Know Your Bible

VOL. 7                           December 7, 2008                           NO. 46

Merry Christmas, Merry Xmas,

Christian Confusion And The Whole Nine Yards...

    Well, this year is a lot like most years. Some are desperately trying to "put Christ back in Christmas". Some are trying to kick Christ out of everything to do with our civilization. Some are so mixed up they don't know which way to jump.

    Sometimes I must confess I am the latter. Here's the dilemma. As a Christian, I feel compelled to stand up for my Lord and Christianity in general. However, what most people consider to be Christianity is not truly Christianity. Ironically, those wishing to attack Christianity, often end up attacking Catholicism or some other denominational variant instead.

    Let's take an example. The nativity scenes. . . There has been a full court press against the public display of nativity scenes. The attack is intended to drive Christianity from the public spectrum. Ironically anyone who has a respect for the Bible, is going to be loathe to defend the nativity scenes. These same Christians may aggressively wish to defend the role of Christianity in developing our culture.

    Why? Let me count the ways. . .

1) Angels over the manger. The angels appeared to the shepherds in the field. Luke 2:8ff. The angels spoke to the shepherds. Then, "When the angels had gone away from them into heaven," (Luke 2:15) the shepherds went to the manger and saw it all. Were the angels around all this? Certainly. Were they above the manger?

2) The three wise men. How many wise men? The bible doesn't say. Many of the oldest traditions hold that there were 12. (not three). It is thought tradition has eventually settled on three because of the three gifts.

3) The three wise men at the manger. Note that here is a major discrepancy. The wise men didn't make it to the manger. They didn't go to the manger. Matthew 2: 11. "After coming into the house they saw the Child with Mary His mother; and they fell to the ground and worshiped Him. Then, opening their treasures, they presented to Him gifts of gold, frankincense, and myrrh." How "late" were they? Well, Ezra made the same journey. It took Ezra four months. Ezra 7:9 "For on the first of the first month he began to go up from Babylon; and on the first of the fifth month he came to Jerusalem, because the good hand of his God {was} upon him."

4) The star over the manger. The angels told the shepherds that their sign (that night) was to look for a child not a star. The star was for the wise men. Matthew 2: 9 "After hearing the king, they went their way; and the star, which they had seen in the east, went on before them until it came and stood over {the place} where the Child was. (10.) When they saw the star, they rejoiced exceedingly with great joy. (11) After coming into the house..."

    Here's the bottom line. We often inadvertently pass on selective ignorance from generation to generation. The Word of God (Jesus Jn 1:1) didn't establish Christmas. This holiday is hopelessly tangled up in a jumble of myths, pagan rituals, and "Christian" wishful thinking.

    Two final thoughts:

1) Rather than crying out against the commercialization of Christmas, maybe we should wonder if the merchants of the world aren't entitled to Christmas. A good historical study will show that the Christmas we know today was mostly a product of their input.

2) Maybe the reason it is so difficult to put "Christ back in Christmas" is that if He'd wanted to be there, He would have said, "Do this in remembrance of Me." He didn't!

    Next we come to the day of Christ's birth. . . Should it be on December 25, January 6, September 11, September 29, March 24 in August, or November. (I tend to think the best guess is in September.)

---Jerry Blount

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Christmas Cards

    Thanksgiving marks the last day of sanity on this year's calendar, and even that is debatable. The following Friday morning marks the modern start to the holiday shopping season and everything else that accompanies the buildup to Christmas Day about a month later.

    In some rudimentary sense, Christmas cards date to the Middle Ages, but their popularity exploded in the nineteenth century so that the U.S. Congress was petitioned to limit the number that any one person could send, lest the mail become overwhelming. John Calcott Horsley is credited with designing the first commercial Christmas card in 1843 and as of the twenty-first century, Americans now dispatch 1.9 billion of them every year.

    The events behind the Christmas holiday, of course, are biblical -- the manger, the baby, the star, the virgin. The annual celebration of those events, however, is of human origin, for God specified a weekly commemoration of his son's death in the Lord's Supper (1 Cor. 11:17-31, Acts 20:7).

    Moreover, the Bible writers do not even bother to indicate the day on which Jesus was born away in that manger, and for various reasons, December 25 is a rather unlikely candidate. Christians who are concerned about maintaining Bible authority and worshiping in spirit and truth will be careful not to teach "as doctrines the commandments of men" (Matt. 15:9, cf. Col. 3:17, John 4:23,24).

    Christmas can be observed as a cultural custom, so long as it is not imposed upon God or the church as an unauthorized and misguided celebration of the Lord's unknown birthday. Gifts can be exchanged, houses can be decorated, turkeys and geese can be roasted and ingested. The place to draw the line is at anything that implies, indicates or illustrates the season and day as a biblical celebration of Christ's birth. That it is not and cannot be unless we impose it upon God.

    Christmas cards can be a wonderful way of keeping in touch with loved ones and sharing the mundane minutia of your year, but nativity scenes and other religious themes only serve to perpetuate the myth that Christmas is the birthday of Jesus and a biblical means of celebrating it.

---Jeff S. Smith

 

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***SENTENCE SERMONS***

Just as tears cleanse grief, so does laughter cleanse anger.

***

Of all things you wear, your expression is the most important.

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