Posts Tagged ‘Christmas’

Sin has just about wrecked this world of ours—And the Church is not immune to its effects. Just as Israel of old, we too, have forgotten God and replaced Him with our own golden calf. We have bowed down to the idols of humanism, secularism, and government control, and we have reaped the rewards of our actions.

It is probable that a great majority of church members in America today have few convictions against breaking any of God’s commandments. Child sexual abuse has become an epidemic, that the Church rarely speaks out against. (If they speak about it at all) Deception, robbery, and even sexual assaults have become all too common among Christians in both urban and suburban communities across our nation.

A very insidious doctrine has been developed in both Catholic and Protestant theology which has tended to minimize the authority of God’s commandments and moral precepts. It has led many to look lightly upon transgressions and has made sin to appear less objectionable. In fact, sin has become an acceptable mode of life for both youth and adults in the Church. How can this be? Especially among those who profess such high regard for the Bible, and a love for Christ?

This question becomes more significant when we consider the historical position of Christianity toward the Bible’s Ten Commandments. Almost all of the great denominations have confessed that they support the authority of the Ten Commandments, yet very subtle errors of interpretation have crept into the modern Church that has lead to the present state of confused loyalty toward God’s spiritual laws found in the Torah. (The first five books of the Bible) God’s spiritual laws are those that focus on moral precepts and thankfulness to God.

We need to look at God’s spiritual laws and their relation to God’s grace and salvation. It is so easy to accept the popular clichés concerning God’s laws and grace without searching out the biblical facts by which we will finally be judged. We must find authoritative scriptural answers to questions like these: In what sense are Christians free from the God’s law? What does it really mean to be under the law? Does God’s grace nullify God’s commandments? Can a Christian be justified when breaking any of God’s commandments because they are under grace?

We read in Romans that “the wages of sin is death”, (Romans 6:23 ) and that “all have sinned, and come short of the glory of God.” (Romans 3:23) We might as well replace the word “all” with our own name. Because according to 1 John 3:4, “sin is the transgression of the law,” and we are all guilty. Whose law did we break? God’s law. The shocking truth is that we are all guilty and under the sentence of death! And and in God’s court there are no plea deals or appeals that can reverse the sentence!

In desperation, many search for a way to be justified in spite of fact that they have broken God’s law. How can the sentence of death be turned aside? Can we atone for our sins by obeying the commandments of God for the rest of our life? Paul gives the answer in language that no one can misinterpret: “Therefore by the deeds of the law there shall no flesh be justified in his sight.” (Romans 3:20)

There is a logical reason why works will never justify us. A convicted murderer may serve 10, 20 or even 50 years in prison. But because of good behavior, the warden may reduce his sentence. Then soon after completing his sentence, he can try to justify himself, saying that he paid his debt to society. But his crime will still remain on his criminal record that will follow him for the rest of his life. But suppose his sentence is death instead of 50 years? Can the prisoner then hope for a reduced sentence because of good behavior? Never! Even if he should become a model prisoner for a hundred years, the law would still demand his death.

It is the same with us. We have broken God’s law and the sentence is death. And without the shedding of blood there is no remission of sin. (Hebrews 9:22) This is why good works can never justify us from the sentence of death. Only the shed blood of Christ can satisfy the sentence of death on us. (Romans 3:25)

Is the Law still binding?

Now we are brought to the question that has created confusion for multitudes of Christians: If the works of the law cannot save a person, is it therefore necessary to keep the law? Apparently this was a burning issue in the early church, because Paul asked the same question in Romans 6:1: “Shall we continue in sin, that grace may abound?” In other words, does grace give us a license to disobey the law of God? His answer is an unequivocal No! “God forbid! How shall we, that are dead to sin, live any longer therein?” (verse 2 )

