What the Bible says about Christmas…
The Greatest Gift
Origin of Christmas Customs – Rev. William Mark Bristow
Keeping Christ in Christmas – Larry Burkett
A Simple Christmas – Book Review
Christmas Giving – Walter E. Isenhour
Unholy Christmas Traditions – Betty Miller
God is a giver, not a taker. Throughout Scripture, we find evidence of His great generosity towards His creation. From the beginning of time as we know it, when He called forth Creation — when He gave existence to things that had never before existed — we can see the true heart of God. He literally gave of Himself to make each one of us. “The Lord God formed man from the dust of the ground and breathed into his nostrils the breath of life, and man became a living being” (Genesis 2:7).
The very nature of God is to give, to create, and to bless His creation. Unfortunately, many of us are so self-absorbed and greedy for gain that we do not even have the eyes to see the countless gifts that God has already worked into our lives. Yet, God wants us to be givers too. He created us to be like Him – to pour of ourselves into other people, and to reciprocate His love for us. God created us with the power to be able to give back to Him! When I really stop and think about this, it truly amazes me – that God – the sum of ALL good things, who holds ALL power and authority, would humble Himself in this way.
He didn’t make himself entirely independent of His creation, or set Himself up as a mere casual observer of humankind, though He certainly had the power to do so. Instead, He allowed Himself to love us to the point where our returned love would be a blessing to Him. Each one of us, little and insignificant as we are, has been given the profound gift of the ability to bring joy to the heart of God. It is extremely humbling to me, when I stop and consider that God has thus set the laws of His creation into motion. That the One who is Love personified, would actually be blessed by the love that I could offer Him. This is the greatest gift of all, and it is given to every human being who has ever lived or will live–the ability to give of ourselves to God and to each other. Without this gift, life would be very empty indeed.
In the mad rush of the holiday season, the true meaning of giving is often forgotten. What is meant to be a time of blessing and joy becomes instead, a time of stress and depression. Recently, as I was praying for the church and the nations of the world, a great sorrow began to rise up inside of me. God has placed so many gifts within His church. Each member of the Body of Christ has been given strategic giftings and a unique place that none other can fulfill in quite the same way. Yet, so many are not moving into their rightful place. They are afraid to use their gifts, or they think their gifts are insignificant. Many are secretly hurt and angry at God because they feel they haven’t been given anything remarkable. They mistake God’s anointing and talent in certain individuals as a sign of God’s approval of those people, and they assume their “lack” is a sign that God doesn’t love them as much as He loves others…that God is somehow “prouder” of other people than He is of them. Because of this fear and resentment, they are crippled in taking their proper place in God’s kingdom, falling short of the gift they were created to be.
Others are busily using their gifts, and by their own efforts are successful in the eyes of the world. Maybe they have a thriving ministry. Maybe they are making good money. Maybe they have the respect and admiration of those around them. This doesn’t necessarily mean, however, that their actions are a blessing to the heart of God, or that they are even obeying what God has told them to do. Ecclesiastes 4:4 says, “And I saw that all labor and all achievement spring from man’s envy of his neighbor. This too is meaningless, a chasing after the wind.” Many are so busy creating their own kingdoms, that the kingdom of God suffers a great lack. Their pride and busy occupations have blocked the measure of their true worth in God’s kingdom.
Who will fill these missing places in the body of Christ? Even now as we go about our daily lives, all creation groans in frustration, waiting for the sons of God to be revealed (Romans 8:19-22). There is so much work to be done, and so few who are willing to do it. John 4:35-36 says, “…. I tell you, open your eyes and look at the fields! They are ripe for harvest. Even now the reaper draws his wages, even now he harvests the crop for eternal life, so that the sower and the reaper may be glad together.” God intends both the sower and the reaper to share the same joy of the harvest. There should be no competition among God’s faithful servants, no jostling each other for the “prime” positions, no envy or personal ambition. If we truly love the Lord, our only goal should be to bless Him, to serve Him, and to advance His kingdom.
