Wednesday, December 24, 2008
What Christmas Means To Me
My friends, I have recently experienced a major lack of interest in blogging. I guess it's the rush of the holidays--I'm just too busy to get creative :). So I thought I would repost this from last Christmas, to have something up here. We are having our family Christmas tomorrow, so maybe that will inspire to get back to the keyboard :).
I have struggled with whether or not I should blog about this, because I do not want to cause undue strife or hurt to people I know and care about. I want my blog to be something that lifts up and encourages, not the opposite. This has been burning in my heart and mind for about a week now, even more so since some conversations have taken place, and a comment was left on my post about our family Christmas. I was not offended or angered by this comment; on the contrary, it has caused me to look at my view of Christmas with more scrutiny and make sure I have all things in the right perspective and especially what I am teaching my children about this holiday.
Every family has their own take on Christmas, creating their own traditions and deciding where to put the most emphasis--Santa Clause or the birth of Jesus. Some families have decided not to include a Christmas tree, or anything that resembles the traditional Christmas celebration. Their convictions on this stem from the fact that the Christmas tree is pagan in origin.
1 Hear ye the word which the LORD speaketh unto you, O house of Israel:
2 Thus saith the LORD, Learn not the way of the heathen, and be not dismayed at the signs of heaven; for the heathen are dismayed at them.
3 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.
4 They deck it with silver and with gold; they fasten it with nails and with hammers, that it move not.
I know people who would not accept a picture of our children because there was a Christmas tree in the background. I have some friends who do not put up a Christmas tree, but instead hang ornaments and put gifts around a snow-man figure. My pastor, who was my pastor from birth until I got married and moved away, did not put up a Christmas tree, but instead put up a manger and put their gifts under and around it. These families all have their own way of coming up with creative ways to fit the holiday around what they believe. This is good. We should not do things blindly because they have always been done that way, but we should know why we are observing and/or participating in a specific tradition.
I must admit that as a child, the most exciting thing about Christmas was the opening of the presents. My parents did not have a lot to spend on my brothers and I, but they always made the part about Christmas morning exciting and fun, because it was a time for us to all be together, participating in giving something to one another. As an adult, I can say that the Christmas tree is nothing more to me than a decoration, like a wreath on a door or a picture on the wall. It is a decoration that ushers in the celebration of a period of time that we acknowledge and celebrate the birth of Jesus Christ. I cannot ignore the fact that it is pagan in origin, but this begs the question, what things do we partake in on a daily basis that are pagan or ungodly in origin? There are things that have evolved with the culture and are now thought of as the norm, and would never be put away or ceased from practicing because that would be termed fanatical or legalistic by today's church world.
Makeup, for instance, red lipstick in particular, was originally worn only by prostitutes or women of the lowest repute. The only woman of the Bible who was mentioned to wear paint on her face was cursed by God and eaten by dogs. Let me clarify--am I saying you are wicked or calling you a prostitute because you wear makeup? No. I am just drawing attention to where it came from.
Also, the practice of women cutting their hair began in France in the early 1900s when women there began to openly practice homosexuality. Women began wearing bluejeans during World War I when all the men went off to war and the women stepped into their places as the breadwinners and providers for the family. They had to do men's work, so they donned men's attire. But when the men returned, they decided they liked their newfound role and refused to give it back to its rightful owner, their husbands. Thus began the feminist movement, and women began to seek careers over homemaking. I know this because this was the topic I chose for a research paper my senior year of high school. Now do you think people today would give up these things because of how they originated? I think not.
Yes, Christmas has been overly commercialized and cheapened by the department stores and their advertisements. Parents feel their kids have to have the best and then there are all the Christmas parties to bring gifts to and people find themselves racking up senseless debt to meet the demands of the season. It would be better to take this money and put it where it is needed in the name of Christ, no doubt. But what about the other debt that we build up the other 11 months of the year? We eat out too much, we buy large vehicles that guzzle gas, we go on expensive vacations, and then there's the cable bill and the internet bill and so forth. Why don't we refrain from those things and give that money to missions instead? Ouch.
It has been suggested that too much emphasis is put on the baby Jesus at this time(!). After all, we don't celebrate a child's birthday on the very day he is born, we wait until he turns one. This is on the verge of being offending to me, as a Christian and one who Jesus is my all. How can we not put emphasis on him as the Christ child? No, we do not celebrate the birth of other babies because their births were not of miraculous conception, their mothers were not virgins, and their birth was not the fulfillment of hundreds of years of prophecy, foretold and foreshadowed throughout the entire Old Testament. The fact that that little baby is there in that nativity scene showed me the great love Jesus has for His children. He was willing to give up the splendors of heaven to come and be born in a dirty, dark, smelly stable surrounded by filthy animals so that He may one day die a cruel and brutal death. He traded his immortality for this itchy, sweaty, weak flesh and gave up Paradise for the harsh elemants of earth. That baby is my hope, my joy, my salvation. Celebrating his birth is not taking away from His life, His death, or His resurrection. I worship Jesus Christ from beginning to end, every part of Him, and I wish to know more about the parts I lack in knowledge and experience.
I once taught a Sunday School class of teenage girls, and on one Christmas Sunday I was teaching about this very thing. A comment was made about how Joseph was not Jesus' biological Father, but he took on the responsiblity of this child anyway, because of his faith in God's Word. A girl spoke up emphatically, "Yes, he was Jesus' father!" I then explained that because of the miraculous conception and virgin birth, Jesus and Joseph were in no way blood related. I could not BELIEVE that this girl, 13 years of age, whose grandfather was a minister, in whose home she was raised, had missed this basic fundamental of the Christian faith!!! What in the world?? Let us not be guilty of letting ignorance on such an important fact be found in the lives of our children.
Let us search the Word and pray for wisdom and discernment for all the things of this world, and to what extent we let them into our lives. Too much one way or the other will cause a dangerous imbalance and confuse our children. And whatever we choose to believe and practice, let us be respectful of one another's decisions, and not seek to tear down what another family deems acceptable and right for theirs (unless it is in direct opposition to God's Word, but that's another blog, another day).