Sunday, December 23, 2012

Sunday Afternoon Tea

If this were not a Sunday post, I think it would be titled...

"Why I Celebrate Christmas".

Someone had mentioned in a comment about a person who does not celebrate during the Holidays due to the pagan beginnings of the DAY chosen to celebrate the birth of Christ.  I have known people with whom I agreed on most areas of theology but in this area, we had to agree to disagree.

I celebrated wholeheartedly... they did not.

Now, I admit to finding Church history fascinating so I hope I don't bore you with some details.  We know the most probable reason for choosing the time of year we celebrate the birth of Christ was for it to coincide with the Winter Solstice celebrations already in place.

No one knew exactly the date of Christ's birth but most historians believe it was in the Spring since the shepherds were watching over their sheep.   There are some who think it may have been in the fall.

The date was not chosen for it to be part of a pagan celebration, it was really chosen as a matter of convenience... and even then the date was intermingled with other Church feasts and celebrations such as Epiphany.

The point is, the original season and date has nothing to do about honoring the birth of Christ.  It's much like my calling Easter, well... Easter.  I have friends who will only call it Resurrection Day because the name Easter was associated with something more pagan.  I respect them and thus, their theology.

But Easter was never pagan in my little part of the world!  The most pagan my celebration of Easter becomes is when I color some eggs (the sign of new life among pagans... and farmers) and pretend the Easter bunny brought candy (believe me, my children knew it was Mother).

I know as Christians we have a range of ideas about the elephant in the room called Santa.  I just tend to love a little fantasy here and there, a little pretend, a lot of sparkle.  We never did the Santa thing but Mother was known to tell kids Santa just may stop by to fill stockings (wink, wink).  I mean, really... with a wink and a nod to "let's have a little fun here and use our imagination".

In no way was Santa ever given credit for buying and wrapping gifts.  I was too selfish cheap frugal to give anyone else the credit for that other than parents, grandparents, friends, etc.!  I was even careful when my children were small not to decorate so Santa would be the center of attention.

Although come to think of it, they may have thought I worshiped snowmen in the bleak midwinter... but that is another source of pondering.  ;)

By the way, do you know the true story of Saint Nicholas?  I know it can be difficult to cut through what is truth and legend but still his story is wonderful and well worth reading this time of year.

Okay, then we get to the whole Christmas tree has pagan roots, etc.  If you are a Druid then... yes... when you put up that Christmas tree each year you definitely are worshiping your Druid god.

But the closest I ever get to becoming a Druid is singing along with the John Denver on the itty bitty iPod while walking through the forest.  I can definitely understand how one who does not know the One True God would try to create one in such Beauty.

However, did you know St. Bonifice used the evergreen tree to teach about the trinity (triangle... tree... get it?).    Did you know that Martin Luther brought a tree in his house and lit candles on it at Christmas to represent how the stars lit up the dark night?

I love how a person described it on a show about Christmas traditions and using trees (and other greenery) in decorating our homes for the Season.  He said pagans may have used these items to worship the sun but in our homes, we worship the Son.

If you read the New Testament, especially the writings of St. Paul, he is brought up with these same situations many times.  Not with Christmas, of course, but in the conflicts between what is under the Law and what is under the new Grace brought about by Christ.

His answer is often this, do what you believe you are free to do while not causing a brother (who does not have such freedom) to stumble.  For me in the 21st Century, this means celebrating Christmas and Easter and any other Holiday my way but giving you the grace to celebrate (or in this case, not celebrate) in your way.

The only times there would be real concern is when the one who does or does not celebrate thinks they are "holier than thou" and the peace of the Season is destroyed by one who feels their way is the only way.  (How many times have Christians won an argument only to lose another for the Kingdom of Christ, it has to make God weep.)