Sadly, Christians have invented their own definitions that not only condone lawbreaking, but teach others to do so as well. (Matthew 5:19) The Bible tells us that sin is violating God’s commandments—the law which has been described as irrelevant today by many modern Christians. Don’t be deceived. Every one of God’s spiritual laws and moral precepts are just as timely and needful today as they were when God gave them to Moses, who in turn instructed his people. And nothing has ever happened to make them less binding than they were when God gave them. In fact, if you study the Bible with an open mind, you will discover that Jesus came to bring the full spiritual meaning and intent the law and making it more comprehensive to us. That’s what he meant when he said that he came to fulfill the law. (Matt.5:17)

Countless sincere Christians have been taught and have accepted the idea that the Old Testament was the dispensation of works, but that the New Testament provides for a dispensation of grace. Under this pretzel logic people were saved by works in the Old Testament and by grace in the New Testament. This is simply not true. There is only one way for anybody to be saved—that is by grace through faith. God will not divide people up between those who got saved by works and those who got saved by faith. Those who entered into salvation in the Old Testament were those who trusted the merits of the blood of Jesus Christ, and they looked forward in faith to the atoning death of Jesus. We look back in faith to the same death and are saved in exactly the same way. (See Hebrews 11) The Bible teaches that the entire redeemed host throughout eternity will be singing the same song of deliverance, exalting the Lamb slain from the foundations of the world. (Revelation 5: 11-13)

Did Jesus give us a “new law”?

Some try to ignore God’s commandments on the basis of the “new” commandments of love that they say Jesus introduced. It is certainly true that Jesus laid down two great laws of love as a summary of all the law, but did he give the idea that these were to replace God’s spiritual laws? The fact is that Jesus was quoting directly from the Old Testament when he gave those “new commandments” proves that he had no intention of replacing God’s commandments. “And thou shalt love the Lord thy God with all thine heart, and with all thy soul, and with all thy might.” (Deuteronomy 6:5) And “Thou shalt love thy neighbor as thyself.” (Leviticus 19:18) Jesus was merely pointing out the spiritual principles of God’s laws—Unlike the traditions of man taught by the Pharisees. In fact, most of what the apostle Paul spoke about came directly from the Old Testament  Scriptures.

Jesus told a parable of two sons who were asked to work in their father’s vineyard. He asked the Pharisees which son obeyed. After they answered Jesus said, “I tell you the truth, corrupt tax collectors and prostitutes will get into the Kingdom of God before you do.” (See Mathew 21:28-32)

In 70A.D. the Jew’s Temple was destroyed fulfilling Christ prophecy. (Matthew 24:1-2) The Temple’s sad end slammed the door on the Jew’s sacrificial system. Could it be that God allowed the Romans to destroy His Temple because of  the Jew’s legalistic observance of their traditions and ceremonial-sacrificial laws? Or maybe God just wanted them to realize that He doesn’t live in temples made by human hands. (Acts 7:48) They adjusted, of course, creating new rituals and traditions in their synagogues.

Perhaps that is why God will not destroy the Christian’s houses of worship—Even though they are filled with just as many traditions and ceremonies as was practiced in the Jew’s Temple. Because God knows that we too, would just create new places for our rituals and traditions.

Christians today are no different than the Pharisees when we place traditions above obediance to God’s spiritual laws. Scripture warns against any traditions, customs, precepts, or laws that are in opposition to, or contradictory to God’s commandments. (Deuteronomy 12:31) Customs, rituals, and practices such as Christmas, Easter, or Lent are inventions and traditions of men that Jesus warned against. (Matthew 15:8-9)

We must be cautious of the emptiness of the traditions of men passed down through time—even those from our own forefathers or elders. Because when we place more importance on our traditions than we do on God’s commandments we dishonor God and  turn the grace of Christ into sin. (Jude 1:4)

Remember, there is a thin line between holding onto non-biblical traditions and participating in pagan practices.

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Many of us get more of our theology from greeting cards, TV specials and movies than we do from studying the Bible. And we do ourselves (and God) a great disservice when we follow traditions of men rather than the truth of God’s Word. Take for example, some of the traditions of Christmas:

Most of the customs, lore, symbols, and rituals associated with Christmas are actually linked to the Winter Solstice celebrations of ancient pagan cultures. While Christian beliefs are interwoven with contemporary observances of this holiday time, its pagan nature is still strong and apparent. Simply by giving spiritual focus to existing pagan holiday customs does not change that.

