The Real Christmas

29 Dec 2012

Christmas TreeThe big day has come and gone! We may well have eaten too much, enjoyed giving and receiving lots of nice presents and seen family and friends this time of year. It's a time of fun and festivity for many people, it's also a time when shops make a lot of money in the mass commercialism in the run up to the event, and in the sales afterwards.

But why? What's special about Christmas? Many people, in answer to this question, will say it's to remember the birth of Jesus Christ, the son of God. But how many of us are remembering Jesus when we battle through the last minute christmas shopping, or are rushing around preparing the Christmas dinner, or over indulging in food and drink?

As Christadelphians, many of us enjoy the christmas break with our family and friends – it's always good to be hospitable, and to give and to receive.

Let love be without dissimulation. Abhor that which is evil; cleave to that which is good. Be kindly affectioned one to another with brotherly love; in honour preferring one another; Not slothful in business; fervent in spirit; serving the Lord; Rejoicing in hope; patient in tribulation; continuing instant in prayer; Distributing to the necessity of saints; given to hospitality. (Romans 12:9-13)

The dilemma for us is that the feast of Christmas is not in the Bible. Many aspects of the traditional christmas celebrations do not come from the Bible. The Bible does not tell us that Jesus was born on the 25th December (during the winter solstice), that there was snow on the ground in Bethlehem, that three kings visited Jesus at his birth (some wise men with three gifts visited Jesus when he was about two) and it definitely contains no record of 'Father Christmas'!  The Christmas Tree for example, comes from the ancient Germanic people who tied fruit and attached candles to evergreen tree branches, in honour of their god Woden. The Bible does not tell us to put up a Christmas Tree! In fact, this passage from Jeremiah condemns the practice:

Thus saith the LORD, Learn not the way of the heathen... for the customs of the people are vain: for one cutteth a tree out of the forest, the work of the hands of the workman, with the axe. They deck it with silver and with gold; they fasten it with nails and with hammers, that it move not (Jeremiah 10:2-4)

In fact there are only one or two traditions that the Bible, God's inspired word, tells us we should keep. The law of Moses has been fulfilled with the sacrifice of Jesus, there is no further need for the sacrifices of the Law (at least this side of God's Kingdom - Isaiah 60:7, Zechariah 14:21).  Baptism, full immersion in water, is given as a sign of commitment of the disciple of Christ, of the death of the old man of sin and the birth of the new man of Christ (Romans 6:4). The early Christians met to break bread and share wine in remembrance of Jesus – his birth, life, death, resurrection and promised return, on the first day of the week (Sunday).

And upon the first day of the week, when the disciples came together to break bread, Paul preached unto them... (Acts 20:7)

So, as Bible believing Christians, what should we be doing? Jesus should be remembered every day, not just his birth on Christmas day. As we try to follow in his footsteps we need to keep his example before us as we await the establishment of the Kingdom of God on earth.

One person esteems one day as better than another, while another esteems all days alike. Each one should be fully convinced in his own mind. The one who observes the day, observes it in honour of the Lord. The one who eats, eats in honour of the Lord, since he gives thanks to God, while the one who abstains, abstains in honour of the Lord and gives thanks to God. For none of us lives to himself, and none of us dies to himself. For if we live, we live to the Lord, and if we die, we die to the Lord. So then, whether we live or whether we die, we are the Lord's. For to this end Christ died and lived again, that he might be Lord both of the dead and of the living. (Romans 14:5-9 ESV)