Wednesday, December 16, 2009

If you can't sleep...don't blame astronauts or pagans.

After sleeping over 16 hours a day for nearly 10 days, I'm now stricken with insomnia. Ironic.

I'm up this morning after midnight watching the NASA Channel...that's right...NASA TV. You'd figure an hour of watching some guy float around on the International Space Station reading a procedure manual with very little dialog would be enough to send a person right to la-la land.

Didn't happen.

Up next...the History Channel International. Now we're getting somewhere. Surely my subconsciousness would cause a lapse into sleep from habit alone. I watched/slept through at least 100 hours of History Channel programming while I was sick...

Nothing. Not even a yawn.

But, I did catch a program on the history of Christmas with an emphasis on the holiday's pagan roots. No new information really, but it did make me realize how much the subject matter has come up lately in my own little circle. There are people who read this very blog that have very strong conviction about Christmas not really being connected to all.
Even though I completely respect the view that Christians should have nothing to do with the holiday due to how it originated and what it has come to represents today, I can't say I'm in total agreement. In my opinion, it's a deeply personal issue, and I'm not comfortable trying to interpret the intentions or sincerity of how someone else celebrates Christmas. Only God has that ability.

For me, it all starts and ends at home. My role at my house is to be the spiritual leader. If I allow commercialism to overcome the celebration of Christ's birth...that's on me. Of course, that's really no different any other time of the year. Focus on God is a 365 day a year commitment. If a few twinkling lights and tinsel distract from that focus, I can't in good conscience blame Christmas or Christmas festivities. Besides, Christmas was always about the birth of Jesus in my home growing up, and I had absolutely no clue then about the pagan ties to winter festivals centuries ago. No...I have a formal, secular education to thank for that knowledge.

Still, I applaud those who have sworn off the tradition based on their belief and faith. They send a powerful message to their children and peers that a secular progressive world can be held at bay. It is not my place to judge them right or wrong...and it is wrong of others to do so too.

Christmas for me is mainly about a perception...a feeling that during the season people are just a little bit nicer to each other, that people are a tad more concerned about those with little or without, a time when families draw closer, when non-believers are forced to deal with those of us who rejoice in our belief, when lessons on being a joyful giver are at a prime, and an opportunity presented to tell on the largest of stages the greatest story ever told.

One of the best lines I think I've ever heard about Christmas came in a Seinfeld episode when Elaine says 'There's too much Jesus in the Christmas thing for me.'

If only that were always the case...

I feel a good sleep coming my way.


David said...

Of course, I have been looked upon for an answer to the Christmas debate in the past, and the present, and I am sure I will be in the future. (All references to ghosts are unintentional.)

Look, Paul said everything is legal except for that which is forbidden. If you read 1st and 2nd Corinthians - and let's toss in Galatians and Ephesians too - you'll see that Paul's gripe was not with celebrations, but with the sinful behavior at such gatherings. I mean the clowns at Corinth screwed up communion! - Which was instituted by Jesus himself.

Look, I think that symbolism is important to God, otherwise we'd have communion with Coke and Lays potato chips. The symbolism of Christmas is that a Savior was born - and a good thing too. The message of Easter is that this Savior was crucified, died, buried and rose again from the dead - a great thing - because without those two facts, Christianity becomes a philosophy.

What matters is the truth!

So, ask me, if I walk into the 1st Church of Satan and pray, will God hear me?

In the end, if lights make me feel closer to God, and Christmas trees are a symbol of the Root of Jessie - then they have served a purpose. I happen to like menorahs too! If gift giving gets me thinking about the fact that 86% of Christians DON'T tithe, then so be it.

I find it interesting that Christians are more worried about Christmas falling on pagan holiday, then they are about ripping God off in the tithe. (Mal 3)

I think it's time that we lived in grace, learned to hear the voice of God, and celebrate Him in whatever ways we become closer to Him. What not celebrate a few Jewish holiday too!

Everything is legal, but not everything is prudent. Trying to live by the law and not by the Spirit is condemnation.

As spiritual leaders in our homes, we MUST be led by the spirit - and that includes hearing God on this, and many other topics.

photogr said...

In the past I have heard of the pagan holidays but Christmas means to me the birth of Jesus and all that He stands for. For that I serve a great reverance for that monumental time in history. Then lastly I celebrate the gifting and celebration with the family.

Considering the current economic climate, I would imagine tithing is an issue if one is with out work or reduced pay.I know it has hit our church heavily with so many out of work and with medical expenses. I can only pray that those in hardship can be forgiven by God during their crisis.

Misty Rice said...

I will comment more later.... I read through it, but I am in a rush to comment as i would want so I will be back.


Tracy said...

I really agree with what Larry, David and you (Tony) are saying about it being up to us to make what Christmas will stand for in our homes. I especially appreciate your encouragement David, to live in grace.

