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Adventures Beyond the Comfort Zone

Sunday, December 03, 2006

Did I Really Just Say That?

I've turned in my final submission for the school paper just a few hours ago... and it's finally setting in. I was assigned to write about the original meaning of Christmas, and was pumped to push Jesus to center stage...

But that's not how things turned out.

I guess I'd always known that there was some kind of pagan connection to some of our traditions, but had always just assumed they were minor or that it had been a Christian thing first. And because of that I blew off my initial research as being biased against Christians.

But then when I tried looking for historical information on specifically Christian sites, information was a little scarce. There was a lot of focus on the symbolic or sentimental components, but very little about how our traditions actually developed.

That scared me.

And then I came upon this. And what they had to say set my head spinning.

God never asked us to celebrate His birthday. And if He had, He certainly wouldn't have directed us to mimic the winter festivals of the pagans. He's always directed us to be different and stand apart.

God had set up His own feasts/festivals for us to celebrate. Somewhere along the way, we've lost track of these and allowed them to fade into obscurity. And instead we've adopted traditions that pagan converts couldn't bear to let go of.

Seeing the decorations at church this morning really threw me off. It was only the night before that I had read that the garlands and the tree were never promoted by God as a means of celebrating anything, but that they came from people that had nothing to do with God.

It scares me to say it, but I'm having serious doubts about how, what, or even if I should be celebrating this time of year. If this isn't how God wants to be honored, I don't want to do it anymore.

And now it blows my own mind to think that I've just submitted an article to suggest that Christians reconsider whether or not God wants any part of the Christmas-spirit. Though if I have to be a 'Scrooge' to stand where Jesus is... as difficult as that could be... then that's where I'll be.


  • I'm thinking that God loves it when we honor him whether he specifically decreed it or not. After all, he didn't tell us to worship on Sundays either, and we gather every week for that. After all, besides the prescribed sacrifices and festivals in the Old Testament law, the Israelites were allowed to also sacrifice freewill offerings. Those sacrifices were to be made at the discretion of the people whenever they felt like giving God special thanks and honor. Nowdays we don't burn animals for God, we have celebrations. As long as we keep the right focus, I don't see anything wrong with a "festival" honoring God that wasn't specifically prescribed by him. He gave us free will so that we could love him by choice, so I think he delights even more in our spontaneous praise and intentional honor than when we simply go through the motions of following those rules he has laid out clearly. He never told us to celebrate Easter either, but I think it's terribly important to remember each year the miracle of the resurrection. And why not the miracle of God first descending to earth in human form? True, Christmas has been twisted and commercialized, but we can still use the day to remember and celebrate a great miracle of God, as the ancient festivals celebrated such miracles as the Passover and God's rescue of the Isrealites from slavery.
    And yes, I know that pagans were doing the tree thing first, but that's why we adopted the practice. In order to combat the festival of tree worship we turned the tree from the focal point of the honor into another symbolic inanimate object that pointed toward the only God worthy of being celebrated.
    You can decide whatever you want about what I've said, but I'm going to consciously choose to celebrate the miracle of God coming to earth to save us. I intend to enjoy this and every Christmas basking in the love of God and my family and friends.

    By Blogger Kim, at 4/12/06 11:01 AM  

  • I agree with Kim and I have a little bit more to add.

    As always, I think there is a deeper issue at the heart here (way to mix euphemisms there, Dianna, aha). But anyway, the issue is the idea that you seem to be putting God into a box - be careful of that. Refusing to celebrate a holiday that now has significance for Christians because of its past is like refusing to brush your teeth because Jesus didn't have a toothbrush. It ignores the larger idea that God can take something and turn it around into a practice that honors and glorifies Him.

    By refusing to celebrate a holiday simply because of its pagan origins, regardless of its CURRENT purpose, is just plain ridiculous. I'm sorry if that offends you, but it is. There is a purpose to recognizing the past, yes, but that doesn't mean we're worshipping pagan gods when we set up and decorate our Christmas tree. In fact, I think we honor God through such a tradition by using it to spend time with family and loved ones and learning about him.