The History of Christmas Carols

Carols were first sung in Europe thousands of years ago, but these were not Christmas Carols. They were pagan songs, sung at the Winter Solstice celebrations as people danced around stone circles. The Winter Solstice is the shortest day of the year, usually taking place around the 22nd of December. The word Carol actually means “dance” or “a song of praise”. But who were these people praising?

When the Puritans came to power in England in 1647, the celebration of Christmas and singing carols was stopped because of its pagan roots. However, the carols survived as people still sang them in secret. Carols remained mainly unsung until Victorian times, when two men named William Sandys and Davis Gilbert collected lots of old Christmas music from villages in England.

Just like today, most carols from this time period are untrue stories, very loosely based on the Christmas story. One carol like this is ‘The First Noel’. Many believe it is based on Luke 2:8-14 when angels announced the birth of Jesus to shepherds watching over their flock near Bethlehem. The song as it is sung today first appeared in William B. Sandys’s 1833 volume, Christmastide: Its History, Festivities And Carols.

Today we sing that the First Noel was sung “to certain poor shepherds.” Sandys’s version had “three poor shepherds.” In a note, Sandys explains: According to some legends, the number [of shepherds] was four, called Misael, Achael, Cyriacus, and Stephanus, and these, with the names of  three Kings, were used as a charm to cure the biting of serpents, and other venomous reptiles and beasts.

Most of us should already know that Christmas almost certainly did not come “on a cold winter’s night”.  Because the shepherds would not have been out in the fields at night during the cold season of December. Also, it seems from Matthew’s Gospel account that no one had paid much attention to the Star of Bethlehem other than the Magi. (Median priests skilled in astronomy and astrology) Not to mention that I doubt that King Herod would be upset because of only three men who made inquiries as to where they could find the one born king of the Jews!

Other Traditions

Today, many adorn their homes with various herbs, pinecones and colors during Christmastime. Many of these have pagan symbolism. You may not know that Druidic holiday colors are red, green, and white.

Pagans who observe the Winter Solstice suggest that:

  • Family members join together to make or purchase an evergreen wreath with holiday herbs in it and then place it on your front door to symbolize the continuity of life and the wheel of the year.
  • It is traditional during the Winter Solstice to place holly, ivy, evergreen boughs, and pine cones around your home, especially in areas where socializing takes place.
  • Hanging a sprig of mistletoe above a major threshold is used as a charm for good luck throughout the year.
  • If you choose to have a living or a harvested evergreen tree as part of your holiday decorations, call it a Solstice tree and decorate it with Pagan symbols.
  • Decorate the inside and/or outside of your home with electric colored lights. Because of the popularity of five pointed stars as holiday symbols, this is a good time to display a pentagram of blue or white lights.

Santa Claus

Today’s Santa is a folk figure with multicultural roots. He embodies characteristics of Saturn (Roman agricultural god), Cronos (Greek god, also known as Father Time), the Holly King (Celtic god of the dying year), Father Ice/Grandfather Frost (Russian winter god), Thor (Norse sky god who rides the sky in a chariot drawn by goats), Odin/Wotan (Scandinavian/Teutonic All-Father who rides the sky on an eight-legged horse), Frey (Norse fertility god), and the Tomte (a Norse Land Spirit known for giving gifts to children at this time of year). Santa’s reindeer can also be viewed as a form of Herne, the Celtic Horned God.

I am not naive enough to think that anyone will stop singing Christmas carols or stop practicing any of their other Christmas traditions. They have been around for thousands of years and will probably continue until Jesus returns. I only pray that more Christians will reevaluate what they do based solely on God’s Word.

I’m sure that many mistakingly believe that everything that they are doing during Christmastime is in honor of Jesus. But what does the birth of Jesus have to do with lighted evergreen trees or pinecones? Or holly and mistletoe? Or Santa Clause and decorated pentagrams?

