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A New Relationship With Christmas

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,

– JGIG

 

A New Relationship With Christmas

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.The Christmas Metaphor

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!

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Other Holiday-related Posts:

There are also links to articles from other sources regarding holidays on the Articles Page here at JGIG.

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Other articles of interest:

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.

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15 Responses

  1. I almost cried when I read this post, but am smiling broadly, instead. I have close family members who have not celebrated Christmas for several years now for the reasons you also formerly abstained. It has been good to cause my family to examine why we still wish to celebrate this important, joyous event, one worthy of a love offering, and yet keep it different from the materialistic Christmas of the world as much as possible. Frustration (and confusion) come for the rest of us at this time of year, and have actually threatened to sap much of my joy at times. I am praying they will one day realize they are free to rejoice with the rest of the world at the coming of Emmanuel, and that they can look back and see it as you have. Thank you!

  2. Sorry that I missed the fact that this was from another blog. I appreciate you sharing it, and have been blessed by many of your posts, as well. May you and others keep sharing of the abundant grace of our Lord Jesus Christ in the year ahead.

  3. Reading this article made me feel so sorry for this woman’s frustration and pain. Sometimes, when it seems like what we see as the truth is pulling us away from everything in our lives that is good, we question it. It’s a very difficult place to be in.

    That said, I must say that my 25th Christmas was my last and I’m not sorry at all. My journey into the Hebrew roots of my faith has only strengthened my convictions not to “mix.” Yes, my family is frustrated, and yes, there have been hardships and trials. Messiah said it would not be easy, however, and so I cling to the hope He promised.

    I do not feel pride in my abstinence. I do not see other believers as willful sinners. I simply consider myself responsible for the knowledge I have, and I must live according to what I know. I love my family, and I wish there was no separation. But the separation has come of their frustration, not mine. My life is full of the joy of Messiah in the Feasts we celebrate and I’m so grateful for His leadership in this way.

  4. Hi Kari,
    You said:
    “I do not see other believers as willful sinners. I simply consider myself responsible for the knowledge I have, and I must live according to what I know.”

    I respect this outlook – and this was the attitude I always tried to maintain. I did not feel it was even really wrong for others to celebrate it – but wrong for ME – based on my own conscience at the time.

    That being said – it led me to fellowship with people who overall were very prideful and elitist in their attitudes toward non-observant believers, which I was swept up in from time to time. The Body of Christ is defined by those who have experienced the new birth – but we NEVER spoke of this. (never heard of this in any group, and we had contact with several) We never saw a single person come to saving faith in Christ. We did however see some deny him and convert fully to Judaism. I can say on the surface – there is not problem denying Christmas simply for conscience sake. But when it draws people in a particular direction where the fruit Jesus speaks of is non-existent, and people are being drawn away from Him, I have to question what is leading the whole direction – not this one point. It took a long time to stop making excuses for everything we realized was wrong and seek God’s face for answers. We didn’t get the answer we expected to get! =) Still amazed, even after 3 years. I have one challenge for all people following the HRM path. Make the words of Jesus Himself – when He was here in person – of at least equal weight and emphasis as those given at Mt. Sinai. (That means, put equal time and energy in studying, analyzing, remembering and applying His words as the Sinai Law) In that, you will find many things.
    Much love
    Sondra

  5. AMEN, Sondra!

  6. I had also study about Christmas but my re-search lead me to believe the arguments against it are not so strong in my mind but I guess it depends on what side you want to choose but I tend to see Christmas in my mind being ok and having no problem with it. I can list numerous problems with anti-Christmas arugments not saying christmas is 100% free of other culture influence but just many of their arguments lack the evidence for their side.

  7. Where in scripture do we see any precedent where G-d Himself redeems a set-apart pagan day of worship, for Himself? Do we have any reason to believe that Christmas will be celebrated in the World to Come? If Jesus were walking on the earth today, with Christmas being on a Sabbath (such as it is in 2010), where would would you find him that morning? Under a tree unwrapping presents? Or would he be found doing morning prayers and participating with a minyan, and then soon after engaged in a Torah service at a synagogue, not returning home until that afternoon?

  8. Personally Israel, from what I have read and experienced, I think Jesus the Messiah would be with the little children, and I know from my kids, they love the giving and receiving of gifts! that’s fun! plus they are not stupid. They know the true meaning of Christmas… It’s Christ in us! Salvation is available to all believe by taking up the offer of the free gift – of salvation, by having faith in the finished work of the cross. The works that God requires of believers are are acts of selfless and godly love for our neighbors.

