Tag Archives: Christmas

Who was the original Christmas grinch?

I challenge you to search the Bible from one end to the other to find a reference to the Christmas celebration or any mention of the early Apostolic church celebrating Christ’s birth on December 25. I’m not talking about the gospel accounts describing the birth of Jesus at Bethlehem during the Fall [late September early October]—as the gospel accounts themselves and known historical facts reveal. I’m talking about scriptural proof that would establish that the early Church of Peter and Paul taught the observance of Christmas in late December or at any other time of the year. In fact it was nearly 300 years after the death of Jesus of Nazareth and his apostles before the Roman Catholic Church invented Christmas. During the period of Oliver Cromwell’s Puritan Commonweath in both England and the New England colonies, about 1640-1660, the celebration of Christmas was forbidden:

During this brief period, the English Parliament banned the celebration of Christmas entirely, considering it ‘a popish festival with no biblical justification’, and a time of wasteful and immoral behavior.
See http://www.olivercromwell.org/faqs4.htm

The bottom line is that the celebration of Christmas is merely a human tradition having no divine sanction. Its origins rest with the Roman Catholic Church in the mid-300s A.D. Would Jesus himself condemn the Christmas celebration? Consider this comment that he made regarding man-made religious traditions developed, supposedly, for the purpose of honouring God:

These people honour me with their lips, but their hearts are far from me. Their worship is a farce, for they teach man-made ideas as commands from God (Matthew 15:8-10 New Living Translation).

How ironic. What the Bible does teach about true spiritual holy days and practices in the Law of God, for example in Leviticus 23, people mostly ignore and fail to reflect upon. While what the Scriptures do not teach—or even teach against—that, people do. And, they do such things while justifying themselves by saying they’re honouring God and Jesus. We should rather consider carefully what the Scriptures are actually telling us:

And when the time came for their purification according to the Law of Moses, they [Mary and Joseph] brought him up to Jerusalem to present him to the Lord (as it is written in the Law of the Lord, “Every male who first opens the womb shall be called holy to the Lord”) and to offer a sacrifice according to what is said in the Law of the Lord, “a pair of turtledoves, or two young pigeons.” Now there was a man in Jerusalem, whose name was Simeon, and this man was righteous and devout, waiting for the consolation of Israel, and the Holy Spirit was upon him. And it had been revealed to him by the Holy Spirit that he would not see death before he had seen the Lord’s Christ. And he came in the Spirit into the temple, and when the parents brought in the child Jesus, to do for him according to the custom of the Law, he took him up in his arms and blessed God and said, “Lord, now you are letting your servant depart in peace, according to your word; for my eyes have seen your salvation that you have prepared in the presence of all peoples, a light for revelation to the Gentiles, and for glory to your people Israel.” And his father and his mother marveled at what was said about him. And Simeon blessed them and said to Mary his mother, “Behold, this child is appointed for the fall and rising of many in Israel [and now throughout the entire world], and for a sign that is opposed (and a sword will pierce through your own soul also), so that thoughts from many hearts may be revealed” (Luke 2:22-25 English Standard Version).

Of course, for many people any excuse such as Christmas is a good excuse to go shopping and to have a party. But the fact remains that Jesus and his apostles were the original Christmas grinches! They didn’t keep it. Rather they kept the Holydays found in Leviticus 23. Christmas is nothing but bait and switch humbuggery. The sooner this world learns to discern between true biblical reality and the popular alluring counterfeits such as Christmas masquerading as a Christian festival, the sooner we will experience a global blossoming of genuine peace on this earth. As Jesus taught:

Do not think that I have come to do away with or undo the Law or the Prophets; I have come not to do away with or undo but to complete and fulfill them. For truly I tell you, until the sky and earth pass away and perish, not one smallest letter nor one little hook [identifying certain Hebrew letters] will pass from the Law until all things [it foreshadows] are accomplished. Whoever then breaks or does away with or relaxes one of the least [important] of these commandments and teaches men so shall be called least [important] in the kingdom of heaven, but he who practices them and teaches others to do so shall be called great in the kingdom of heaven. For I tell you, unless your righteousness (your uprightness and your right standing with God) is more than that of the scribes and Pharisees, you will never enter the kingdom of heaven (Matthew 5:17-20 Amplified Bible).