I remember when George Harrison’s song, “My Sweet Lord” was popular. Even though they removed the lyrics: “Hare Krishna—Krishna Krishna” at the end of the song, many Christians were singing it in churches around the country as a praise song! Without realizing it, many well intentioned Christians were singing praises to Krishna—one of the classic deities of Hinduism!

“Beware lest any man spoil you through philosophy and vain deceit, after the tradition of men, after the rudiments of the world, and not after Christ.” (Colossians 2:8)

References:

•Campanelli, Pauline & Dan, Wheel of the Year: Living the Magical Life. St. Paul: LLewellyn, 1989, pages 1-16.

•Crim, Keith, editor, The Perennial Dictionary of World Religions. San Francisco: Harper & Row, 1989, pages 154, 182.

•Ek, Hildur, Jul Tomtar, Jul Bockar and Sheaves of Grain. Lindsborg, KS: Barbos Printing, 1983.

•Farrar, Janet & Stewart, Eight Sabbats for Witches. London: Hale, 1981, chapter 11.

•Funk & Wagnalls, Standard Dictionary of Folklore, Mythology and Legend. New York: Funk & Wagnalls, 1979, pages 229-230, 974-975,

•Royale, Duncan, History of Santa: from 2000 BC to the 20th Century. Fullerton, CA: M. E. Duncan, 1987.

•Scullard, H. H., Festivals and Ceremonies of the Roman Republic. Ithaca, NY: Cornell University Press, 1981. pages 205-212.

In September, Pope Francis fired a Paraguayan bishop accused of sheltering a pedophile. Francis said his decision to fire the bishop was incredibly difficult. However, it was necessary for “the greater good of preserving the unity of the local church.” Pope Francis’ decision to fire the bishop underlines his “zero tolerance” approach to sexual abuse in the Catholic Church.

Pope Francis followed up on his zero tolerance as he launched a blistering attack on the Vatican bureaucracy Monday, outlining a “catalog of illnesses” plaguing the church’s central administration, including a “narcissistic pathology of power, existential schizophrenia.” The pope also denounced the lust for power of ladder-climbing clerics—those who indulge in hypocritical double lives, and lamented a sense of “spiritual Alzheimer’s” that leads clerics to forget the joy that is supposed to animate their lives. He was especially critical of cliques that enslave their members and become a cancer that threatens the harmony of the body, eventually leading to “death by friendly fire.”

Many would argue that the same could be said about our own political leaders. But remember, we’re the ones who voted them into office. Are our own religious leaders guilty of the pope’s accusations? And what about us? Are we also suffering from spiritual Alzheimer’s?

2 Peter 1:5-9 tells us to, “Make every effort to add to your faith goodness; and to goodness, knowledge; and to knowledge, self-control; and to self-control, perseverance; and to perseverance, godliness; and to godliness, mutual affection; and to mutual affection, love. For if you possess these qualities in increasing measure, they will keep you from being ineffective and unproductive in your knowledge of our Lord Jesus Christ. But whoever does not have them is nearsighted and blind, forgetting that they have been cleansed from their past sins.

We are told that the Christmas season is a time for faith, goodness, joy and godliness—that “Jesus is the reason for the season.” And yet, our lives are plagued with greed, jealousy, hate, violence and discord—just the opposite of what Peter tells us we should possess as Christians! Have we forgotten that as Christians we possess all of the godly qualities that Peter speaks of?

James chapter 4 gives us the reason AND the solution for all of the hate that is plaguing our communities. The reason: “What causes fights and quarrels among you? Don’t they come from your desires that battle within you? You desire but do not have, so you kill. You covet but you cannot get what you want, so you quarrel and fight. You do not have because you do not ask God. When you ask, you do not receive, because you ask with wrong motives, that you may spend what you get on your pleasures.”

The solution: “Come near to God and he will come near to you. Wash your hands, you sinners, and purify your hearts, you double-minded. Grieve, mourn and wail. Change your laughter to mourning and your joy to gloom. Humble yourselves before the Lord, and he will lift you up.”