    • I understand the emotional need to connect, yet if we believe the Messiah can not sin, then it stands to reason that he would observe the Sabbath in its fullest sense according to the Torah, and thus he would be found in the synagogue on Sabbath, just as even the Gentiles would be found there as well according to the context of Acts 15:21.

  9. “If Jesus were walking on the earth today, with Christmas being on a Sabbath (such as it is in 2010), where would would you find him that morning?” This question is nonsensical. Historically it makes no sense, and prophetically it is not possible. More than that however the opinion expressed not only goes against western Christian thought, but Jewish as well.

    Take Hanukkah for example. It is not a holiday commanded by God. It is mentioned in the book of Maccabees, which Jews do not accept as scripture. Jesus himself might have celebrated the holiday in John 10:22. If he did it proves that he has no problem with us adding celebrations of the miracles that he has done in our lives. God incarnate rates as a miracle to me. Furthermore what precedence do Jewish scholars give to these holidays, not appointed by God, over and against the Sabbath? I will let them speak.

    “Rava inquired: Where the choice is between kindling a Hanukkah light and sanctification of the Sabbath day by blessing the wine, what is the law? Is sanctification of the Sabbath day preferable since it is a frequent obligation (whereas kindling the Hanukkah lights is only an annual event) Or perhaps kindling the Hanukkah light is preferable since its purpose is publicizing the miracle that God wrought for the Jewish people? After Rava asked this question, he himself resolved it: Kindling the Hanukkah light is preferable, since its purpose is publicizing the miracle. http://www.myjewishlearning.com/holidays/Jewish_Holidays/Hanukkah/At_Home/Candlelighting/Haneirot_Hallalu/Publicizing_the_Miracle.shtml)

    As has been mentioned for various reasons on this site, the MJ movement is a walking contradiction. At the end of the age there will be no need for a sun (Rev 21:23) and therefore no Sabbath “day,” no Christmas, no Hanukkah, no passover, no Easter. For know I consider it to be of significant importance that a true living Messiah came and died in the flesh for my sins. That because of his true resurrection in the flesh I too will be raised in the last day. And that day will certainly come because, “This same Jesus, who has been taken from you into heaven, will come back in the same way you have seen him go into heaven.” (Acts 1:11)

    • The bible says that the sun, moon, and stars were created for the moedim (appointed times/holidays), but it does not say that the modeim was created for the sun, moon, and stars.

      This means that the moedim(holidays including Sabbath which is called a moed) are not dependent on the existence of the sun, moon, and stars, as the heavenly bodies only serve the moedim (not the other way around).
      We see further evidence of this by asking the question: If the sun, moon, and stars were created for “signs, moedim, days, and years,” and if this modeim and days are dependent on the existence of the sun, moon, and stars, then how can the Torah count the first three days of creation?

      Therefore with both examinations we conclude that the holidays (including Sabbath), are not dependent upon the existence of the heavenly bodies created on day four. Therefore, even if the sun, moon, and stars are removed by G-d, the holidays (including Sabbath) will continue to exist.

      Now, concerning Hanukkah (Feast of Dedication), the dedication period is commanded in the Torah. (It took 8 days last time the tabernacle and later temple was dedicated, with additional days later of feasting and rejocing): Lev 9:1 (Moses builds the tabernacle, wait 7 + 1 day) and after this it is dedicated:

      Numbers 7:10:

      The leaders offered the dedication (Hanukkah) offering for the altar when it was anointed, so the leaders offered their offering before the altar.

      The altar was already dedicated (to G-d and the service) at the end of the eigth day, but for 12 more days the tribal leaders brought dedication offerings.

      Furthermore, Hanukkah is a belated celebration of the Feast of Tabernacles. The celebration of Hanukkah was a commanded celebration for the people by the authorities over them. Therefore Hanukkah carries legal Torah weight as a law that must be followed according to Torah:

      Deuteronomy 17:11
      According to the terms of the law which they teach you, and according to the verdict which they tell you, you shall do; you shall not turn aside from the word which they declare to you, to the right or the left.

      The same applies to the national obligation of Purim which was also so recognized by later Jewish legal authorities in Jerusalem.

      Unfortunately, Christmas carries no such legal weight as it was never ratified by the legal authority of the Jewish people, unless one wants to argue in favor of the legal authority of the Pope. But that would be a different topic.

