Happy _____ Day… And other Christmas thoughts

I can’t tell you how many discussions I’ve witnessed over the years arguing the reasons for keeping Christ in Christmas. Between the progressive liberals and conservative believers, there are many individuals with staunch beliefs as to what can/can’t be said and what should/shouldn’t be celebrated. I don’t claim to be trying to set the record straight, I think I’m far from capable of doing that. Instead, I hope that this may be an informative read for you on the tradition of the holiday that is being celebrated today, regardless of the reason you’re celebrating.

The church today is attempting to convince culture that they should be keeping “Christ” in Christmas. A worthy endeavor. Christmas is, after all, about Christ and His birth. But it is important to know that the age-old ideas that formed what we call today Christmas was not always about a baby that was born in a manger.

In ancient Rome, each year a great feast would be held. The feast was called Saturnalia, a celebration of the end of harvest, and it had many interesting traditions associated with it. At this time of year, there was a great sense of goodwill, as over-indulgence ran rampant. Houses would be decorated and lavish feasts would be thrown. Slaves would be allowed to rule as masters for a day, there was mass-cross dressing and drunkenness, and to top it all off: gift-giving. This is far from the modest and civil celebration we have today. As Christian-conversion occurred all across the nation, Christian Rome converted Saturnalia to a Christmas holiday to preserve the spirit that was experienced at that time of year.

http://www.bbc.co.uk/religion/0/20617780

Another historical  holiday celebrated around the same time of year was Yule (Yule-tide carol!). This celebration was held in Northern Europe and was a time to ward off depression. The cold winter months were rather easy to feel depressed in, and culture sought to defy this possible occurrence. To do this, the community would gather around a massive log and get drunk together. Again, a far cry (hopefully) from the celebration that we have in America today.

https://www.questia.com/magazine/1P3-2886253961/tracing-the-festive-light-fantastic-resources

The early church wanted nothing to do with these kind of celebrations, labeling them as perverse and pagan rituals. The church would often ban its members from being a part of these celebrations. However, as many people across the continent were converted, the church had a difficult time attempting to convince its new adherents to forsake their old practices. In concession, the church established Christmas parties which were focused on celebrating Christ’s birth instead of pagan things. It re-purposed the focus of the holiday, but maintained many of its more raucous traditions.

When America was settled, the religious Pilgrims were greatly concerned of the dangers of a sinful celebration of Christmas, going as far as to ban the holiday in the majority of the settlements. Massachusetts was one such state. Founded in 1620, the Pilgrim settlers refused to allow the gaudy and ostentatious celebrations to have a part in the colony. Although the celebration in Europe was slowly becoming more and more similar to what we celebrate today in 2016, America was at war with Christmas and its concerning history. There was fear it could corrupt the New World. It wasn’t until 1870 when the federal government declared Christmas a holiday that Massachusetts and other regions opened up to the holiday. Even after Christmas was declared a holiday, much of the nation remained uncertain about Christmas’ role in society. It was the mass immigration of individuals and traditions in the early 1900’s that would ultimately lead to America’s more complete acceptance of Christmas.

http://www.pri.org/stories/2015-12-23/america-s-first-war-christmas

This information is an important piece to be considered in light of Christmas, and society’s view of it today. The church may fight to keep Christ in Christmas, but we must also recognize that many of the traditional parts of the holiday have little to do with Jesus. The reasoning behind certain traditions have changed over the years, and often the very traditions themselves have changed!

But what does this mean? Shall Christians forsake Christmas? Shall we cease celebration of the birth of Christ and be happy about jingling bells?

