So it is Christmas, and once again we have celebrated the incarnation of Jesus Christ through destroying the climate even further with our hyper-consumption and meat eating, at least in the Western world. In the midst of shopping, Santas and stress, Christians try to remind their Facebook friends that it is Jesus who is the reason for the season. I’m convinced though that to make this message really effective, we have to split from the traditional consumerist Christmas celebration and point to the fact that the original Christmas was a revolutionary event that turned the existing political and economic structures up side down.
God Almighty became a baby. He was not born in the Holiest of Holies to the tones of choirs and harps, but among cows and hay and was laid in a food pot. Herod, the political ruler, got totally mad when he heard that the true King of Israel had been born, and so God was forced to become a political refugee. From this vulnerable and poor situation Jesus was then about to criticise the rich and privileged in His radical preaching, which His mother had prophesied about when He was laying in her womb:
He has brought down rulers from their thrones
but has lifted up the humble. He has filled the hungry with good things
but has sent the rich away empty. (Lk 1:52-53)
Thus, the Christmas story is truly revolutionary (in a non-violent way, of course). But it is also Charismatic! It focuses on the miraculous virgin birth and contains numerous angelic visitations, prophetic dreams and visions. These often contain words of knowledge about things that one could not know in the natural, like when the shepherds were told that the Messiah lied in a manger (Lk 2:12) or when Joseph was told that Herod had died (Mt 2:20). Furthermore, the whole arrival of the Messiah had been foreseen by prophets several centuries before.
Both the miracles and the revolutionary societal change are of course centering around Jesus. It is Him we celebrate as the Saviour and King of the world. His arrival to earth made the salvation from death and sin possible so that man could be reconciled with God. This is why both the usage of spiritual gifts and activism for peace and justice have to culminate in bold evangelism. That’s what Christmas is teaching us. Have a blessed holiday!
Jesus wasn’t born on Christmas Day.
And after he was born, his mother Mary could not have remained a virgin!
Thanks for your comments! No, Jesus wasn’t born on Christmas, He was neither crucified on Easter, nor did the Holy Spirit baptize the church on our Pentecost. Still, I have no problem with invented dates to remember these events, since Scripture is not ordering us to celebrate them in the first place. We do not win anything with finding out the right date (which in all three examples are quite impossible) nor do we lose anything in celebrating the birth of Jesus in December.
The article you linked to Dan was interesting but I don’t agree. I think it is strange that the author starts with saying that the article is not all about the pagan roots of Christmas when in fact that is what the article is all about. And I think it is completely wrong to equal Christmas celebration with idolatry. There is absolutely nothing in Christmas celebration that contains worship or rememberance of pagan gods, except the date. No one starts sacrificing to the sun god, no decorations reminds of it.
But does the date mean that no matter how much we celebrate Jesus it is an idolatrous syncretism? Of course not, the religious celebration in the West contains 100% Jesus and 0% sun god, thus no syncretism exist. When the Church started celebrating Christ on december 25th, it was not because they thought He was a sun god but because He triumphed the sun god. In Uppsala, where I live, one of Sweden’s oldest churches is built upon the ground where a pagan temple oonce stood. Not because Jesus is pagan, but because Jesus defeated paganism.
Scripture tells us not to judge each others because of holidays in Col 2. To condemn people because of dates is unfruitful. What is important to criticise however is consumerism, and I am surprised that the author of the blog post just say that there’s nothing to do about it. All the article is about changing tradition but consumerism is immune towards that? I don’t think Christmas celebration is idolatrous at all, but it is severely damaging to the planet and to the poor. If it helps to get rid of this of we change Christmas date, then I’m on.
God bless you!
Response to the above, and to the comment on the link above.
Hey brother, Thanks for your thoughtful reply. I just wanted to clarify a few things from my post with you.
1. I started the article saying its not about pagan worship, because its not, it was about moving the day. I said those factors were other things to consider in why we might do so.
2. You seem to think I have judgement and condemnation in here. Im sorry if it came across that way, I tried to make it clear I hold no ill feelings. This is a pragmatic solution to certain problems, not a judgement on holidays.
3. You repeatedly use the word Idolatry to describe my points, but I never once used the word. I didnt use it because I am *not* equating it with Idolatry. I equated it with the kings who worshiped the true God, but did not rid themselves of the remnants of the pagan practices. The point was, this is a modern day application of the same thing. The people of that time were not worshiping false gods. They were worshiping the true God in the same manner as the heathen worship the false gods. So youre right, for most Christians, its 100% Jesus, no sun god. But its 100% Jesus in the manner as to the sun god. This was not the why we should change though – the change is suggested to avoid the PERCEIVED CRITICISM from that conflict of interest.
4. You say no decorations, etc, are reflective of paganism. This is something you perhaps should look into. As its not the main thrust of my argument, I wont present a whole case. Its moot, but almost everything that we identify with Christmas in America has pagan origins, with pagan symbolism.
5. A. If Christmas started being celebrated on Dec. 25th as a means to show defeat over paganism, thats fine, a nice symbol. It doesnt make it historically accurate, which is the point of the post. It is still a fabrication.
B. It maybe was a defeat on the surface, but the vestiges of paganism remained in the holiday, they just went underground. It is not so much a defeat, but an absorption.
5. I didnt address the consumerism so much because I figured that is something *everyone* is frustrated with, even the well-intended heathen. The beauty of the move is that it removes it from the consumerist atmosphere, and allows us to establish our own traditions without the consumerism.
6. Also, I thought that perhaps the atmosphere and practices are a little different in Sweden from America. I dont know if thats true, but it may account for some of our slight misunderstanding.
I agree with you that the important thing is that we remember and acknowledge Him, all year round, and specific dates dont mean that much. 100% Im with you. As I said, I dont judge others regarding holidays either, it doesnt mean we cannot discuss the merits of practical solutions.
Just remember, this was meant as a thought exercise to find practical solutions to the problems I enumerated. It disarms critics. It establishes us on truth. We escape the consumerism, and our practices become unmingled before the Lord. I can find no downside except for our fondness for our traditions.
Btw, I read the holyspiritactivism blog last night when it was posted in the facebook forum. I love it. Thanks for sharing.
To build a church on the place where a pagan temple once stood is already wrong. Because Jesus was Jewish, the religious way would be to build a synagogue.
But since God cannot be contained in a building, either way is wrong. The new covenant apostles understood that their bodies were the temples of the Holy Spirit.
Personally I think the denominational church buildings in all of Europe (and other parts of the world) should be torn down because they are such a misrepresentation of the true gospel. I never found God’s presence when I visited those old buildings, I found Him in an old school classroom.
I’m not a big fan of church buildings, as i wrote in https://holyspiritactivism.wordpress.com/2012/12/05/development-aid-to-the-south-revival-aid-to-the-north/ I think it would be better if those were sold so that we could give more money to missions and development cooperation. And I’m not a fan of traditions and Christmas celebrations either. My point is, in response to Daniel’s article, that idolatry involves actual worship of idols, we hurt a lot of Christians if we say that they are idolaters when they celebrate Christmas or go to a church.