Philippians 1:18 – “But what does it matter? The important thing is that in every way, whether from false motives or true, Christ is preached. And because of this I rejoice. Yes, and I will continue to rejoice,…”
Growing up as a child I looked forward to Christmas. The weather seemed cooler which was welcoming living in a tropical island, there were more to eat than usual, as a Catholic the Mass was more special, the church was decorated, my home had a christmas tree and even more importantly I saw family I have not seen for a long time and I got gifts. Yes that was the most enjoyable thing about Christmas growing up. I loved it. I looked forward to it knowing the year was coming to a close and almost miraculously we were able to start afresh on things that were not accomplished in the year about to close. Christmas was cathartic.
As the years passed you grow older and wiser and one of the revealing moments is realizing the truth and the truth is that Christmas, this life changing , mood fulfilling moment is in fact not what it supposed to be , but rather something created from a pagan ritual , the aim of which was not as religious as proclaimed. It was not Jesus birthday? and the entire story, reason and biblical links all seemed fake. And so you begin to question and wonder why ?
For the agnostic he is steadfast in his beliefs, God does not exist so Christmas is nothing but a figment of your imagination. For the doubters you get caught up with the season but any conversation that pulls you away from the story told to you gets your attention and for the believers, well they are so into it they live the story. But whatever your belief one thing is certain, Christmas is special, and special things that never happened all year miraculously happen at Christmas time. A good friend helped me to believe in the season even further when she wrote a personal perspective on the very question of Christmas..to be or not to be. Her name is Betty and she questioned her faith like everyone else and she has come to her epiphany. She brought me to mine as well. I share her thoughts hoping that if you are a doubter like me, maybe her thoughts will turn on the light in the dark and confusing closet.
CHRISTMAS! To be… or not to be…
I have been asked my opinion on Christmas many times. I have also been told in no uncertain terms of the error of the ways of the church in celebrating this season. I have had to come to terms with this matter myself, as to what Christmas really means to me personally.
Before I share my personal opinion on Christmas, I would like us to consider a few focus points for many persons, which of course fuels their motivation as to whether or not to celebrate this season:
1. Focus on the positive:
- The serious side of worship to the King of Kings Jesus Christ
- The high of the excitement and enjoyment of fun, food, fellowship, family and friends
2. Focus on the negative:
- The rejected and depressed, the homeless and the destitute.
- The financial pressures and demands.
3. Focus on the aftermath:
- Ever considered when the loneliest times of significant moments in our lives are? Consider not the moment itself, but what happens when the dust settles? (we could aptly refer to this as the afterthought) e.g.
§ After the Christmas holiday… when everyone goes back to work and leaves those in the hospital, or those in prison, or the homeless and hungry, or the retired and lonely — not to be remembered again for another 364 days. Not to mention picking up the pieces of trying to make ends meet after the overeating and over-spending and wondering what to do with all these purchases that are not appreciated and may never be used.
This is not synonymous only with Christmas, but aftermath is a reality in other significant events as well:
§ After the funeral… the loneliness when everyone leaves and are back to their normal lives
§ After the graduation… the frustration of seeking a job and dealing with unemployment
§ After the wedding… the bills and repayment of debt
Hopefully I have you all thinking, so I can now share my thoughts on Christmas. This is not intended to open a debate, as this is very personal, though controversial.
Out of the abundance of my heart, my mouth now speaks… I believe the celebration of Christmas is truly a matter of the heart and personal conviction. I am fully convinced of the pagan roots of this holiday, just as so many other things that we do are.
We might be shocked to find out that there are many rituals and traditions we practice as believers, which are rooted in a heritage of paganism witchcraft, or superstition viz. the origin of the flower girl at a wedding:
The flower petals are used to welcome the bride to the altar, but the petals weren’t the only things used by flower girls in the past, and past items had different meanings. Items such as herbs, grains, and garlic have been scattered by the little ones over the years. These items have been used as a calling for fertility as well as keeping evil spirits at bay.”
I list that example, which is just one of many, as the point is, there are too many to mention. Christmas is just one of the many traditions that have questionable origins. This became the root of my struggle, so I made a personal list of the pros and cons of celebrating Christmas:
My Concerns with Christmas:
- Christmastime has propelled some believers to a place of defense as they seek to protect the need to “clean up” the truth of Christmas Day’s pagan roots (as some believers are also now trying to do with Halloween).