Merry Christmas? What Jesus would say is surprising

When someone wishes you a “Merry Christmas” how do you respond? Do you say the equivalent of something like “Bah, humbug!”  If so, how can you avoid being thought of as a big green grinch?

A few years ago,  I went to my publisher’s offices in downtown Victoria taking along my son Jazzy in order to pick up some review copies of our book. While talking with a group of maybe six of the publisher’s staff about a problem, one of the women smitten by my son’s coy smile asked Jazzy, “Are you all ready for Christmas.” Jazzy loudly responded, “We don’t keep Christmas!”

Everyone turned their heads and looked at me. What would you have done? What would Jesus have said at that moment? Would He have launched into a tirade about the pagan origins of common Christmas customs and made everyone feel uncomfortable? Or maybe mumbled a non-committal remark about not participating in gross commercialism.

Well, this is what I said with a smile as I looked at the woman, “We keep Hanukkah!” Wow, everyone was really paying attention now. The woman smiled back at me and said, “Say, that sounds like fun. Don’t they eat great food during Hanukkah?” “Yeah,” I said, “Last night we feasted on fried potato pancakes with sour cream and homemade apple sauce, and there’s cheesecake,  too.” The room buzzed and we chatted on for a few more minutes before returning to the work question at hand.

Friends, what would Jesus have done? Would He have said, “I keep Hanukkah?” Let’s look and see what the Scriptures have to say. Please turn with me to the gospel of John chapter 10 verse 22:

“At that time the festival of the Dedication took place in Jerusalem. It was winter, and Jesus was walking in the Temple, in the portico of Solomon.”

The festival of Dedication in Hebrew is called Hanukkah. Jesus made a point of being in the Temple for the Hanukkah festivities despite the fact that his enemies in Jerusalem had tried just a few months before to kill him (see John 8:59). Why did Jesus take the risk to going to Jerusalem to keep Hanukkah? What is it about this festival that Jesus thought was important enough to commemorate?

Hanukkah is sometimes called the festival of lights because it is a joyful occasion that commemorates a remarkable deliverance of the people of God from the power of the terrible oppressor Antiochus IV, who ruled a Hellenistic Greek Syrian state that included all the ancient lands Judea in the mid-second century B.C. This modest pagan king liked to call himself Antiochus Epiphanes, which means “Antiochus, the god made manifest.”  Humble guy, eh?

You see, Antiochus, being recently defeated in Egypt by the Romans, expressed his frustration by viciously oppressing his subject people of Judea, ruthlessly slaughtering men, women, and children as well as robbing the Temple of its precious golden altar, the menorahs and other vessels used in the service of God. In his contempt for the God of Israel Antiochus Epiphanes sacrifice a pig to Zeus on the Temple’s altar, and then cooked it in the holy place and then poured the unclean animal’s broth on copies of the Word of God. Antiochus then dispatched officers and soldiers in his army to enforce the worship of his pagan Greek gods throughout Judah. Anyone who resisted or continued to hold to the ways of the God of Israel was to be murdered and their property confiscated. All of this was prophesied in Daniel chapter 11.

Of course, Antiochus’ plans eventually failed due to the brave resistance of a family of Levitical priests known as the Maccabees who knew their God and with God’s miraculous intervention eventually pushed Antiochus’ forces out the Temple. The festival of Hanukkah celebrates the rededication of the people and the Temple to the service of God. It commemorates the revealing of the God of Israel to His hard-pressed people through a miraculous deliverance at a time of great danger.

Hanukkah also recounts the LORD’s own acceptance and dedication to His people. You see, at the rededication of God’s altar on Kislev 25, the priests relit the eternal light fueled by olive oil that was always to burn perpetually before the presence of the LORD. But the priests could only find one jar of specially prepared oil that had escaped destruction at the hands of Antiochus Epiphane’s soldiers. Let’s turn to Exodus 27:20-21 to see what God said about this perpetual light and the special olive oil to be used in it:

“And you shall command the children of Israel that they bring you pure oil of pressed olives for the light, to cause the lamp to burn continually. In the tabernacle of meeting, outside the veil which is before the Testimony, Aaron and his sons shall tend it from evening until morning before the LORD. It shall be a statue forever to their generations on behalf of the children of Israel.”