As I was praying, I saw a vision of the Lord, manifested in the person of someone I love very much. In the vision, I saw this person laying in bed, exhausted after a hard day’s work. The Lord said to me “What do you think she would like right now? How could you bless her?” I could instantly see that a cup of hot tea and a home-cooked meal would be just as much, if not more of a blessing to her than whatever big, distant work I could conjure up to show her my love. Immediately, I could see what God was trying to show me. We are created like Him. If we appreciate a “small” gift given in love more than the fanfare of a “big” gift given in insincerity, how much more does God?
As the vision continued, I could see Jesus sitting alone by a road with people running up and down it. They were all very busy. Some were stopping and chatting with Him for a moment here and there, but as I overheard their conversations, they were mostly to inform Jesus of what they wanted from Him, or what they were going to do for Him. One man in particular ran up to him. “Oh, Jesus, I’m so excited,” he cried. “I’m off to tell the world all about you!” Quickly he ran off before Jesus could say anything at all. My heart broke, as I saw Him there, sitting by Himself. Yes, He wanted to bless those people with things beyond their wildest imagination. Yes, He wanted them to find fulfillment in serving Him. But what He really wanted most of all was for those people to come and sit with Him and talk awhile…to hold His hand and look deep into His eyes…to share their dreams and sorrows, and to hear His joys and sorrows…to let Him simply give His love to them. In all their mad rush to give and get, they missed the greatest treasure of all, sitting right in front of them.
So much of what we do for God is with mixed motives for our own personal fulfillment. We all want to have a purpose and reason for living. We all hope that if we were to die tomorrow, we would leave a legacy of some kind behind us. Yet for most of us, this becomes the end to which we live. Sadly, when we make anything other than God our reason for living, that thing will become an idol in our lives. Even if it is a good thing, like a ministry or a mate, it can still never fulfill us because it wasn’t designed to. It simply can’t! It doesn’t even have the ability to fulfill. In fact, those idols will begin to work against us, and cause us suffer spiritual barrenness. They will put us on a treadmill until we become broken-hearted and exhausted trying to keep it all alive. On the other hand, if we receive them simply as the gifts they are and continue to love God first in our lives, we will be given the ability to enjoy them, for this too is a gift. Ecclesiastes. 3:13 says, “That everyone may…find satisfaction in all his toil–this is the gift of God.” The key is simply to “seek first his kingdom and his righteousness and all these other things will be given to you as well” (Matthew 6:33).
When all is said and done, only those things which were done “as unto the Lord” will count for anything. In God’s eyes, there are no “big” or “small” things done for His Kingdom. All He asks of us is to obey Him in what He tells us to do. Let us follow through and obey Him, whether His commands seem great or small. After all, it is Jesus we are talking about here! The One who left His home in glory to bleed and die a humiliating, painful for each one of us. The One who made himself vulnerable to us, by giving us the ability to bless him or hurt him. As we obey Him, we bring such joy to His heart! Then His joy, which is a strength to the spirit of man, becomes our joy as well. God is not impressed, nor is He blessed by the best of our works done in self. He is only impressed by the attitude of our hearts.
As we look around the world this holiday season, let us stop and consider Who’s birthday we are celebrating. Let us not forget to offer sincere thanks to our precious, precious Lord for His many blessings in our lives. And let us show our thankfulness by our actions! Let us offer the same mercy that God has given us to those around us. Let us press deeper into the heart of God, that we may have something to offer this world besides the same old cycle of greed, pride and rebellion. Let us not be ashamed to become the servant of all, showing our love for God by laying down our rights, our plans, our time and money for the sake of others. Let us demonstrate our love to God by giving Him the very things we are afraid to lay down, trusting that He has the best plan for our lives and would never use or abuse us. Let us truly fulfill the greatest commandment, which is to “Love the Lord our God with all our mind, soul, and strength; and to love our neighbor as ourself” (Luke 10:27). Each of us is destined to make a profound difference in the world. Let us not fall short of our destinies! Let us give the greatest Christmas gift that we have been afforded to give; one that we can give year-round – to bless the heart of God!
