What Christmas is not (and is)


 

Is there really a war on Christmas?  And who exactly is fighting it?

Christmas: the annual festival of the Christian church commemorating the birth of Jesus: celebrated on December 25 and now generally observed as a legal holiday and an occasion for exchanging gifts. 

Inconsistent:  lacking agreement, as one thing with another or two or more things in relation to each other; at variance

There are inconsistencies in the various definitions presented above and below.  
Can you identify them?

Generally: usually; commonly; ordinarily

Observed: to keep or maintain in one’s action, conduct, etc.

Now: under the present or existing circumstances

The Real War on Christmas: The War On Christmas Is Real and It’s Being Waged by Christians

All of the items above in orange text are from dictionary.com

The item above in purple is from The Huffington Post.  And various other places.  In case you don’t know, The Huffington Post is an extremely left-leaning, liberal press outlet.  And they are actively claiming that the war on Christmas is being waged by Christians.  Interesting.

Let’s look at some things that Christmas is not – and that it is – and see if their conclusion makes sense. 

Christmas is not snow or a snowflake.  I already covered the details behind this one in No snowflakes – Hating Jesus?.  

Christmas is not a Christmas tree.  That was also covered in the previously referenced link.  
Having said that, some people put a star at the top to represent the Star of Bethlehem.
Others may put an angel at the top of the tree.  I always thought that was a reference to the angels who gave the good news of Jesus’ birth to the shepherds.  Turns out – that’s not necessarily the case.  Some say it’s a reference to the archangel Gabriel, who visited Mary to tell her what was going to happen.
However – looking at a verse in Deuteronomy, under the NIV heading of Worshiping Other Gods, we see this –

Dt 16:21 Do not set up any wooden Asherah pole beside the altar you build to the LORD your God, 22 and do not erect a sacred stone, for these the LORD your God hates.

I wonder – how would the LORD feel about the Star of Bethlehem or one of His angels (Gabriel or any other) being placed on top of a pagan symbol?  Could it be that the LORD would hate this?

Christmas is not saying “Merry Christmas”.  If we look up “Merry Christmas” in the NIV version of the Bible – guess what – it’s not there.  That really shouldn’t be a surprise.  Try looking up just the word “Christmas” – it’s not there either.  Also shouldn’t be surprising.
However – and I have to say this one surprised me – looking up the word “merry” gives four responses.  It’s not the fact that it was found that was surprising.  It was the context in which the word was used.  Here they are –

1st occurrence of “merry”:

Job 21:12 They sing to the music of tambourine and harp;
they make merry to the sound of the flute.

Sounds OK – right?
But let’s look at it in full context –

Job 21:7 Why do the wicked live on,
growing old and increasing in power?
Job 21:8 They see their children established around them,
their offspring before their eyes.
Job 21:9 Their homes are safe and free from fear;
the rod of God is not upon them.
Job 21:10 Their bulls never fail to breed;
their cows calve and do not miscarry.
Job 21:11 They send forth their children as a flock;
their little ones dance about.
Job 21:12 They sing to the music of tambourine and harp;
they make merry to the sound of the flute.
Job 21:13 They spend their years in prosperity
and go down to the grave in peace.
Job 21:14 Yet they say to God, ‘Leave us alone!
We have no desire to know your ways.
Job 21:15 Who is the Almighty, that we should serve him?
What would we gain by praying to him?’
Job 21:16 But their prosperity is not in their own hands,
so I stand aloof from the counsel of the wicked.

Oops.  
This is all about the wicked making merry.
It’s about the ones who tell God –  “Leave us alone!”
These are the ones who tell God – We have no desire to know your ways.” 

2nd occurrence of “merry”:

Ecc 10:19 A feast is made for laughter,
and wine makes life merry,
but money is the answer for everything.

Again – maybe this sounds pretty good.
However – if you know much about Ecclesiastes – you may be concerned about the context of any statement pulled out of this book.
To that end – here is the context –

Ecc 10:12 Words from a wise man’s mouth are gracious,
but a fool is consumed by his own lips.
Ecc 10:13 At the beginning his words are folly;
at the end they are wicked madness—
Ecc 10:14 and the fool multiplies words.
No one knows what is coming—
who can tell him what will happen after him?

