Friday, December 19, 2008

A Christmas Challenge

I have been reading blogs and seeing all the commercialism and hearing all about what others are giving to each other, and wanted to do a post on what our family does or does not do at Christmas time and why. Some of you may know and others may not know what our family does, and we just want to challenge you to really ponder some things this Christmas.

First of all, we do not celebrate Christmas. What?!?! you might ask. Everybody celebrates Christmas! As most christians know, the birth of Christ did not take place on December 25th. So, why do we celebrate it on that day instead of during the time that it actually took place. Well, it is clear that the enemy plays a vital role in why it is celebrated on this day. Read the following information regarding Christmas and its origin:

-------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------- No one knows what day Jesus Christ was born on. From the biblical description, most historians believe that his birth probably occurred in September, approximately six months after Passover. One thing they agree on is that it is very unlikely that Jesus was born in December, since the bible records shepherds tending their sheep in the fields on that night. This is quite unlikely to have happened during a cold Judean winter. So why do we celebrate Christ’s birthday as Christmas, on December the 25th?

The answer lies in the pagan origins of Christmas. In ancient Babylon, the feast of the Son of Isis (Goddess of Nature) was celebrated on December 25. Raucous partying, gluttonous eating and drinking, and gift-giving were traditions of this feast.

In Rome, the Winter Solstice was celebrated many years before the birth of Christ. The Romans called their winter holiday Saturnalia, honoring Saturn, the God of Agriculture. In January, they observed the Kalends of January, which represented the triumph of life over death. This whole season was called Dies Natalis Invicti Solis, the Birthday of the Unconquered Sun. The festival season was marked by much merrymaking. It is in ancient Rome that the tradition of the Mummers was born. The Mummers were groups of costumed singers and dancers who traveled from house to house entertaining their neighbors. From this, the Christmas tradition of caroling was born.

In northern Europe, many other traditions that we now consider part of Christian Worship
were begun long before the participants had ever heard of Christ. The pagans of northern Europe celebrated their own winter solstice, known as Yule. Yule was symbolic of the pagan Sun God, Mithras, being born, and was observed on the shortest day of the year. As the Sun God grew and matured, the days became longer and warmer. It was customary to light a candle to encourage Mithras, and the sun, to reappear next year.

Huge Yule logs were burned in honor of the sun. The word Yule itself means “wheel,” the wheel being a pagan symbol for the sun. Mistletoe was considered a sacred plant, and the custom of kissing under the mistletoe began as a fertility ritual. Hollyberries were thought to be a food of the gods.

The tree is the one symbol that unites almost all the northern European winter solstices. Live evergreen trees were often brought into homes during the harsh winters as a reminder to inhabitants that soon their crops would grow again. Evergreen boughs were sometimes carried as totems of good luck and were often present at weddings, representing fertility. The Druids used the tree as a religious symbol, holding their sacred ceremonies while surrounding and worshipping huge trees.

In 350, Pope Julius I declared that Christ’s birth would be celebrated on December 25. There is little doubt that he was trying to make it as painless as possible for pagan Romans (who remained a majority at that time) to convert to Christianity. The new religion went down a bit easier, knowing that their feasts would not be taken away from them.

Christmas (Christ-Mass) as we know it today, most historians agree, began in Germany, though Catholics and Lutherans still disagree about which church celebrated it first. The earliest record of an evergreen being decorated in a Christian celebration was in 1521 in the Alsace region of Germany. A prominent Lutheran minister of the day cried blasphemy: “Better that they should look to the true tree of life, Christ.”

------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------- Now, that all being said, it originated with pagan celebrations and was slowly moved into christianity. Why did christians accept this pagan celebration and try to put Jesus in it when really Christ has never been in "Christmas" in the first place?

Take a look at some of the portions of scripture that are in oppostion to the traditions that are all a part of Christmas. Rev. 11:10 talks about, in a negative way, the giving of gifts to one another. This is the only portion of scripture that talks about gift giving in the way most do at Christmas time. It says, "And those who dwell on the earth will rejoice over them, make merry, and send gifts to one another, because these two prophets tormented those who dwell on the earth." I know it's always mentioned that we give gifts because the wise men brought gifts to Jesus. Jesus was certainly not a babe when the wise men appeared on the scene.

