December 22, 2016
Christmas is a busy time of year. We put up a tree and want it to be perfectly decorated to show off the perfectly wrapped gifts. There are office Christmas parties and shopping as well as school plays (don’t say Christmas play because that’s politically incorrect). By the time Christmas gets here we’re just plain tired of the hustle and bustle. On Christmas morning we open gifts, some from “Santa”, then either go to visit family and friends or they come to our house. In spite of all the running here and there, warm memories are made. How much of this reflects honoring Christ and how much is done to try to make a scripted Hallmark moment come true? The truth is, none of it honors Christ. Parents seem worried that their children will stop believing in fictional Santa but don’t give a thought about their faith in Jesus. The birth of Jesus took place in a humble manger, but that event was more important than any event in history, except for the Resurrection. Our attitude should be more about worshipping the King than about creating the perfect Hallmark moment. “For unto us a child is born, unto us a son is given: and the government shall be upon his shoulder: and his name shall be called Wonderful, Counsellor, The mighty God, The everlasting Father, The Prince of Peace.” Isaiah 9:6. There is no gift that compares to this Gift.
The Bible doesn’t forbid getting together with loved ones and having a good time. God established Jewish feasts and the first Christians certainly spent time together sharing what they had with their brothers and sisters in Christ. Scripture tells us that Jesus enjoyed being with people while eating meals. Of course the Scribes and Pharisees held this against Him. Jesus called them on their self-righteousness. “For John the Baptist came neither eating bread nor drinking wine; and ye say, He hath a devil. The Son of man is come eating and drinking; and ye say, Behold a gluttonous man, an a winebibber, a friend of publicans and sinners!” Luke 7:33-34. It’s impossible to please some people. We aren’t told that Jesus attended birthday parties but we know He attended at least one wedding where He turned water into wine. The Book of Job might indicate that birthdays were celebrated long ago. “And his sons went and feasted in their houses, every one his day; and sent and called for their three sisters to eat and to drink with them.” Job 1:4. Job would offer sacrifices for them on these days, which some scholars believe are birthdays, just in case they had sinned or cursed God. Job loved his family and loved God. There’s nothing wrong with having a good time with friends and family, but be sure that you don’t sin in the process. We can be sure that Jesus didn’t commit any sin, and Job shows the heart of a man who put God first. As you celebrate Christmas, be sure to keep Jesus first and put no other god before Him.
Today we celebrate the birth of Christ on December 25, but why that day? Scripture doesn’t tell us the day He was born, but just as with Easter it was joined to a pagan celebration day. December in Bethlehem is cool and rainy, so the Shepherds wouldn’t have been out in the fields tending their flocks. Some people believe Christ was born in the Spring, while others believe He was born in August or September. The fact is, if God wanted us to know the specific day He would have told us. What we do know is that Caesar Augustus decreed that everyone had to return to their own city to be taxed. “And Joseph also went up from Galilee, out of the city of Nazareth, into Judaea, unto the city of David, which is called Bethlehem; (because he was of the house and lineage of David:) to be taxed with Mary his espoused wife, being great with child.” Luke 2:4-5. The trip from Nazareth to Bethlehem in December would have been more than difficult, especially with Mary being ready to give birth.
We’ve added Christmas trees to our traditions (another pagan ritual). The prophet Jeremiah talks about decorated trees. “For the customs of the people are vain: for one cutteth a tree out of the forest, the work of the hands of the workman, with the axe. They deck it with silver and with gold; they fasten it with nails and with hammers, that it move not.” Jeremiah 10:3-4. This sounds like what we do today! Jeremiah is talking about making idols and worshipping them. We may want the lights to shine bright and the ornaments to all be placed perfectly, but I don’t know anyone who worships the Christmas tree as an idol. “They are upright as the palm tree, but speak not: they must needs be borne, because they cannot go. Be not afraid of them; for they cannot do evil, neither also is it in them to do good. Forasmuch as there is none like unto thee, O LORD; thou art great, and thy name is great in might.” Jeremiah 10:5-6. A tree is not an idol unless you worship it. We use it mostly as a decoration and as a place to put our gifts for family and friends. Our gift giving is said to commemorate the visit of the Magi, but it wasn’t until sometime after Christ’s birth that the Magi came bearing gifts. “And when they were come into the house, they saw the young child with Mary his mother, and fell down, and worshipped him: and when they had opened their treasures, they presented unto him gifts; gold, and frankincense, and myrrh.” Matthew 2:11. They went to a house, not a manger, and saw the young child, not a baby. We like to condense the story into something that fits aSunday school play, but the truth is much more interesting. Are trees and gifts acceptable for a Christian? The answer lies in your heart. Do you worship the tree and give gifts to it? Sadly most people don’t even think about worshipping Jesus when getting and giving presents, let alone worshipping pagan gods. Remember His birth and worship Him only.
The traditions we keep make warm memories (Hallmark moments), and there’s nothing wrong with that. Special ornaments are brought out each year and they bring back special memories as we place them on the tree branches. Gifts are chosen with love and when our children’s eyes pop when they open a box with the special toy they wanted, our hearts melt to see their happiness. This isn’t wrong and Scripture doesn’t forbid it. On the other hand, Christmas has become more about the hustle, bustle, and gifts than it is about Jesus. That is wrong. The gifts get more expensive because the kids expect more each year. If they don’t get the latest video games or the trendiest fashion then they are very disappointed. The materialism that surrounds Christmas is wrong and is a type of idol worship. We need to teach our children who gives the greatest gifts of all, and it isn’t Santa. “If a son shall ask bread of any of you that is a father, will he give him a stone? or if he ask a fish, will he for a fish give him a serpent? Or if he shall ask an egg, will he offer him a scorpion? If ye then, being evil, know how to give good gifts unto your children: how much more shall your heavenly Father give the Holy Spirit to them that ask him?” Luke 11:11-13. We want to give wonderful gifts to our children, but if we neglect to teach them that God gave the greatest gift of all, then shame on us. “For the wages of sin is death; but the gift of God is eternal life through Jesus Christ our Lord.” Romans 6:23. Eternal life only comes through Jesus shed blood on the cross. The gift is free, but has to be accepted. That truth is the best gift a child can receive…or an adult.
Christians need to keep Jesus in our hearts and on our minds every day of the year. We say that we celebrate December 25 as the day Christ was born, so let’s keep Him in the forefront of our thoughts and activities. Don’t be shy about greeting others with “Merry Christmas”. Don’t be ashamed to put up a nativity scene. If someone is offended by it, that person needs to come to know Jesus. Sing Christmas carols. Actually, sing Christmas carols in March, July, or October. Christ was born and that’s a fact that should be celebrated every day. While celebrating His birth, don’t forget that He had to be born in order to lay down His life to redeem us from our sins. While trying to create that perfect Hallmark Christmas, don’t forget to worship the King of kings and Lord of lords. He is God’s gift to us every day of the year.
God bless you all,
Ron Graham’s previous commentaries archived at http://www.raptureready.com/featured/graham/graham.html