Pope Francis suggested that his prelates examine and improve themselves. Should we not do the same?

If ever there was a time to pray for revival in the Church, it is now! May this Christmas season fill us all with a resolute spirit to seek God and His righteousness and love for our fellow human beings.

My heavenly father, I am crying—crying for the hurting—crying for the haters. I am crying from seeing people killing one another. Please hear my prayer! Help us stop all the hate on earth! Please give us peace again. Please look at these people killing and being killed and show them your mercy! Let us return to the God of our fathers, Abraham, Isaac and Jacob. Please hear my prayer and do what you think is good. Amen.

 

Most parents know that lying to our kids is not a good idea — it’s not respectful or kind, and is likely to cause our children to mistrust us in the future. And that mistrust could possibly carry over into their adulthood.

However, what about Santa, the Easter Bunny, and the Tooth Fairy? Is it okay to tell our children that Santa Claus is real? Or is this just another innocent “white lie” that we all tell our kids so we can watch their faces light up with joy on Christmas morning?

Some believe that the “Santa-Hoax” is a dangerous path that can psychologically affect our children’s capacity to trust adults when they eventually find out the truth. But I believe that it all depends on the child’s emotional make up. I think some kids don’t completely buy the Santa story, but others might feel betrayed when they find out that it had all been an elaborate lie concocted by their own parents.

Some parents go a bit overboard on the Santa hoax — actively doing things to make it look like Santa had visited or telling stories of hearing noises on the roof or just missing seeing him.

On the flip side, some parents, (thinking they’re being honest and progressive) go too far and end up killing all the joy Christmas. However, there are gentler approaches besides outright lying to children about Santa and exposing the whole thing as a cruel hoax—as long as these approaches are motivated by joy, love and respect.

I explained to my children when they were very young that Santa wasn’t a real person but that he represented the “spirit of Christmas” that so many people enjoy. But I also taught them to respect those who believed in a “real Santa” and that we should let their parents explain it to them.

I remember the next year while me and my son were in a convenient store a woman looked down at my son and said, “Is Santa coming to your house?” My son looked up at the woman and in his matter-of-fact voice answered, “No.” Stunned at his answer the woman said, “Haven’t you been a good boy this year?” “Yes.” He replied. “Well then Santa’s coming to your house!” The woman exclaimed. My son then looked at me strange and whispered, “Dad, no one’s told her yet!”

Talking to our kids about the “Santa Game” can be great fun—just like we might talk about fictional characters such as Iron Man, or Sleeping Beauty. But going out of our way to try to make our kids really believe that there’s a man who rides around in a flying sleigh and lives at the North Pole with his wife and elves, just isn’t necessary. Our children are naturally able to enjoy the wonder of make-believe without our fabrications. It’s possible to really get into the whole Christmas spirit as much as our children do by just following their lead.

Remember, Jesus said, “Truly I tell you, unless you change and become like little children, you will never enter the kingdom of heaven.” (Matthew 18:3)

May your holidays be filled with the joy and wonder of a child.

Ahh, Christmas time has come to us again! That time of year when joy fills the hearts of people everywhere. When we find people bustling through department stores and shopping malls to purchase that perfect gift for those they love—that one time of the year when we have peace on earth and good will toward all men. Right? Really? Ask any homeless person if they feel there is good will toward all men.

Homeless people are not respected by and large. Many of them will receive a Christmas dinner at a shelter and a few stocking-stuffers, and then it’s back on the street. The number one thing that they need and often deserve, even if you don’t know them, is respect. Respect them as a human being and fellow traveler on this journey we call life.

Living on the street is not like camping. You must be consistently on the move, and ready to get up and leave when you are asked to do so. If you are on the street, it is usually because circumstances beyond your control have forced you into that position in life. Living on the street, life is far harder than you could ever possibly imagine if you have never been there. Homeless people have needs like everyone else in this world. Their needs are usually very basic and to give of your time just to talk to them sometimes can really help. But if they don’t want to talk to you, respectfully back away. Otherwise, listen to what they have to say even if it makes absolutely no sense to you. It doesn’t have to. They are talking because they are alone and feel that they are without hope. And being without hope will eventually kill you.

