pagan symbols into Christian worship in order to get pagans to be comfortable with Christianity.

But ….

It’s also entirely possible that pagans who became actual Christians just didn’t let go of some things because they liked how they looked or smelled or the symbolism that it represented.

It’s important to remember that Christians are not bound under the law because we have died to law (Romans 7:4) and we are under grace (Romans 6:14). This does not mean that we can go out and commit various sins, but we are free, and have the right to exercise our freedom, so long as we do not use our freedom as an excuse to do questionable things or stumble others. We must be careful and wise in our freedom.

In 1 Corinthians 10:23-33, Paul talks about the meat that was sacrificed to idols and then sold in the meat market place. The question arose, “Can a Christian eat such meat?” Paul replied, “Eat anything that is sold in the meat market, without asking questions for conscience’ sake.” Why did Paul answer that way? Because we are free in Christ and that which had a pagan association with it does not degrade the Christian if the Christian has his eyes and his confidence in Jesus Who sanctifies all things.

So, using a Christmas tree and mistletoe depends on the attitude of a particular Christian and what he believes about Scripture regarding this. For some it’s okay, and for other Christians it is not. Neither should condemn the other.

Posted December 23, 2015 by aurorawatcherak in Christianity

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Separating Secular from Sacred   6 comments

This week, the Open Book Blog Hop is sharing what we do to celebrate Christmas. You know, there are all sorts of Christmas traditions out there and there is a wide variety of ways to celebrate – religious, secular, Jewish, Christian, kwanzaa … check out my fellow authors to see what they do.

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Our family are evangelical Christians. My husband grew up back East where there is a strong Jewish tradition. I grew up 14 miles from North Pole, Alaska. My father’s folks were Swedish, so there are some traditions unique to that. The biggest influence on our family traditions, though, come from my mother and grandfather both being born on Christmas Day.

 

I’m in the midst of my Christmas education series, so if you have any questions about what I believe and why, go there and start reading. This is about the celebration, not the theology of it.

Christmas season starts on Black Friday or that weekend for us. We don’t celebrate it before Thanksgiving because Thanksgiving is my favorite holiday and it deserves to be celebrated.

That weekend coincides with the opening of the Ice Park in North Pole, a Christmas-themed town to the southeast of Fairbanks. If weather cooperates, we often will attend.  North Pole is all about Santa — with Santa Claus’ house, reindeer and elves. Yes, that vaguely candy-cane photo shows a street light. It’s Christman 365 days a year in North Pole.

We decorate Thanksgiving weekend, unless something comes up, which it did this year. I love evergreens, though we can’t take them from the wild here and bring them into our houses because they’re frozen, so they drop their needles when they warm and become both unsightly and a fire hazard. So, we raise an artificial tree and hang artificial garland and then we get some trimmings from a local live Christmas tree shop to fill a basket that sits behind the Christmas tree to fragrance the air. Usually this is the weekend when we watch It’s a Wonderful Life to remind us of why we love this season.

We have collected a lot of ornaments and other items over the years. The Nativity scene gets a prominent place on the hearth of our non-working fireplace. Our tree is very eclectic without really a theme. My supervisor at my long-time job with mental health gifted me with a Santa every year, so that I have a collection that sits on the wide sill of the front window. There is old St. Nicholaus braving the snows to take gifts to children, skinny Victorian Santas, and a jolly old elf pulling a sleigh full of gifts (somehow without reindeer). We have a stocking for each of us and a shared one for the pets. There is rarely anything in the stockings, except on St. Lucia’s Day. I used to put candy in the kids’ shoes when they were little and we lived in a small house, but since we now live somewhere where there’s room to decorate for Christmas, I’ve shifted the candy giving to the stockings.

Norwegian FattigmannAlthough I bake bread regularly, I don’t bake sweet stuff much except at Christmas. I’m not sure how fattigmann cookies, which are Norwegian, became a family tradition in my father’s Swedish family, but I make them for St. Lucia’s Day (which was Sunday December 13 this year).