If you do not know God the way you want to, you can receive the gift of knowing Him right now. Simply pray to Him from your heart and ask him to forgive you for your sins and turning your back on Him. Romans 10:9: “If you confess with your mouth that Jesus is Lord and believe in your heart that God raised him from the you shall be saved.” Ask Him to come into your life and make you a new person, born of His spirit. You can give to Him a gift He considers more dear than anything else in the world – yourself. In return, you will receive eternal life with Him, which begins the moment you are born again. May God bless each of you richly as you seek to give unto Him your all.
If you just prayed to ask God into your heart, or you would like to know more about becoming a Christian, please visit the link on becoming born again.
By Pastor William Mark Bristow
Origin of St. Nicholas
Every year Christians ask me, “Should I celebrate with all the traditional customs of Christmas? They all seem so materialistic. Aren’t some of these customs really pagan?” So every year, I endeavor to bring out a few facts from our Christian heritage. Let’s start with the real shocker – There really was a Santa Claus (however, he is not the one that people know today). The real Santa Claus was a PREACHER!! Yes Sir! His name was St. Nicholas and he lived and worked as the Bishop of a little town of Myra, (now in the country of Turkey). Tradition says he was born in Patara, a seaport, and traveled to Egypt and Palestine as a young man. Eventually he became bishop of the church at Myra. During the period of persecution of Christians by Emperor Diocletian, he was imprisoned, but he was released by Diocletian’s successor, Constantine the Great.
By the 6th century his burial shrine was well known at Myra. In 1087 his remains were moved to Bari, Italy, which became a crowded pilgrimage center in his honor. Devotion to him spread throughout the Christian world, and he was chosen patron saint of Russia and Greece. Thousands of churches throughout Europe have been named for him. His feast day was set on December 6. He was credited with many miracles. In one story he saved three officers from by appearing to Constantine in a dream. In another legend he provided bags of gold to a poor man as dowries for his three daughters.¹ When he died on December 6 in the year 345, he was revered for his generosity and kindness. It became the custom to give gifts to loved ones on his saint’s day, the date of his birth. Later Christians adopted St. Nicholas for Christmas day, which commemorates the date God gave the greatest gift of all, Christ Jesus for the redemption of the world.
Origin of the Modern Day Santa Claus
Santa Claus is probably a Dutch mispronunciation of Sinter Klaus (Saint Nicholas). Kriss Kringle is probably an English mispronunciation of the German, “Christkindlein” (little Christ child). In 1822, Santa received a drastic makeover through the poem penned by a pastor. Rev. Clement C. Moore felt his church’s poor offerings were going to make a very dismal Christmas for his children. The weather was bleak and everyone needed some cheering. Rev. Moore held down a secular job to help meet expenses. He had been thinking of Saint Nicholas, from all accounts a very serious and austere man in appearance. A story began to form in Rev. Moore’s mind, his children would love a good story. What about a visit from Saint Nicholas? He looked over at the portly German fellow who drove the sleigh on their way home from work. A new vision of St. Nick began to take shape – the horse drawn sleigh … NO! … flying reindeer. Well, you know the poem by its first line, ‘Twas the Night Before Christmas. The poem was intended for his children’s ears, only, but after great insistence it was read to his congregation. A parishioner published the poem a few years later in a Troy, New York newspaper. In the 1950′s Coca Cola needed a spokesman for their soda at Christmas time. Someone drew an artist’s rendering of Rev. Moore’s St. Nick and Coca Cola made the jolly ol’ elf famous as we have him today.