Ecc 10:15 A fool’s work wearies him;
he does not know the way to town.

Ecc 10:16 Woe to you, O land whose king was a servant
and whose princes feast in the morning.
Ecc 10:17 Blessed are you, O land whose king is of noble birth
and whose princes eat at a proper time—
for strength and not for drunkenness.

Ecc 10:18 If a man is lazy, the rafters sag;
if his hands are idle, the house leaks.

Ecc 10:19 A feast is made for laughter,
and wine makes life merry,
but money is the answer for everything.

Ecc 10:20 Do not revile the king even in your thoughts,
or curse the rich in your bedroom,
because a bird of the air may carry your words,
and a bird on the wing may report what you say.

Oops again.
These are the words of a fool.  One whose words go from folly to wicked madness.

3rd occurrence of “merry”:

Jer 15:17 I never sat in the company of revelers,
never made merry with them;

Right off, this one doesn’t sound good.
Not to worry – it actually gets even worse –

Jer 15:15 You understand, O LORD;
remember me and care for me.
Avenge me on my persecutors.
You are long-suffering—do not take me away;
think of how I suffer reproach for your sake.
Jer 15:16 When your words came, I ate them;
they were my joy and my heart’s delight,
for I bear your name,
O LORD God Almighty.
Jer 15:17 I never sat in the company of revelers,
never made merry with them;
I sat alone because your hand was on me
and you had filled me with indignation.

This is from a man whose joy came from the words of the LORD.
And he had nothing to do with those who were against the LORD and made merry in a way that made the LORD’s eyes fill with tears.

4th occurrence of “merry”:

Lk 12:16 And he told them this parable: “The ground of a certain rich man produced a good crop. 17 He thought to himself, ‘What shall I do? I have no place to store my crops.’
Lk 12:18 “Then he said, ‘This is what I’ll do. I will tear down my barns and build bigger ones, and there I will store all my grain and my goods. 19 And I’ll say to myself, “You have plenty of good things laid up for many years. Take life easy; eat, drink and be merry.” ’

Obviously, these words come from Jesus (if you don’t know, they’re in red for that reason).
But much like the verse from Ecclesiastes, one must be very careful about pulling words out of context from Jesus.
Indeed – that’s true with these words.

Lk 12:20 “But God said to him, ‘You fool! This very night your life will be demanded from you. Then who will get what you have prepared for yourself?’
Lk 12:21 “This is how it will be with anyone who stores up things for himself but is not rich toward God.”

For the 4th time – oops.

It turns out the man who was going to eat, drink, and be merry was very much the unsuspecting fool – totally focused on himself – and ignored God.

Enough said about “Merry Christmas”?

Christmas is not about getting Black Friday deals.  Or even going shopping at all.  Yes – we saw the visit of the Magi – the wise men.  You’re probably thinking there were three of them.  In fact – they had three gifts, but it doesn’t say how many men there were.  We know only that there was more than one.  And did they go shopping?  Well – they brought gold, incense, and myrrh.  These were something along the lines of “wise” men according to the definition of the word Magi.  They were rich enough to be able to make this trip – which apparently took somewhere in the neighborhood of two years.  (They saw the star – not that they were told by someone who had to travel to them.  Plus, when Herod issued the order it was to kill all baby boys two years old or less.)  That they could be away from home that long indicates some degree of wealth – so having gold and incense wouldn’t have been a big deal.  Nothing they’d have to go “shop” for.  Myrrh was a form of incense – often used at death.  Gold for currency – incense for ceremonies, including those religious in nature.  Not likely that they needed to go shopping.

Mt 2:9 After they had heard the king, they went on their way, and the star they had seen in the east went ahead of them until it stopped over the place where the child was. 10 When they saw the star, they were overjoyed. 11 On coming to the house, they saw the child with his mother Mary, and they bowed down and worshiped him. Then they opened their treasures and presented him with gifts of gold and of incense and of myrrh.