- Christmastime has been overtaken by commercialism which fuels greed and selfishness, as many seek after “wants”, to the extent of overspending, or even to the extreme of resorting to crimes of theft to fill those desires.
- Christmastime has influenced the Body of Christ with that same commercialism of the world.
- Christmastime seems to have limited good deeds to one day out of the year.
- Christmastime has robbed some seeking unbelievers from the truth of the gospel, as they view the same selfish, greedy, spendthrift and revelry behaviour in the church, as they witness in the world during this time.
- Christmastime has brought into focus the “baby” Jesus (similar to our focus on the “dead” Jesus at Easter), with insufficient concern of living by the Spirit of Christ.
- Christmastime creates a massive divide within the Body of Christ, as positive strides of unity attained throughout the year are threatened by this difference of opinion.
My Positive Reflections of Christmas:
- Christmastime has accounted for increased Evangelism and multitudes coming to faith in the Lord Jesus Christ.
- Christmastime has accounted for many back-slidden believers making re-commitments to their faith in Jesus Christ.
- Christmastime has been responsible for the reuniting of many families who have been estranged.
- Christmastime has been the season of forgiveness and reconciliation of millions of feuding friends and families.
- Christmastime has pulled many people out of their comfort zone and opened their eyes to the reality of many who are in need.
- Christmastime has a way of putting a smile on our faces. Even when those who disapprove of Christmas, try to resist the joyful moments, it still happens to them, by default it seems.
- Christmastime creates the opportunity for us to reach outside of ourselves to minister to the needs of others, especially to those who are low in spirit as they experience thoughts of lack – not necessarily of things, but of family.
There is, of course, the spiritual focus, which includes the ongoing debate whether or not celebrating this major holiday is Christian or pagan. I think that participating in such a debate always leads to a losing place for all involved, as there are such compelling arguments from both perspectives. It makes so much sense when you consider Paul’s words to not engage in such debates:
§ 2 Timothy 2:14 – “Keep reminding God’s people of these things. Warn them before God against quarreling about words; it is of no value, and only ruins those who listen.”
§ 2 Timothy 2:23 – “Don’t have anything to do with foolish and stupid arguments, because you know they produce quarrels.”
I leave you my readers, to decide my opinion of Christmas. I am happy that the lists above will not allow an inkling of my leaning, as both lists have 7 points each, but, I will give you a hint: “What is the motive of the heart?” There is not only the legalistic value to consider, but also the value of the heart. It is those motives from which we will be judged as right or wrong.
§ Proverbs 21:2 – “A person may think their own ways are right, but the Lord weighs the heart.”
A random thought crossed my mind as I wondered about the millions of people who share my birthday, good people and bad people alike. What if I decided to celebrate my birthday on a different day of my birth, because I know of one really wicked person who shared my birthday and used that day to do only bad things? Isn’t it more important that my birth be celebrated, and not being concerned about what date it was celebrated? I remember my late mother, as her birth date and recorded date did not match; so her birthday was just “celebrated” on one of the days that she picked, with little attention or concern as to whether or not the date was correct.
Finally, join with me in meditating the following scripture, and although I welcome feedback from my deliberation, please note that I will not enter a debate on this topic:
§ Philippians 1:18 – “But what does it matter? The important thing is that in every way, whether from false motives or true, Christ is preached. And because of this I rejoice. Yes, and I will continue to rejoice,…”
As we come to the close of 2013, please be safe, blessed and enjoy friends and family while you can. Let us prepare our hearts for the coming year, by focusing more on becoming who we should be, from the inside out, rather that what we should do. What we do will be as a result of who we are – hopefully, a good example and a person of integrity in our homes, community, nation and the world.
God bless you all!
In closing..keep an open mind always. There are 3 sides to every story and situation. Never close your thoughts and draw imperfect conclusions on an imperfect situation. As the scripture said..what does it matter….at the end of it all, good comes in December. Mankind changes in December. With all the shame and drudgery in the world , that my friend, be it false or not, is a good thing.
Have an earth moving Christmas one and all. Keep the love alive.