How We Came To Celebrate On December 25th
Another question is always asked, “Why December 25th? We know Jesus was probably born sometime between April and November – after all the scripture says that shepherds were watching their flocks in the fields?” Recently, I was seated at a table with hosts of a major television program. The question of the date of Christ’s birth arose and I was told in no uncertain terms that Jesus was born on the 15th of Tishri (Sept/Oct) which is the feast of Tabernacles, or Hebrew “cukkah”, (pronounced ‘sook-kaw’). Although this is a real possibility — I must tell you after hours of searching Matthew Henry, Halley’s Bible Dictionary, Compton’s Encyclopedia, The American Book of Days, the 12 Volume Interpreter’s Bible, Holman’s Bible Dictionary, Revell Bible Dictionary and volumes on Christian Sites on the World Wide Web, all definitely state, “we do not know when Jesus was born, or even what year.” (Although he had to be born sometime between 4 and 8 BC due to Herod’s reign and which is known from archaeological records.) While it is accepted that Jesus was born in the small town of Bethlehem a few miles south of Jerusalem, there is no certain information on the date of his birth, not even of the year (see Jesus Christ). One reason for this uncertainty is that the stories of his birth, recorded in the New Testament books of Matthew and Luke, were written several decades after the event. And for several centuries the Christian church itself paid little attention to the celebration of Jesus’ birth. The major Christian festival was Easter, the day of his resurrection. Only gradually, as the church developed a calendar to commemorate the major events of the life of Christ, did it celebrate his birth.¹
Till about the year 250-300 there was little celebration of Christ’s birth, other than a solemn memory. His and resurrection were all important to new Christianity. As the church spread around the world, it encountered the Roman/European festival of the Winter Solstice. This was a day of great festivity in the pagan world. Because there was no knowledge about the date of Jesus’ birth, a day had to be selected. The Eastern Orthodox and the Eastern Rite churches within the Roman Catholic church chose January 6. The day was named Epiphany, meaning “appearance,” the day of Christ’s manifestation. The Western church, based at Rome, chose December 25. It is known from a notice in an ancient Roman almanac that Christmas was celebrated on December 25 in Rome as early as AD 336. In about 547 A.D. St. Augustine was sent by Pope Gregory the Great as the first official missionary to England. He followed an edict from the Pope, “If the religious customs of the people are not evil in origin, they should be blended into Christianity.” (This is scriptural read Acts 15:19-20). The early church had a real problem with this all important festival of the SUN God. The church in the Holy Land had begun to observe January 6th at the birth of our Lord. The Austrian church observed May 20th. Still other parts of the church observed March 25th.
In 625 A.D. central leaders of the church decided since people were going to celebrate the re-birth of the SUN on December 25th – the church would really celebrate – the most important birth, the birth of the SON of God. It took a little time but Christianity prevailed. Although two customs, the Yule long, and kissing under the mistletoe still remain from the pagan days, most every other custom we have today comes from Christ’s birthday.
Celebrating and Gift Giving
The word “CHRISTMAS” comes from the Old English term Cristes maesse, meaning “Christ’s mass.” This was the name for the festival service of worship held on December 25 to commemorate the birth of Jesus Christ. Gift giving is one of the oldest customs associated with Christmas: it is actually older than the holiday itself. When the date of Christmas was set to fall in December, it was done at least in part to compete with ancient pagan festivals that occurred about the same time. The Romans, for example, celebrated the Saturnalia on December 17. It was a winter feast of merrymaking and gift exchanging. And two weeks later, on the Roman New Year January 1, houses were decorated with greenery and lights, and gifts were given to children and the poor. As the Germanic tribes of Europe accepted Christianity and began to celebrate Christmas, they also gave gifts.¹
Should We Celebrate With the Christmas Tree?
Much confusion has concerned the beautiful Christmas tree. Jeremiah 10:2-4 (NRSV): “Thus says the LORD: Do not learn the way of the nations, or be dismayed at the signs of the heavens; for the nations are dismayed at them. For the customs of the peoples are false: a tree from the forest is cut down, and worked with an ax by the hands of an artisan; people deck it with silver and gold; they fasten it with hammer and nails so that it cannot move.” This scripture certainly sounds like a description of the Christmas tree. Many use this scripture to teach against a Christmas tree and the customs in the celebration of Christmas. But, is that really what the passage speaks of? Let’s read on.