Our woodstove is usually going all the time this time of year, so we usually have a big pot of mulled apple cider going. It’s non-alcoholic, but delicious with cloves, cinammon, nutmeg, etc. It just keeps getting replenished and it makes the house smell LOVELY, but it’s also a great hot beverage when, baby, it’s really cold outside. True winter starts just after Thanksgiving, so Christmas can be brutal. Outside. Inside, it’s warm and fragrant and sparkly.

My husband was raised Irish-Catholic, but many of his neighbors were Jewish, so he enjoys doing some Hannukah things. He has been known to go through great exercises to find those cookies with the blue jelly. Fairbanks does have a resident Jewish population, but it’s small so stores don’t really cater to them. It’s sort of hit and miss, but Brad loves those cookies, so …. He usually tells the story of the Macabbeans sometime during Hannukah. He wants a menorrah, but we can’t even remember to do Advent candles at home, so I think he’s dreaming.

When we put out the Nativity scene, it is family tradition to put the Wise Men across the room. One of us moves them closer to the fireplace on a daily basis. This year, my husband and I have realized that our son is doing a lot of the moving. He’s almost 17 and it is fun to realize that Christmas traditions do mean something to him. As part of this slow progression, we talk about the events leading up to Jesus’ birth — the angel’s announcement to Mary that she was pregnant, Joseph’s decision not to put her aside for adultery, why Joseph and Mary traveled from Nazareth to Bethlehem for the census.

With North Pole Santa-crazy, Fairbanks does more traditional things. There are Christmas concerts and a do-it-yourself Messiah singing. Some years we participate with Jewish friends for Hannukah, but we don’t usually do all the nights.

As I said, my mother and grandfather were both born Christmas Day, which really sucks. Nobody remembers that it is your birthday. If you get birthday gifts at all they’re wrapped in Christmas papers. You never have a birthday party on your birthday … unless you’re married to my dad. My dad figured he could move a major holiday for the woman he loved, so we celebrated Christmas on Christmas Eve. Alaska used to have a 1 to 4 female to male ratio, so my parents often hosted a huge meal for all the bachelors they knew on Christmas Eve. Dad was a professional chef and Mom was a diner waitress/cook, so our house was always packed for Christmas Eve. We would always open gifts right after the guests left. We would wake up late on Christmas morning, which was a very relaxed day and Dad would make a special meal for Mom. By getting Christmas out of the way on Christmas Eve, Mom could actually enjoy her birthday.

Since Mom’s passing, my brother and I continue to celebrate together on Christmas Eve. I make dinner and bake pies, Jeff brings his wife and usually something he baked (yes, HE bakes), and we open presents and share fun family stories (otherwise known as the times our parents’ embarrassed us, but you have to have a sense of humor about these things). Some years we go to a candlelight ceremony together. We used to go to view Christmas lights together, but electricity has gotten too expensive for people here to put them up, so we haven’t done that for half a decade.

For us, Christmas Eve is a fairly secular observance because Jeff and his family are not practicing Christians and we don’t want to make them uncomfortable. The candlelight ceremony attendance only occurs if his wife suggests it. Our church does one every year right in the middle of when we have dinner, so we’ve never been. We usually go to the Presbyterian church’s midnight service if we go because Brad won’t go to the Catholic church’s service (I might explain that someday).

Which brings us to Christmas morning. Jeff spends his Christmas Day with his kids and grandkids. We spend ours as a family as well (though if Christmas falls on a Sunday, we try to go to church). I’ve usually baked challah for Christmas morning and then we sit around having coffee. Maybe we play a video game someone got for Christmas. If it’s warm out, we may go for a walk with the dogs. If there are Christmas parades on television, sometimes we’ll catch one. Sometime between getting up and an early evening dinner, we read the Christmas story and we hang some angel ornaments from the fireplace above the Nativity scene. The timing of this is important to us. After dinner, the Wise Men arrive at the Nativity scene and we talk about the aftermath of Jesus’ birth — how King Herod tried to kill Jesus, how the family fled to Egypt and what happened in Bethlehem to the other children. Then we “remember” Christ’s sacrifice for us with a family Lord’s Supper of unleavened bread and juice and reading I Corinthians 11:17-34. One year we did it with leftover fattigmann cookies and apple cider because Brad forgot to buy the motza and grape juice. The symbolism of it is more important than the details.