And what about the shepherds?  Did they go shopping?  No.  In fact – the only things they brought to Jesus were their joy and praise –

Lk 2:8 And there were shepherds living out in the fields nearby, keeping watch over their flocks at night. 9 An angel of the Lord appeared to them, and the glory of the Lord shone around them, and they were terrified. 10 But the angel said to them, “Do not be afraid. I bring you good news of great joy that will be for all the people. 11 Today in the town of David a Savior has been born to you; he is Christ the Lord. 12 This will be a sign to you: You will find a baby wrapped in cloths and lying in a manger.”
Lk 2:13 Suddenly a great company of the heavenly host appeared with the angel, praising God and saying,
Lk 2:14 “Glory to God in the highest,
and on earth peace to men on whom his favor rests.”
Lk 2:15 When the angels had left them and gone into heaven, the shepherds said to one another, “Let’s go to Bethlehem and see this thing that has happened, which the Lord has told us about.”
Lk 2:16 So they hurried off and found Mary and Joseph, and the baby, who was lying in the manger. 17 When they had seen him, they spread the word concerning what had been told them about this child, 18 and all who heard it were amazed at what the shepherds said to them. 19 But Mary treasured up all these things and pondered them in her heart. 20 The shepherds returned, glorifying and praising God for all the things they had heard and seen, which were just as they had been told.

No shopping required there.  No planning ahead for Black Friday.  No last minute shopping.  And certainly no waiting to go see Jesus until there was a good sale.

Christmas is not reading, attending or viewing “A Christmas Carol”  Sorry Charles Dickens, but this has nothing to do with Christmas – as he knew when you wrote it, but which many today may not know.  I usually watch at least one of these every year.  My favorite is Mickey’s Christmas Carol, from Disney.  It’s got the most pathetic Bob Cratchit, who is so poor that he has to cut peas in half for their Thanksgiving dinner.  The funniest – that would be the Muppet’s version – narrated by Dickens himself (The Great Gonzo) with help from Rizzo the Rat (played by himself).  One Marley wasn’t enough for them – so they invented Robert Marley and had some great scenes with “Marley and Marley”.

Yes – the post “Ghost of Christmas Yet to Come” is certainly a nicer person than the one we see at the beginning.  

But – his newer / nicer persona has absolutely nothing to do with Christ – the first part of the word “Christmas”.  His change was all about the ghost of Marley(s) – the Ghost of Christmas Past, Present, and Yet to Come.  Then – he tells the Ghost of Christmas Yet to Come that he (Ebenezer Scrooge) can change himself. 

Christmas is (maybe) about giving “gifts”.  It really depends on the gift – why it’s given – who it’s for – and how it’s received.  That’ a lot of “it depends” – so let’s look at them one at a time.

why the gift is given – I found four reasons for giving a gift that would be Biblical in nature.  There are probably more – but I’m guessing that in every single case, some question along the lines of the ones I ask below should accompany each and every one of them.

1.  The magi gave gifts to Jesus.  We already saw these verses, but here they are again –

Mt 2:9 After they had heard the king, they went on their way, and the star they had seen in the east went ahead of them until it stopped over the place where the child was. 10 When they saw the star, they were overjoyed. 11 On coming to the house, they saw the child with his mother Mary, and they bowed down and worshiped him. Then they opened their treasures and presented him with gifts of gold and of incense and of myrrh.

For anyone who claims to be giving gifts for this reason – just a question for you.  Do you tell the recipients of your gifts about the Magi, Jesus, and why the gifts were given?

2.  Something that Paul wrote to the church in Corinth – There’s a verse in 2 Corinthians that talks about giving.  And some claim it as the reason they give gifts –

2Co 8:7 But just as you excel in everything—in faith, in speech, in knowledge, in complete earnestness and in your love for us—see that you also excel in this grace of giving.

