Friday, December 07, 2012

Christmas - A Pathetic Idol


Who can grasp the fullness of eternity? Who can know its expanse and its glory? Who among us smiles with knowing confidence when someone says that God has always existed and had no beginning? It is the mystery of all mysteries. God is a spirit, but what human words can even define the word “spirit”? Our God is high above all that we are even capable of imagining, and one day all who have been washed by the Lamb’s blood will see Him as he is. Go ahead, feel those goosebumps.

But God knew that man in his fallen condition could never find God since man will always have an ingredient of narcissism and human wisdom. So God uses Noah. Then God uses Abram. Then God calls Moses and protects him from dangerous circumstances and even uses Pharaoh’s court to educate His servant. And then Moses presents His law with all kinds of profound ways to bring mankind to a place of need and understanding concerning redemption. For thousands of years God’s people practiced His laws which included days and months and years and feasts and many types of symbols.

But then came Bethlehem. This was never meant to be a feast. This was the culmination of hundreds of prophetic utterances and this day was the end of the law of Moses and the beginning of an unfathomable miracle that would lead to, of all things, a human sacrifice. But further still, it would be the sacrifice of THE divine Being. Only a few decades ago men believed that our galaxy was the entire universe and it contained a few million stars. Soon they saw many billions of stars. Then Edwin Hubble discovered more galaxies. Today men know that there are hundreds of billions of galaxies with each one containing hundreds of billions of stars.

Today human intellects imagine a great architect, a powerful force, that created and oversees the universe. They envision a colossal celestial mind that throbs with knowledge and power. While that may be true and even understated, what the mind of man misses is the greatest expression of the Creator even known to mankind. Quietly step over animal droppings and the crackle of straw, ignore the stench of cattle, peek over a wooden trough, and look into a tiny human face.

You have just seen God. There is no other. Yes, Bethlehem became the place where God actually revealed His face. This was God coming in the likeness of sinful flesh. Mystery of mysteries and glory of all glories. It soars above all reason. It goes way beyond philosophy. The reality of God is beyond us, but to think that He who created everything stepped into a human body is unimaginable. The Incarnation is a doctrine of the church which elicits sentimentality once a year, but it is the revelation of all that had been foretold and all that would be accomplished.

Who but the fallen ingenuity of man could take the Incarnation when God came in the likeness of human flesh and turn it into a merchandise extravaganza? Who could use and abuse such an event and make it little more than a “season” or some religious sentimentality? God comes to rescue mankind and we create a self serving “holiday” that is not only warned against in the New Testament, but we place it months after the event actually happened as this study illuminates. (It has been brought to my attention that the writer of the link I provided belongs to an aberrant theological community. I do not endorse that, only his research as it pertains to Christmas.) This, as in past Decembers, will provide much fanfare, much warmth, much eating, much buying, much family get togethers, but will once again treat His coming as an aside and completely miss the holiness and the sacred redemptive essence of that God-child.

Yes, the western church has managed to desecrate that holy visitation and turn it into an “observance”. And billions of dollars emanating from evangelical pockets will be spent on each other, and much of it on fluff and worthless hedonistic toys. This is the stuff which boggles the mind, and when your eyes have been opened you eventually become horrified at the entire spectacle. And many who read this post will consider me a raging maniac who has taken a wonderful time of the year and attempted to suck out all the joy. Yes, to many, I am the Grinch.

But this event many call “Christmas” is so much more than seasonal colors and manger scenes and trees. God gives His only begotten Son and yet man creates a self serving holiday that is so tepid, so compromised, and so diluted that even the heathen enjoy its benefits. But Bethlehem’s event will never be Christmas. Christmas is a man made observance which wallows in hedonism and all kinds of hollow sentimentality. When I was a boy my family would open our gifts on Christmas Eve and the go to the midnight service at the Lutheran church. It was one of two times my father went to church. It was centered around music and gifts and smells and the general spirit of the season. Oh yes, Jesus was mentioned and the obligatory story in Luke was read. What an unscriptural farce.

And what does Santa and Mommy and Daddy ask the little child? “And what do you want for Christmas?” What an incredible training toward hedonism and narcissism. My father was German and rarely showed any emotions. He was the only child born to a 39 year old mother. He grew up never really having any emotional training and although he was a good man, he had no sensitivity. I can remember a room full of Christmas presents with only one small one for my mother. And even though I was only eight I can still remember feeling sad because my mother gave everything she had. You see, the materialism was paramount.

The entire spectacle has burgeoned into a full blown hedonistic festival which lines the pockets of store owners while retaining just enough Jesus to make it a religious holiday. But let us not be deceived. We are not celebrating the birth of Jesus which most likely occurred around the Feast of Tabernacles or the Day of Atonement. And even if we were to move the day to a more Scriptural time if it were practiced as it is today it would still be akin to dancing around a golden calf. It does not mean that some people do not love Jesus or are not saved. But what it does reveal is a disregard for Scriptural truth regardless of how we claim to be “Bible believers”.

