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For an ancient holiday, Christmas has had a surprisingly cozy relationship with the modern world. The commercial radio age began on Christmas Eve, 1906, when "O Holy Night" was sung on the first AM radio broadcast. You could write a whole ...

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Pedat Ebediyah

December 26, 2013  1:54pm

J. South, yes, there is no reason for anyone who worships the god (Yahweh) of the Israel to not keep the Seven Festivals of the Messiah, as they weren't NAILED or ABOLISHED at all. I mentioned it briefly on Tim Fall's blog recently. http://timfall.wordpress.com/2013/12/22/charles-spurgeon-irrelevancy-of-dec ember-25th/. Trying to worship in spirit AND truth, while also learning not to wage the war of ideals is a challenge. Truth=Celebrating his Birth doing the Feast of Tabernacles (but not necessary) Easy because all believers are supposed to be observing it anyhow. Spirit=Celebrating the love of friends and family during any time (including THIS time), and doing so without traipsing too much into the falsehood of the season. This is that dance we learn to do, J. South. We don't stomp on the feet (grieve the Holy Ghost) by embracing folly or stomp on the feet (of our beloved) by reminding them of the flagrant sins of syncretism. Bigotry/Racism in the body is more of my priority.

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Paul Schryba

December 26, 2013  12:06am

@J. South: Merry Christmas (to you and all)! As to 'fit the with the calendar and God's ordained holidays'- the Christian church doesn't observe the Sabbath; the Christian church doesn't observe the Jewish New Year, one of the most solemn holy days; our modern calendar isn't on a lunar cycle for reasons of consistency with the physical reality. I think that Jesus is the fulfillment of the Jewish revelation, he is the Meshiach who has come; God is not bound to have to continue to follow the 'ordained holidays' of the past. (Isaiah, "behold I do something new." Isaiah 43: 19) If one wishes to celebrate Jesus' birth around sukkoth, certainly there is enough reason to do so. But there are valid reasons to do so for 25 December as well, apart from the 'actual' birth date. There are also valid reasons to celebrate the secular 'Christmas', for its honoring of peace, family, generous giving, and love on 25 December; lights to brighten the 'darkest' day of the year.

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audrey ruth

December 23, 2013  4:44am

How wonderful it is to know that "O Holy Night" was sung on the first AM radio broadcast! This reminds me of the fact that the first book off Gutenberg's brand-spanking-new printing press was the Holy Bible. I heard a Jewish rabbi say, about the timing of the shepherds being out in the fields watching their sheep, that Jesus was most likely born in September. He went on to say that in ancient days Jews counted back nine months as their children's birthdays (much like Chinese considered their children one year old at birth), which means Jesus would have been conceived in December. Which tells me that God can use the frailties of man in amazing ways. Regardless of the exact day baby Jesus arrived here on earth from Heaven to show us God's goodness, die on the Cross for us, then rise from the dead in victory over sin and death - the main thing is that HE DID! "He was revealed from Heaven for this purpose, to destroy all the works of the devil." I John 3:8 Glory to God indeed!!!

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J. South

December 23, 2013  1:31am

@Liz T, knowing how to navigate the holiday season with immediate and extended family who still desire to celebrate Christmas is really difficult. I know that to many degrees I'm still working through my own tendencies to mix and mingle God's ideas with my ideas. I don't like that in myself, and I'd be a hypocrite if I in some way insinuated I have this all intellectually, emotionally, and pragmatically figured out. For me, I start with recognizing Jesus probably wasn't born in December -- as Andy originally shared. I tend to think Jesus was born during Sukkot, simply because the end of his ministry here on earth aligned so neatly with Passover, First Fruits, and Pentacost. I don't like how assimilating the solar calendar and the mithraic/druidic holiday schedule have distracted from the spiritual significance of Christ fulfilling the feasts. Also, in my limited understanding, parties, hot chocolate, and snowmen don't have mithraic/druidic histories, but solstice and pine trees do.

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J. South

December 23, 2013  1:05am

@Paul Schryba, I can understand your approach almost as a form of Christus Victor, proclaiming that God's love and peace have overcome through the Son of God come to earth in a manger. I like that passion and faith you have in God's love to overcome the world. As I think through early Biblical precedence, I still struggle with the origin of Christmas. It doesn't fit with the calendar and fulfillment of God's ordained holidays. The beginning of the Bible sets a calendar and guidelines for celebrating and dedicating certain days as wholly set apart. These days were prophetically used by God to align with the coming and ministry of Christ. Jesus died at the time of Passover and rose in conjunction with First Fruits. The Holy Spirit was poured out on the Church during Shavuot (Pentacost). Many believe Jesus' second coming will be the fulfillment of Yom Teruah, the Feast of Trumpets. There's even a possibility that Jesus' birth was fulfillment of Sukkot, the Festival of Tabernacles.