For us, Christmas is about celebrating Jesus’ birth. Yes, we decorate for Christmas in traditional northern European ways, but we don’t worship evergreens, Santa or gifts. Although my parents had a wholly secular reason for celebrating on Christmas Eve, Brad and I have realized there are spiritual benefits to separating the Christmas Eve party from the Christmas Day worship. Santa Claus is not the reason for Christmas. Yes, we enjoy some of the Saturnalia elements of the holidays, but by segregating the gift-giving and party atmosphere to Christmas Eve, we make Jesus’ birth central to our Christmas Day celebrations.

 

Tracy Krimmer

Tracy’s love of writing began at nine years old. She wrote stories about aliens at school, machines that did homework for you, and penguins. Now she pens books and short stories about romance. She loves to read a great book, whether it be romance or science fiction, or any genre in between, or pop popcorn and catch up on her favorite TV shows or movies. She’s been known to crush a candy or two as well. Her first romance novel, Pieces of it All, released in May 2014 followed in December with Caching In, a romance mixed with the hobby of geocaching. She also has written several short stories.

You can find her on the following social media sites:

Twitter: http://www.twitter.com/tkrimms
Facebook: http://www.facebook.com/KrimmerAuthor

Website – http://www.tracykrimmer.com/

Sign up for her newsletter at http://www.tracykrimmer.com/newsletter/

Posted December 22, 2015 by aurorawatcherak in #openbook

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Diversity’s Mark on Christmas   4 comments

This is part of a series. Check it out.

So I said I feel no guidance from God not to celebrate His birth as Jesus. Despite that, I do feel guidance from God to celebrate His birth in some ways and not in others.

While it might surprise some observers, cultural diversity is built into the DNA of the Christian churches. Read the description of Pentecost in Acts and you see a lot of cultures. Study the Jerusalem Council in Acts 14 and you see the churches coming to grips with that reality. We should expect the churches to take different forms to connect with different people and to, within Biblical boundaries, to develop a variety of doctrines in response to the various cultures Christianity enters.

Many of the doctrines we take for granted – the Trinity for example – were developed in response to questions that arose during the early centuries of Christianity – sticking points, if you will, that occurred as Christianity encountered different cultures and needed to explain itself better. This does not mean Christianity is becoming syncretic. That’s the theory of people who truly do not understand Christianity. The doctrine of the Trinity was always understood within the early church (see Philippians 2), but by stating it clearly, the church was (attempting) to make itself clearly understood. Many other doctrines are evidence that the church adapted to cultural differences while remaining faithful to the word of God. When cultural influences steered the Roman Catholic Church seriously off track, Bible believing Christians attempted to reverse the syncretism and that became known as the Reformation.

A church needs to be immersed in a particular culture in order to serve people of that culture. Christianity is God working through people, after all. While some ecclesiastic bodies have tried to impose hegemony on Christians living within diverse cultures, that is not God’s way at all. At Pentecost, Peter and the other apostles spoke their own language, but the crowd heard them in their own languages. They then took the gospel they learned that day to their home territories.

I am personally leery of churches that are made up of a homogeneous culture because I was spiritually born in a racially and ethnically diverse church. Still, within that heterogeneous church culture, homogeneous groups formed because those sub-groups shared common language and cultural experiences. There is nothing wrong with that so long as those sub-groups do not become inclusive, and at that particularly church they did not. I learned to eat with chopsticks from Koreans. I am offered seal oil by Native folks (and take a requisite no-thank-you taste as often as it is offered). I know how to make agudiq and tamales (badly). I learned these things from my fellow Christians who are of other cultures than mine.

So, the idea that different churches in the early Christian era practiced Christianity in somewhat different ways, appropriate to their culture, does not surprise or alarm me. I don’t have an issue with early Gentile Christians practicing Christianity in Gentile ways and early Jewish Christians practicing Christianity in Jewish ways. It doesn’t bother me that the church at Rome, surrounded by Saturnalia worshippers, chose to celebrate Jesus’ birth on December 25. What bothers me is that the Roman Catholic Church later required all Christians to do it the same way.

