Controversial Holidays

Thinking through Christmas

You might consider me overly scrupulous, but I have to ask, “Why?” about everything. I don’t want to do something if it doesn’t make sense. I find it very hard to gloss over the details and say, “It’s what’s in your heart that matters.” I personally, don’t think that is true. What we do is just as important. The action is initiated from within, and is then translated into performance. Therefore, action and intention are almost always  inseparable. Other people won’t know what your feelings are, until they see your corresponding, outward behavior. Let’s take a look at the verse that most people are referring to when they say, “God sees the heart”:

“But the LORD said unto Samuel, Look not on his countenance, or on the height of his stature; because I have refused him: for the LORD seeth not as man seeth; for man looketh on the outward appearance, but the LORD looketh on the heart.” 

1 Samuel 16:7

In context: as Samuel was analyzing Jesse’s sons to determine which one of them was to be God’s chosen next king over Israel, the most logical choice would have been the oldest son–or the most handsome, the tallest and the strongest. Yet God told Samuel that He wasn’t depending on externals in His criteria: God qualifies a person for service based on character.

Good character is the determining factor with God. That’s what this verse is saying. It never mentions “good intentions,” which is what most people are talking about when they say, “God sees the heart.”

Let’s take a look at what good intentions will get us:

“And David arose, and went with all the people that were with him from Baale of Judah, to bring up from thence the ark of God, whose name is called by the name of the LORD of hosts that dwelleth between the cherubims. And they set the ark of God upon a new cart, and brought it out of the house of Abinadab that was in Gibeah: and Uzzah and Ahio, the sons of Abinadab, drave the new cart … And when they came to Nachon’s threshingfloor, Uzzah put forth his hand to the ark of God, and took hold of it; for the oxen shook it. And the anger of d the LORD was kindled against Uzzah; and God smote him there for his error; and there he died by the ark of God. “

11 Samuel 6:2-3, 6-7

The ark of God was being transported to the city of David. Obviously, the ark was very holy. As the procession made its way toward the city, the oxen pulling the cart the ark was resting on shook it. In order to keep the ark from falling, Uzzah attempted to stabilize it by supporting the ark with his hands. What’s better, for the ark to fall off the cart, possibly being damaged in the process, or for Uzzah to keep it from falling by holding it up with his hands? Uzzah had good intentions, so why did God strike him dead?

According to Numbers 4:5-15, there was a proper way of handling the ark. God had given instructions for its transportation, and He expected His commands to be followed, with a warning of what would happen to anyone who disregarded them. The ark was never to be touched, but instead carried on poles placed through rings. Anyone who touched it would die.

We mustn’t be flippant in the way that we approach the Maker of the universe. He deserves to be treated with the utmost esteem and reverence. If God judged Uzzah for treating His standards lightly, how well do we compare, who don’t hesitate to mix the pure worship of God with ancient pagan customs, desecrating with unholy hands what was intended to be kept sacred?

Having said that, when it comes to biblical mandates, God does make certain allowances for good intentions: For example, premeditated murder is punishable by death, but accidentally killing someone can be forgiven (Exodus 21:12-15). In this case, the intention does count.

But people don’t celebrate Christmas, or Halloween, or Easter by accident. God made it clear when he smote Uzzah for disobedience, that knowing what He has said regarding the correct way of doing something, and following through with obedience, is paramount. Did Uzzah know what God had said about handling the ark? Maybe he didn’t, but that’s beside the point. If Uzzah, or David, had wanted to know how to carry the ark, all they had to do was look into the Scriptures.

Not taking the time to investigate the word of God is inexcusable.

Our approach to the holidays shouldn’t be to simply go along with what everybody else is doing. Saying, “It’s what’s in my heart that matters,” doesn’t always cut it. Let’s move beyond that lazy approach, and make the effort to research what the Scriptures say, and look into the history of our traditions.

I’m just starting out in my investigation of different holidays. I don’t know yet what conclusions I’ll come to. One thing I know for sure, though, is that I don’t want to lean on good intentions, and be guilty, perhaps, of the same sin as Uzzah, that of carelessness.