The Book of Galatians was written to correct the church about attempting to mesh law with grace. Paul goes into great detail about the superior nature of the New Covenant and how God had used the Mosaic Law to point us to this new and surpassing covenant. In the 4th chapter Paul explicitly says that Hagar, representing the law, shall not be heir with Sarah, representing the grace found in Christ. And yet some still desire to incorporate certain parts of the law while still clinging to grace. But Paul refutes that entire concept and in some cities his life was in jeopardy for that very teaching.

Gal.4: 9 But now, after that ye have known God, or rather are known of God, how turn ye again to the weak and beggarly elements, whereunto ye desire again to be in bondage?
10 Ye observe days, and months, and times, and years.
11 I am afraid of you, lest I have bestowed upon you labour in vain.

And what shall we make of these inspired words? Shall we just ignore them and do what we desire to do anyway? Should we just confine them to a law vs. grace metaphor and acknowledge the grace of Christ but still observe the things Paul warns against? This is just another example of how far we have strayed from the Scriptures even though we claim they are God’s very Words. And our flesh, when confronted with things like this, screams out in much discomfort. What will happen if we do not observe Christmas? It almost seems like an impossibility.

This kind of outward structure is as strong as being confronted with the carnality and spiritually damaging essence of politics and nationalism. People might believe we have gone mad. And what about the children? You see, the discussion itself does not center on what God’s says but on the repercussions we might face. Again. I judge no one's standing before God as it pertains to their personal redemption. The Lord knows those who are His. But how can we expect to be renewed and progress mightily in our spiritual journey if we are unwilling to examine our hearts and address things about which the Scriptures teach? Is a greater and deeper relationship worthy of some sacrificial and even painful inward spiritual business?

Every year I write about Christmas and almost every year some have their eyes opened. However every year I warn all of us against being self righteous. It has been my experience that anytime God has graciously called my out of some unscriptural ways or called me into a deeper intimacy with Him my flesh strongly urges me to feel superior. This is not something that happens now and then, but even when I write about these things I still must do spiritual battles lest I be lifted up in my own eyes. And so my fellow followers of Jesus, I do not exhort you from the fort called “Arrived”. Far from it. In fact, to whom much is revealed much is required.

And just what was the first step for me concerning Christmas? Well after I became aware of the inaccurate date, and after I had read Galatians again and again, the next Christmas I walked through December with my ears and eyes opened. And I was extremely shocked at just how secular most of it was. Many of the songs were about the season or Santa Claus or the gifts or the tree. But what shocked me even further was how the church went to great lengths to mesh the secular with the spiritual. And those who professed to believe in and follow Jesus spent their money on Christmas with the same vigor as did the unbelievers. And as I became a fly on the wall I hardly heard anyone speak of Jesus. I heard believers speak of traveling, or speak of family times, or speak of crowds, or speak of traffic, or speak of the Christmas pageant, or speak of house lights, but I could not believe how little Jesus was mentioned. We were comfortable speaking about Christmas but not about Christ.

That was when I repented of my own blindness. I would never celebrate Christmas again, but I would embrace the Incarnation all through the year. Yes, I have grandchildren. Yes, I have three children. Two of my children still observe Christmas, and I give my daughter some money to get the kids something. So as you can see I am far from perfect. But I just cannot celebrate that which is now dead to me. I no longer need days and times. I no longer need holidays. I no longer need shadows. I no longer need seasons. I only need Christ, and I need all my energy and sacrifice seeking Him. Christ has nothing to do with Christmas. Perhaps this year the Spirit will gently tap you on the shoulder of your heart. And if He does it will not be easy.

But I am not alone. Let me share with you a quote from someone about whom you may have a greater consideration.
"We have no superstitious regard for times and seasons. Certainly we do not believe in the present ecclesiastical arrangement called Christmas: first, because we do not believe in the mass at all, but abhor it, whether it be said or sung in Latin or in English; and, secondly, because we find no Scriptural warrant whatever for observing any day as the birthday of the Savior; and, consequently, its observance is a superstition, and not because of divine authority."
Who said that? Charles Hadden Spurgeon.
But God will more than fill whatever space is left vacant because you no longer embrace the event men call Christmas. In some ways our hearts are mangers, and Paul says,

Gal.4: 19 My little children, of whom I travail in birth again until Christ be formed in you,

In some ways the day you believed on Jesus your heart became Bethlehem, and now the Spirit desires your heart to be Calvary. And one glorious day you will be raised in the full likenees of the Risen Christ! But it all began at Bethlehem.