This is nice.  But it’s without context.  We’ve already seen how misleading it can be to take verses from the Bible (or anywhere else) out of context and try to use them to prove a point.  So let’s look at what came after that verse –

2Co 8:7 But just as you excel in everything—in faith, in speech, in knowledge, in complete earnestness and in your love for us—see that you also excel in this grace of giving.
2Co 8:8 I am not commanding you, but I want to test the sincerity of your love by comparing it with the earnestness of others. 9 For you know the grace of our Lord Jesus Christ, that though he was rich, yet for your sakes he became poor, so that you through his poverty might become rich.
2Co 8:10 And here is my advice about what is best for you in this matter: Last year you were the first not only to give but also to have the desire to do so. 11 Now finish the work, so that your eager willingness to do it may be matched by your completion of it, according to your means. 12 For if the willingness is there, the gift is acceptable according to what one has, not according to what he does not have.
2Co 8:13 Our desire is not that others might be relieved while you are hard pressed, but that there might be equality. 14 At the present time your plenty will supply what they need, so that in turn their plenty will supply what you need. Then there will be equality, 15 as it is written: “He who gathered much did not have too much, and he who gathered little did not have too little.”

Oops once again.  This wasn’t about just giving gifts to friends and family.  This was about giving to others who aren’t as fortunate as we are.  It’s about giving to the “have not’s”.  It’s about giving what we can give – just as Jesus gave what He gave.  In His case – His life.  In our case – things that we have.  Maybe Money.  Maybe “items”.  Maybe time.  Given to those that don’t have.

Again – Do you tell the recipients of your gifts about the Jesus, and why the gifts were given?

3.  Something that James wrote to the twelve tribes scattered among the nations – Here is the verse –

Jas 1:17 Every good and perfect gift is from above, coming down from the Father of the heavenly lights, who does not change like shifting shadows.

Yes – that was the verse – out of context.  Let’s put in the context – to see what James really said.

Jas 1:16 Don’t be deceived, my dear brothers. 17 Every good and perfect gift is from above, coming down from the Father of the heavenly lights, who does not change like shifting shadows. 18 He chose to give us birth through the word of truth, that we might be a kind of firstfruits of all he created.

When you give a gift – and claim this verse as your inspiration – are you also claiming that your gift is “good and perfect“?  
And when you give a gift because of this verse – are you explaining how all of this really ties back to the birth of Christ?

3.  Something that Luke wrote in Acts – and here it is, as usual, with no context –

Acts 20:35 … Jesus himself said: ‘It is more blessed to give than to receive.’

OK – for those that really know their Bibles well – this statement is not found in the canonical Gospels.  Not even Luke’s own Gospel.  And yet Luke has included this quote in the Book of Acts.  And – as usual – those who claim it as the authority / justification / excuse (?) for something they have done – it’s way off base when put in context –

Ac 20:32 “Now I commit you to God and to the word of his grace, which can build you up and give you an inheritance among all those who are sanctified. 33 I have not coveted anyone’s silver or gold or clothing. 34 You yourselves know that these hands of mine have supplied my own needs and the needs of my companions. 35 In everything I did, I showed you that by this kind of hard work we must help the weak, remembering the words the Lord Jesus himself said: ‘It is more blessed to give than to receive.’

What was Paul really trying to say?  That he, while traveling all over the place to spread the Word, the good news of Jesus, had never received anything from the church – it’s people.  Not gold.  Not silver.  Not even clothes.  To the contrary, Paul took care of himself and those travelling with him.  

What Paul did ask for when he traveled and wrote – was contributions for the poor.  Very much like item #2.  

The question then – if you are claiming this statement as the reason you give Christmas gifts – are you doing what Paul wrote about?  Are you explaining the context to the recipient of the gift?

Who the gift is for – in each of the instances above, the “reason” for the gift is very much tied to who the gift is for.  For whichever of those reason(s) you may be claiming – is your gift given to someone who fits the description in that reason?  

How the gift is received – in each case – does the person know why the gift is given?  I don’t mean letting them assume your intentions – but really explaining them.

