Friday, December 19, 2014

Christmas: Evil or Good?

The Truth About Christmas: Evil or Good?

Introduction: Knowledge and Freedoms In The Truth
It is essential that our relationship with God be based on the truth: God’s Word is Truth. (Jn. 17:7). "Then said Jesus to those Jews which believed on him, If ye continue in my word, then are ye my disciples indeed; 32 And ye shall know the truth, and the truth shall make you free." (John 8:31-32) 

To teach and preach the traditions of men and give them the same status as the Word of God makes one a false teacher. "Beloved, believe not every spirit, but try the spirits whether they are of God: because many false prophets are gone out into the world." (1 John 4:1) 

True Christians must keep a clear distinction in their minds between God’s Word and the traditions and teachings of men. We must never allow the teachings and traditions of men to be the authoritative basis of our faith, worship and service to God.  "This people draweth nigh unto me with their mouth, and honoureth me with their lips; but their heart is far from me. 9 But in vain they do worship me, teaching for doctrines the commandments of men." (Mat 15:8-9)

For this reason, we must examine the religious ideas of the world, proving what is good and       acceptable to the Lord. "In every thing give thanks: for this is the will of God in Christ Jesus concerning you. 19 Quench not the Spirit. 20 Despise not prophesyings. 21 Prove all things; hold fast that which is good." (1 Th 5:18-21)

On the other hand, there is some degree of individual or personal liberty and freedom which each person has in regard to how they choose to honor God.  One Christian should never judge another to be wrong for personally  keeping a traditional holy day if it does not involve some sinful activity. (To do so is to condemn a servant of God with no scriptural authority). "Let no man therefore judge you in meat, or in drink, or in respect of an holyday, or of the new moon, or of the sabbath days: 17 Which are a shadow of things to come; but the body is of Christ." (Col 2:16-17)   

Should we condemn another Christian because they make a “personal decision” to respect one day or practice to honor God. "Him that is weak in the faith receive ye, but not to doubtful disputations. 2 For one believeth that he may eat all things: another, who is weak, eateth herbs. 3 Let not him that eateth despise him that eateth not; and let not him which eateth not judge him that eateth: for God hath received him. 4 Who art thou that judgest another man's servant? to his own master he standeth or falleth. Yea, he shall be holden up: for God is able to make him stand. 5 One man esteemeth one day above another: another esteemeth every day alike. Let every man be fully persuaded in his own mind. 6 He that regardeth the day, regardeth it unto the Lord; and he that regardeth not the day, to the Lord he doth not regard it. He that eateth, eateth to the Lord, for he giveth God thanks; and he that eateth not, to the Lord he eateth not, and giveth God thanks."(Rom 14:1-6) 

"I know, and am persuaded by the Lord Jesus, that there is nothing unclean of itself: but to him that esteemeth any thing to be unclean, to him it is unclean. 15 But if thy brother be grieved with thy meat, now walkest thou not charitably. Destroy not him with thy meat, for whom Christ died. 16 Let not then your good be evil spoken of: 17 For the kingdom of God is not meat and drink; but righteousness, and peace, and joy in the Holy Ghost. 18 For he that in these things serveth Christ is acceptable to God, and approved of men. 19 Let us therefore follow after the things which make for peace, and things wherewith one may edify another." (Rom 14:14-19) 

Note that the “weak in faith” are those who do not yet have full knowledge and Biblical understanding.  But those who have “knowledge” must be patient and not condemning of those who are still learning as far as some (non sinful) personal convictions.

"But take heed lest by any means this liberty of yours become a stumblingblock to them that are weak. 10 For if any man see thee which hast knowledge sit at meat in the idol's temple, shall not the conscience of him which is weak be emboldened to eat those things which are offered to idols; 11 And through thy knowledge shall the weak brother perish, for whom Christ died?" (1 Cor 8:9-11) 

But one thing we know for sure:  We cannot present and teach the teachings of men as if they were the teachings and truth of God in the church! The purpose of this  lesson is to examine the religious teaching and tradition known as   Christmas.  What should a true Christian know about this holiday?     What is Good about this holiday?

