Dying to the spirit of Christmas

by Cheryl on December 27, 2013

Christmas Day 2013 has passed now. Honestly, it’s a relief this year, as it was the first Christmas in my 30 years of life that I have chosen not to celebrate. We received gifts of love from friends and family and were blessed by each one. It is always a joy to give and to receive love. But inside I was mostly quiet, holding still, waiting, listening, and asking God to be glorified and blessed in my desire to honor and respond to Him. If you know me personally, you know that I have always enjoyed “The Christmas Season” very much and find joy and creativity in decorating, planning thoughtful gifts, and being intentional with family and friends to celebrate Jesus. So NOT doing any of those things left me feeling a little awkward…

Over the years as I follow Jesus, He has walked with me through many opportunities to die- some seem bigger or harder than others. By His grace He is allowing me to carry around in my body His death, so that His life may also be revealed in my body. “For we who are alive are always being given over to death for Jesus’ sake, so that his life may also be revealed in our mortal body.” 2 Cor. 4:8 Jesus said, “whoever wants to be my disciple must take up their cross daily and follow me.” Luke 9:23 “For I have been crucified with Christ and I no longer live, but Christ lives in me. The life I now live in the body, I live by faith in the Son of God, who loved me and gave himself for me.” Gal. 2:20

In His goodness, He is bringing and has brought death to all of my expectations (big and small), my “world views,” my way of relating to others, my self “rights,” and most of my habitual behavior in general. He must teach me that there is only life in walking by faith. Without faith it’s impossible to please Him! Heb. 11:6

This past May, The Lord took me through a book written by Charles Elliot Newbold Jr. As I read, my eyes were opened to the extensive idolatry I have always embraced unknowingly in several areas of my life. My love for God and identification with His heart compelled me to respond in obedience. Our family is not going to “do Christmas” from now on. Please consider the following excerpt:

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“Christmas is one of those strongholds of the mind. It had not been celebrated in any form before the third century. Alexander Hislop explains, “Long before the fourth century, and  long before the Christian era itself, a festival was celebrated among the heathen, at that precise time of the year, in honor of the birth of the son of the Babylonian queen of heaven; and it may fairly be presumed that, in order to conciliate the heathen, and the swell the number of the nominal adherents of Christianity, the same festival was adopted by the Roman Church, giving it only the name of Christ.” They took this strictly pagan celebration and put Jesus in the center of it.

Rome instituted a mass which was called Christ–mass – shortened to Christmas. Christmas has always been, is now, and ever shall be a pagan festival. It has grown over the centuries to become the enchanting, magical, merchant-driven insult to God that it now is. We are mesmerized by it. Hooked on it. Enslaved by it. In debt to it. Dennis Loewen adds, “Christmas is another example of how powerful the false living spirit of harlotry is. There is a spirit of Christmas. It is warm; it is wonderful; it is good… and it is not from God.”

The world loves Christmas as much as Christians do. What does that tell us? One “Christian” celebrity said on national TV that Christmas is three things: “decorating, gift-giving, and eating.” We must know that what the world loves cannot be of God. The apostle John exhorts us, “Love not the world, neither the things that are in the world. If any man loves the world, the love of the Father is not in him. For all that is in the world, the lust of the flesh, and the lust of the eyes, and the pride of life, is not of the Father, but is of the world.” I John 2:15-16.

The fact that most of what people do at Christmas has its roots in this pagan mid-winter festival should be reason enough for Christians not to do it- the tree and lights, the candles, the mistle-toe, the exchange of gifts, the yule log in the fireplace, the cakes, the goose, the drunkenness, and even the date of December the 25th. The fact that this season is so merchant-driven today should add to our disdain for it. However, the real slap-in-the-face to God is that we love these soulish things more than obedience to Him. They are emotional strongholds in our minds. We would lack sound judgement to believe that we can relentlessly celebrate these days and seasons and stay free of their captivation. 

The idea of not celebrating Christmas carries such an affront to others that most people could not give it up even if they were convinced that it was an abomination to God. We are thought leprous for not going along with it. We are pleasers of men rather than of God.

I have heard the cliche since my childhood to “put Christ back into Christmas.” It is often inscribed this way: “Put Christ back into X-mas.” Even thought the X probably stands for the Greek letter chi in Christ, we tend to think of it as X-ing out Jesus. Well for years I have been thinking it and now I dare to say it: Instead of putting Jesus back into a pagan festival where He never belonged in the first place, let us take Him out of it altogether and give it back to the world to whom it belongs. After all, the Bible never called for this celebration, and Jesus would never impose such crazy-making bondage upon us. Paul wrote, “It was for freedom that Christ set us free; therefore keep standing firm and do not be subject again to a yoke of slavery.” Gal 5:1 NAS. This is what we should teach our children.

Christmas is one of those “high places” that most of us seem unwilling to tear down, even knowing how God might feel about it. Our  minds are made up. “I like Christmas,” one young mother told me. The rest of her sentence was implied, “so I’m going to do it.” We build manger scenes in our yard and erect glow-in-the-dark Santa Clauses next to them. Buddy at the checkout counter illustrated this mix very simply. He had a Santa Claus hat on his head and a WWJD (what would Jesus do?) band around his neck. Buddy, Jesus would not have worn that hat.

After I told a dear old lady why I no longer do Christmas, she responded, “But I don’t think of pagan gods when I look at my Christmas tree. I think of Jesus.” That seemed reasonable to me. I asked God about it. He answered, “What would you think if you caught your wife in adultery, and she answered, “But, honey, I was thinking of you the whole time”?”

Many people reason, “we do it for the children.” If Christmas is idolatrous for the parents, then why would the parents want to sacrifice their children to these idols?”

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Our culture has some default assumptions programmed in our minds to classify anyone who decides not to participate in the cultural customs of Christmas. They are “a Scrooge.” They are “a Grinch.” Their hearts must be “two sizes too small…” To be misunderstood even by those who are close to you is a part of sharing in Christ’s sufferings. Phil. 3:10 This decision demands a willingness to quietly allow whatever misinterpretation or assumption that follows. And that’s okay. “Am I now trying to win the approval of human beings, or of God? Or am I trying to please people? If I were still trying to please people, I would not be a servant of Christ.” Gal. 1:10 “Blessed are you when people hate you, when they exclude you and insult you and reject your name as evil, because of the Son of Man.” Luke 6:22

We have been given clear direction to teach our children of His coming during this time of year each year, and to celebrate His coming and continuing presence with us. Immanuel! And so we will!

I pray that this sharing of my heart will not offend, invite debate, or alienate any one of our dear readers. You read this blog because you care for our family and this is precisely why we needed to spell out some specifics on this step of our lives with The Lord. We realized as each interpersonal exchange went by, that the greater work God was doing in us had gone unexpressed. It’s a joyful work, however awkward walking out the practical steps of obedience feels at first. If you have read this entire blog post, be blessed!! May The LORD Himself speak to your heart as you come to Him about Christmas.

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