The Spirit of Christmas

Christmas gallaria

I am writing today from the beautiful Tampa Bay area.

It was my first Christmas season in Florida. Shortly after Thanksgiving, a father showed up to our Bible study, very discouraged. It was his daughter’s 11th birthday, and due to finances at home he did not have a single dime to buy her a gift. Several days later, I was surprised when his daughter called me at the church, asking to put an ad in the church bulletin. She was organizing a group at her school to collect Christmas gifts for kids who had no gifts. In talking to her, it was clear that she was excited about this, and she definitely was not thinking about any gift for herself. That really touched my heart. This child understood more than the meaning of Christmas. She understood the meaning of life! She was so busy thinking of others that she had no time to feel sorry for herself. I appreciate the Christmas season as it helps me to see the good that is in people all year long. I’m sorry not everyone sees it that way.

Imagine this scenario. It’s a beautiful sunny Florida day. You call me and say, “William, let’s go to the beach and enjoy a beautiful sunset.” I respond, “No way! Don’t you know that some pagans worship the sun, therefore we should have nothing to do with it!” Not very balanced thinking huh? Likewise just because there may be some pagan things pertaining to Christmas it should not keep us from worshiping the Son on that day! I have heard that Christmas is a Catholic holiday. Does that make it wrong? Just because you are not a Catholic does not mean everything they do or have done is bad. Catholics operate good hospitals all over the world where people of all faiths and beliefs receive compassionate care. If we are not Catholic does that mean that we should not have good hospitals just because they do? There are many good Catholics who pray every day. Should we refrain from prayer because Catholics pray? Of course not. So why should we refrain from celebrating a holiday that makes the whole world think of Jesus? Remember, like Christmas, Martin Luther’s origins were Catholic too, so as good protestants should we reject him too? No. We need to “Prove all things; hold fast that which is good.” 1 Thessalonians 5:21  Please remember that in Romans 13 Paul tells us to go along with things as long as they don’t go against the Word of God. While Sunday observance opposes the Sabbath observance, celebrating Christmas does not oppose anything Biblical.

Please remember, that while Paul clearly taught that the feast days were no longer binding, but were a shadow of things to come (See Colossians 2:14-17) that he still went up to Pentecost, as it was an opportunity for him to share Jesus with everyone. (See Acts 20:16 and 1 Corinthians 16:8) with the same missionary Spirit that Paul had, should we not also take advantage of celebrations that enable us to share Jesus, including Christmas and Easter?

The Spirit of Prophecy that rested upon Paul stays consistent as it rested upon Ellen White, who tells us Christmas serves a good purpose.

As the twenty-fifth of December is observed to commemorate the birth of Christ, as the children have been instructed by precept and example that this was indeed a day of gladness and rejoicing, you will find it a difficult matter to pass over this period without giving it some attention. It can be made to serve a very good purpose. –Ellen White, Adventist Home, Page 478

I believe that if Christmas was a day that we should ignore, that God’s prophet would have instructed us so very clearly. She does not instruct us to ignore this day. God gave her no such message.

Nor does the Spirit of Prophecy tell us that a Christmas tree within itself is pagan.

God would be well pleased if on Christmas, each church would have a Christmas tree on which shall be hung offerings, great and small, for these houses of worship. Letters of inquiry have come to us asking, Shall we have a Christmas tree? will it not be like the world? We answer, You can make it like the world if you have a disposition to do so, or you can make it as unlike the world as possible. There is no particular sin in selecting a fragrant evergreen, and placing it in our churches; but the sin lies in the motive which prompts to action, and the use which is made of the gifts placed upon the tree.  –Ellen White, Review and Herald, December 11, 1879 par. 15

Yes, we all know Jesus was not born on December 25. We do not need to celebrate it as Christ’s actual birthday. We celebrate the fact that Jesus became a man and died for our sins. Maybe Christmas was inspired by pagan motives. Joseph’s brothers had “pagan” motives when they sold him to the Ishmaelites. No matter. God used it for good and made Joseph a savior of his times. So today, we have an excellent opportunity to allow God to use a day set up by sinful mankind to turn peoples’ minds and hearts to the Savior. The original motives good or bad do not matter at this point. God can use it for good. This does not contradict Bible doctrine.

