Wednesday, December 28, 2011

Christ and Christmas - A Biblical Perspective - Part II

It is quite clear, the facts are indisputable – the origins of what we call “Christmas” are from both pagan and apostate sources.  Ironies of ironies – the most “holy” day (holiday) in so-called “Christendom” is Christmas (“Christ-Mass”), a celebration unauthorized by Christ in the New Testament while clear instructions Christ gave “in remembrance of me” are the most IGNORED in our society!  The more things change, the more they stay the same – “there is nothing new under the sun,” people embrace SPECULATION and ignore REVELATION! Having said that, almost no one alive today associates Christmas with its REAL history.  Instead, over the centuries, the meaning of “Christmas” has morphed into something quite positive – CULTURALLY.  Though concocting some kind of “Christmas Service” in a congregational setting would be a flagrant addition to God’s inspired Word, the celebration of this holiday in America is generally a very positive thing - CULTURALLY.

Who can deny Christmas brings happiness and glee to the children?  Who can deny that Christmas has inspired some of the most beautiful music ever composed such as Handel’s Messiah?  Who can not be inspired by “It’s a Wonderful Life,” or entertained by “A Christmas Story?”  Who cannot be moved by Dickens’ “A Christmas Carol?”  Who cannot bring up multiple wonderful memories of Christmas’ past?  Who can deny the delight of seeing a relatives eyes light up when opening a special gift?  Who can deny the warmth of hearth and family this time of year?  Who can deny the excitement of choosing and putting up the Christmas tree?  Who can deny that the many kindnesses extended to one another around Christmas are not a very good thing?  Who can deny that Christmas is uniquely American?!  Who can deny that we all wish for a white Christmas every year?  Who can deny that it is a very good thing that more people are open to discuss Jesus Christ around Christmas than at any other time of the year?

I’ll admit it – I LOVE Christmas and celebrate it with gusto!  I do not celebrate Christmas, though, as a matter of faith.  I don’t believe for a minute that Christ was born on December 25 or, if he was, that it would matter in any way.  Why?  Christ did not command such a celebration, in fact He never even mentioned it!  The Apostles did not celebrate it nor did they ever mention it!  In fact Christmas was not celebrated at all until over 400 years AFTER Christ!  I celebrate Christmas because it is so American and I am an American by the grace of God!  I also, with the same enthusiasm, celebrate both the 4th of July and Thanksgiving.  Why?  Simply this, Christmas, the 4th of July and Thanksgiving are “as American as apple pie and George Washington!”

Finally, I celebrate Christmas because I, as an individual, am free to do so in Christ!  In Romans 14.5, Paul by the inspiration of the Holy Spirit, makes it very clear that Christians are free to celebrate “special days” as long as they don’t judge other Christians who don’t and don’t attempt to impose their views on other Christians – either for or against such celebrations.  “One person considers a certain day as more sacred than other days, while another person considers every day alike. Let each be fully persuaded in his own mind. He who regards a day highly does so for the Lord…” (The Everlasting Gospel translation (EGT) by bro. Hugo McCordThe single caveat, one must do all things with a clear conscience before God, “for anything not of conviction is sin.” (Romans 14.23.b EGT)

NOTE: Wren Building photo courtesy: The College of William and Mary, Williamsburg, VA

Merry Christmas and a Happy New Year!

Friday, December 16, 2011

Christ and Christmas - A Biblical Perspective - Part I

Repouss√© silver disc of Sol Invictus, Roman, 3rd century, found at Pessinus(British Museum) - Courtesy Wikipedia

It was about this time of year in 1974.  I was a key punch operator for Amfac Wholesale and Drug Supply Company in Oklahoma City.  My job was to prepare invoices for billing.  The key punch fields were limited and so instead of saying “Merry Christmas!” it said “Merry Xmas!”[1]  One of the employees, a ministerial student with the Christian Church, came running into my office very angry at me.  “How dare you take Christ out of Christmas!” he adamantly shouted.  No matter how I tried to explain my quandary, he just got even madder.  He was convinced that I had diabolically conspired to take Christ out of Christmas!