Their idols are like scarecrows in a cucumber field, and they cannot speak; they have to be carried, for they cannot walk. Do not be afraid of them, for they cannot do evil, nor is it in them to do good. There is none like you, O LORD; you are great, and your name is great in might. Who would not fear you, O King of the nations? For that is your due; among all the wise ones of the nations and in all their kingdoms there is no one like you. They are both stupid and foolish; the instruction given by idols is no better than wood! Beaten silver is brought from Tarshish, and gold from Uphaz. They are the work of the artisan and of the hands of the goldsmith; their clothing is blue and purple; they are all the product of skilled workers. But the LORD is the true God, he is the living God, and an everlasting king. At his wrath the earthquakes, and the nations cannot endure his indignation. Jeremiah 10:5-10 (NRSV)
Custom of Decorating the Christmas Tree
Verse 5 has the key – this is speaking of hewing down a tree and carving an idol to be gilded or silvered, and placed as a “god” for worship. This has nothing to do with a Christmas tree as you and I know it. The nations around Israel had some terrible idol “gods” whom they worshipped. The custom of decorating a tree comes directly from the Great Reformer Himself, Martin Luther and from a German Play about Adam and Eve in Paradise. One Christmas eve, Martin Luther was out in the field and the beauty of the stars shining through the snow covered limbs of the tree overwhelmed him with the beauty of God’s creation. He had to show his children. Rather than risk their health in the snow, he cut down the tree and carried it home. Candles replaced the stars, and thus the Christmas tree began. There was also a very popular play in the German church about Adam and Eve. The paradise tree was a central theme of the play. It was adorned with fruit — all representing the things they were allowed in the garden. After Martin Luther’s example, many families adorned a paradise tree with fruit, or even gilded fruit (our glass balls) as gifts to their children, and to teach them of the provision and goodness of God who gave the best gift. Later Prince Charles carried a tree home to Buckingham Palace where Queen Victoria decked it for Royalty. Society news spread all over the world, and the decorated tree immediately became the symbol of the gifts God had given, and, the evergreen tree, the symbol of everlasting life.
There is a legend that Holly was originally a thorny vine, and was originally used as the cruel crown of thorns for our Lord. The berries being originally white, when they became stained with His blood, they turned forever red, and the plant withdrew its vicious thorns for the spiny leaves. The plant was probably originally called “HOLY” not Holly. Whether true or legend only, the early French and English hung a piece over the door of a house where Christ was celebrated. Holly, with its curly leaves and red berries, came into holiday use because it reminded people of the crown of thorns worn by Jesus on the way to his crucifixion, the berries symbolizing droplets of blood.1
Lights, Food and Bells
Our burning of lights (previously candles) is a symbol that Christ is the light of the world.The rich foods and deserts come from the precious gifts the Magi brought to Christ. Mincemeat pie is the real symbolic food of Christmas. It is full of spices and fruits (and yes, if made correctly) meat! (A luxury in the days of no refrigerators). It was baked as a symbol of the gifts, spices, and treasures of the Wise Men from the east. Originally churches rang (or tolled) their bells when someone died. Churches in medieval times tolled their bells to tell the devil his time was short, because Jesus was born.
Christmas Carols bear a remarkable origin. In 1223 St. Francis of Assisi decided the regular celebration of Christ’s Mass was in a rut. So, he had an entire manger scene built in his church in Italy, replete with hay, actors, and animals. He thought the singing was also in a rut. So he took a couple of secular, pagan, songs and wrote words telling the story of the birth of Christ. The church elders said he was crazy. The people said he was a saint. The most loved hymn of all time has an interesting history, and, of course, is a Christmas carol. On Christmas Eve 1818, Joseph Mohr, assistant pastor of the church of Saint Nicholas asked the organist Franz Gruber to put music to a poem he had written for the midnight celebration of mass. Franz went to the organ and found that rats had eaten holes in the bellows. Thinking quickly, he took out his guitar and played the only song he knew well on the guitar – an old bar song – a beer-drinking pub song! The poem fit perfectly (and surely everyone would know the music?!) Silent Night. Holy Night. All is calm. All is bright. Roun’ yon virgin mother and child. Holy infant so tender and mild. Sleep in heavenly peace. Sleep in heavenly. Silent Night, holy night. Son of God, love’s pure light. Radiant beams from thy holy face. With the dawn of redeeming grace, Jesus, Lord, at thy birth. Jesus Lord at thy birth. (These are verses 1 & 3. Verses 2 & 4 were added later and are anonymous.)