Obviously, this perpetually burning lamp of olive oil symbolized the Holy Spirit’s function of revealing spiritual light to the people of God. The miracle of the Hanukkah lights was that even though the people only had enough oil initially to cause the lamp of God to burn for one day, remarkably, one day’s supply lasted for eight days until fresh supplies of olive oil could be prepared and delivered to the Temple. God made up what the people lacked.

So Hanukkah is about the people rededicating themselves to God and God revealing Himself to His people, supplying their needs for His holy oil.

Let’s turn back to John 10:27 and read what Jesus said during the feast of Dedication:

“My sheep hear My voice, and I know them, and they follow Me. And I give them eternal life, and they shall never perish [Why can’t we perish? Because God supplies His Holy Spirit, His pure oil to light our lamps before Him forever]; neither shall anyone snatch them out of our hand [no oppressor can overcome God’s plan]. My Father, who has given them to me, is greater than all; and no one is able to snatch them out of My Father’s hand. I and My Father are one.”

Yes, unlike Antiochus Epiphanes who wanted to reveal himself as a god, our Saviour revealed Himself as the true Son of God.

Friends, these are fascinating parallels. So if someone says to you, “Merry Christmas” just respond as Jesus would and say, “Happy Feast of Dedication, Happy Hanukkah!”

Is ignorance bliss?

Do you believe that “ignorance is bliss”—especially when it comes to the world’s most important belief system? On September 28th the Pew Research Center published the results of a survey they conducted in the United States about religious knowledge. Surprisingly, the Pew survey discovered that Atheists, Agnostics, and even Jews could answer correctly more questions about the Bible and Christianity than your average Joe or Jane Christian!

What? Unbelievers and Rejectionists know more about the religion Jesus Christ is credited with establishing than those who claim Him to be their Saviour!!! If I hadn’t looked at the stats with my own eyes I would not have believed it. Out of 12 questions about the Bible and Christianity your average Christian could correctly answer only 6.0 questions. Atheists/Agnostics came in statistically with 6.7 right answers with Jews slightly trailing at 6.3.

Mormons as an identified group came in with the highest scores at 7.9 correctly answered out of 12.  Among the various identifiable Christian groups, White Evangelicals scored highest at 7.3, Mainline Protestants came in at 5.8 while Black Protestants did slightly better at 5.9. White Catholics matched the Black Protestants with 5.9, however Hispanic Catholics lagged the entire Christian group with a score of only 4.2.

Out of curiosity, I took a similar test consisting of 15 questions that Pew has online at http://features.pewforum.org/quiz/us-religious-knowledge/index.php in order to see how hard were these questions. I thought it was easy, scoring correctly 14 out of 15 questions. I missed the question about teachers being allowed by the U.S. Supreme Court to lead a class in prayer in U.S. public schools. When I was in public school during the 1960s in New Hampshire my public school teacher read from the Bible and led us in prayer. Okay, things change.  But even with my blooper I still came in ahead of 99% of everyone else who took the test, including university students with post-graduate training who got only 68% right.

Yeah, I know. I’m a preacher and I better know my stuff. But really, these questions were just so…. Well, so basic. I wonder what kind of results a Pew Reseach Center survey would get if they asked really important questions about what the Bible teaches on issues of spiritual life or death?

I just finished celebrating the annual round of Scripturally sanctioned Holy Days that Jesus and his original disciples personally kept as recorded in the Gospels and the Book of the Acts of the Apostles. Yet most Christians as well as fun-loving Atheists, Agnostics, and not a few assimilated Jews will be celebrating this Fall and Winter the Halloween and Christmas holidays—being ignorant of what the Judeo-Christian scriptures actually teach. Does it matter?  Any excuse for a party, right?

Well, you might check out what Jesus thought about those who play fast and loose with true knowledge, or who think that going along with the crowd is bliss even if it is in ignorance.

Jesus replied, “You hypocrites! Isaiah [the 8th century B.C.E. prophet] was right when he prophesied about you, for he wrote, ‘These people honor me with their lips, but their hearts are far from me. Their worship is a farce, for they teach man-made ideas as commands from God.’ For you ignore God’s law [the knowledge actually found in the Bible] and substitute your own tradition” (Mark 7:6-8 New Living Translation).

I guarantee that whoever prefers to live in ignorance rather than in truth will not find bliss in the World Tomorrow that Jesus talked about throughout the Gospels.