    I think my main issue with a lot of your blogs and why we disagree so much is that I see a lot of legalism coming through here. It's putting God into a human, rules bound box implying that He can't change anything around for His good, which entirely ignores Biblical thinking. And the fact that I see that in your writings, frankly, is a matter for concern. I understand where you're coming from, but I think you're wrong.

    By Blogger Dianna, at 4/12/06 2:58 PM  

  • Legalism? Me? ... That is indeed a concern... but no offense taken. I was hoping for feedback from a different perspective to help my analyze my own thoughts. The last thing I want to do is to put God in a mindless box of tradition.

    The trouble is that I've never stopped to ponder what God wants me to think about or remember when I decorate the tree. It's been a fun tradition that never came with intentional thought. "Going through the motions."

    But maybe He is okay with what we've made of it. I'm still puzzling over that as I took in a lot of new information at once. But then what about those days that He actually did prescribe for us?
    It's like we'd been invited to come celebrate at a given time, but we stand Him up, and then expect Him to be just as happy when we show up on a different day carrying confetti when He'd asked us to bring streamers.

    I'm not going to say that He's not happy to see us, but just disappointed that He didn't get to share His original plan with us. No matter how great He makes the resulting party (which I never meant to suggest was beyond Him) we've still missed out on what He wanted us to see.

    Those invitations were lost in the mail by previous generations and I want to track them down.

    By Blogger ~Kevin, at 4/12/06 6:41 PM  

  • Because of Christ's sacrifice for us, we are no longer under the old covenant but the new (see Hebrews 8 and 9).
    "He has made us competent as ministers of a new covenant—not of the letter but of the Spirit; for the letter kills, but the Spirit gives life."
    2 Corinithians 3:6

    By Blogger Kim, at 4/12/06 8:21 PM  

  • Dad says...
    I can only think to refer you to the Apostle Paul's greeting to the Galatians and ask you if you know who has bewitched you? I browsed your reference material and found their original identity. Herbert W. Armstrong's Worldwide Church of God was for many years a well- known and thoroughly discredited cult thea tried to "convert" all Christians into Sabbath-keeping Jews who would be loyal to the restored monarchy of David that they said would come through the throne of England--because the coronation -seat stone had been brought from Jerusalem and placed beneath the throne of the King of England--and other strange reinterpretations and revisiions of history. This group comes from Armstrong's teaching. We should talk!

    By Anonymous Anonymous, at 4/12/06 10:46 PM  

  • Keith, that's information I didn't know and didn't bother to research, but I knew the research was questionable. Thanks for clarifying.

    And Kevin, precisely which festivals are you referring to? Purim? Passover? The Feast of Booths? The Festival of Weeks? New Moon? Yom Kippur?

    Keep in mind what Kim said in her second comment - Jesus came to fulfill the law because the Jews had become so concerned with following the letter of the law. Honestly, I need a compelling reason to believe I should be celebrating old Jewish festivals which don't apply to me because I'm not Jewish over the birth of my Lord and Savior.

    If you feel you are going through the motions, then change the thinking behind them. I see Christmas as a time when God chose to come into history and interact with humankind - which is amazing. And that is precisely what we are celebrating. However, if you find you are going through the motions, it doesn't do any good to get rid of the motions entirely - simply change your focus.

    By Blogger Dianna, at 5/12/06 4:31 PM  

  • kevin - way to free your mind and question reality! for those with faith, which i am not, seeing someone step back for two seconds and analyze what they hold dear is always interesting and heartwarming. don't panic--i would never tell anyone what to believe or disbelieve--, i'm simply saying that you've done some seriously amazing work! be true to you, no matter where it leads you and whatever you ask, may it be granted! :D Happy Friday!

    By Blogger Brandi, at 18/5/07 1:27 PM  

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