There are many things that people on the streets will need to survive. For the homeless to lack some of these items could well lead to their death. To survive, they need things—small things. Like soap, shaving gear, postage stamps, pencils, and paper. Even having a good book will help to alleviate the burdens they carry around mentally every day.

The list above is good, but it does not cover the whole issue of how they will get money. Money is the key ingredient that everyone needs, but many will abuse it. If you really want to help a homeless person, give them a job if you can do so. There are many carpenters, electricians, and factory workers that are now homeless. Please do NOT discriminate against them; because everyone else is already doing that.

So during this Christmas season of giving, if you have anything that you can give, do so. Some people will argue that this only encourages them to stay on the street. It’s true that it will encourage a few of them to remain where they are, but there are those out there who, by simply giving them a bottle of water, a hot meal, or simply a smile and a kind word, will possibly save their life.

Some simple gifts that most of us can give:
• Instead of giving them money directly, go out and purchase Subway gift cards, and the like. Think about this, Subway and many of the sandwich places are selling subs for fewer than five dollars! By giving a homeless person a gift card for 10 or 20 dollars you may well give them food for three to four days! A lot of homeless eat very little and their stomachs are no longer as strong as they used to be. Sandwiches, especially from healthy places like subway, provide a great deal of nutrition that they desperately need.
• Do not give a homeless person greasy food! You know what that does to you and what ends up in the toilet? Try eating that and not having the opportunity to use a bathroom!
• One of the greatest problems that the homeless have right now is the need to bathe and finding a place where they can do that at. Most locations will force them from the property because of health risks, but most homeless people know where they can go to clean up. If you want to help, give them small bottles of antibacterial liquid soap. (Bar soap is harder to store and they may be allergic to some types of scented hand soap)
• An inexpensive sturdy back pack can prove to be invaluable to a homeless person. They can use it to safely store all of their items while still being able to remain mobile.
• You can usually find inexpensive seasonally appropriate clothing at a local thrift store to give to the homeless—Coats and accessories such as mittens and stocking hats in the winter and shorts and flip flops for the summer.
• The reason that you see homeless people carrying around cardboard is that the cardboard provides a layer of protection between them and the cold concrete they often sleep on. A Yoga pad that can be rolled up would help considerably. (And they’re not as unattractive as a rolled up piece of cardboard)
• Blankets are important too. Even when it’s warm during the day, weather can turn cold at night and a person should stay covered when they sleep.
• There are many things that can be done, if we simply think of the homeless as our fellow human beings and give them the respect that all humans deserve.

Don’t leave taking care of the homeless just up to the shelters. Remember what Jesus said: “Whatever you did for one of the least of these brothers and sisters of mine, you did for me.” (See Matthew 25:31-46)

 

“Now the people of Sodom were wicked and were sinning greatly against the LORD.”
(Genesis 13:13)

What was the sin of Sodom that was so great and outrageous in the eyes of God? What was the sin that so angered him, so outraged him, that he annihilated the city with fire and brimstone? Many think it was the sin of homosexuality and point to the account of the destruction of Sodom and Gomorrah found in Genesis chapters 18-19. Although Sodom is mentioned many times in both Old and New Testaments and is synonymous with great and outrageous wickedness, the truth is that Sodom’s greatest sins were pride, gluttony, and laziness, while the poor and needy suffered outside her door. (Ezekiel 16:49)

Just like Sodom, America has lost her way. She no longer knows right from wrong. She has turned away from the way of truth and light found in the Bible and followed in the way of lust, wickedness, immorality and evil. She has lost contact with Biblical moral standards – that set of attitudes, outlooks and values that the Bible represents. She has rejected God and followed his great adversary, the Devil, who is the master of illusion and deception. She has lost her faith in God and instead put her faith and confidence in the god of this world.