My mind goes back to another Christmas I celebrated with my church in Fort Worth Texas. Christmas fell on a Sabbath that year. My church decided to spend Sabbath feeding lunch to the homeless downtown. We had several kids of all ages with us. They were delighted to serve. Now, most of these families waited till sundown to celebrate Christmas and open their gifts, so even though it was late in the afternoon, these children had not opened their gifts yet. After we served and cleaned up I figured, and the parents figured too, that the kids would now be in a hurry to rush home in time for sundown to open their gifts. That is not what happened. These kids begged us to let them stay and serve the evening meal as well, even though another group was coming in to do that. The kids were so excited that they got to stay and serve total strangers instead of rushing home to open their gifts.

Friends the Christmas Spirit these kids manifested, and the Christmas Spirit of my Bible study student’s  daughter was not a pagan spirit. It was a spirit of self sacrificing love, which is what true Christianity is all about!

When Joseph found out Mary was with child, he thought it was rather obvious she had an affair. Wouldn’t it seem obvious to you too? Joseph was wise to hold his peace and not say anything publically against Mary. Good thing he didn’t say anything, because Joseph found out that what had happened was actually done by the Holy Spirit. I am saddened when people judge the motives of people celebrating the Christmas Spirit, by calling them pagan, when in fact they are actually moved by the Holy Spirit celebrating the meaning of life which is Christ Himself.

Matthew 1; Blogging Through the New Testament

I am writing tonight from the beautiful Tampa Bay area.

 

This is my first blog on my current adventure through the New Testament.  I begin of course with Matthew chapter one.  As you notice, this chapter begins with a lot of begats. Sounds boring. Why do we need all of this repetition? Believe it or not, there is actually a point to the repeating of this lineage. Each generation had its weaknesses. These weaknesses were passed down from generation to generation on to Jesus. However, while Jesus shared the weaknesses of His ancestors He did not participate in their sins. Ellen White explains in her classic The Desire of Ages, p. 49; “It would have been an almost infinite humiliation for the Son of God to take man’s nature, even when Adam stood in his innocence in Eden. But Jesus accepted humanity when the race had been weakened by four thousand years of sin. Like every child of Adam He accepted the results of the working of the great law of heredity. What these results were is shown in the history of His earthly ancestors. He came with such a heredity to share our sorrows and temptations, and to give us the example of a sinless life.”  Abraham lied to the Pharaoh of Egypt in regard to his relationship with Sarai. Isaac, Abraham’s son, did the same thing. Then Jacob, Isaac’s son lies to Isaac when he steals the birthright. Then Jacob’s uncle Laben, turns around and deceives Jacob. Generation after generation of liars! However, while this heredity was passed down to Jesus He did not give in to the temptation to lie and lived a perfect life, thus making it possible for us to overcome our heredity.

 

Seeing then that we have a great high priest, that is passed into the heavens, Jesus the Son of God, let us hold fast [our] profession. For we have not an high priest which cannot be touched with the feeling of our infirmities; but was in all points tempted like as [we are, yet] without sin. Let us therefore come boldly unto the throne of grace, that we may obtain mercy, and find grace to help in time of need.  Hebrews 4:14-16

 

There hath no temptation taken you but such as is common to man: but God [is] faithful, who will not suffer you to be tempted above that ye are able; but will with the temptation also make a way to escape, that ye may be able to bear [it].  1 Corinthians 10:13

 

Now unto him that is able to keep you from falling, and to present [you] faultless before the presence of his glory with exceeding joy, To the only wise God our Saviour, [be] glory and majesty, dominion and power, both now and for ever. Amen.  Jude 1:24-25

 

Later in chapter one, we read of Joseph planning to quietly divorce Mary, since she is already with child, even though they have not been together yet. Here is a great lesson for us. Jacob is not going to gossip or publicly hurt Mary’s reputation. Didn’t Jesus also try to protect the reputation of sinners? He wrote in the sand, letting sinners see their own mistakes without having them publicly pointed out to them. He told parables so people could see themselves without having their sins published abroad. Of course Mary had not been cheating on Joseph as he thought. Here is another lesson. If Joseph could be wrong about Mary, even with the overwhelming evidence, could we also be wrong when we judge others?

 

You may find more studies and devotionals at In Light of The Cross.