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 Haddon 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 likeness of the Risen Christ! But it all began at Bethlehem.