Friday, December 21, 2012

Rejoice in the Birth of a King

A celebration of Christ's birth.
Born to die, yes, but to rise again.
Death could not hold him
and so we can celebrate
And because he is alive
we too can have life eternal

The manger is empty
The cross is empty
The tomb is empty
Because the LORD Jesus Christ is risen
He became our Redeemer
 Our Savior and Life giver
Almighty God and Everlasting Father
And so, we celebrate

I  have had for a long time a problem as a believer in the LORD Jesus Christ, celebrating Christmas. What bothers me are the roots of the Christmas celebration.

First is, that the first celebration of Christmas was about 2 centuries after his death.  I believe it was at the time of Constantine 1.  December 25th had been for centuries  a major celebration of  the Persian god Mithras and then taken over by the Roman's.

Romans celebrated  "Natalis Solis Invincti" or the' birthday of the invincible sun god'  Mithra.  The church fathers of that day decided God could not successfully overcome the pagan gods without a little help from them and declared this pagan holiday, tree, and all the pagan celebrations, to now be a celebration of the Christian  Son of God  Jesus Christ's birthday.  So of course the pagan's could celebrate without any change in their beliefs and the Christian's could celebrate, calling it a celebration to Christ.

I in fact saw this exact scenario in Cochabamba Bolivia in the 1960's.  The local  priest was called in to give his blessing on a local pagan festival and that made it okay for church members to participate.  

Back to Christmas, why don't Christian people ask "Why a Tree?" all decked out in shinny babbles?  In Germany the tree was cut and used as a sacrifice to their pagan gods to garner good luck in the upcoming year  for the participants.

I have no problem with taking a day to remember the birth of Jesus.  I rejoice in His birth.   But I do have a personal 'ache' about the trappings that are not in anyway connected with his birth.  I wish the Christian believers would rise up and say, I'm not going to enrich the sellers (in  the temple, as it were) with this pagan celebration.  I'm not going to add onto my celebration of Christ's birth  all those things that draw our attention away from the 'reason' we are celebrating.   I personally have never been to a birthday party where everyone there got the presents, after a token gesture in my direction wishing me happy birthday.   I would not feel like my birthday was very special in such a situation.

I would LOVE a day totally dedicated to worshiping the LORD for his great gift of love.   A gift to Christ, our  gold, frankincense and myrrh as it were,  of worship and praise. Maybe our gift being being from one who had to a  family or person in need.  Not just token presents, but real things, food and clothes and love.  I have seen my daughter-in-law Juanita Weldon do just this, giving out real love and care to others she finds in her life who are suffering, hurting or just needing to experience God's love.  That to me is the real gift to Christ.

I wish every true believer in the Kingdom of God would stand up and say NO to this pagan celebration at least to the extent that we cease to join in with the pagan festivities.  No decorations in our churches, none of this Father Christmas or Santa Claus stuff, reindeer and sleighs, and being good so Santa will give you presents.    Has it ever occurred to parents that when their children find out there is no Santa Claus, their next logical step would be, "There is no Jesus Christ" - He's a myth just like Santa Claus.  And teaching our kids being good as a show to "get something back that we want?" from Santa Claus.  Would it then bleed over into their every day life, to be good not out of love for the LORD, but for what was in it for you?

Funnily, I loved my childhood Christmas'.   We never had decorations.   On Christmas Eve, we kids had to clean the house while dad and mom went to town.  That night we'd often be in church. On  Christmas day, we  children would each get one present .  I don't remember giving my parents gifts.  It was not emphasized   We would get up and after breakfast gather in the living room and dad would read the story from Luke of Christ's birth and we would pray.  Then after opening our one or maybe two gifts, we would play games as a family or dad would play and mom would make some peanut brittle for us to munch on.   It was a lovely family day some of the time.   But we too failed, seeing it as our personal day with our parents. We had an aunt and family we didn't enjoy who began show up to celebrate with us.  We saw it as they came and spoiled all our fun.  We didn't see it as a time to make their day good and to let them see the LORD as our whole reason for living.

I've never, since childhood enjoyed the celebration of Christmas.  It has always been empty of a true celebration of Christ's birth, filled with frenetic activities of opening presents, giving them, eating too much and NO real pause in the whole day to remember and celebrate Christ truly.   I am as much at fault myself as I just went with what everyone wanted to do, but without any joy.  When I've spoken what I wanted  it was clear I was seen as a crank, a nut, and dumb to be so stupid.

In the last two years, in my own heart I have deliberately chosen to celebrate Christ's birth. I cannot fight centuries of an established holiday.  But I can make it a true celebration in my heart.  

But  truly every day is a celebration of Christ's birth, his amazing love that chose to lay down his glory and become a man tethered to the earth.  He then chose to give up that life.  He did  not slaughter the inhabitants of the world for daring to seek his death rather than bow to his being their rightful LORD, by reason of being their creator.  All this He did because of His singular, unique wondrous love for his creation.  The creation that had thrown away life in the Garden of Eden,  loving rather to grub about in death in independence.  He did this so that we  could once again enter the presence of Almighty God, our sins covered by the Righteousness bought for us by the price paid by Christ.   That is what celebrating the birth of Christ is all about.

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