I saw this post over at 8thday4life’s Weblog and Sondra graciously granted me permission to share her post with you here. Her perspective as one formerly in the Hebrew Roots Movement is valuable and provides insight that I, as one who merely observes, questions, and comments, cannot give. I encourage you to spend some time at her blog, a place where she humbly and scripturally communicates about her and her husband’s journey from Law to Grace.
I know Christmas has come and gone this year, but maybe some of you are discussing such things after being with family and examining why we do what we do – on whichever side of the issue you stand.
May God grant you wisdom and discernment as you consider all of these things,
I recently sat in a living room of Christian women who had met together to learn more about healthy food preparation. As an icebreaker for the meeting, we were asked to share how we kept things in perspective during the busy holiday season, as well as special traditions our families had. I realized how this question would have stressed me terribly a few years ago. I shared that I did not have a great deal of experience yet, (long story) but our main focus was to give Jesus the gifts, to the “least of these” rather than go crazy on junk no one needs, wants, or remembers this time next year. As the sharing moved around the room, one woman began to explain why they were not going to celebrate Christmas this year. Her explanation wavered between sheepish embarrassment to dogmatic conviction about “what the Bible says.” I know that conviction well. No one knew what to say. I knew what I wanted to tell her, but I also knew she would have to walk down that road to see what I see now.
You cannot ignore Christmas, no matter how hard you might try. And oh did we try, for nearly ten years. We came under conviction early on in our Christian lives that we were wrong to mix the worship of the one true God with traditions inherited from Paganism. The desire for our worship to be pure before God sparked our search for the purest form of our faith, seeking to go back all the way to what we believed were our authentic roots.
I don’t blame anyone for coming to this conclusion about Christmas, especially if you do as I did and study out the history of the Church and various holy days. During the Middle Ages, every month had some type of celebration adopted from various pagan cultures, renaming the days for saints, yet retaining the rituals of superstition and divination. I did not view this as an honorable history, but rather a church compromising in order to gain allegiance and control of the masses. In many countries around the world today you see a strange mix of traditional cultures with Catholic mass and rituals, mixing Jesus and Mary with whatever custom they can impress them upon. Watching documentaries of other cultures, I personally saw no difference in what they were doing and the western worship of Christmas. (I felt the day was worshiped, not God, and still see this is the largest pitfall of our materialistic culture.)
I became a Christian after spending time in the New Age, so I was especially sensitive to avoid all references or participation in paganism, which at this time in my life, was perfectly right. This was all I could see in Christmas at the time which is why I don’t judge anyone for choosing to not celebrate this day. However for me, my pure devotion quickly transformed into a source of superiority and pride.
Each year as the day rolled around we sometimes had a dinner with friends who had the same conviction. There was literally nothing else to do. We would eat, play games, and lament how our families just did not understand. We personally didn’t mind being with our own families, but some did not respect our unwillingness to exchange gifts, which created awkward situations, so we tended to avoid them. The irony of our non-Christmas dinner fellowships wasn’t lost on me. I realized, we were still acknowledging the day, just in a different way.
When confronted with Christmas invitations and questions, I soon tried to not reveal that we didn’t celebrate it because the questions were uncomfortable. Do you believe in Jesus? Are you a Jehovah’s Witness? It took too long to explain. Even with the challenge it posed, this became an important feature of our unique spiritual identity. To ignore Christmas is like standing against a tidal wave.
When our eyes opened to the reality of what we have in Christ, and we began to rebuild our spiritual worldview, we had to face once again the question; What do we do with Christmas?
We did not have a new set of facts. History cannot be changed. And this was in fact our conclusion. Try as we might to pretend it didn’t happen, Christmas has become the shining star of the entire year of holidays for the entire western world, and even in many countries which do not generally embrace Christianity. As we looked at the issue again, we had to go back to the testing method which originally prompted our discontent with the Hebrew Roots Movement. Fruit. The fruit of ignoring Christmas had only caused people to shy away and assume we did not even believe in Jesus at all. Only atheists and cults deny Christmas. (here’s your sign…once again.) Bad fruit there if you are in fact wanting people to know about Him. Add that to the ways in which we gave the wrong impression about Jesus, which were many. The only thing we had to show for our pious obedience was sheer boredom and miffed family members.