 

 

 

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12 thoughts on “Thinking through Christmas

    1. Thanks for asking, Caro! So good to hear from you!

      Well, I’m currently considering how I as a Christian should approach holidays, such as Christmas and Easter, that have pagan roots. To be honest, I’ve taken a bit of a break from my study of this issue; but, I’d like to continue it, and hopefully publish some articles in the future about what conclusions I end up coming to.

      What about you? Do you have any thoughts about the holidays?
      Jessica

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      1. Hi Jessica ! Yes I was super curious to hear your thoughts on holidays, because I had been working on the topic one or two years ago. I don’t remember how it start, but I heard somewhere that Christmas was originally a very pagan fest and was then used to celebrate the nativity of Christ as people converted to the Christian faith.
        I was shocked to hear that our Christmas traditions are mostly based on pagan traditions, and we just remove pagan gods and replace it with the Lord. This is a perfect example of syncretism, and I am not very sure that God enjoys to be celebrated with pagan things. And what troubled me more, was to notice that more and more Christian believers around the world, from various horizons, suddenly get aware about this issue and write about it on their blog (just like headcovering), what looks like so much like the result of the Holy Spirit working among believers. But I gave up a little bit my research on this issue, because I was afraid to think about what would happen if I get conviced that Christian should not celebrate Christmas haha ^^

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      2. Wow! Sometimes I feel alone in my thoughts and convictions, but it is always amazing to see evidence of “what looks like…the result of the Holy Spirit working among believers,” as you put it.

        As far as Christmas is concerned, we already got rid of our Christmas tree and most decorations. I threw away all Christmas story books (about Santa Claus). We still have a few items donated by a family member, since I didn’t want to offend her, and since I haven’t come to any firm decision yet. We still go to the family Christmas get-togethers, and sing Christmas carols.

        So, I’m in a transition phase myself. But your comment and example have inspired me to continue looking into this issue, and to follow the Lord’s lead, no matter how “weird” it makes me seem!

        Thank you, Caro!
        Jessica

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  1. I heard that Japanese male pastor who had come to our church constantly for several years to teach bible does not celebrate Christmas in his church by the reason.
    As for our church,and most churches in Japan still keeps to have christmas service.

    Nowadays many people know that christmas celebration has roots of paganism here .Some people says that the reason of it was that because of that christians of ancient ages tried to convert people who have paganism by replacing the meaning.I think that it might be true.

    Many churches still keep on having Christmas service by many reasons.Tradition,reminder of nativity,opportunity for spreading gospel etc.
    I’m not sure what I should be. and do not understand how our God think about this and,hope us to be about it.Just I hope that His will be done in His church.

    Thank you for giving me to rethink about this issue by your sincere conversation,Jessica and Caroline.

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    1. Thank you, Sanae, for your helpful remarks!

      Yes, this is something which people are divided on. But, I want the truth to reign supreme, and not my feelings. What is the truth about how God wants us to view these holidays? I’m not absolutely sure at this point, similar to you, but I do want to investigate further!

      I’ve been so encouraged by both you and Caro that I think I will renew my studies in this area, so that I can share my findings with you, and we can share our thoughts some more.

      I also think this has a lot to do with Kinuko’s recent articles on syncretism.

      Thank you so much!
      Jessica

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  2. At least, if there is one thing we can be sure about, it is that Christmas is modeled on what was a ancient pagan celebration, by changing the spiritual meaning while keeping the “pagan material”.
    So if we go further into a Bible research, what we would need to check is does the Scriptures give us some indications about how God react to this kind of “spiritual recycling” 😉

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  3. We do celebrate Christmas and of course Easter but not halloween party because it is not a big thing in the UK but also because it smacks too much of pagan ritual.

    It is true that many festivals have a pagan or at least pre Christian root so it is important to ensure that all celebration is centred on God not on maternal things I think.

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  4. When I came to North America, ten years ago. I was surprised by the Christmas tree phenomenon. In Russia and in many post-soviet countries. The tree is decorated pretty much the same way as it decorated here is used for celebrating New Year. Decorated tree is a symbol of attracting prosperity, the more it decorated, the more prosperity will come into the home next year. It came from druids. The tree was lately burnt as for burning bad luck Sorry ladies, just need to tell you this.
    Irina

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