People have exchanged the truth of God for the false ideas, dogmas, religious traditions, doctrines of men and secular humanism. Spiritual darkness has descended on the land. The evidence is everywhere. There can be no better or more convincing evidence of this than the way the country has condoned and embraced that great sin of pride, gluttony, and laziness, while the poor and needy suffer on our streets.

The fact that we now live in a country in which so many people view themselves as Christians and yet condone and accept behavior that is so radically at odds with the outlooks and attitudes of the Bible shows the extent to which even Christianity has become twisted, contorted, corrupted and perverted in this land.

A person is not a Christian just because he/or she calls themselves a Christian or because they are a member of some church or denomination, or because they recited some robotic prayer to accept Jesus as Lord and Savior. Just believing in God doesn’t make one a Christian either. Even the demons believe this, and they tremble in terror! (James 2:19)

Christianity is about substance. It’s about what and who you really are inside. It’s about a faith and love in God that is accompanied by serious godly, upright living. It’s about an attitude and commitment of the heart–a commitment that results in virtuous, good, moral living. It’s a mind-set, a way of thinking, a philosophy, a set of outlooks, attitudes and values based on God’s Word. It’s a lifestyle against sin and a lifestyle of goodness and virtue.

The Christmas season is supposed to be about celebrating the birth of Jesus. But more than any other time of the year you will find people rushing through retail stores pushing, shoving and fighting over trinkets that will be broken or discarded within a year–while others are praying for a warm meal and a safe place for their children to sleep. A person who considers himself a Christian and sees nothing wrong with this gross depravity is deceived.

As C.S. Lewis puts it in his short essay ‘The Weight of Glory’: “It would seem that Our Lord finds our desires not too strong, but too weak. We are half-hearted creatures, fooling about with drink and sex and ambition when infinite joy is offered us, like an ignorant child who wants to go on making mud pies in a slum because he cannot imagine what is meant by the offer of a holiday at the sea. We are far too easily pleased.”

The world is hungry, lonely and hurting. It needs to know the loving, accepting God of the Bible–not the haughty, uncaring and judgmental God that we have shown the world for too long.

So instead of ignoring the poor as you mindlessly drop a few coins into the Salvation Army bucket on your way out of the store, maybe you could buy a few extra things. Take them home and wrap them up to give to a few homeless people in your city. You see, sometimes God doesn’t just want our money. Sometimes he wants us to be Jesus to someone who is hungry, lonely and hurting.

Here is what God has said regarding the poor:

“Whoever oppresses the poor shows contempt for their Maker, but whoever is kind to the needy honors God.” (Proverbs 14:31)

“Whoever is kind to the poor lends to the LORD, and he will reward them for what they have done.” (Proverbs 19:17)

 

 

“This is the message we have heard from him and declare to you: God is light; in him there is no darkness at all. If we claim to have fellowship with him and yet walk in the darkness, we lie and do not live out the truth. But if we walk in the light, as he is in the light, we have fellowship with one another, and the blood of Jesus, his Son, purifies us from all sin.” (I John 1:5-7)

Many of us know the romanticized version of the Christmas story: Jesus was born in a manger in Bethlehem to humble parents, where three wise men came bearing precious gifts and worshipped the baby Jesus. Unfortunately, most of our beliefs concerning the birth of the Messiah come from greeting cards and TV holiday specials. It’s what I call: ‘Greeting Card Theology’. Although this may make for good television, Scripture gives us a much greater version. It also gives us a better understanding of what it means to be a family.

The circumstances surrounding the birth of Jesus were controversial to say the least. Mary and Joseph were betrothed when Mary told Joseph she was pregnant. The meaning of being ‘betrothed’ is foreign in our modern culture. Being betrothed was a much stronger commitment than a simple engagement. It was one that required a writ of divorce to break.