Seriously, was Christ ever IN Christmas to begin with!?  In short, no, Christ never was in Christmas.  There is no biblical reference to any kind of celebration of such a day anywhere in the New Testament.  Our Lord never commanded or even insinuated that such a celebration would be necessary or even allowed as a doctrinal requirement or a doctrinal option in collective worship.  Not only that, there is no apostolic command, no apostolic example nor any inference (necessary or otherwise) anywhere even remotely suggesting such a celebration.   Frankly, any congregation that adds such a doctrinal component to biblical worship will be in violation of the biblical pattern of “neither adding to nor taking away” from the Holy Spirit led New Testament directive.  This is a very serious matter for Paul told Timothy to “Follow the pattern of sound words that you have heard from me, in the faith and love that are in Christ Jesus.” (2 Timothy 2.15 ESV)  Any formal and collective worship outside of the pattern is an addition to that pattern.  Similar additions to God’s pattern have had disastrous results, just ask Nadab and Abihu, King Saul, etc.  Paul never celebrated Christmas, never asked anyone else to or even ever heard of such a practice!  At best the practice is extra-biblical and at worst…UN biblical.  In a formal worship setting, the celebration of Christmas is speculative, emotional and presumptive…and clearly outside of the “pattern of sound words.”

How did the celebration of Christmas ever even get started?  The 2nd century theologian Origen taught that Scripture has multiple meanings and individual interpretations.  This “allowed” the apostate church to eisegete (read into) fictional (allegorical) “meanings” into any and every passage.  With that false and presumptive foundation, the apostate church felt free to add, delete, change or modify any and every biblical passage it wanted to.  This suited it’s self-serving and pragmatic collective goals.  There is no evidence whatsoever that there was ever any observance of the presumptive day of Christ’s birth for nearly 400 years after the resurrection!  Everett Ferguson observes:

There were various…speculations about the day of Jesus’ birth, centering mainly on the spring, but for the first three centuries the church realized the day of Jesus birth was unknown and attached no theological importance to it.  There are accounts in the East of both the birth and baptism of Jesus remembered on January 5 – 6.  Christmas was a Western feast, first celebrated in Rome in the second quarter of the fourth century.  The date of December 25 was influenced by the sun cult, which was promoted by third-century emperors and continued to be recognized by Constantine.[2]

The cult to which bro. Ferguson refers is the cult of sol ivictus – “son un-conquered.”  The cult celebrated the supposed birth of the so-called “sun-god” on December 25, the day the Roman calendar was at the vernal equinox.  The apostate church began to celebrate the birthday of Christ on that same day due to a complicated formula.  Here it is:

  1. Christ died on March 25, according to apostate allegorical calculations
  2. In order for the life of Christ to be “complete” allegorically, the date of his conception and the day of his death had to be the same date, March 25
  3. “IF” Christ was conceived on March 25, nine months later would be December 25, the supposed date of his birth[3]
Whether or not the apostate church purposely chose December 25 to co-opt this pagan celebration into a “Christian” celebration cannot be precisely determined.  However, people who lived later would claim such.  Allegorical interpretation will always lead to presumptive conclusions with the “tail wagging the dog.”  Despite the facts as we know them pointing to a spring or fall birth, the Vatican chose December 25 to fit it’s allegorical puzzle, a classic case of round pegs being pounded into square holes.  TO BE CONCLUDED NEXT WEEK! - RM

[1] NOTE: The Greek letter “X” is pronounced “chi” and is the first letter in “Christ,” hence “X” is used to abbreviate “Christ” in “Christmas” (Xmas) and “Christian” (Xian). 
[2] Ferguson, Everett (Church History Vol. 1 – From Christ to Pre-Reformation, Zondervan, Grand Rapids, MI, 2005) pg. 252  (Emphasis added – RM)

Believing Prayer

In the very biblical mode of prayer where we approach our Holy God, here is a prayer that emulates just how Christ taught us to pray.  It i...