Saturday, November 30, 2013

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.


Anonymous said...

So many things to think about here. I know, it's on my mind about all these things too.

It's hard for unbelievers to understand the miracle of the baby in the manger, because the God of the Universe and the billions of stars doesn't square with Him sending His Son in such a base humble form. No fanfare at his birth, and we today congratulate each other with material does boggle the mind.


Anonymous said...

One other thought I have about this is that our generation (50-60 years), celebrated with less of the meaningless things than we do today. In my surroundings, families were all hard-working families who had much less than people do today. It was family oriented, institutional church/community oriented, it gave people that sense they had to at least provide comfort for those without, if only for that season. It gave people a way to escape guilt for not doing things for others the other 364 days of the year maybe.

Today, it's gone over the charts. No church services, no introspection of what it means. But the bottom line, is that the festivity is unscriptural, like Bro. Rick writes, and it's distasteful to even meld the Son of God with the trappings of this secular holiday.

It's hard though, to make that change when family depends on one to keep up the traditions. Last year, my adult sons and we had this conversation and they know as well that the holiday of Christmas has little to do with the biblical Risen Savior. It's easier on the flesh to go through the motions than stop the process entirely. Everyone is different, some can go 'cold turkey' and some others have to wean themselves off the influences of the culture. Our cultural habits are so ingrained, it takes a strong mind to just stop the addictive secular entertainment while we're right in the middle of Babylon.

This is why I keep harping to myself that it would so easy to leave Babylon and be in the wilderness for a time, to shake it all off. But, I know it's not possible, so I must exercise more faith. May the Lord help us all in these days.


Cherie c. said...

Sorry Pastor, two or three parts
In years past, on a night called mischief night; the day before halloween, you would hear about fires, vandalism, attacks on people, riots, mainly in Detroit or Camden, NJ. Now, as I observe the event called Black Friday, I see the same things. A "season" that is so called the season of love, is anything but. It is carnality at it peak. It is so fleshly it is very uncomfortable to watch.
I used to be them. Not violent, but I used to enjoy getting the bargain. Getting that perfect present to please, husband, children, or family. To please people who really don't care about anyone but themselves. My atheist son cannot fathom why we "get together" once or twice a year as "family" when we really don't like each other. He is so right. On this point anyway. Please pray for him.
We get together because it is what has always been done, no matter what. Instead of seeking each other out during the year to mend fences, we use the "holidays" as our excuse, but you are not allowed to mention anything lest you be called the one who ruined the "holiday". What utter farce. What utter fakery. What a lie!
I used to argue with my husband to get the lights on the house the minute Thanksgiving dinner was over. He was like, "why rush it". But I was impatient. To my deceived mind regarding the spirit of the season, I always expected something wonderful to happen. Yes at 49 years old, I still believed in the "magic of Christmas". And every year, just like when I was a kid, I was disappointed. I never got what I really wanted. No, it wasn't a fur, or diamonds, I was never into those things. I was looking for a person to give me their heart, or a version of it anyway. Give to me what I could not get throughout the year from them when since I was a small child to an adult. Love. To be special to someone. I never got that. Santa couldn't bring it when I was a kid because when, being so poor at times, nothing was under the tree, meant we were bad kids. No love there. How sad to put such a burden of the heart on kids regarding gifts and rewards for "being good". To feel love. Pastor Rick, it didn't take this season for me to realize that this time of year is evil for kids. I do not know if anyone else has ever experienced the hurt to a child to wake up on Christmas morning a see others get and not you. In school the most rotten of peers always spoke about what they got for Christmas. It made me wonder how I might have it all wrong. Some of those kids were bullies to others that I defended, and I got nothing. I would wrestle with the thoughts to become like them, but never could do it.
Kids are told to be good, not because you were poor, but because you were told to be good for rewards and presents, and love, and you do your best, and still nothing. All because of a lie. But did my parents ask me to forgive them for lying? No. They didn't even tell us the truth, my older sister did and she wasn't nice about it either. So what do I do? Keep the lie going but almost go into bankruptcy to keep my kids from feeling unloved and bad about themselves. How stupid can I be!

Cherie c. said...