Over the years, the very pious and religious have sought to stamp out festivities. Old laws can be found which forbid any celebration in 1644 in England, and several in the early years of the American Colonies — but the truth is, we have something to celebrate! God gave His son for our redemption. Mary celebrated, “My soul doth magnify the Lord and my Spirit hath rejoiced in God my Savior … For He that is mighty hath done to me great things and holy is His name.” (Luke 1:46-47). The shepherds celebrated, the angels celebrated, the “Wise Men” celebrated and gave gifts. You can still hear His name in department stores. You still see His image in manger scenes. You still find people who desperately need to know the truth of this Jesus – This Savior. Get out the lights, the food, the gifts. Show your love. God did, He gave us Jesus, His greatest gift! Yes, you can celebrate Christmas and let others know about Jesus!
¹Compton’s Interactive Encyclopedia Copyright 1994, 1995, 1996, 1997
(All information of dates and historical events are taken from the Encyclopedia Americana and The American Book of Days.)
William Mark Bristow and his wife, Lisa pastor a church in Monahans, Texas called Grace Fellowship. He is an anointed servant of God who is blessed with the Gifts of the Holy Spirit operating in his ministry. He is also multi-talented in a music ministry of leading in praise and worship vocally as well as on the organ and piano. Pastor Bristow can be contacted via email at: firstname.lastname@example.org
By Larry Burkett
It irritates me when I see Christ being taken out of Christmas. That is not limited to only non-Christians – even Christians have adjusted to the commercialism of the holiday season. Obviously, not all of it is bad – in fact the holiday season provides the opportunity for families to reunite and also provides a pleasant break from our routines. I personally look forward to these days as an opportunity to visit with friends who are much too busy at other times in the year to just stop and relax.
But we have become terribly imbalanced. We give a myriad of useless gifts at Christmas because it’s expected of us and we feel guilty if we don’t. The commercialized world now makes a $100.00 toy seem perfectly normal. It’s easy to observe the stress that our imbalanced society places on family members. Christian parents who cannot provide the latest indulgences to their children are often depressed and distraught. Obviously, no one purposely makes them feel unworthy or insignificant, but the overwhelming emphasis we place on giving at Christmas certainly does.
So great is this social pressure that the closer we get toward Christmas Day, the more depressed and unworthy those who can’t indulge feel. Unfortunately the pressures don’t end once Christmas is past either. Those who can’t afford to compete in their gift-giving often dread congregating with their friends immediately after the holidays, because at “show and tell” time they don’t have much to show. It is not a conscious act on the part of most people to openly display their pride. Rather, because we are in a competitive society we often determine a person’s worth by his ability to buy things. “For you have died and your life is hidden with Christ in God” (Colossians 3:3).
One extreme is not balanced by going to the opposite extreme. The distortion of Christmas won’t be corrected by eliminating all gift-giving and observing Christmas as a “religious” holiday. The fact is, we do live in this world, and our families are greatly influenced by others. What we need to do is swing back toward the middle and eliminate the need to compete with others. Then we will have the freedom to develop God’s plan for our families without the pressure from the commercial world.
In order to do so, I believe that as Christians, we must first believe that God’s plan is different from the world’s, and is more – not less – fulfilling. It is a deception to think that by adopting a more disciplined lifestyle we are somehow denied the “good life.” It’s like saying that by avoiding , we deny our children the euphoria that would make them feel “good.” But to decide that any and all are evil and absolutely refuse to use them makes for a painful experience if you have to have a broken leg set. The key, as always in God’s plan, is balance. That always comes from following God’s wisdom.
Shift of Attitudes
Gift-giving at Christmas is a relatively new idea. Until a couple of centuries ago, Christmas was reserved as a religious holiday on a noncommercial basis. Many of our forefathers would have believed that trading presents on the day set aside to observe Christ’s birthday was near blasphemy. However, gift giving became a generally accepted practice and was used primarily to show appreciation to loved ones. Gifts were usually simple, regardless of the means of the giver so as to not embarrass those who couldn’t afford to give very much. For a long while in most countries, gifts were exchanged on New Year’s Day (not a bad idea today–think of the great buys you could get!). Christmas gifts were limited to food for the poor or special gifts to pastors and missionaries.