The bottom line – there’s a difference between giving a gift the way the Bible talks about – and giving a gift the way the world at large talks about today.

Christmas is about the birth of Jesus Christ, the Son of God, sent to save us from our sins.  

 As you hopefully have figured out by now, I’m using the original definition of Christmas –

 the annual festival of the Christian church commemorating the birth of Jesus: celebrated on December 25

All the other stuff that’s been added has little or nothing to do with the birth of Jesus.  And – as we saw – some of the things we have added to Christmas are likely detestable to God if we try to lump all of them together and claim that they really do have something to do with the original definition of Christmas.

Conclusion

for non-Christians –

Be careful what you ask for.  If you want a world without Christ – and that’s your reason for fighting against Christmas – you will eventually receive exactly what you’ve asked for.  Be sure that’s what you really mean.  Because at some point it’s an irrevocable decision and it lasts forever.

for non-Christians –

Some number of very vocal Christians are indeed waging a war against Christmas.  However – from what we’ve seen above – this war is to some degree (maybe even a large degree) a war to keep pagan symbols as the centerpiece if Christmas.  Not Jesus – put the pagan symbols.  Some have reached the point where Jesus is nearly out of the picture.  It’s really a war against Christ – a war against God.

Given that Christmas was originally to celebrate the birth of Jesus – are you not only buying into the non-Christian attempts to remove Him from Christmas, and in fact becoming some of the greatest supporters for removing Him from the holiday (holy day) that was set up to celebrate His birth?  And in the process, are you not turning even more people away from Him, rather than teaching them about Him?  Will He say to you – I never knew you.

Final Words

I am not trying to be the Grinch who stole Christmas.  Not at all.

I give gifts.  I have Christmas dinner with friends / family.  I watch A Christmas Carol.  I do not have a Christmas tree (anymore) because I’m pretty sure the dogs would think it was something else entirely – something that means they don’t have to go out when it’s (relatively) cold and raining (we don’t get snow here) to do their “business”.  They would view the tree as my “gift” to them for being able to “do it” in the house.

There’s also probably no one in my life that receives a gift from me who also has any doubt about why I celebrate Christmas.

I know that we aren’t going to convince one person to get to know Jesus because we’ve forced them to say “Merry Christmas”.

I also know that trying to wage this war on pagan Christmas symbols not only doesn’t help anyone get to know Jesus – it turns people off to the image of Jesus that we are presenting. 

Remember the “reason for the season”.  It’s a little baby.  Who came to go great things.  Who came to save you.  
And to help you help Him save others.

So if you want to do the things above – say merry Christmas – put up a tree – give gifts – watch a “Christmas” movie – go for it.
But also remember these words from Paul –

1Co 10:23 “Everything is permissible”—but not everything is beneficial. “Everything is permissible”—but not everything is constructive. 24 Nobody should seek his own good, but the good of others.
1Co 10:25 Eat anything sold in the meat market without raising questions of conscience, 26 for, “The earth is the Lord’s, and everything in it.”
1Co 10:27 If some unbeliever invites you to a meal and you want to go, eat whatever is put before you without raising questions of conscience. 28 But if anyone says to you, “This has been offered in sacrifice,” then do not eat it, both for the sake of the man who told you and for conscience’ sake— 29 the other man’s conscience, I mean, not yours. For why should my freedom be judged by another’s conscience? 30 If I take part in the meal with thankfulness, why am I denounced because of something I thank God for?
1Co 10:31 So whether you eat or drink or whatever you do, do it all for the glory of God. 32 Do not cause anyone to stumble, whether Jews, Greeks or the church of God— 33 even as I try to please everybody in every way. For I am not seeking my own good but the good of many, so that they may be saved. 1 Follow my example, as I follow the example of Christ.

 

Celebrate Christmas – like this.

“Everything is permissible”—but not everything is beneficial.

“Everything is permissible”—but not everything is constructive.

So whether you eat or drink or whatever you do, do it all for the glory of God.

Follow my example, as I follow the example of Christ.

Have a most blessed Christmas!

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