JMD said...

We do as you and give money to our daughter for the grandchildren.

I do have a question. Do you still send Christmas cards? I have been trying to stop this practice since we do not celebrate the "event". I do not wish to impose my viewpoints on the relatives and friends but it seems a bit disingenuous to purchase and mail the cards. I almost bought a box of "thinking of you" cards and then cowered out.

Rick Frueh said...

I do not send Christmas cards. The money I give to my daughter is the extent to which I "observe" Christmas. My oldest son does not celebrate Christmas, but my daughter and my youngest son still do.
I have to admit that aside from the spiritual element, not participating in Christmas is such freedom!

Anonymous said...

I agree all here. It's not as simple, though, to act on it. I look at this as a holiday. A holiday, like the Thanksgiving holiday, or the "Easter" holiday, all secularly celebrated, and culturally implanted in our midst.

The bible calls us to be moderate in all things. So, even in secular activities, or our daily lives, we need to be moderate. Moderate in what kind of 'things' we buy, expensive or low-budget necessities, big new cars, or small economy cars, big houses, small houses, etc. Each christian, with their conscience, has to make their personal decisions.

I think, maybe, it's all about how we, as christians, present ourselves in this hedonistic culture of excesses. I think the "excesses" are more of a stumblingblock to witness to others than celebrating Christmas, in it's pagan idolatry. People are looking for genuine, and they desperately want to see role models, but there are so few. These are the role models that can preach the gospel and prove the gospel has affected their life.

Hearing a minister or preacher deliver a fiery sermon who after the service is whisked away to the airport on first class, back to his palace and cars doesn't convict. It just doesn't convict. Maybe this is why so many christians ask why we don't see miracles, healings,and more deliverance. The priests are living the high life and claim the anointing is on them, yet they live like lords and masters. The OT anointed men of God were usually running away from enemies, hiding, living in caves, not sumptuously feeding and travelling first-class all the way.

Back to celebrating Christmas, it would be best if we, as christians, shunned being involved in any of the celebrations, as we know most of them stem from pagan feasts. But, then, it's true, we look like the Grinch if we completely l00% ignore any of it; from our families, friends, and such. But, being a total anti-pagan control freak can also rise up in us this self-righteousness. So, the way I see it, do things like Paul? commanded, do everything in moderation. In Christmas mode, for me, (may the Lord work on me about this further from now on) but for right now, it means, just taking the time to get to see my adult kids and their families and enjoy some time with them; who knows, the subject of Jesus comes up and even as a kid, when I'd watch Charlie Brown, hearing Linus read Luke on Jesus' birth, would make me shed a secret tear, feeling the Spirit of God touch me. These cartoons were done for secular profit, yet they may have planted seeds regardless.

I really think the world, unbelievers, know that Christmas in the West is way too profiteering and crass, and they wait to hear blogs like this speak out on the excesses. Conservative cable news channels are livid when they hear about governments wanting to remove trees, mangers, even Santas, from the public squares. The ultra conservatives, who remind their public of their christian roots and heritage, should be the ones who see the Christmas idolism first, yet they are the last to see it, and think they're persecuted for Christ because government wants to remove a statue made out of plastic. The world sees and laughs. They want genuine.

Rick Frueh said...

I agree. But being careful not to appear self righteous or legalistic, I believe not celebrating Christmas can provide some interesting witnessing opportunities.

Shannon said...

Anonymous said:
"I think the "excesses" are more of a stumbling block to witness to others than celebrating Christmas, in it's pagan idolatry. People are looking for genuine, and they desperately want to see role models, but there are so few. These are the role models that can preach the gospel and prove the gospel has affected their life."

So "genuine" Christianity is not participating in the "excesses" of the holidays? But participating in the pagan nature is OK?

Our separation from the world is the testimony of Christ in us. The world notices the statement our non-participation with them speaks, over our joining in with them with their idolatry and paganism. When we join in with them, our concern for the Gospel Truth is compromised. Yes Rick, agree that our not celebrating Christmas provides more witnessing opportunities because people notice our non-participation. Perhaps the Spirit will convict many of the reasons for our separation?


michael said...

32 Give no offense to Jews or to Greeks or to the church of God,
33 just as I try to please everyone in everything I do, not seeking my own advantage, but that of many, that they may be saved.

10 I have seen the business that God has given to the children of man to be busy with.
11 He has made everything beautiful in its time. Also, he has put eternity into man's heart, yet so that he cannot find out what God has done from the beginning to the end.

First off the Church has a place "daily" in the world where these observances occur.

Second, no one has an ability to comprehend eternity.