May I not only live in the grace I'm constantly receiving from God, but may I constantly be extending His grace to others. (So this means give my 17yr old son a break when he's got attitude)

Michelle said...

I have so much to say about this one... I don't know where to start.

Let me start with David's bring up excellent points; however, how can you compare the ordinances of Christ with man made "holy days?" The symbolism of Christmas is not Christ's birth. If it is... then it's a lie. The symbolism is the Christians way of becoming part of the world. I, too, have looked at Paul's words about what is legal and that is why I don't get into other folks celebration as much as I did at one time. Also, "the lights make me feel closer to God." We must be very careful in any image or object that makes us feel closer to God. It runs the risk of having a graven image in that nothing can be the glory God only can be. I do understand you are not worshipping the lights. Just a perception I had when I read the comment. I feel the same way about crosses.

Tony, what I see in your post is "your opinion" and the "personal issues." My thing is things shouldn't be based on opinion or personal issues. I don't trust the deep personal issues because Scripture teaches me the heart is desperately wicked. We do need to live out our Christian walk based on grace. However, as believers we will begin to seperate from the world by the work of the Spirit. Christmas is the most celebrated day in the world by Christians and non-believers alike. If there was anything related to Jesus in Christmas, would the world love it so much? What does scripture say about this? Are the things that are highly esteemed among men an abomination to God? Why is Christmas so highly esteemed among men?

I believe people can say Christmas is about Jesus in their home; but how do they glorify Him by giving each other stuff? How do we lay down our materialism to follow Him? How do we make unclean pagan symbols clean by attaching Christ's name?

You choose to bring out the good things about Christmas. But what about all the other stuff? The Christian kids who receive in abundance while others are left hungry and homeless. But it's OK because we gave a little more this month?

I believe if you want to celebrate Christ's birth...then do it. But do it with nothing worldly... no symbols, no stuff to gratify ourselves and our own emotions. Truly glorify God by worshipping Him and only Him. Are we glorifying Him by teaching our children lies?

You know that I say this in love...and by all means for others that read this... I am a grace only believer! ALL THE WAY!! I do believe in sanctification by the Spirit which will seperate us from the world and bring persecution.

David said...

@Michelle - thanks for your thoughtful response.

My understanding of grace is receiving the sacrifice of Jesus on the cross for the forgiveness of sin, thus allowing me to live by the spirit and not by "laws" which He came to fulfill.

That is why I don't go to church on Saturday, yet that is the "legal Sabbath" - the Sabbath is now in my heart. I can have one right now. That is why I don't great anyone in the US with a holy kiss, yet it is very popular in Brazil.

When it comes to acting like the world - that is doing things that are biblically legal (not sin), yet may not appear spiritual, like golfing, watching TV, shopping, etc. I am an ambassador for Christ. Some things are legal and must be spiritually discerend. There is a great cloud of witnesses that will try to make sure that if I get it wrong, they can call me a hypocrite - and they have.

My mission is simply to do what I see the Father doing. I can enjoy my Father and His work wherever I am - with or without Chritmas lights. The Liturgical seasons can sometimes be helpful in staying focused on Jesus [for me] and for others they can be an idol. Heck, the internet can be an idol.

Honestly, I am much more concerned about Christians that are superficial relationally and are not doers of the word, than I am about whether they have a lighted Santa on the front lawn.

I certainly see your point for those that participate only in the commercialized version of Christmas and not the one in which we are deeply grateful that God sent sinners a much needed savior to save a wretch like me.

I can only tell you that one of the most profound experiences I have ever had with Jesus, came at a performance I went to with my unbelieving mother as we sang the following hymn. There I stood, my hand hand outstretched, tears running down my checks; singing like I had never sang in 15 years of church - and I adored Him! I grasped her hand and she felt the power and presence of God. She was saved within the year or so.

O Come All Ye Faithful
Joyful and triumphant,
O come ye, O come ye to Bethlehem.
Come and behold Him,
Born the King of Angels;
O come, let us adore Him,
O come, let us adore Him,
O come, let us adore Him,
Christ the Lord.

O Sing, choirs of angels,
Sing in exultation,
Sing all that hear in heaven God's holy word.
Give to our Father glory in the Highest;
O come, let us adore Him,
O come, let us adore Him,
O come, let us adore Him,
Christ the Lord.

All Hail! Lord, we greet Thee,
Born this happy morning,
O Jesus! for evermore be Thy name adored.
Word of the Father, now in flesh appearing;
O come, let us adore Him,
O come, let us adore Him,
O come, let us adore Him,
Christ the Lord.

Mark Johnson said...

CHRISTMAS IS AS IT WAS. What? My point is that Christmas today is comprised of the same stuff as it was thousands of years before Christ's birth, i.e., parties, drunkenness, gift giving and feasts. Sure, the “art of Christmas” was called other names then (Saturnalia, etc.) but the things that were actually done are identical to our “Christmas”. In essence, the religious and political leaders of the day saw Christ as pretty good but not good enough to create a whole new day for Him. So, they (I contend wrongly) merged Him in with the long-established sun god festivals of the day.