The Roman pagans lit candles as an offering to Saturn to convince this god to reverse the track of the sun and bring back summer. When the days lengthened, they had a big drunken party to celebrate.

Christians in that society were probably also praying to God that the days would lengthen and when they saw God’s patterns turning toward spring, they might have gotten together for a Lord’s Supper and a fellowship feast. Maybe someone reflecting on the starry night was reminded of Christ’s birth and, viola, we now use the solstice celebration to remember Jesus’ birthday.

My Celtic ancestors dragged evergreens into their houses midwinter and also offered sacrifices to pagan gods in hopes that the sun would not continue its downward descent. Their worship included building great bonfires, decorating with evergreen plants such as holly, ivy, and mistletoe, and making representations of summer birds as house decorations. It is sometimes hard to separate those who became Christians because they believed the gospel story and those who became Christians because the power of Rome required it, but recognize that the church in Rome had very little to do with the Celtic churches, which grew up separately by the work of missionaries and remained largely on their own for several hundred years during the Dark Ages when the Roman Catholic Church was imposing its hegemony on the rest of Europe. There remained an emphasis in the Celtic churches for a personal commitment to faith that included an examination of your life practices. To assume that pagans simply remained pagans and brought their pagan practices into the churches is not to understand how Biblical Christianity works.

Are the Celtic and Germanic elements of Christmas signs of syncretism or are they simply the adoption of cultural elements into the practice of Christianity? If I love the smell of evergreens in my home midwinter, why would God refuse me that practice if I’m not using the evergreens in worship of a pagan god?

None of us alive today can be really certain of what was in the minds of the  new Celtic Christians since we weren’t there. But what we do know is that in AD 49, there was a gathering of Christian leaders at the church in Jerusalem and a letter was transmitted that basically said “Gentiles do not have to become Jewish to become Christians.” So for almost 2000 years, it’s been okay for Christians to not circumcise their children, to eat seafood and pork, to kindle a fire on Saturday (or turn on an electric light, which amounts to the same thing). The 613 rules that the Pharisees strove to keep in order to be in line with God do not apply to Gentile Christians … they don’t even apply to Messianic Jews … because they were never God’s law, but cultural practices some Jews adopted in a wasted effort to make themselves perfect. Christians are held instead to Paul’s guidance in 1 Corinthians – it’s okay to eat meat offered to idols because what goes in the mouth does not make a man unclean, but what comes out of his heart does, but … if you’re with another Christian whose conscience is bothered by eating meat sacrificed to idols, you should abstain rather than cause your Christian brother to violate his own conscience.

The vast majority of practicing Biblical Christians are comfortable with the trappings of Christmas. They don’t worship Santa, but they aren’t offended by the fictional character. They don’t see themselves as participating in a syncretic religion because they have some formerly pagan trappings mixed in with their religious observance. The decorations are pretty and nothing more.

Some practicing Biblical Christians are offended by Christmas. And, I can certainly understand feeling that the Savior is being ignored if you live in North Pole Alaska with its candy cane light poles and its Santa Claus House. I know some Christians who will not celebrate Christmas with any traditional trappings, though they may honor Christ’s birth through a religious observance.

That is their choice. There is no reason to argue about it. The Christmas-enjoying Christians are not likely to grow any closer to God by discontinuing the practice of Christmas. The Santa-haters are also not likely to be uplifted by joining in the practice of Christmas.

But hey, the atheists who hate Christmas and want to see it ended (or at least see the religious part of it hidden behind closed doors) love to see us argue because they see such in-fighting for what it is – a lack of understanding unity.

We are fighting over a dust mote in our eyes when we have much greater things to face and overcome as churches.

Stay Tuned for the Blog Hop   Leave a comment

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Do you want to know how I spend Christmas? Join the Open Book Blog Hop and find out how I and my fellow authors spend the holidays.