I. The Truth About Christmas:

The first thing we should know is that neither God, Jesus or the Holy Spirit taught or required      that  the birth of Jesus be remembered with any special activity or special day.  Humans have a “birthday”, but Jesus is eternal and never had a beginning as we do; He did  have a “became flesh” day.  The Bible does not require us to commemorate the human birth of Jesus.  But,   Jesus and the Holy Spirit (through the Apostles) did require that we remember His death by   partaking of the Lord’s Supper every first day of the week (Luke 22:19,20; 1 Cor. 11:23ff).

We should know that December 25th is believed by most scholars to NOT be the actual   birthday of Jesus.  Various methods of determining this day (none being foolproof) place Jesus’ birth in either January, April, May, March or even June, but not December 25th.  The date of December 25th was decided upon around 273 AD by the Roman church.  The church’s purpose for this was to create a special day as a substitution for an already  established pagan celebrations to false gods.

We should also know that the original meaning of the term “Christ-mass” is incompatible with the  teachings of the scriptures:    “Mass” is said to be a sacrifice of the actual body and blood of Jesus for sins; practiced   again and again. (The “mass” was used to commemorate many different events, today even  being used for the funerals of deceased Catholics).

The scriptures teach us that Christ was offered “ONCE” for the sins of the world. "So Christ was once offered to bear the sins of many; and unto them that look for him shall he appear the second time without sin unto salvation."(Heb 9:28)   "Who needeth not daily, as those high priests, to offer up sacrifice, first for his own sins, and then for the people's: for this he did once, when he offered up himself." (Heb 7:27)  As noted earlier, we are commanded to “remember” Christ’s sacrifice in the Lord’s Supper weekly.

We should know that many, if not most of the traditions and decorations had some origin in pagan  customs and traditions.   We should also know that former association with pagan worship does not in itself make a  thing unacceptable to those who know the truth of God.  "As concerning therefore the eating of those things that are offered in sacrifice unto idols, we know that an idol is nothing in the world, and that there is none other God but one." (1 Cor 8:4)   "Howbeit there is not in every man that knowledge: for some with conscience of the idol unto this hour eat it as a thing offered unto an idol; and their conscience being weak is defiled. 8 But meat commendeth us not to God: for neither, if we eat, are we the better; neither, if we eat not, are we the worse." (1 Cor 8:7-8)  Idolatry (devotion to false gods) is wrong, but customs and decorations which have lost their  idolatrous meaning pose no threat, especially since other gods have never existed.

We do know that it would be wrong for the true church to teach others that God requires us to   celebrate this holiday.   "If any man speak, let him speak as the oracles of God; if any man minister, let him do it as of the ability which God giveth: that God in all things may be glorified through Jesus Christ, to whom be praise and dominion for ever and ever. Amen." (1 Pet 4:11)   I believe one of the DANGERS  of “holy days” is that they give the false idea that one can be pleasing to God by honoring Him a few times a year and not in their every day lives.

II.  What Is Good About Christmas?

As Paul teaches, we have just “proved” or tested the origins and teachings concerning Christmas.   But, Paul also requires that we “give thanks” in everything and “hold to that which is good.”  "In every thing give thanks: for this is the will of God in Christ Jesus concerning you. 19 Quench not the Spirit. 20 Despise not prophesyings. 21 Prove all things; hold fast that which is good." (1 Th 5:18-21) 

Is there any “good” in Christmas that we should be thankful for?  There are actually many  good truths which are published and emphasized because of Christmas.  It emphasizes the truth that the Word became flesh and dwelt among us. (John 1).  It causes the good news of Jesus’ birth to be told and told again. It emphasizes the importance of this event to the whole world (“Joy to the world”).     It emphasizes the salvation which Jesus brought to this earth. It emphasizes the need to praise and glorify God for His wonderful gift. Many of the religious songs sung during Christmas are scriptural in their content.(except the  Santa songs--Sorry kids).

