What really matters
That Christmas was originally a pagan celebration is known to all, but to some this seems to be of little importance. After all, they say, does it really matter if the meat in the temple was first sacrificed to pagan gods, as long as the spirit in which we eat is a Christian spirit? (1 Corinthians 8:4-6)
This is why we feel it is more relevant to examine the spirit of the celebration today. Is the "spirit of Christmas" today, a Christian spirit?
The worldly Christmas
What is the big moment in our celebrations? Don't we make a shrine (the Christmas tree) and isn't that shrine the center-piece of the occasion? And what does the shrine house? The presents, of course, and the big moment is the opening of the Christmas gifts. The Big Moment! We build up the children's excitement until the moment they open the presents. This is the devil tricking us into instilling in our children the love of material goods! Of course, children are happy to get presents; this is natural and in moderation, it is good. But it is not our duty as Christian parents, to cultivate it.
It can also be argued, "But it's a time of giving. Giving is one of the Christian qualities". In the Bible we have only one example of a feast where everyone gives everyone else a gift. It occurs after the death of the two prophets of Jesus Christ in the end-time and the Bible talks about everyone "making merry" and "sending gifts one to another" because these prophets of God tormented them so (Revelation 11:10). It shows there is no merit in giving in itself.
The Bible says that even the evil know how to give good gifts to their children. Giving is not always of God. The Bible says to give to the needy not to those who don't need it. It says that He that giveth to the rich is as the sweeping rain that leaveth no food! (Proverbs 28:3) Real religion is to give when there's a need, not as a ritual, out of obligation. This leads to two other aspects of the worldly Christmas:
We buy things we wouldn't buy at other times of the year ... because it's Christmas. We tend to over-eat ... because it's Christmas. We eat rich food that isn't good for us ... because it's Christmas. We over-spend ... because it's Christmas. We indulge in our lusts and buy unwisely knowing that in one week's time the prices will be slashed. Why? ... because it's Christmas!
Parents feel morally obliged to enter into the mad rush to prepare Christmas for their children. Adherence to this practice obliges us to do things that would be crazy to even think of the rest of the year!
As parents, we have been through all this; the Christmas eve shopping to get more gifts "just in case", walking kilometers through the big shopping malls looking for "the thing". The children must have equal presents though they may not have equal needs. We spend our time and thought on this and it distracts us from where our thoughts should be. It's just slavery, the devil's slavery for us if we're willing to bear it or if we give in to the lusts of the flesh of which the day consists. The devil always brings us under bondage to himself when we compromise the words of life that were meant to set us free.
Giving at this time doesn't spring from love, but obligation, and places a social obligation on the other one to return it. Giving as an obligation, because it's the 25th of December, is as much dead works as climbing the steps of the Vatican on our knees thinking we are gaining favour with God!
Let's allow Jesus to free us of this and all other bondage so that we will be free to follow the leading of the Spirit all the year round. Where the spirit of the Lord is there is liberty. Nevertheless, if it's possible to use the Christmas season for the spread of Christianity and without falling into bondage nor giving into the lusts of the flesh, let's do it! ... but not only at Christmas!
I believe that there's more unhappiness at this time than joy even among those who can afford to spoil themselves and their own lavishly. Everyone comes with expectations even if it's just a feeling they're looking for. With all the whipped-up festivities there is still something missing and what is going on under the surface? Is it jealousy, disappointment, resentment, a feeling of failure to please? Sure, there is some happiness but I believe there's far more unhappiness. Then there's the poor who feel their poverty all the more, the lonely whose loneliness is intensified at this period. Hotline help associations say that there's more suicide at Christmas than at any other time of the year! If this isn't the devil's doing I don't know whose it is; but I know whose doing it isn't: it isn't Jesus'. Christmas is not a Christian feast.
Father Christmas is there to replace God in the life of a child. He sees you all year round and knows if you've been good and rewards you. Also, he has supernatural powers. When you tell your child about "Father Christmas" and he believes you, you are lying to your child. When later on, he finds it out, he may take it well and understand but he will still come out of the experience with a more sceptical view of what is said to him and his childish faith will be damaged. He will learn "lies are alright sometimes, if it's just for fun." "So is the man that deceiveth his neighbour, and saith, Am not I in sport?" (Proverbs 26:19)
The "true" spirit of Christmas
Having gotten rid of Father Christmas, gift-giving, and over-eating, what is left? The family reunion, the carols, the nativity story, the Christmas cards, the decorations. Are all these things good? If you strip Christmas of all that is worldly, is even what is left Christian?
As to family reunions, I'm sure there can be no objection. Families can reunite and have a happy time without compromising their faith. The error lies not in the reunion but in reunion around Jesus' birth. You might just as well gather to celebrate the healing of the blind man!
Many say that this feast, though it be pagan, spreads the message of Jesus Christ – but the message of Jesus Christ is not His birth! The message of Jesus Christ is contained in His death and resurrection! (Proverbs 28:2) The Lord asks us to celebrate this — but not on one particular day — every time we meet. He asks us to make our whole life a celebration and witness of this. If we give one minute to concentating on His birth, and His birth only, (as opposed to His birth in the light of His death), we are being distracted by the devil from what the Bible teaches is essential. The story of His birth is added to this pagan feast by the devil to tempt simple Christians to become part of this idolatrous celebration and to yeild to the pleasures of the flesh thus bringing us under bondage to the works of the flesh.
Jesus accused the Pharasees of adding their own personal traditions to the Jewish religion whose founder was God. Though many of their traditions may have been good, Jesus was angry they did them in God's name, presumptuously, as if they were God's idea. This is why we feel that Christmas carols, if sung, should be sung all year round and not set apart as if they held a special place in the Christian life. If the carol's central message is really Jesus' physical birth, the message has little spiritual weight and should be put in the same category as "Zacchius was a wee, little man..." – a story song, not a spiritual teaching.
If we must indulge in worldliness, please admit it, and don't do it in the name of Christ; it only makes things worse. The Christian message that the world sees at Christmas is a weak, sentimental, and emotional message and it is not Christianity at all. It destroys more than it builds. In the light of all this, I think any decoration or Christmas cards represent a compromise. Let's send cards to loved ones, but not in the name of Christmas!
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