------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------ First, there were shepherds at the manger (Luke 2:8-10), but not the wise men. We also have no idea as to how many wise men there are. It could be 2 or 20! The Bible says that the wise men brought three gifts, gold frankincense and myrrh. It is more likely that since these were common currency items of value that each wise man, regardless of the actual number, brought a little of all three. We are not saying that there weren't three, just that to say so is going beyond what is written.

Another glaring error in all the nativity scenes is that the wise men were certainly not at the manger of the inn the night Jesus was born. It says that the wise men came to Jesus' house! It seems clear that the wise men came just prior to the time Herod issued his decree to slaughter all the children under two years. The star first appeared to the wise men when Jesus was born, but it led the wise men to Jesus' house. (Matthew 2:11 "And they came into the house and saw the Child with Mary His mother")

The Bible doesn't say the star shone over the manger. This was a sign only the wise men could discern. The average person would miss it. The star appeared for the purpose of leading the wise men to Jesus home. The wise men started their journey when the star first appeared (at birth). Being from the "east" most likely Persian or Mesopotamia (Modern Iraq) , they completed a journey of at least 500 miles. We can get a general idea as to how old Jesus was when the wise men visited by approximating the time it would take to make such a trip at that time in history. To travel 500 miles, would take 25 days is about the earliest they could have arrived under perfect conditions.

----------------------------------------------------------------------------------------- Clearly, the gifts weren't brought because of his birth day, but to honor HIM. So, why do we give gifts to one another when they did it to honor HIM? Shouldn't we give our gifts to HIM in honor and adoration?

Another very, very traditional practice is the Christmas tree. We adorn it, set it in a place that is well noticed, and put our gifts to one another around its base. The scriptures give us another look at a similar picture to the Christmas tree. Jeremiah 10:1-5 says, "Hear the word which the Lord speaks to you, O house of Israel. Thus says the Lord: "Do not learn the way of the Gentiles; Do not be dismayed at the signs of heaven, for the Gentiles are dismayed at them. For the customs of the peoples are futile; For one cuts a tree from the forest, the work of the hands of the workman, with the ax. They decorate it with silver and gold; they fasten it with nails and hammers so that it will not topple. They are upright, like a palm tree, and they cannot speak; they must be carried, because they cannot go by themselves. Do not be afraid of them, for they cannot do evil, nor can they do any good". This completely looks like the scenario of cutting down a christmas tree bringing it in to the house, stabilizing it and decorating it with silver and gold. Really think about that and the pagan celebrations of worshipping around trees and what we do at christmas time. Are we bringing God glory by doing this?

We say that Jesus is the reason for the season, but the manger scene isn't even a true biblical perspective on what really happened. Why do we lead others astray in how the story took place? Do we do it because that is just what we have always done, and it is a nice little sweet story? There are plenty of things we do that are simply traditional and started by pagans, but because our culture accepts it as a "christian" thing, we go ahead and do it. What does the Bible say about traditions though....if it's in opposition to God's Word that it is never good. It's not how we look at things that matters. It's how God, the Creator of the universe, looks at things. Colossians 2:8 says, "Beware lest anyone cheat you through philosophy and empty deceit, according to the tradition of men, according to the basic principles of the world, and not according to Christ". That seems pretty clear that He knew we would be pulled away from HIM by traditions that weren't according to HIS Word.

What is according to HIS Word when it comes to Jesus' birth? Well, there are some things that we can go by as to when He was born.

-------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------- The Bible does not specifically say the date of Jesus’ birth. We know it was not during the winter months because the sheep were in the pasture (Luke 2:8). A study of the time of the conception of John the Baptist reveals he was conceived about Sivan 30, the eleventh week.

When Zechariah was ministering in the temple, he received an announcement from God of a coming son. The eighth course of Abia, when Zekharya was ministering, was the week of Sivan 12 to 18 (Killian n.d.). Adding forty weeks for a normal pregnancy reveals that John the Baptist was born on or about Passover (Nisan 14). We know six months after John’s conception, Mary conceived Jesus (Luke 1:26-33). Therefore, Jesus would have been conceived six months later in the month of Kislev.