When we looked at Christmas again, instead of seeing only paganism repackaged, we saw paganism redeemed, for the spread of the gospel. Just as Jesus took us who were broken, sinful, idolatrous, rebellious, and prideful – and redeemed us for His glory, we realized He can also do this with a day if it pleases Him to do so. The evergreen, the pagan symbol for eternal life – was simply the cry of their hearts – the realization of their problem with death, that Jesus came to resolve. The lights symbolize the true Light of the World, that comes in our darkest, coldest nights. The day they dedicated to call back the Sun is now celebrated to the Eternal Son. It seems maybe God intended for things to transpire the way they have. Another miracle of Christmas is the success of its worldwide popularity, being presented as the day of Jesus Christ’s birth! If I were a pagan, I would not see this as a victory for my perspective, especially since most people don’t give a second thought to where the traditions came from in the first place.
As I sat in church during what was arguably my first real Christmas – fully embracing Christ, I was so moved by the focus on the amazing miracle and sacrifice of a God who was willing to come and give everything of Himself to His Creation. How could the Creator submit to a human birth, just as we are born? I related to Him in the birth of my own children and wondered what Mary must have thought as she held God in her arms. Thankfully she could not fully see the days ahead. I was filled with emotion as I saw illustrations of these tender moments – with full knowledge from our perspective of the enormity of His mission and future suffering.
Did He command me to remember His birth? No. But part of the beauty of the New Covenant is found in the love offering our life becomes. In the Old Covenant people brought freewill and thank offerings when they desired to. I believe Christmas, for a genuine believer, becomes a time to present a thank offering to Jesus for the amazing gift He gave, which only started with His birth. We cannot stop at the manger. Our minds are drawn to the cross, and finally a risen Lord, and His ever-present Spirit, the true Spirit of Christmas.
I found it was not possible to ever completely separate myself from this holiday, but I am thankful that I am now in a new relationship with it that blesses me and gives me a chance to bless others in many ways. I don’t believe there is any other day of the year that provides a better stage to share the truth about Jesus, to find people with their ears and hearts a little more open. I am sorry for the years I missed that, and for all the frustration we put our families through. I have also seen how special this day is to those who don’t have the freedom to worship Him openly, and how they have risked their lives to honor their Savior on the day dedicated to His birth. I would much rather stand with them in their sacrificial love of Christ, than were I stood before, in pride against those who have given all for Him. What will you do with the day of the Son this year?
Thank you Jesus for being willing to come to our dark world and share in our human suffering and carry our humiliation. Your love is beyond understanding, beyond anything mortal man in all his vain wisdom ever dared to hope for – a God that would come down and unite Himself with us, in order to save us. Thank you that You are in us, and we are in You, forever! Maranatha!
Other Holiday-related Posts:
There are also links to articles from other sources regarding holidays on the Articles Page here at JGIG.
Other articles of interest:
- Tzit Tzit For the Believer In Christ?
- 12 Undeniable Truths That Drive Law ‘Keepers’ Crazy
- Old Testament Believers and New Testament Christians – From the Articles Page – Addresses the issue of how OT saints were ‘saved’ vs. how NT saints are saved, i.e. what salvation meant and how it was obtained before and after the actual work of Christ on the timeline. It clarifies several points that we see Law keepers bring up in debate over and over again as they misapply the phrase from Scripture, “the Lamb slain from the foundation of the world” and couple that with the claim that the Church (ekklesia, Body of Christ) also existed in the Old Testament. It did not, and this article clarifies the difference between OT believers and NT Christians. Excellent study. Highly recommended.
For more resources regarding the Hebrew Roots/Messianic movements see the Post Index and the Articles Page. General study helps, discernment, and apologetics sites can be found HERE. Make use of the tabs with drop-down menus found at the top of this site – there’s tons of info there, and it’s very navigable.
Filed under: Articles, Biblical Holidays, Christianity, Christmas, Discernment, Family Matters, Hebraic Roots, Hebrew Roots Movement, Messianic Judaism, Pagan Holidays, Religion, Torah, Uncategorized | Tagged: Articles, Biblical Holidays, Christianity, Christmas, Discernment, Family Matters, Hebraic Roots, Hebrew Roots Movement, Messianic Judaism, Pagan Holidays, Religion, Torah, Truth or Tradition |