Monday, December 29, 2008

The Scrooge Who Loved Jesus

It always happens this time of year: anxiety, stress, apprehension, and all the feelings invoked by the fast approach of Christmas. But for me, it isn’t about buying last minute gifts or forgotten grocery items. It isn’t the mad rush to take in every Christmas event, party, festivity, gathering, or church service. It isn’t about the cards I didn’t send or the late click of online gift giving for long distance friends and relatives. Instead, it is something I cannot escape no matter how I try. I do not partake in Christmas and this fact alienates me from the entire social strata buzzing around the season. It makes me the oddball out; the strange Christian who must have a childhood hang-up or some kind of excitable idea of end times purification. My refusal to join in the traditions of Christmas places me in the face of gall and ridicule.

Why do I abstain? I never had good memories of Christmas. My mother and father made sure there were plenty of gifts, a well-decorated tree and home, lots of food and fun, and family to enjoy it with. But I always remember my uncle getting drunk and becoming obscene, arguments among siblings, too many unwanted or unappreciated gifts, lot’s of clean-up and the deflated feeling the next day when the dust settled and everyone had gone home. I remember looking around and wondering why we did all this? What did it have to do with Jesus? Who was Jesus? And if it was His birthday—why did we give each other gifts?

One year, my husband and I, not even Christians at the time, watched as two women engaged in a vicious fist fight in the parking lot of the shopping mall. At that point, we no longer wanted to buy into the mess. We decided back then to "skip" Christmas and it caused us a lot of grief.
I am almost finished with John Grisham's book, Skipping Christmas, and I can relate to why the Kranks wanted to skip the holiday frenzy! (You will have to read it for yourself!)

What has Christmas become? Where did it come from? You can do a lot of research online and find much information about each custom. But my question would be, “What would Jesus do? What would He want to do if it was His birthday and He was here to celebrate it? What would He say to us if He suddenly appeared on Christmas Eve while all the partying was occurring?”

Where did some of the glorious, entrenched, and untouchable traditions come from? Here are some answers for a few plus why they are not really applicable to any attempt at celebrating Jesus’ birth:

· Christmas: Christmas is the day on which Christians celebrate the birth of Jesus Christ. The Roman Catholic Church designates it as a day of holy obligation on which members of the Church must attend services.

· “Christmas”, THE WORLD BOOK ENCYCLOPEDIA, Vol. 3, “C-Ch”, 1997 “The first mention of December 25 as the birth date of Jesus occurred in A.D. 336 in an early Roman calendar. The celebration of this day as Jesus' birth date was probably influenced by pagan [unchristian] festivals held at that time. The ancient Romans held year-end celebrations to honor Saturn, their harvest god; and Mithras, the [sic] god of light... As part of all these celebrations, the people prepared special foods, decorated their homes with greenery, and joined in singing and gift giving. These customs gradually became part of the Christmas celebration.”

· “In the late 300's, Christianity became the official religion of the Roman Empire... The popularity of Christmas grew until the Reformation, a religious movement of the 1500's. This movement gave birth to Protestantism. During the Reformation, many Christians began to consider Christmas a pagan celebration because it included nonreligious customs. During the 1600's, because of these feelings, Christmas was outlawed in England and in parts of the English colonies in America.”

· Opposition to the observance of Christmas continued just past the second half of the Nineteenth Century. An article in the December 26, 1885 edition of The New York Daily Times stated, “The churches of the Presbyterians, Baptists, and Methodists were not open on December 25 except where some mission schools had a celebration. They do not accept the day as a holy one, but the Episcopalian, Catholic, and German churches were all open. Inside they were decked with evergreens.”

· New England Puritans considered Christmas “popish” idolatry, and the Massachusetts General Court in 1659 passed an act against its celebration, though the law was repealed in 1681.

· Christmas Tree: The first decorating of an evergreen tree began with the heathen Greeks and their worship of their god Adonia, who allegedly was brought back to life by the serpent Aessulapius after having been slain. What does the Bible say about a Christmas Tree? A “green tree” is mentioned 14 times in the Bible, and in every instance it is linked with idolatry. There isn’t one place in the Bible where God commends the use of the “green tree” in connection with true worship.