I am shocked too that when presented with the evidence of this dastardly day, people fight you almost to violence. How dare you renounce Christmas! Why it's Jesus' Birthday! NO! IT is Not!
You can imagine how it shocked everyone when I repented of it. I am now called a Jehovah Witness. LOL, If they would take the time to read about Jehovah Witnesses, they will see that they do not believe Jesus is God in the flesh. But no; because Jehovah Witnesses do not celebrate Christmas, that automatically makes you one. LOL it is almost funny, but in fact so absolutely sad. Then there is the, now I am Jewish thing. Um...I know plenty of Jewish people who celebrate Christmas. Not the Jesus birth part, but the pagan part.
No sir, this time of year is a great deception. A great lie. And this post is right. What a shock it is to see the truth and then observe just how little Jesus is NOT in this "season". It is more shocking and a sting of conviction when you finally see it for yourself. How could I, someone who claims to be born again from above, not see this before? How can someone who strives to honor God and His Only Begotten Son, participate in this great lie. The guilt is almost palpable. The guilt is so bitter.
Again I am faced with decisions about this time of year. I being a woman, I'm at a disadvantage. I cannot, in my household really not completely participate. Since my husband insists on having Christmas, I can only do so much to avoid it. I really feel trapped and a big compromiser. I absolutely hate this time of year! Talk about a 180 degree turn. And what is so scary is I do not know what to do. Do I disobey my husband and violate God's Word? Do I participate and be difficult and violate God's Word? Do I go full steam and participate and violate God's Word, and actually lie? I am at a loss as to what to do. Either way I lose. Either way I will be compromising. I will not sleep much this time of year, I will be repenting most of the time.
But that is what happens when the Spirit fills you with truth, convicts you, and then the freedom from this stuff is such a gift. Spirit and Truth are the best gifts. We need them to worship God.
Sometimes I wish I hadn't married. That I would have known the truth before all this. The What Ifs are so plentiful these days. Then the guilt from even dealing with this while brothers and sisters in Christ are being, starved to death, maimed, imprisoned, tortured, beaten etc. Some days the guilt is so hard to bear. Children are dying from hunger, and I get so angry watching on the news people fighting each other over tv sets! Or sitting at Thanksgiving dinner and listening to my husband's family degrade people. It makes me so mad, I have to go into the bathroom to recompose myself before I say something just as bad to them! What child of God can stand all this? Am I the only one who feels this way? Am I wrong? The panic I feel for these people is indescribable.
But the day of the Lord will come as a thief in the night; in the which the heavens shall pass away with a great noise, and the elements shall melt with fervent heat, the earth also and the works that are therein shall be burned up. Seeing then that all these things shall be dissolved, what manner of persons ought ye to be in all holy conversation and godliness, 2 Peter 3:10-11
Does the about Scripture not make you panic for the people in your life? For the lost? The tears are so many, my family thinks I am depressed, but they don't understand what the tears are for.
The tears are because I failed my Lord yet again. The tears are for them because they are so lost. The tears are for brothers and sisters who are deceived and for those who are in dire straits. The tears are for those I watch and listen to (the world) who are so deceived. The tears are because the people I love hurt me because I do not want to celebrate this evil man made day. My husband threatens me with divorce because of it.

Cherie c. said...

A season of love? Hardly. Far from it. It is a season of deception. This holiday is full of Patriotism, nationalism, an excuse to honor war. Every year at this time on tv, there are video snippets of American service men and women sending holiday wishes home. Do you think it is happenstance that there is a connection? No. if you don't celebrate Christmas, you are not an American even though this country touts religious freedom.
And so you have it. Again I bare my soul to all in the hopes of helping you too to see the horror which is called Christmas. This post is so welcomed today. I don't feel so alone in this. And I am ashamed of myself. Who I used to be is in my face this time of year and I am embarrassed by it. But I also welcome it because it reminds me that who I am now is so much better than the person I used to be, even with the sneers and jeers from loved ones. But I still have so far to go too. I certainly have not arrived.
The one who LOVES me most died for me. So I endeavor to honor HIM. And next Rosh Hashanah and Yom Kipper, I will wish my Savior a happy birthday. But only in prayer and then thank Him for what He did for me, for you, for all who would come, because that is why He came. He told us to remember His death, not His birth. So do that which He says, not your own thing.
Mark 7:6
He answered and said unto them, Well hath Esaias prophesied of you hypocrites, as it is written, This people honoureth me with their lips, but their heart is far from me.

Luke 22:19
19 And he took bread, and gave thanks, and brake it, and gave unto them, saying, This is my body which is given for you: this do in remembrance of me.

1 Corinthians 11:23-30
23 For I have received of the Lord that which also I delivered unto you, that the Lord Jesus the same night in which he was betrayed took bread:
24 And when he had given thanks, he brake it, and said, Take, eat: this is my body, which is broken for you: this do in remembrance of me.
25 After the same manner also he took the cup, when he had supped, saying, this cup is the new testament in my blood: this do ye, as oft as ye drink it, in remembrance of me.
26 For as often as ye eat this bread, and drink this cup, ye do shew the Lord's death till he come.
27 Wherefore whosoever shall eat this bread, and drink this cup of the Lord, unworthily, shall be guilty of the body and blood of the Lord.
28 But let a man examine himself, and so let him eat of that bread, and drink of that cup.
29 For he that eateth and drinketh unworthily, eateth and drinketh damnation to himself, not discerning the Lord's body.
30 For this cause many are weak and sickly among you, and many sleep.

Grace and Peace to you, from God our Father and His Son Jesus Christ.

your sister in Christ Jesus,
Cherie c.

Cherie c. said...

Hey J,

Start with the tree. Don't get one.

When I read Jeremiah 10 it hit me square in the face that we do the same things that Israel did. We must start somewhere. Here is a good place. Just a suggestion.

Jeremiah 10:2-4

2 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.

3 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 axe.

4 They deck it with silver and with gold; they fasten it with nails and with hammers, that it move not.

your sister in Christ Jesus,
Cherie c.

Lorena said...

Rick, after my dad died my experiences with Christmas were not good. My mom was living with this guy, I was not living with them, and I would be invited over for Christmas day. Before the day ended I would be asked to leave. He would get drunk and say too much, and I couldn't keep my mouth shut. That is how it went. So, 1976 was the last time I even kept Christmas up till 1999. Still, it really had lost its appeal and since coming to understand more about the holiday, it's been easier to let it go. I don't have a reason in the world to keep it. That's just me.

Anonymous said...

Can I be fixated on the temporal and the eternal at the same time? Can I rub Santa's back and bow before Lord Jesus at the same time?
Can I seek merriment at the expense of wisdom from the author of the holy Bible and expect to honor Him in spirit and truth? Can I sit before a tree that was cut down and forget the tree of life from whom comes the treasured gift of my life?