Monday, December 26, 2005

Thoughts on Christmas

Ok, I know that The holiday itself has come and gone and I for one enjoyed the time off and also the time with family and food. I said earlier in the month that I would attempt to put down some of my thoughts concerning Christmas. I use to hold to the "traditional" celebrations of Christmas. However, more and more I don't see the need for them or the seemingly hypocritical way Christmas is presented. Please don't take my words as directed towards any specific individual. I am speaking generally here as a man who is seriously trying to examine the "reason(s) for the season". My attempt is not to set myself up as a Pharisee and command everyone to abstain from things in order to be holy. Our holiness is from the Lord. However, that holiness does present itself in various practical ways and that is what I am implying here. I have not "arrived", but do offer these things for those who might not see a problem with Christmas or with some of the practices and traditions associated with it.

I recall a conversation I had recently with a gentleman whom I consider to be a very godly man. I witness him on a daily basis living a godly life. However, he was extremely upset about the left's move in this country to take away any reference to Christ in Christmas. He was just as adament that Christians should stand up and be counted and that they should oppose such things including the commercialization of Christmas. To him, Christmas was a Christian holiday and that if you didn't stand up in opposition to those looking to put up "Happy Holidays" instead of "Merry Christmas", then you would certainly be in trouble when they came in your house and told you what you could and couldn't teach your children. I was left sort of looking at him with that, well you know, ears perked up kind of head tilted dog look.

I explained to him that not all Christians observe Christmas. We have sound reasons for not doing so. It is not that we deny the Incarnation, nor is it that we are Scrooges who do not wish to enjoy special days with family and friends. In fact, most who would oppose the Christmas celebrations do get together with family and friends and spend time with one another around the table and home. Christmas' history began apart from apostolic teaching. It is not authentically and primarily Christmas. One can be a believer in the Lord Jesus Christ and not celebrate Christmas. By the way, the left, and sadly many on the right, are trying to tell us what to teach our children, which does come down to biblical authority. We specifically do not observe Christmas because of the trappings associated with it. Let me explain.

First and foremost, we end up engaging in something that is specifically not commanded in the Scripture. This is where it gets tricky for some people. I don't mean to imply that we shouldn't preach, teach, or pray recognizing the incarnation of God in Jesus Christ. I do not mean we should not make mention of it with our children. What I mean by that is that the Scripture is clear about what we should remember and that is the Lord's Death. He clearly instituted the Lord's Table as a reminder of it and He said that as often as we did it we did it in remembrance of Him. What is amazing to me is that most churches don't like the term often used there. Therefore, they do it once or twice a year or once a quarter. Our assembly remembers the Lord's Death each week. After all, it is the very reason that we come together.

I have been told that each week can make the Lord's Table seem common place. That is true. It can. Thus there should be warning and examination each day of each week as to whether or not we rightly discern the Lord's body and whether we judge ourselves worthy to partake (in the language of Paul). In all honesty this could be said of teaching and preaching and singing and praying, but we don't only do those things at select intervals during the year.

As we assembled yesterday in our home we remembered the promise of God in Genesis 3:15 in which there was the first declaration (the proto evangelion) of the Messiah who would crush the head of the serpent. We recalled that by the end of Genesis God, through Jacob, prophesied the time frame in which the Messiah would come (49:9-10). We recently went through Daniel and I quoted some of the sections that we studied in reference to the coming, work, and establishment of the kingdom of the Messiah along with a specific time in which it would take place. We recalled the birth of Christ from the gospels and noted that Paul defined His coming in the "fullness of time" (Gal. 4:4-5). We also spoke to Jesus giving the very reason that He came before Pilate in John's gospel (18:37)
"You say rightly that I am a king. For this cause I was born, and for this cause I have come into the world, that I should bear witness to the truth. Everyone who is of the truth hears My voice."

Earlier in the same section we noted that the scepter had departed from Judah, for the Jews could no longer lawfully execute capital punishment (18:30-32). Finally I made the following comments:

Christ was not born so that we could have a warm fuzzy experience.
He did not manifest Himself in the flesh so that we could decorate trees in our homes (spawned by pagan idolatry) with trinkets of His wonderful grace.
God did not become incarnate so that we would follow after the lusts of the flesh in an overindulgence of gift giving.
He was not born of a virgin in order that His people could mix His holiness with pagan traditions thinly veiled in Christian terms.
No, He was born that He should bear witness of the truth and that He should die to vindicate the name of God and rescue God's people.

It is true, that there is no Calvary without a Bethlehem. But Christ did not come specifically for Bethlehem, He came for Calvary. I do not mean to imply that Bethlehem was not important, nor do I mean to imply that the virgin birth was not important. They were because God said those things would be accomplished. They are part of the very fabric of biblical prophecy concerning the Messiah. However, they were the signposts, if you will, which would give authenitcation to the person who was the Messiah. This should give us cause for joy and pleasure, exalting in the supreme wisdom of God in sending for His Son, through a sinless birth, living a sinless life, and dying a sinless death in the place of sinful men, even me, the most unworthy sinner.

I could take the opportunity to address the many traditions associated with the season and their pagan origins. However, anyone who reads this could easily access that information if they really are interested in the truth. One of those traditions however, is that we end up tying ourselves to a date of December 25th as the birthday of Christ, when most Bible students understand that He was more likely born in the Fall. Should we mix the error of the date with the truth knowingly? We end up following the traditions of Rome, while calling ourselves Protestant. The question I have is this: evaluate what you did on December 25th. Were you totally engaged in the celebration of what God provided in Christ, or were you mixing pagan traditions in with the holy name of God? I really do believe if we are honest with ourselves, for far to long we have tried to separate the two, but fail to do so. This may go to exactly what so many Christians are upset about this year. They hate the commercialization of Christmas, while engaging in the very things that promote that commercialization (trees, lights, decorations, gifts, etc.)

December 25th is very special to me though, for it was on December 25th of 1992 at about 2am that the Lord Jesus Christ sent His Holy Spirit to regenerate me from the deadness of my sins, to experience the terror of His holiness, and also the beauty of His mercy. It was 13 years ago yesterday that God imputed to me the righteousness of Christ that was promised by the Father to the Son from before the world began. How can I not be joyous and glad? How can I not but weep tears of joy and take pleasure in my Savior? I simply am compelled to!

Lastly, I believe every time the believer lifts his heart in a prayer of praise to God for the person and work of Christ, he is in fact recognizing the truth of the incarnation. For there can be no Christ, the God-man, apart from the Incarnation. There can be no satisfactory propitiation of the wrath of God by Jesus Christ if He is not born of a virgin. So, in fact, each time we confess these things before God there is an underlying presupposition that we are in fact thankful to God for His unspeakable gift.

1 comment:

dogpreacher said...

In agreement, we left off observation of Christmas several years back now. I don't see how anyone who holds to the regulative principle continues to advocate its observance.