As with most things that start out right, somewhere along the way the direction shifted. By the early twentieth century, families were exchanging simple gifts, usually handmade, on Christmas Day. Certainly there was really nothing wrong with that, except that under the growing influence of secularism it was a golden opportunity for Satan to divert our attention from Christ to Santa Claus. By post-World War II, Santa was the spotlighted figure at Christmas and December was the calendar month for retail sales of all kinds.
How did it happen? It would seem apparent that Christians aren’t as wise in the things of the Lord as non-Christians are in the things of the world. The secular world is always looking for ways to shift attention from God to material things, and we’re naive enough to go along. By the time we realize that our whole direction has been diverted, as it has been at Christmas, we believe it’s too late to change, so we give up. “For all that is in the world, the of the flesh and the of the eyes and the boastful pride of life, is not from the Father, but is from the world” (1 John 2:16).
What To Do?
By anyone’s standard, the way Christmas is celebrated today is a gross commercialism of the most important birth in history. But we don’t need to preach to the unsaved world to put Christ back into Christmas. They shouldn’t; we should. One thing I learned a long time ago in counseling is not to try to overcorrect too quickly. Not only are past habits, such as overindulging at Christmas, difficult to change, but quite often others around us don’t see things just the way we do. If you attempt to stamp out all Christmas gifts suddenly, you’ll end up with a revolt on your hands. The correct way to is make some positive steps to establish a better balance.
Step 1: Stamp out Santa Claus. Christian parents should let their children know that Santa is a fraud. Santa’s harmless you say? Not so, when parents knowingly deceive their children about an apparently omnipotent being who travels the world in the wink of an eye and disburses presents on the basis of good or bad. It may be a small matter, but it is a place to start.
Step 2: Husband and wife should pray together and agree on a reasonable amount of gift-giving. Once you have reached a decision that you feel is God’s plan for your family, don’t get caught by Satan’s condemnation as Christmas approaches. The pressure to buy when everybody else is buying will be difficult to resist unless you absolutely agree. And again, I repeat, don’t overcorrect. Develop a balanced attitude that will accomplish your goals over the next few years.
One method that has proved successful to many families is to commit an equal amount spent on gifts to feeding the truly needy. In many areas of the world, an amount equal to most of our gift purchases would feed and clothe a family for several months. By giving to a specific family through a Christian organization, your children can see the purpose and value of your sacrifice and theirs. “And whoever in the name of a disciple gives to one of these little ones even a cup of cold water to drink, truly I say to you he shall not lose his reward” (Matthew 10:42).
Step 3: Stamp out credit. As bad as commercialized Christmas is, commercialized Christmas on credit cards is even worse. Many families literally indenture themselves to creditors for a whole year just to buy some useless junk at Christmas. As Christians, we need to decide if we really serve the God of the universe. If so, then He knows our needs and will meet them through His people without indebtedness.
I know that some of the people reading this have desperate needs. I also know that others sincerely want to help but don’t know who has needs. The use of credit allows those who have needs to temporarily buffer themselves from God’s real source. “As it is written, ‘He who gathered much did not have too much and he who gathered little had no lack’” (2 Corinthians 8:15). I believe Satan has used credit cards to cheat God’s people out of blessings and to keep them in the bondage of debt.
With all the other important issues to deal with, such as crime, abortion; a logical question would be, “Why bother with such a minor issue as gifts at Christmas?” Because gift-giving is one area totally under our control, and like the Easter bunny, it is leaven that Satan sprinkles in the church. The practice of giving gifts is not the problem, just as the use of credit is not the problem. It is the misuse of these things that entangles us and diverts attention from Jesus Christ to material things.
We have enlisted in God’s army and now we can’t identify the real enemy. “No soldier in active service entangles himself in the affairs of everyday life, so that he may please the one who enlisted him as a soldier” (2 Timothy 2:4).
Our problem is that we keep trying to negotiate a compromise with an enemy who is totally dedicated to destroying us. It’s time that, as Christians, we decide to draw a battle line again. When it comes to commercializing Christ’s birth or resurrection, we need to establish a balance.
Instruct those who are rich in this present world not to be conceited or to fix their hope on the uncertainty of riches, but on God, who richly supplies us with all things to enjoy. 1 Timothy 6:17
This material was taken from the book “Using Your Money Wisely” by Larry Burkett. Published by Moody Press, a division of the Moody Bible Institute of Chicago, IL. Used with Permission.
