December 25th on the Gregorian calendar has traditionally been a day of pagan sun worship. From a historical perspective, how this particular day came to be selected is an interesting read and ripe with many reasons why it should not be celebrated by followers of Christ. Christian leaders of the first, second, and third centuries argued against the church for desiring to establish this date as the date to acknowledge the birth of Christ but the western church won. Can you recognize a tradition carried forth today that the word of God warns against in the following scripture? Jeremiah 10:1-4~ Hear the word which the Lord speaks to you, O house of Israel. Thus says the Lord: “Do not learn the way of the Gentiles; do not be dismayed at the signs of heaven, for the Gentiles are dismayed at them. For the customs of the peoples are futile; for one cuts a tree from the forest, the work of the hands of the workman, with the axe. They decorate it with silver and gold; they fasten it with nails and hammers so that it will not topple. One tradition held by the citizens of Rome during this time of year was the acknowledgement of Saturnalia, the planet Saturn, had been established to honor the god of sowing.
Elesha Coffman of ‘Christian History’ writes, “The eventual choice of December 25, made perhaps as early as 273, reflects a convergence of Origen’s concern about pagan gods and the church’s identification of God’s son with the celestial sun. December 25 already hosted two other related festivals: natalis solis invicti (the Roman “birth of the unconquered sun”), and the birthday of Mithras, the Iranian “Sun of Righteousness” whose worship was popular with Roman soldiers. The winter solstice, another celebration of the sun, fell just a few days earlier.” (http://www.christianitytoday.com/ch/news/2000/dec08.html)
My personal experience concerning this day are of gatherings with festive foods and the receiving and giving of gifts with family, friends and associates. I recall a Christmas spent in Germany in which I went all out for the children with no limits on gifts and great decorations in the form of a tree adorned with lights, silver and gold tinsel, ornaments of all kinds placed prominently in from of the picture window so that it could be viewed from outside as well. There were so many presents for my children that it took almost an hour to open them all. After that celebration of giving during Christmas of 1995, something inside me began to change. I reflected on the reactions of the children that year and recalled how the toys were set aside and the joy they once found with them had diminished.
I recalled my first wife and me not being able to find our youngest son, Rolando, who was two years old at the time, for about an hour. I had purchased a Little Tykes car that he could get in and ride like Fred Flintstone… the kind that uses foot power. Well, we located him inside the house sitting inside the large box the car came in. I thought about how peaceful he was all that time, ignoring our calls for him, sitting inside that box with a few wooden blocks from a Jenga game making shapes of all sorts. Wow, it was the simple things that they enjoyed. That was a time in my life when I did not know Christ as I do today. I was a soldier in the U.S. Army, had a young family, and was living life the way the world dictated through the traditions of men.
I give thanks to God for the men and women he has placed in my life over the decades who have helped me discover more about who he is. The children are all grown now and my second wife of thirteen years and I see life through a different set of lenses. We acknowledge one another all year long with gifts and create memories that will last a life time. Most importantly, we give thanks to God together on a daily basis for our lives, our children, family, friends, and associates. We always start out by acknowledging him and for his gift to us in the form of his son, Jesus Christ. Don’t you find it amazing that God thought enough about us that he gave us his son as an example of what our lives should be like, a precious child who would grow to be a man and experience life on this planet as we do? What I find most intriguing is that this man was with God as a spiritual being before the earth was formed. John 1:1-2 In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God. The same was in the beginning with God. I personally believe it was Jesus who spoke the words, “Let us make man in our image…” (Genesis 1:26) and decided to give us dominion over all things on the earth. I also believe that God loved Jesus so much that he agreed with him and in his omniscience knew a sacrifice would have to be made because mankind would screw up the gift of existence he wanted us to have.
What causes me to believe this is what I read in Colossians 1:15-17 – Who is the image of the invisible God, the firstborn of every creature: For by him were all things created, that are in heaven, and that are in earth, visible and invisible, whether they be thrones, or dominions, or principalities, or powers: all things were created by him, and for him: And he is before all things, and by him all things consist. I also believe that Christ agreed to be that sacrifice in the flesh to atone for the fleshly sins of his creation. This belief is my act of faith, because I was not there to see it. I did not witness his death, I did not witness his burial, nor did I witness his resurrection. What I do have witness of is his presence with me in the form of the Holy Spirit who was sent to teach me, and you, all about him, and the Father if you let him.
If you visit our home, during this time of year, you will not find a tree adorned with silver and gold. You will not find colorful lights that great you as you arrive at the property. There will be no gifts wrapped in uniquely designed paper for visitors as a token of our love and appreciation. What you will find is a home that Natasha and I have worked hard at creating an environment of peace, filled with the love of God through the acknowledgment of the sacrifice of his son Jesus that has atoned for our sins. A home where the presence of the Holy Spirit is felt and the lives of people can be changed for the better. We strive all year long to give to each other and to those who can receive it, the experience of life that God has given us and to help them create positive experiences of their own in Christ Jesus. Sometimes that is in the form of physical objects shared with others throughout the year, at other times its moments of laughter, crying, praying and fighting alongside friends and family through the experiences they share with us.
Would you acknowledge by faith that his immaculate conception preceded his death, burial, and resurrection and that it was done for you? God gave his son, his son gave his life, and all God asks in return is that you accept these two gifts (his son and his son’s sacrifice) and then tell those in your sphere of influence that these gifts are available for them if they choose to accept them. The benefits of these gifts to the lives of anyone you know cannot be topped by any store bought item you could give to anyone, and it can be shared at no out of pocket expense to you.
Natasha and I pray that you have been made stronger through the knowledge gained from the blessings and trials you have experienced this year. We hope next year is filled with everything you need and that you discover how to receive and maintain peace in your life through Christ Jesus, according to the will of God, by the power of the Holy Spirit.
May Christ mass us all, Merry Christmas everyone.