But perhaps, the best thing about Christmas traditions is it perpetuates the truth of Jesus when   He said “It is more blessed to give than to receive.” (Acts 20:35) 
-It emphasizes love and service to our fellowman and doing good.  "As we have therefore opportunity, let us do good unto all men, especially unto them who are of the household of faith." (Gal 6:10) 
-It emphasizes unselfish concern for others and personal sacrifice: "We then that are strong ought to bear the infirmities of the weak, and not to please ourselves. 2 Let every one of us please his neighbour for his good to edification. 3 For even Christ pleased not himself; but, as it is written, The reproaches of them that reproached thee fell on me." (Rom 15:1-3)
-It emphasizes the need for each of us to be more like Christ in our service to others: "If there be therefore any consolation in Christ, if any comfort of love, if any fellowship of the Spirit, if any bowels and mercies, 2 Fulfil ye my joy, that ye be likeminded, having the same love, being of one accord, of one mind. 3 Let nothing be done through strife or vainglory; but in lowliness of mind let each esteem other better than themselves. 4 Look not every man on his own things, but every man also on the things of others. 5 Let this mind be in you, which was also in Christ Jesus: 6 Who, being in the form of God, thought it not robbery to be equal with God: 7 But made himself of no reputation, and took upon him the form of a servant, and was made in the likeness of men: 8 And being found in fashion as a man, he humbled himself, and became obedient unto death, even the death of the cross. 9 Wherefore God also hath highly exalted him, and given him a name which is above every name: 10 That at the name of Jesus every knee should bow, of things in heaven, and things in earth, and things under the earth;" (Phil 2:1-10) 
-It exposes many to the joy and happiness that comes from sacrifice and giving ourselves to others: A taste of true Christianity?    I believe Christmas has become a yearly reminder to the world, not only of the birth of  Christ, but the joy that comes from behaving like a Christian (Loving, giving, etc.)            
I believe that the giving of gifts associated with Christmas can be a great teaching tool for  both the young and the old.  One of my most precious memories of childhood came as a result of Christmas giving: My  brother and  I worked hard cleaning up trash and earned $10.00. I still remember the joy we  had buying gifts for our parents and grandparents ($10.00 does not go that far today!).

I believe the Spirit of Christ and His ideas bear much fruit because of the Christmas tradition. "If ye abide in me, and my words abide in you, ye shall ask what ye will, and it shall be done unto you. 8 Herein is my Father glorified, that ye bear much fruit; so shall ye be my disciples. 9 As the Father hath loved me, so have I loved you: continue ye in my love. 10 If ye keep my commandments, ye shall abide in my love; even as I have kept my Father's commandments, and abide in his love. 11 These things have I spoken unto you, that my joy might remain in you, and that your joy might be full. 12 This is my commandment, That ye love one another, as I have loved you. 13 Greater love hath no man than this, that a man lay down his life for his friends. 14 Ye are my friends, if ye do whatsoever I command you." (John 15:7-14) 

As a true, Biblical Christian, can I be unthankful and completely reject a human tradition that causes the  importance of Christ to be proclaimed to the World year after year?  As a true Christian, can I be unthankful and reject a human tradition which reminds us to be     kinder, more generous and helpful to our fellow human beings? Must I find only fault with a human tradition which causes people to experience Jesus’ truth that  it is “more blessed to give than to receive?”

Conclusion: Point me in the right direction!

As true Christians, we must be aware that the Christmas tradition is not required by God.  But, after proving that which is unacceptable, how can we not be thankful and hold to the good  that is published and practiced by this tradition??? Christmas is of worldly origins, but it is so saturated with the truth of God that we should be very careful in forming our opinions and what we have to say against it.    Truth is truth and good news is good news no matter where it comes from, whether for the right reasons or not, much of the Gospel is being preached!  Too bad Christmas does not emphasize God revealed way of accepting the gift of salvation by believing and being baptized into Christ (Mark 16:15,16). 

We must speak the truth against that which is false, but we must also learn to be thankful for that which is good.

"What then? notwithstanding, every way, whether in pretense, or in truth, Christ is preached; and I therein do rejoice, yea, and will rejoice." (Phil 1:18)

Christmas cannot do our job for us, but it just might get some people moving in the direction of wanting to know “the rest of the story" As reveal by God himself!  Merry Christmas!


No comments:

Post a Comment