Counting through the nine months of Mary’s pregnancy, one arrives at the approximate time of the birth of Jesus at the Festival of Tabernacles (the early fall of the year).
During the Feast of Tabernacles, God required all male Jews to come to Jerusalem. The many pilgrims coming to Jerusalem for the festivals would spill over to the surrounding towns (Bethlehem is about five miles from Jerusalem). Joseph and Mary were unable to find a room at the inn because of the influx of so many pilgrims.

------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------ These things add up and make sense. The enemy sure has been crafty in how he so swiftly carried christians away from the true time of Jesus' birth and persuaded them into celebrating pagan holidays and putting "Christ's" name on it to make it sound okay to us. It's not okay to God. He sees the deception and the wickedness of the enemy. So many people say they love celebrating Jesus' birth. Well why don't they do it when Jesus himself wanted us to celebrate it. The feasts of the Bible were His appointed times to celebrate His wonderful love for us. They convey all that traditional/pagan holidays (such as Valentine's day, Halloween, Christmas and even Easter) are thought to portray only they set our eyes truly on all that He is. Wouldn't He want that from us more than intermingling pagan ideas with what He accomplished for us? Matt. 23:1-3 says: “Then Jesus spoke to the multitudes, saying, “The scribes and the Pharisees sit in Moses’ seat. Therefore whatever they tell you to observe, that observe and do, but do not do according to their works; for they say, and do not do.” So, Jesus was telling us to observe the things they said to observe, which would be Sabbath and the Feasts of the Bible that He already layed out for us. Also, the scribes and Pharisees had all the lingo down of how to sound perfect in the eyes of God, but they weren't practicing it truely with their hearts. How many of us have the lingo down and sound godly, but when it comes down to it, we aren't truely living every step completely for HIM because we have so much of the world and culture grounded into our lives that we believe that that is the right thing.

I just want to challenge you to truly take a look at it for how God might see it all. Does He glory in the fact that we are doing things that pagans began? Does He glory in the fact that we say it's all about HIM but truly we can't wait to open presents? Does He glory in the fact that people want His name "Christ" put back into Christmas when He was never there in the first place?

I can imagine some of you may think we have fallen off our rocker, but actually, we don't want to be like the scribes and pharisees who talk it but don't really live it in their hearts with the reflection in their lives of 100% serving and living for HIM, shunning all things that are in opposition to what He has said. So, there you have it. I challenge you to do the research on the origins of Easter also. There is a reason for that Easter bunny. He did lay out a celebration at Passover for us as being one of His Biblical Feasts. We just choose to celebrate the Holy days that He established for us. Not adding to His Word or taking away from it.


Anonymous said...

Grace and Peace to the Bovees!
Saw your comment at Baylyblog and thought I'd check you out.
I do think you're off your rocker...but not by much. This December especially has had me thinking critically of Christmas. Pagan origins aside, "ye shall know them by their fruit," and Christmas celebrations don't seem to produce the fruit that God is seeking.

But the wrong use of a thing doesn't invalidate its right use. As most celebrate it, Christmas is soul-abuse (especially child soul-abuse). But I'm not ready to give up the occasion entirely. We've used December to lead our kids through some Scriptures that specifically point forward to the promised Messiah. All the year is for the whole counsel of God but I see good reason to use part of the calendar to zero in on the incarnation. Now is as good a time as any. You may convince me to get rid of my Christmas tree and mortify my gift-greed but the concept of a Christian festival to celebrate God's work is, I still believe, a good one.

Having said all that, I must confess I have yet to read all the way through your post (maybe you already realize that) but I plan to do so and may write a retraction of this comment!

Good to "see" you again.

Andrew Halsey

Anonymous said...

By the way, I miss you guys. And now I won't be able to stop thinking about you.

Andrew Halsey

Bovee Family said...

Well, Andrew Halsey!!! So good to hear from you, though we must say we would love to "see" your family. We added our e-mail contact, so if you happen to have a blog with family pics, send it our way.

Please do read the whole blog(maybe you already have). Amazing that you are also thinking critically of Christmas this year. You should really look into the Feasts of the Bible as "Christian" festivals to celebrate God's work. It's all very interesting to us as we study and draw closer to HIM.

Blessings to you and your family!