Posted December 21, 2015 by aurorawatcherak in #openbook

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A Christian History of Christmas   4 comments

This is part of a series. Check it out

The Bible never mentions Christmas. The early Christian churches did not celebrate Christ’s birth. They celebrated Christ’s resurrection (which is a topic for Easter), but Christmas was not among the earliest festivals of the Church. The apostles and the churches they founded did not celebrate it or commemorate it. In fact, it was about 300 years after Christ’s death before we see the first recorded observance of Christ’s birth. It seems strange to folks nowadays, but the early Christians praised that Jesus Christ was God come in the flesh, but the day of His birth had no relevance to them because Jesus was no longer physically on earth. It was the risen and exalted Christ to whom they looked, not a baby in a manger. So how did we come to celebrate Christmas. Well, there are a lot of contradictory explanations for the celebration.

Some say Christmas was first practiced in Rome in 354 AD under Bishop Liberius, others say it was in the Church at Jerusalem about 440 AD, while still others believe Constantine created it whole-cloth to legitimize the Saturnalia festival around 380 AD. Which tells me that nobody really knows and that it is likely that the celebration of Christ’s birth was slowly growing in the churches before Liberius set it among the Saturnalia festival in 354 AD.

Contrary to popular belief, Emperor Constantine did not rescue Christianity from extinction and he had very little to do with most of our traditions and doctrines. Christianity flourished despite the best efforts of his predecessors to destroy it. When Constantine issued the Edict of Milan in 313 AD, he declared Christianity a legal religion. This ended one of the bloodiest and fiercest persecutions of Christians by the Roman government, called the Diocletian persecution. This edict didn’t make Christianity the official religion of the Empire. That was actually done by the later Emperor Theodosius in 380 AD. Christianity had continued to evangelize despite persecution and it is estimated that 40% the population of the Roman Mediterrean region espoused Christian beliefs by the time Constantine recognized the religion as allowed among other religions. Constantine was just getting on board with what he recognized as inevitable.

As Christianity began to be practiced more by Gentiles than Jews, the Jewish religious ceremonies and holidays were less a part of Christian practice. This is perfectly understandable. The Jerusalem Council in AD 49 allowed Gentles to remain culturally Gentiles while practicing Christianity. They were not required to be circumcised or to observe Jewish rites. But people love ceremonies and festivals, so it is highly likely that Christians were already observing Christ’s birthday around the Roman empire by the time the holiday was fixed to December 25. It may have been celebrated at different times depending on a community’s own cultural calendar. It’s likely that the church in Rome was already celebrating Christ’s birth around the same time as the Saturnalia festival because a persecuted people do not want to seem out of step with their neighbors and what better way to hide your beliefs than to gather when others are celebrating and celebrate something of your own?

Jesus was not born on December 25. Biblical scholars think He was probably born in September. Just because the apostles did not celebrate Christ’s birth does not mean we cannot. There are many things that occur in our world today that were not sanctioned by the apostles. We celebrate the 4th of July as American Independence Day, for example. I do know some people who object strenuously, but there’s no Biblical evidence that the apostles or Jesus would have objected to the celebration of a cultural event. Let’s remember, Jesus and the apostles continued to celebrate their own cultural events throughout their lifetimes while at the same time Jesus’ brother James and the other apostles came to recognize that Gentiles were not Jews and were allowed to put their own cultural stamp on the Christianity they observed.

Jesus was God come to earth, stepped out of glory into human flesh and destined to die for our sin. After His death and resurrection, His birth is easily the greatest event in human history. It makes sense that some early Christians gradually adopted a religious observance of that birth. It may be unfortunate that the church at Rome elected to officially observe the celebration on December 25 and then force the rest of the Christian churches to fall in line. I get why they did that, but they probably should have avoided the connection with Saturnalia.

But in 2015, I am 1600 years after that decision. I did take a pause several times during my younger years to ask God if it offended Him that Christians acknowledge Jesus’ birthday on December 25. He hasn’t gotten back to me, even though He regularly corrects my behavior in other areas.

Christmas is one of those times when we gather with family and friends and it allows us to share our faith in a non-threatening way. If for some reason, the world around me suddenly declared Christmas to be ended, I would still celebrate it. If they changed the date for the celebration, I might well change my observance to that date.