· Jeremiah, who was sent out to urge the people to turn from “their evil ways,” provides an accurate description of why a Christmas tree is against the will of God. “Thus saith the LORD, Learn not the way of the heathen, and be not dismayed at the signs of heaven; for the heathen are dismayed at them. For the customs of the people are vain: for one cutteth a tree out of the forest, the work of the hands of the workman, with the ax. They deck it with silver and with gold; they fasten it with nails and with hammers, that it move not.” (Jeremiah 10:2-4)

· Trees have been used in pagan, idolatrous worship for many thousands of years. Numerous references to this can be found throughout the Old Testament (I Kings 14:23; II Kings 16:2-4; 17:10; II Chronicles 28:4; I Samuel 40:18-20; 57:5; 66:17; Jeremiah 2:20; 3:6,13; 10:1-5; Ezekiel 6:13).]

· Gift Giving: Gift giving is one of the oldest customs associated with Christmas: it is actually older than the holiday itself. When the date of Christmas was set to fall in December, it was done at least in part to compete with ancient pagan festivals that occurred about the same time. The Romans, for example, celebrated the Saturnalia on December 17. It was a winter feast of merrymaking and gift exchanging. The reason why the wise men brought gifts to Jesus was because He was born to be King of the Jews. But they were not birthday gifts. It was customary to give gifts to Kings.

· During the antichrist's reign, the two witnesses whom God shall send to the people of the earth will be killed when God is finished with them. The antichrist will put them to death. Listen to God's Word: “And when they shall have finished their testimony, the beast that ascendeth out of the bottomless pit shall make war against them, and shall overcome them, and kill them.” (Rev. 11:7)

· As a result of the death of these prophets of God, the world will be so delighted and thrilled that they will exchange gifts with one another. Here is what the Word says: “"And they of the people and kindreds and tongues and nations shall see their dead bodies three days and an half, and shall not suffer their dead bodies to be put in graves. And they that dwell upon the earth shall rejoice over them, and make merry, and shall send gifts one to another, because these two prophets tormented them that dwelt on the earth.” (Rev. 11:9, 10)

· Santa Claus: Taken from the Worldbook Encyclopedia, “Some of Santa Claus's characteristics date back many centuries. For example, the belief that Santa enters the house through the chimney developed from an old Norse legend. The Norse believed that the goddess Hertha appeared in the fireplace and brought good luck to the home.”

· Although most people assume that the original “Santa Claus” was a bishop by the name of St. Nicholas of Asia Minor of the fourth century, this is not really true. Although some of this bishop's deeds later came to be associated with “St. Nick,” the original “Nicholas” was once again Nimrod, the “mighty one against the Lord.” The word “Nicholas” means “mighty one, powerful.” Traditions of a “god” who gave gifts under an evergreen tree antecede the Asian Minor bishop by thousands of years! Among the Scandinavians it was the god Odin or Woden who left special gifts during the Yuletide season under the evergreen tree, his sacred tree!

· Who was this Odin, or Woden, the original "Santa Claus"? He was the chief god of Norse mythology, a fierce fighter who carried a spear as his special weapon. He was renown as a mighty hunter, and for his magical powers. This same author declares, further, of the connection between Odin/Wodan and Saint Nicholas: Wodan/Odin: The Germanic/Nordic sun god; man's friend, the mysterious Schimmel rider. Dragging his dark and devilish slave Eckhart along on a chain, he rides through the stormy skies. He leads the Wild Hunt, eluding, and finally subjugating, the powers of evil. He also wears a broad-brimmed hat, a wide mantel, holds his spear, and rides through the skies (replace his hat with a bishop's mytre and the spear with a crozier, and we have the Dutch Saint Nicholas)” (p.111, Tony van Renterghem, “When Santa Was a Shaman: The Ancient Origins of Santa Claus & the Christmas Tree”)

· Kris Kringle: Kris Kringle is a popular corruption of the name of the Christkind, the Christ Child originally, later the gift-bringing angelic figure in much of northern Europe.

How can we put “Christ back into Christmas!” when He was never part of it in the first place? Search the Bible from Genesis to Revelation and no command—not even a suggestion—to commemorate the Savior's birth will be found.

No one likes to have Christmas picked on. But I do not want to worship Jesus with pagan traditions. I do not want to portray Him as a helpless little babe in a manger. He is God. He is bigger than life and bigger than how we represent Him to the world at Christmas.

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