It was during their betrothal when Mary went to Joseph and told him that she was pregnant.  I can imagine this caused Joseph to have moments of doubt and embarrassment, since he was not sexually active with Mary. We’re told that Joseph thought about leaving her, but after God spoke to him in a dream, he chose to believe Mary. I’m sure that Joseph’s friends questioned his decision to stay with his pregnant fiancée. Yet he stood by her. Joseph fought through a battle of scorn and ridicule but believed in God. He believed the child Mary carried was God’s son and accepted God’s call for him to care for both Mary and Jesus.

Can you imagine what it was like when this family sat down at the dinner table? The kids sitting around that table may have known that Jesus didn’t have the same mom and dad as them. Joseph sat at that table knowing that he was not Jesus’ biological father. Even so, I believe that Joseph thought of Jesus as much a part of his family as his biological children. This shows us that fatherhood is much more than simply fathering a child. It involves setting a godly example for our children and blessing them just as our Heavenly Father has blessed us.

I could go on about how Scripture proves that Jesus was not born in winter, and that the wise men (many more than three) did not find Jesus as a newborn baby in the manger. But that would not change your traditions of Christmas Trees, singing carols, or exchanging gifts.

The Gospel of John Chapter 10 is often referred to as the Good Shepherd Scripture. However, right in the middle of this chapter in verses 22 and 23 the writer notes: “Then came the Feast of Dedication (Chanukah) at Jerusalem. It was winter, and Jesus was in the temple area walking in Solomon’s Colonnade.”

My wife and I have a blended family of yours, mine, and ours. I tend to follow the Jewish traditions of Chanukah, while my wife and our children still enjoy the Christmas traditions. So we decided to combine the two and celebrate what we call: “Chanumas”.

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On the first night of “Chanumas” we invite our grandchildren over and I recite the story of the Maccabees and the story of the first Chanukah. Before lighting the first candle on the Chanukah menorah I recite the blessing:  “Blessed are You, Lord our God, King of the universe, who has kept us alive, sustained us, and brought us to this season. We kindle these lights for the miracles and wonders, for the redemption you performed, and for the battles which you won for our forefathers in those days at this season. During all eight days of Chanukah these lights are sacred and we are not to make ordinary use of them, but only to look at them in order to remember and give thanks and praise to your great name – for your miracles, your wonders, and your salvation you made available to us through your son, Yeshua Ha ’Mashiach.”

After lighting the Chanukah menorah, we enjoy sitting in the glow, recalling the miracles of yesterday and today. Afterward, we enjoy watching the grandchildren open their “Chanumas” gifts and listening to the shrieks of joy as they play Dreidel for chocolate coins, called gelt.  SAM_1393

“Chanumas” does not follow Jewish or Christian tradition. “Chanumas”  is not about Scriptural  correctness. It’s about family. It’s about who I am as a father. Often, we form our impression of who God is by who our earthly father was. But that impression could be just as misleading as our ‘Greeting Card Theology’. Some of us may have had great dads; but some of us not so great. And some of us may have had horrible dads that caused us to have a negative impression about God. But that can be repaired. Some of you may have never received an encouraging word from your father. You may have known only criticism and even molestation. God can heal that too. Malachi 4:6 says, speaking of the Lord, “…And He will turn the hearts of the fathers to the children, and the hearts of the children to their fathers…”  The heart of the Christmas season is not about when Jesus was born but that he came to earth to die for our sins. While he was in our midst he touched us with healing; he spoke words of encouragement and affirmation over those who hadn’t heard them. People like Matthew the tax collector, the man who was born blind, the Samaritan woman who’d been married five times, the emotionally unstable Peter, and the woman who was caught in adultery.

Somehow I think that Joseph, whose wife became pregnant before they were married, may have had some influence on the young Jesus and was the vehicle that God used to help bring His blessing to the world. Now, God wants us to be vehicles of blessing through touch and through words. Like Joseph, God might be calling you to an untraditional path of Fatherhood. Maybe you and your spouse have created a blended family like ours. Our idea of how we want life to go is not always God’s plan for our life. God’s plan is purposeful and perfect.

During this Christmas season I encourage you to be the father your children need you to be, whether biological or other. Use Joseph as your example. God has called you to care for your family. And fulfilling this calling is the highest of all achievements.

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