CHRISTMAS IS AS IT WAS. Am I wrong about this? Okay, I did forget one difference; today there are Jesus Defenders everywhere insisting that everyone say “Merry Christmas,” trying to “Keep Christ in Christmas,” and proclaiming that “Jesus is the Reason For the Season.” Why do we (as Christ followers) think it is the place of our nation’s retailers to tell our story? I actually used to be a very high ranking officer within the Jesus Defender Movement. I made absolutely positive that we always had a “Happy Birthday Jesus” cake displayed prominently for all to see before we got down to what was really on everybody’s mind - the gifts. Does anyone out there except me think that Satan is completely cool with the way most Christians celebrate Christmas? After a month full of planning, spending, scheduling, charging, worrying and hoping, we hit pause to MAYBE go to a Christmas play or MAYBE read the “Christmas story” before getting down to the good stuff. I’d like to give us all something to ponder. If the trees and gifts were taken completely out of Christmas would believers and/or nonbelievers still practice the “art of Christmas?” What would it look like? Just two things. Trees and Gifts. By deleting two things would it drastically change Christmas worldwide?

I promise I’m not trying to convert anyone but at the same time I think (correction - know) that our Savior is worthy of serious consideration on this matter. And, again, I know how hard it is to let go of something you were raised to believe. My parents, Sunday school teachers, nor Pastors taught me anything they knew to be wrong. They taught what they had been taught. Talk about an actual inconvenient truth, when I finally realized how Christmas actually came to be, I was shaken to the core. But you know, Christ shook people’s long-held beliefs to the core as well.

Misty Rice said...

Okay I am back....

I recently heard the other day and I think it can help fit this post.

Some people are extroverts and some of us are introverts.

The extroverts have no problem at all telling their Christ story. Sharing their faith.

We others the "introverts' do. Sometimes we are so shy or so sensitive about sharing our faith because we don't want to step on toes. We don't want to offend anyone. We just all want to get along.

Often times we shy off on inviting our friends to church.

Christmas yes is in two parts.... it is first and most importantly about CHRIST. Jesus our Saviors birth. It is the celebration of his birth and day that changed our world forever.

Part two is the Santa thing. Did you know that Coca-Cola came up with the jolly fat man in the red suit called Santa Clause? I didn't know that until recently. And now that I wrote that I hope I am not wrong. LOL


I agree with the comment that its should be Jesus 365 days. But reality it isn't. Life gets busy and we are so focused on our selfish lives.

Often Christmas has too much "Jesus" in it. Well to me I rather have too much Jesus in one month of the year vs the too little Jesus in the other 11 months.

This is the month that gives us introverts the opportunity to speak up and tell our Christ stories. To invite people to church. It is the easiest time of the year to invite as people are most likely to say yes for christmas.

Jesus was big on giving. Thus the reason to give gifts on his birthday.

You can't please everyone...

But you can always keep in mind the reason for this season we are all celebrating today.

Give.... give loves, gifts and charity in the love of Jesus whom gave the biggest gift of all.

Don't get caught up in the hustle and bustle. Don't try to keep up with the modern view of our society.

Just find yourself and be humbled that you are living in a free country and able to freely speak about and worship your Savior.

Happy Holidays.

katdish said...

Ugh! It's such a balancing act. Sometimes I really wish Christmas was just about the birth of Christ. We make it about more. But I agree that people tend to be nicer to each other this time of year, and that's a very good thing. I grew up celebrating the more secular aspects of the holiday. Now we stress the birth of Chirst first, but we still exchange gifts and decorate, etc. It's when the extra stuff starts to overtake to real reason we celebrate (personally speaking) that I need to get myself right again.

But Festivus? Now you're talking!

"I got a lot of problems with you people!"

ashley said...

Great post! I totally respect those who choose not to celebrate Christmas based on it's origins as a pagan holiday.

But...God created each and every day. I'm all for snatching a day the pagans claimed as their own and keeping it for Christ! Halloween? Satan can't have it---I'm taking it back, and I'm eatin' Almond Joy to the glory of God!!!

Besides, each and every one of the days of the week is named for pagan Viking gods. Which I'm thinking gives me a totally valid reason for not acknowledging "Monday" anymore....

David said...

I am with Ashley - let's take some real estate for the Kingdom.

I think a lot of the feasts of the Catholic church have very valid spiritual roots. I think if we can eat meat sacrificed to idols, then we should have a great time stopping on the ungodly parts of Christmas, Mondays. or Halloween. I say we do it all in the name of Jesus!

After all - they will know we are Christians buy our love and the demonstration of the power of God right?

Here's my take on the whole mess.