To be honest, I don't know how any Holiday in which one is pointed toward the Savior for weeks and weeks can be a bad thing.  How can a Season when one turns on the car radio and hears Silent Night or Oh, Come All Ye Faithful be against our Lord? That is why those who hate the Christian religion hate Christmas and have tried for years to legislate it out of existence in the Public Square.

My friend, Linda, has heard me wax poetic about legalism most likely more than she cares.  But I saw what it did to my mother and thus to my siblings from her first marriage.  Legalism rarely (if ever) draws one to the Cross.  Instead it acts as the opposite side of the magnet and pushes them away from Truth... leading one toward the darkness and away from the true Light.

Our God is a source of all joy!  "Every good and perfect gift is from above... (James 1:17).  When everything around us is pointing to the Savior... it is a perfect gift.

So, why would God allow the church to celebrate in the bleak Midwinter?  I don't know, perhaps He knew this world... in its' darkness... would "need a little Christmas, right this very minute" throughout the centuries.

Think of all the celebrations, the Feasts, the Days of Remembrance among the Jewish people.   If anything, God certainly understands Holidays that are meant for remembering.  They were His idea... the very God who was delighted when King David danced.

If Christ's birth was in the Spring, He has given us another celebration during that time, you know.  It is a celebration of an event that happened during Passover two centuries ago, and whether you call it Easter or Resurrection Day, we are to...


Anonymous said...

All I can say is Amen! Thanks you for this.

Vee said...

So nicely said, Brenda. Though we discussed the same topic today, you discussed it in depth and with love. I have linked to you so that others may have a more complete picture.

Rachel and Family said...

I am right with you. Well said! In our home, everything we celebrate about Christmas is because of our love and understanding of our Lord Jesus.

Unknown said...

Amen and amen....I had a smile on my face as I read your words...Thank you for reminding us that it is perfectly alright for us to celebrated the Son of God coming to this world to save us.

Thickethouse.wordpress said...

Ah, Brenda, how truly well you have expressed these ideas. I so agree with you! This is a wonderful post with excellent thoughts clearly and kindly expressed.

Catherine Holman said...

Merry Christmas!

Thoughts on Life and Millinery. said...

I wrestled with this for a few years too. In the end made mental and celebrational place for the birth of Christ as one event, and all the othe stuff (snowmen, reindeer, Santa etc) as a winter season motifs and folk stories to be enjoyed with hot cocoa and such.

We focus more on Hebraic roots of celebrations and since Christ celebrated Hannukah and in the temple used that celebration to announce "I am the Light of the World" we light candles and celebrate him during those 8 nights, (which next year will begin over America's Thanksgiving.

Our Easter happens right after the Last Supper...Passover...which we Christian make into a micro ceremony called communion. Partaking in an entire Passover meal sets up Easter properly.

Incidentally, the passage about Zachariah serving his course in the Temple and being told that John would be born is a reference to a calendar day. John was conceived, Mary comes for a visit at a specific month of pregnancy...the math can be followed along to reasonable conclude that Jesus was born in the fall and very likely during the Jewish festival if Tabernacles...known in Hebrew as "God Dwells With Us". You can see in older Bibles that the words "because there was no room at the inn" was added. It makes little sense that a Jewish couple visiting their families home town wouldn't stay with relatives. More interesting to me was that during Tabernacles all Jewish people "lived" for a week in a sukkah, a temporary dwelling outside the home. There is no translation for sukkah into any other language. The Bible translates struggled with it, and the closest outside dwelling concept was "manger". Ta da!
For more fun...check out Tabernacles in Revelations. All countries MUST send some one to Jerusalem during Tabernacles after Christ returns or their country will receive no rain that year. So much for no more celebrating the Jewish festivals as Christians. I imagine the celebration might also include a party about Jesus's birth!

Anonymous said...

Amen and Amen.
I'm celebrating!

Cheryl (Copperswife) said...

I loved every single word of this post, Brenda. Excellent!

Tracey McBride ~ Frugal Luxuries® said...