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Liz T

December 22, 2013  9:45pm

Rick, Some people will reimagine Christmas without Jesus in it because they are not believers. When I was in elementary school, we had to sing "We Wish You A Happy Holidays" because some Jewish parents were offended by just having Christmas carols (even though we also sang about Hanukkah, we still couldn't mention Christmas). Anyways, we can't control what they do. If they want to celebrate Christmas that way, then so be it. But, as followers of Christ, we should keep Christ in our Christmas celebrations. Like I said, we can't do anything about the way the rest of the world celebrates Christmas.

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Paul Schryba

December 22, 2013  9:08pm

@J. South: There is no 'syncretism' in anything that I said. Using a fir tree as a symbol of everlasting life- for God and Jesus- is not combining one belief with another. One does not worship the tree, as pagans did. That materialism and greed are the principle idolatries of Christmas is a matter of dollars and sense fact and the actions of millions of people. As to a 'hierarchy' of sin- 'predominant' has to do with prevalence, not 'hierarchy'. The Bible itself gives precedence to one sin over others: "For the love of money is the root of all evil..." 1 Tim 6:10 KJV We do far better to focus on Christ's goodness and love, than on sin. We can celebrate the God who is love, by celebrating the generosity, love of others, and peace of being found in the secular 'Christmas'. That isn't 'syncretism'- one doesn't believe in or worship 'Santa Claus'; one can believe in 'Santa Claus' as a human symbol for the Ultimate Giver and Gift-God-and point others to Him.

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Rick Dalbey

December 22, 2013  8:42pm

I don't think we have to apologize for building snowmen, drinking hot chocolate, and throwing parties, decorating trees and giving gifts. We have to apologize if Jesus is not the core of our celebrations, if we remove the name of Jesus from Christmas carols, if in the name of civil religion and tolerance we refuse to name the name of Christ, and if we reimagine the holiday with no divine aspect.

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Liz T

December 22, 2013  7:19pm

How do you celebrate the things that our culture does during the holidays (i.e. building snowmen, drinking hot chocolate, and throwing parties) without committing the sin of syncretism?

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J. South

December 22, 2013  4:08pm

@Paul, I appreciate your willingness to talk through the messiness of Christmas tradition. You mentioned that the principle idolatry of modern Christmas is the service of Mammon. I agree that greed and avarice have infected the modern expression of Christmas, but I find the conclusion that greed is its principle idolatry to be emotionally and logically unsatisfying. We must consider that idolatry may not have a hierarchy. Can we define one evil as more drastic or worse? Sin is sin and any hierarchy of sins is most likely the result of our emotional, intellectual, and social perception of each sin's consequences. It seems that from your perspective, the idolatry of Mammon is most emotionally, intellectual, socially disturbing. I on the other hand find that syncretism is equally disturbing. Syncretism is a form of self-worship, whose spirit creates a God of love in one's own image of love rather than the image of Jesus on the cross, dying in supreme, obedient worship to the Father.

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Paul Schryba

December 22, 2013  8:10am

@J. South: The principle idolatry of the modern secular (non-believing) Christmas is: the service of mammon (pursuit of profit apart from service and recognition of the sacredness of creation) and love of money. Materialism and greed are the predominant underlying 'sins' of society. And I might add, even 'Christians' are mindlessly caught in the same 'spin'. (But 'the economy'....we must have 'growth'...)

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Paul Schryba

December 22, 2013  7:59am

@J. South: "He that loveth not knoweth not God; for GOD IS LOVE." 1 John 4:8 The secular holiday of 'Christmas' was founded on and from the religious holiday. 'Santa Claus' comes from the saintly figure of the Christian Bishop, Nicholas. And what does it celebrate? Family. Generous giving. Morality ('naughty or nice'). Peace. And --- love. It seems to me, that those are of God. A fir tree is 'evergreen'- symbolizing eternal life. Presents remember the gift of the magi. The winter solstice is the 'darkest' day of the year, and what better day to celebrate the coming of light into the world (John 1: 1-14)? Yet because pagans worshiped fir trees, pagans gave gifts, and pagans had their own celebration on the winter solstice, we should stop celebrating Christmas? May I remind you that in the early church, gentile followers of Christ ate meat that had been sacrificed to idols. It was only in deference to the scruples of Jewish followers of the way that abstinence was recommended (1 Cor 8).

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J. South

December 22, 2013  2:32am

Paul, you mention that evil can only be overcome with good and love. I believe that good and love describe elements how we overcome, but they fall short in summarizing our full strategy for victory. Revelation 12:11 states that we overcome our enemy the accuser through the blood of the Lamb and our testimony -- "They triumphed over him by the blood of the Lamb and by the word of their testimony; they did not love their lives so much as to shrink from death. " How can our testimony be separated from our worship of God? They will know us by our fruit, and our fruit will exhibit the qualities of goodness and love that you mentioned. Yet, it is in response to our testimony of God's greatness and reign that the Lord brings forth His fruit in us. When we keep His Word/Logos/Torah, then He abides in us and we abide in Him. When the world sees us worshiping with all of our heart, mind, soul, and strength as God has called us to do even unto death, then they will no doubt see Jesus in us.