To my fellow Christ-followers, Christmas in centuries past was not celebrated as it is today. It is important that we grasp the truth of Christmases-past. However, that truth does nothing to the reason why we should celebrate today. The fact that people didn’t comprehend the monumental nature of Christ’s birth in the past does not diminish the spirit or reason why we should celebrate it as such today. And that is why I will continue to celebrate Christmas as a time of remembering the Lord’s birth, regardless of what society’s celebration focuses on. My dear brothers and sisters, society will celebrate whatever thing their hearts desire after at that time. Christianity is no longer the leading cultural ideology, and fewer and fewer individuals in our nation will celebrate Christmas as the time of Christ’s birth as the years goes on. Yet, that does not change the fact that we must celebrate Jesus Christ, no matter what the culture embraces.

To my unbelieving friends, I hope you enjoy this time with family and friends. It truly is the most wonderful time of the year. But, while you may enjoy the Christmas season for any number of reasons, I hope you know that I don’t celebrate this holiday for a simple reason. I don’t celebrate it for the giving, for the family, for the weather, for the spirit. Because none of those things came down and died on a cross for my sin. I celebrate Jesus Christ and his incomprehensible gift. My spirit will never cease to look upon that truth with anything less less than awe. You may celebrate anything you wish, you can even celebrate a tree if you wish! Yet I will celebrate the Son of Man who came and died on a tree, for I am convinced that there is no greater cause for celebration.

Praises, and Merry Christmas.

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He Humbled Himself

I aim to be like Christ. Riches I heed not, nor man’s empty praise… He is the only thing that I desire. I pray that now, and always.
In light of this desire, Philippians 2 is a baffling and convicting.passage.

“Have this mind among yourselves, which is yours in Christ Jesus, who, though he was in the form of God, did not count equality with God a thing to be grasped, but emptied himself, by taking the form of a servant, being born in the likeness of men. And being found in human form, he humbled himself by becoming obedient to the point of death, even death on a cross.”

The more that I study the life of Jesus, the more convinced I am of a simple truth:

Jesus’ life wasn’t about Jesus.

See, if Jesus’ life was about Jesus, His life would have looked a little different.

If Jesus’ life was about Jesus, He would have had a parade and fireworks at His birth.
Instead He was born in a food trough.
If Jesus’ life was about Jesus, He would have had the most famous people anticipating Him.
Instead, shepherds, travelers, and livestock watched Him enter the world.
If Jesus’ life was about Jesus, He would have likely operated on the biggest of stages.
Instead, He traveled countryside roads speaking to those who would heed wisdom.
If Jesus’ life was about Jesus, He would have fought back against those who accused Him.
Instead, He was silent as a lamb before the slaughter.
If Jesus’ life was about Jesus, He would have ordered a legion of angels to strike down those who tortured Him.
Instead, He allowed soldiers to push a crown of thorns on His head, nails in His hands and feet, and nail Him to a cross.
If Jesus’ life was about Jesus, He wouldn’t have died on a cross.
But because Jesus’ life wasn’t about Himself, He did.

Paul tells us in Philippians 2, that because of Christ’s obedience and humbling, God exalted Christ! How can someone so humble be exalted in such a way? Because just like His life, Christ’s exaltation was not for the sake of Christ! In verses 10 and 11 Paul writes “so that at the name of Jesus every knee should bow, in heaven and on earth and under the earth, and every tongue confess that Jesus Christ is Lord, to the glory of God the Father.” 

All of these things happen, not for the sake of Jesus’ exaltation, but for the glory of God the Father. The end goal of Christ’s life wasn’t Christ’s exaltation, (even though it happened) but God’s glory! And the same is true of our lives.

We like to think of ourselves as the end-all purpose of Christ’s sacrifice. We take verses about God’s love and use them to write us in as the ultimate reason. We, in misguided arrogance, put our salvation as the ultimate purpose of God’s sovereign plan and by extension Christ’s sacrifice. But why did God save us? Not simply so that we might be saved, but that He might be glorified in our salvation.

We must be like Christ, and humble ourselves. A seemingly impossible task, outlined simply for us in verse 8. “He humbled Himself by becoming obedient.” If we are to be like Jesus, we must begin by humbling ourselves by becoming obedient to the Father. Because like Christ, our lives aren’t about ourselves, but about bringing glory to the Father.