Poking Sacred Cows: Part Three
Category : Glenda's Soap Box
Ok, we take up from where we left off in Part Two, asking the question: 'How did December 25th come to be associated with the birth of Jesus, the Son of God?'.
According to biblicalarcheology.org, "There is no mention of birth celebrations in the writings of early Christian writers such as Ireaneus (c. 130-200) or Tertillian (c. 160-225). Origen of Alexandria (c. 165-264) goes so far as to mock Roman celebrations of birth anniversaries, dismissing them as 'pagan' practices- a strong indication that Jesus' birth was not marked with similar festivities at that place and time. As far as we can tell, Christmas was not celebrated at all at this point."
And this source goes on to make another important point: "This (the lack of celebrating the birth anniversary of Jesus) stands in sharp contrast to the very early traditions surrounding Jesus' last days. Each of the Four Gospels provides detailed information about the time of Jesus' death. According to John, Jesus is being crucified just as the Passover lambs are being sacrificed." No coincidence there.
This may seem a bit unrelated, but it makes the point of a sharp contrast between two very important events in the life of Jesus that became celebrations or feasts. First, His birth. Second, His death.
Technically, as the Passover lambs were being slain for sacrifice, the Perfect Passover Lamb was being slain as the sacrifice for the sin of all humanity for the purpose of restoring all who would believe back to fellowship with God, His Father. Just as it was in the Old Testament, and all through the New Testament (including during the earthly life of Jesus), and is even to this day- Passover has been celebrated by the Jewish people (and some Gentiles). Why? Because the celebration of Passover is God's idea. It found its beginning in God's heart when He asked the children of Israel to remember- in a precise and special manner- the way He delivered them from Egypt.
And so, what is the 'seed' of Passover? Simply put, it was originally God's idea. A holy idea to ordain a special day for His people to remember their deliverance from slavery enabling them to lay hold of a new life in the land of promise. In essence, this particular celebration is godly to its core.
Contrast that, for example with the observance of Christmas, which is an interesting mix of the sacred (an genuine attempt to honor the birth of the Messiah) and the secular (the perpetuation of the myth of Santa, Christmas trees and all manner of other traditions that frankly have pagan origins). Some might even go as far as to say that it is a blending of the sacred and the profane. But, alas,- like oil and water- some things cannot be blended together, nor even should they be.
In closing, I will mention a recent news story (12news.com) entitled "The Santa Hating Pastor" that perfectly illustrates the point I am trying to make. It seems there was a Christian pastor who has been targeting shopping malls saying some things that were causing a ruckus. What mean and vicious things was he saying to children? "Santa Claus does not exist." But, the truth is, he is telling the politically incorrect truth to children and thereby exposing a lie that has been perpetuated by their parents. I am neither endorsing or condemning this pastor for what he was doing, but what I find most interesting are a couple of quotes from a few people who were asked their opinion regarding this subject, who were- by the way- primarily people who claim to be Christians.
"While (the person giving the opinion) believes Jesus is the center of Christmas, he doesn’t see a child’s belief in Santa as contradicting that."
"I would never want to crush that imagination in kids, to believe in Santa, to believe in miracles and to believe in beautiful things."
"Preaching Jesus, there is no problem with that, but if he wants to take the joy from the kids that’s not good."
"I’m pretty big into Jesus myself but I manage to find room for Santa Claus, too."
So, what we can learn from those quotes is that it is ok to preach Jesus, but not at the expense of risking our children's belief in Santa Claus? Is it there where you can cross a line in our culture? The unspoken message is that Jesus and Santa are kind of like peers that are completely and totally compatible. After all, believing in Santa is just a harmless myth, right? When our kids get older they will totally understand why we lied to them so we wouldn't "take their joy". And, who/Who brings real and lasting joy?
Think about it:
'Who sees you when you are sleeping and knows when you're awake?'
(Only one can.)
'Who knows if you have been good or bad?'
(One knows what is in your heart. One does not.)
'Who can do the impossible?'
(One is reported to travel the entire world in one night over multiple time zones to deliver gifts to every child on earth. One can raise the dead.)
'Who is the giver of gifts?'
(No clarification necessary.)
See what I mean?
If you really think about it- the belief, wonder and respect we perpetuate for Santa is dangerously close to a description in the Old Testament prohibiting the people of God from worshiping idols and attributing to them what they did not possess. They were, after all, man-made, a little like a tradition of a man that does not exist. But harmless- right?
Did I really just compare the myth of Santa to a household idol that people kept in their homes in Old Testament days? What a crazy thought! It is not like anyone actually has a little statue or likeness of Santa in their homes.
As I contemplated the quotes from people speaking about the Santa hating pastor- because this is how my mind works- I had an interesting thought. WWJTBD? In this particular scenario, 'What would John the Baptist do?' Rest assured, he would publicly denounce the perpetuation of a myth that takes even the slightest modicum of the focus from and the glory of the One Who proclaimed Himself to be the Way, the Truth and the Life. He would vocally and with great passion proclaim the truth to any and all who would be within earshot; even, or most especially- to those most vulnerable to deception- the children.
Okay, now that I have given one particular sacred cow a really good poke, I have either thoroughly aggravated you, or I have given you a reason to think about and examine more carefully some of the traditions (in this case those that are connected to Christmas) that someone- even someone you loved dearly- handed down to you. I have given you a challenge to be intentional in honoring honorable things and to have the courage to be willing to know the truth about those traditions that are not honoring (to people or to God) and to let go of the ones that can only dilute (or pollute) what is pure and precious.
And, to come full circle, we now have a different perspective regarding my grandfather's change of heart (from Part One) when it came to the way we celebrated Christmas in our family back then. In short, when he did some personal research on the subject, it gave him a stark wake-up call, to which he responded, in the fear of the Lord, by stopping his involvement in some traditions that had been celebrated in his family for generations. He was willing to examine the roots of them himself. I have to say that I admire him for his courage. I understand now a little bit more about the cost of his decision, even among his own family members.
By the way, I still have another sacred cow that really needs poking, but I think I will save that one until a later date.