Great post Brenda. Becoming caught up in the extraneous details and differences (what C.S. Lewis has labeled
"minutia" ) serves only to take us off the main focus... the redemption. I agree, it is always wise to '"judge not'', in fact scripture instructs us on this specifically; in this arena especially it all too often divides and tends to drive away instead of bringing us together, as you so sagely noted.
Wishing you and yours a blessed and happy Christmas.
Tracey xox

Anonymous said...

Yes!! That IS the reason we celebrate!! And Celebrate is what we do!!! We have relatives that had no official birth certificate because they were born at home so many years ago. They chose a day in the year as their birthday! I think of us celebrating Christmas on the date we do that way too. The mear fact that He was born for us IS the reason for celebration. We may not know the exact day but He did come!! ;-) Sarah

Brenda Leyland @ Its A Beautiful Life said...

Yes... we are celebrating here.

Blessings of great joy to you and yours.

The Journey said...

I certainly agree- so some traditions have pagan back ground. A lot of things do. So do White Wedding Dresses. I kind of just roll my eyes with that discussion- it is what you make it.
I enjoy our little discussions. ( :

terricheney said...

A few years ago we began attending a Messianic congregation because we wanted to know more about the Hebraic roots of our faith. It wasn't long before we were being schooled in why Christmas and Easter were pagan holidays and not Christian at all. Sigh. Just as we'd heard from non-Messianic pastors that anyone who chose to celebrate the feasts that God proclaimed in the Old Testament were going to go to Hades because Christ died to take us away from that 'law'.

We struggled and we prayed and we prayed and we were condemned. God has spoken to us on occasion. After four years of prayers we noted that God had led us in many areas but remained remarkably silent on Christmas...Hmmm.

We have a Christmas tree each year. We celebrate Channukah (though technically speaking, nowhere does God note that as a feast time. We say Merry Christmas and we say Happy Holidays. We keep the feasts. We love God and we worship Him and His son and we believe in the Holy Spirit. We believe in healing and miracles and that God speaks even today if we'll only shut up and listen.

Merry Christmas Brenda...And thank you.

Deb said...

Hi Brenda ~ we have friends who don't celebrate, and it makes it hard. It's so easy to slip and say something--completely forgetting it's not appropriate when we're together with them. And we definitely don't want to make them feel bad. But...we surely enjoy Christmas and love celebrating the birth of our Savior. i enjoyed your post.

Anonymous said...

Merry Christmas Brenda! You have helped me to find joy in a difficult season. God bless you, Dee

Anonymous said...

Beautifully written! Merry Christmas and Happy 2013!


Mama Squirrel said...

"Although come to think of it, they may have thought I worshiped snowmen in the bleak midwinter... but that is another source of pondering. ;)"

Oh, I love it--you just cheered up our bleak-looking Christmas Eve immensely. (Bleak sky, bleak weather--cheerful inside though.)

Anonymous said...

A wonderful post! You always seem to say just what I am thinking, or wish I was thinking.

You remind me of my favorite Christian author, Maureen Hay Read. In thoughts and almost in looks.

Merry Christmas!

hopeinbrazil said...

Thanks for sharing these timely thoughts.

Marie said...

I really liked your post. You always put thoughts to words in a great way.

Heather L. said...

Merry Christmas!!! i hope you have a special day!

Front Porch Grace said...

Dear kindred spirit? May I offer a simple thank you and a wholesome amen?

Jacqui said...

Hello - I popped over from 'that' Soulemama post today, as you seemed a kindred spirit.
I loved this post - coming from a deeply Calvinist area, Christnas was barely celebrated here until the 1960s (although drinking to excess at New Year was somehow ok!)
I read fairly recently that the early Christians chose this time of year to celebrate the Lord's birth because their celebrations could be concealed among the Roman festivities of Saturnalia. It certainly made sense to me - and why not celebrate the coming of the Light if the World in the darkest month?
Hope you and your family had a wonderful Christmas.