I suppose all we can do is as the Apostle wrote already the thing we are want to do to the level of maturity we are able to do it which is:17 Repay no one evil for evil, but give thought to do what is honorable in the sight of all.
18 If possible, so far as it depends on you, live peaceably with all.

Cherie C. said...

So if we celebrate the spiritual side of Christmas it is okay? But the spirit behind Christmas is satan. I am confused a bit here.

Is it legalistic to not celebrate a pagan holiday (holy day)? Not being self righteous, just trying to live as I am called to do:

Romans 12:1
I beseech you therefore, brethren, by the mercies of God, that ye present your bodies a living sacrifice, holy, acceptable unto God, which is your reasonable service. Just saying.

Believe me, I am being tormented almost everyday for not participating in Christmas. My husband wants to divorce me. Yes how the season brings out such love. Another lie from the pit of hell. And I used to go all out for this day thinking I was doing it for the Lord. Wrong. I was doing it for my family so that they would love me and because I loved them. Yes, I loved my kids enough to lie to them about a being who is made equal to God. Yup; I loved them so much that now.... now one is an Atheist and one has turned his back on the Lord. What I did was lie, cheat and steal. I lied to them about this santanic day, I cheated them out of Truth or how to identify it, and I let satan steal their salvation by participating in this farce. Yes, the season of lies, greed, disappointments and stupid movies. Still looking and I do not see Jesus there whatsoever. The best gift I can give my children is TRUTH and Love by being truthful about this season and Love by putting up with the hurtful things my husband says to me about it.

God's Grace is sufficient.

God Bless.

kelli said...

Cherie praying for you and your situation.
Most are participating in the holiday as it is a tradition.
It is only His Spirit in us that changes us and sometimes it takes born again believers a few years or several years to see the idolatry in this tradition.
You have the testimony of the Lord in your own household and Him changing you.:)

Truth and Love are inseparable, we cannot have one without the other. God's Love is Truth. When you give out the Truth there will be those who will not receive it and will have nothing to do with it. But we have to remember God's Word does not return void and it is sent for His purposes even if they reject it. (Isaiah 55:11)

Rick Frueh said...

Thank you, Kelli. Discussions on blogs are one thing (iron sharpens iron), but when dealing with others we always need to be patient and gracious.

kelli said...

Welcome Rick!!! :)
We are still being molded and WE like to open our brothers and sisters eyes and hearts regarding pagan traditions but we all are at different levels of spiritual growth.

Yes, Iron sharpens iron :)
Amen brother

Cherie said...

I am not angry at them for wanting to have Christmas, I am angry at myself for not seeing Christmas for what it is sooner. Also, I just came out of the church system and God is correcting me and it will be a bit painful for a while. He only corrects those He loves, and I know He loves me but I have to work out my own salvation as Paul wrote, and that means enduring God's correction.

Actually I welcome it. Keeps me clear headed and receptive to His teachings and to His Word. I just feel responsible for my kids. I did not bring them up in the way they should go, not that I had any help from my husband. He operates on which one he can pitch against me all because of Christmas. Not that is was all good before this, but it has intensified. But he won't win, I am going to love him anyway because that is what a wife should do. I pray for him almost constantly because he blasphemes the Lord a lot and I fear for Him. He says he knows God and that the God I serve is not the real God. He says I am too much in the Bible. LOL, if he only knew what he was saying. God will not be mocked. So please pray for him, and my sons. I hope the Lord forgives me for continuing the lie that my parents taught me and that the church systems embraces.

Thank you Pastor Rick, thank you Kelli your brotherly and sisterly love strengthens me. I pray that I can be a blessing to you both in your time of need as you have been to me. God Bless.

working it out God's way, your sister in Christ Jesus
Cherie C.

shannon said...

You mention the Lord chastening those whom He loves. Yes this chastening is evidence of His Spirit in us. He is teaching and leading us to maturity through the various trials He allows our way.
Hebrews 6:1-3
"Therefore leaving the elementary teaching about the Christ,let us press on to maturity....And this we will do, if God permits."
He is doing His work in us.


twinklewonder said...

"The ways, & fashions, & amusements, & recreations of the world have a continually decreasing place in the heart of a growing Christian. He does not condemn them as downright sinful, nor say that those who have anything to do with them are going to hell. He only feels they have a constantly diminishing hold on his own affections & gradually seem smaller & more trifling in his eyes." ~ Ryle
"The things of earth grow strangely dim in the light of His glory & grace." ~Lemmel

Cherie said...


=D Praise God!

Shannon said...

Yes twinklewonder!
Amazing how He gives us new desires through the transformation process. It is not us, but Him doing His work in us through His Spirit.

Amen Cherie! :)Praise His Name! There is nothing in us desiring to anything of any value for Him.
Romans 3:10-12, Psalm 14:1-3