      All emotion and tradition aside, Jesus would be in the synagogue on Sabbath morning, rather than attending a Christmas celebration; if one wants to only argue from a legal perspective.

      Thanks JGIG for letting me clarify and respond to Brian’s post.

  10. Israel, I appreciate the response, but I would like to answer a couple of your points.

    First, You seem to state an idea of possession which is not here. And follow with a conclusion built on that false premise. What they are dependent on is a light source. That was created on day one.
    Days are dependent on a light source. First the one created on day one. Second those created as sun, moon, and stars. In the end there will be no night only the light. Therefor when there is no more need for a sun there will be no more Sabbath than the one we have in Christ.

    The practice of the dedication of the tabernacle is not in question. Nor is the fact that both the 1st and 2nd temples were similarly dedicated. It would follow that this re-dedication proceed along similar lines. These previous dedications did not however replace existing festivals or add new ones, but made use of the existing and were dedicated during Sukkot. Why not the re-dedication?

    Now I am not saying that what happened is not a miracle. God delivered his people, and that should be celebrated. Certainly the oil lasting longer than it should was also a gift from God. But in establishing this day as a new day of dedication day for the temple it is an addition to Gods appointed feasts. Which I actually, as a Christmas celebrating believer, have no problem with.

    As to authority and legality you can find much debate among Jewish teachers regarding what is included in Deuteronomy. Some would allow you to disobey Torah if instructed to do so. How far do we go? What this proves to me is that the Jewish leaders with whom Jesus clashed became to Jews what the Pope would be to Christianity. Taking isolated passages and assuming authority that did not belong to them. Once again I do not fault them for choosing to celebrate God’s deliverance. I am only pointing out that they added a celebration as an annual requirement. To say that Hanukkah has the same mandate from God as Sukkot would be speculation.

    Of course Christmas caries no legal authority. Neither one of us is required to keep it. I simply mentioned why I prefer to. Consider that when it did enter history the humanity and divinity of Christ were under attack by various forms of heresy. Unfortunately the same is true today in a world run by moralistic, therapeutic deism that often passes itself of as Christianity. No need to reinvent the wheel if would we celebrate already has the answers. Is that not also part of your argument? My only beef with anyone is the making a requirement or litmus test for who is the real christian. I agree with Steve Jesus would be with his people at whatever celebration that might be.

  11. A couple of more thoughts,

    Moses was the mediator of the law, not it’s source, and no rabbi would claim to be more than Moses. As mediators of the law they certainly do have the power to build upon precedence. This precedence would furthermore be seen as binding, and in a de facto manner constitute a law. Regardless of the system of government however precedence is still differentiated from legislation. Depending on the scope and influence of a legal precedence it may be followed by legislation intended to uphold or overturn the precedence. This further highlights the difference.

    I do not disagree that the Jewish leaders had the authority to create the celebration of Hanukkah. I also do not disagree that such a decision would be considered biding within the system of that time. As a matter of fact I would consider their precedent to be very sound. My point is that it is a decision based on precedence and therefore an addition. Good and right at the time, but still not legislated by God, but judicial decision of the rabbi’s.

    Now if Rabbinic Judaism can build a precedent based upon God’s law then the question is not “can” we celebrate Christmas, but what based upon what precedence do we do so? I would say that when Jesus was made flesh (tabernacled among us) he established an occasion to be celebrated. He did after all refer to himself as the temple. No, people of the first century did not celebrate birthdays. But the Jews did establish a practice of commemorating the temple. Nice how those eight days fit with when Jesus (the temple) would be circumcised as Jesus , God made man.

    Based upon the same precedence as above Christmas would be binding upon all Jews who recognize Jesus as the Messiah. The real difference should not be one of us celebrates Christmas and the other does not, nut one of us sees it and binding and the other does not. I see us as free from the law and therefore I can chose to celebrate this event or not. I can choose to celebrate it in December or in September, or any other month for that matter.

    To take it a step further not only does the Christ, who was the temple indwell us, but we are building blocks of the temple (2 Cor 6:16). Therefore everyday is a Sabbath and everyday is a commemoration of what God has done through Christ in us. Everyday we come before God as living sacrifices to him. Everyday we should live our lives knowing that as the oil lasted so does God’s amazing grace. That as God established a place among his people in the form of the tabernacle and later the temple, that he also established a place among his people as a man among them and now in our hearts. That is what Christmas is about.

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