My point is, Christians should – if they want to – observe Jesus’ birth. We should constantly be lifting up praises to God for EVERYTHING He has done for us. In some ways every day of the year is Christmas for Christians. We just happen to call December 25 by that name. If you don’t want to celebrate it then, you don’t have to. But we do and I absolutely do not feel any guidance from God not to

Christmas Wars   5 comments

The Christmas “wars” have started for 2015. Most years it’s the atheists who lob the first volley when they act like tyrants, but this year a Christian freaked out over the color of Starbuck’s coffee cups.

Oh my! Can we stop? Please!!

The United States of America is a pluralistic society. Approximately 80% of Americans identify as “Christian.” They don’t, for the most part, match the Biblical definition of Christian (that’s less than 20% of the population), but this 80% includes a lot of cultural “Christians” who grew up celebrating Christmas with Nativity scenes and Santa Claus, evergreens and eggnog. Of the other 20% of Americans who are not cultural Christians, there are many who still celebrate the secular version of Christmas. Why? Because it’s fun.

There are small percentages of others who are “offended” by the whole idea of Christmas and some of these folks work overtime to make the celebration of Christmas as miserable as possible for the rest of us.

Why? I guess they find their Grinch-like behavior to be fun and amusing? Or, er ….

Well, to be perfectly honest, I think many of them are simply tyrants who want to force others to live and act in ways that they approve. They may believe they’re doing it for our good, but in reality, they are simply tyrants.

But …

If I’m completely honest with myself, atheists aren’t the only ones who seem bent on taking the fun out of Christmas. And that is going to be my research theme for the season. You’ll find the complete discussion her.

Merry Christmas 2015

Christmas Wars (This article

A Christian History of Christmas

Diversity’s Mark on Christmas

Freedom in Christmas

Santa That Old Demon

We Just Go Nuts At Christmas

First Noel

 

Merry Christmas 2015   2 comments

Yesterday evening I bought my last Christmas present for 2015. I generally finish my shopping before Thanksgiving, but I was watching for a special item for my sister-in-law and I finally found it.

On my way out, the clerk said “Happy Holidays”. I replied “You have a Merry Christmas.” She didn’t seem to care or even notice — I’m sure she’s been saying “Happy Holidays” to every customer for weeks now and she’s just in rote mode at this point.

Last December I was squirreling around on Facebook looking at some daughter-related things and I ran across posts by some friend of hers complaining about a local small business where the clerks say “Merry Christmas.” This young lady is certain that “most customers” are being “psychologically damaged” by being “forced” to participate in “the Jesus myth”. She accused Christians of not even following their own Bibles (“Christmas celebration is forbidden”) and of “ruining” Christmas with their “political agenda”.

I didn’t respond then (I think Christmas got in the way), but I ran across my notes on it last week, so I have decided to use this week to show the other side of the argument.

 

Jing Jing-A-Ling   9 comments

I love Christmas music, though I don’t want to hear it before Thanksgiving and I don’t particularly care for it in stores on infinite loop. This maybe why I do my Christmas shopping in September and October.

Many of the great European composers wrote a tribute or two to the season. We have a local singing group that does Handel’s Messiah every December. If the weather isn’t too cold, many churches run around the Tanana Valley singing in the run-up to Christmas.

I personally am not a good singer, but my family members are, so Christmas music places a large role in our celebrations. Either Brad and Bri are singing the songs or they’re playing on the stereo.

So, the question was “What are my favorite Christmas songs?” First, you should go see what my fellow blog hoppers say are theirs.

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Like so many things, I can’t really say I have an absolutely MOST FAVORITE Christmas song. I have a few.

I Heard the Bell on Christmas Day

Do You Hear What I Hear?

Silver Bells, my favorite is not by Bing Crosby, but I couldn’t find it.

What Child is This?

My mother was born Christmas Day (major gyp, right?), so I always have to say, though it is not my favorite, my mind always touches on this song for Christmas because it was her favorite.

Little Drummer Boy

Rebecca Lovell is working on a debut novel, but she has lots of short stories for you to read while you wait and something to say about Christmas music as well. Check out her blog.

 

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