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J. South

December 22, 2013  1:22am

Liz T, the Kingdom of God is not about what we eat or drink, but serving Christ (worship) and mutual edification (building each other up in worship). I mentioned what I did as an encouragement to worship the Lord well. I trust you aren't worshiping the tree, and I hope you hear my heart in these words. I think there are ways of enjoying things that are commonly associated with Christmas without celebrating Christmas. I like hot chocolate and peppermint and throwing parties and making snowmen and decorating my house with warm colors when its cold out. My primary concern is mixing historically pagan things with Jesus' birth. Perhaps a tangent... many of those same warm feelings you mentioned enjoying about Christmas (food family gifts) are elements in celebrating the Jewish Festival of Dedication (Hannukah), which Jesus appears to have celebrated in John 10:22-23. Hannukah focuses on our right worship and identity as his people. It's not a replacement, but a good reminder for us all.

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Liz T

December 22, 2013  12:46am

Do we have to be worshipping something during the holidays, though, J. South? Can we be followers of Christ and celebrate the holidays without making it about Christ's birth? What if I just want to enjoy decorating a Christmas tree, giving and receiving presents, eating good food, and being with my family? Or is that idolatry/paganism? I wonder if it would be better to celebrate Christmas without Christ rather than blend Christ with so-called pagan traditions. (Personally, although I know it has pagan roots, I do not believe that me decorating a Christmas tree is pagan idolatry, since I am not a pagan).

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J. South

December 21, 2013  11:43pm

I agree that Jesus' birth and Kingship was a direct challenge to Roman empire, and it is notable that the emperor made concessions in recognizing his existence and deity. Still, I find the reframe of Christ's birth and integration with the solstice to be syncretistic -- a blending of the pagan and holy. Syncretism was rejected over and over again throughout the scriptures from Genesis to the Revelation. Yah insisted that His people should not worship him like the nations around him worshiped their gods. The Exodus was fueled by God's call for his people to worship him as he taught them to do, not like the Egyptians worshiped. The golden calf was Israel's attempt to worship Yah like the Egyptians, and that generation was excluded from the promise land because of it. If God was so willing to keep them from the promise land because of their syncretism, shouldn't we consider that the God who doesn't change might keep us from His heavenly promise land if we worship Him as the pagans do?

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Paul Schryba

December 21, 2013  4:40pm

"In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God. 2 He was in the beginning with God. 3 All things were made through him, and without him was not any thing made that was made." John 1 ESV God loves the world; you can choose to see 'pagan trappings', or the creation God loves. You can appreciate the evergreen as God's beautiful creation and a symbol of Eternal Life, or attack it as something pagans worship. You can see Jesus in everything- or focus on evil. I believe that Jesus wants us to focus on Jesus, who is love, and incarnate love, not see 'evil' in everything and attack it. Remember, evil can only be overcome with Good and love.

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editor UNITYINCHRIST.COM

December 21, 2013  9:31am

yeah, the way the pagans did, with all the pagan trappings attributed to Jesus...don't think Jesus is happy with your analysis, not far from the world's view...when prophecy shows when Jesus comes back he re-establshes the Sabbath (Isaiah 66) and the Feast of Tabernacles (Zechariah 14:16-19) right off the bat. I choose the believe the Bible.

Paul Schryba

December 21, 2013  7:54am

@editor: You choose to 'see' Christmas through a distorted lens. Beyond the obvious idolatry of 'mammon' (money- which has been the dominant vice of most human societies, including so called 'Christian' ones), what you mistake for idolatry is in fact the universal yearning for the transcendent- love and peace. No one worships Christmas trees, nor Santa- they are symbols for everlasting life and loving-kindness/generosity respectively. Despite the 'religious' significance being eroded, society still has a need for peace/love/generous giving and hope. We can celebrate someone's birthday anytime we want- why not celebrate Light incarnate at the darkest day of the year? Christ is still in Christmas- in the very name, and in love becoming incarnate- present in our world. To the author- care for the poor and powerless did not come through 'Christmas'- it is inherent in Judaism.

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editor UNITYINCHRIST.COM

December 21, 2013  4:24am

Andy, you've got it right about Jesus and Mary's circumstances at his miraculous birth. But as the Messianic Jews have calculated, and even rudimentary logic shows, that John the Baptist was born in the spring and Jesus six months later, so he was born no later than in the fall, probably during the Fall Holy Days (Trumpets/Tabernacles). Jesus' actual birthday was carefully hijacked by the proto-Catholic Church in its early days, and placed on the exact time of the Winter Solstice, Saturnalia, a pagan day of sex worship. Due to this clever hijacking, there is more pagan idolatry attached to Christmas than anything to do with Jesus' birth. It's a sad truth, which, like the giant white elephant in the room, nobody wants to admit it's there. The actual time of Jesus birth, during the Fall Holy Days, picture the time of his return to set up the wonderful Kingdom of God on earth, and bring true peace to all men. Christmas has hidden that wonderful truth. Let's be honest folks, ok.

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