The book, A Simple Christmas, by author Alice Chapin, contains hundreds of ways to bring Christ and joy back into Christmas in the spirit of “More-with-Less.”
Are you yearning for a Christmas filled with celebrations that actually mean something? Are you tired of the tinsel and credit card debt; the depression and exhaustion that this holiday now means to so many people? Do you want to establish family traditions that will teach your children to honor Christ during the holidays and give them beautiful memories for the future? If so, this book will be an inspiration to you.
A Simple Christmas will take you through the holiday season, offering hundreds of creative and meaningful activities that you can do as a family (and with friends) all during the month of December and into New Year’s. The 250 pages in this book are literally bursting at the seams with heart-warming ideas. The books offers suggestions for:
- Keeping the spiritual heart of the holidays, with peace and joy.
- Lead your whole family is doing things together.
- Find happiness in reaching out to others and giving yourself away.
- Cope with pressures and extra expenditures.
- Overcome the blues and even enjoy spending the holiday alone.
- Deal with selfish or excited youngsters.
- Reshape customs to focus more on the Christ of Christmas.
As I read through this book, I found myself becoming more thoughtful about life in general and inspired to reclaim, not only Christmas, but many other areas in my life that have been too easily dictated by the self-dominated society. Perhaps the chapter that touched me most of all was “Goodwill and Peace to All.” Christmas is about giving and receiving – and most of all to honor the One who has freely given us every good and perfect gift. May we bring joy to Him this season, as we remember those who are less fortunate than ourselves. As we all know, but so easily forget, Christmas is not about the obligatory gifts hastily ripped open and often never used. It is about giving of our time, sharing of our memories and skills, and teaching others to do the same.
The spirit of Christmas is a lifestyle, not something that can be simply turned on during the holiday season. Even so, at Christmas I think we all yearn a little more to express God’s love in meaningful ways to the world around us, and exalt the truth of Jesus Christ to those who do not yet know Him. A Simple Christmas brings these foundational truths of Christianity to the forefront of our hearts and shows us practical things we can do, not only to make the holiday more meaningful, but also the rest of our lives as well. The book is not only spiritually uplifting, but also practical. It comes equipped with a budget guide, and Christmas goals worksheet for you to use as a planning tool. It will help simplify your Christmas and place the focus on the real meaning of Christmas.
Book Review by Betty Miller of A Simple Christmas, by author Alice Chapin
Alice Chapin is the author of many articles and thirteen books, all written to fulfill her life’s goal of helping others. The titles of some of the books she has written are: 400 Creative Ways to Say I Love You, Gifts of Love, Reaching Back, 365 Bible Promises for Busy People, 365 Bible Promises for Hurting People, 365 Bible Promises for People Who Worry a Lot or a Little. Alice Chapin is a pastor’s wife and has been on the staff of Campus Crusade for Christ International for twenty years. She and her husband, Norman, live in Newnan, Georgia, and have four grown daughters. She attends Central Baptist Church in Newnan.
By Walter E. Isenhour
As you think of giving presents
To your friends on Christmas Day,
Don’t forget the poor and needy That you meet along life’s way.
Give them something that is helpful,
That will tell them of your love,
For such giving pleases Jesus
As He watches from above.
If you cannot give abundance,
Give a little in His name;
For a little given rightly,
With His blessings on the same,
May be bread upon the waters
You will find again sometime
Multiplied to loaves of blessing
That are wondrous and sublime.
Give and help to spread the Gospel
On the mission fields of Earth
Where the natives by the millions
Have not heard of Jesus’ birth.
Give to causes that are worthy
Of your money with a prayer;
Give and help to share the burdens
That so many people bear.
Let the Christmas thought of giving
Go with you throughout the year,
Then your life will be a blessing
And you’ll have the thrill of cheer;
For in making others happy,
You will get a great supply,
As our Lord who reigns in heaven
Will then bless you from on high.
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By Betty Miller
Christians look forward to the time of the year when we celebrate two important holidays, Thanksgiving and Christmas. These holidays have their beginnings and roots in Christian celebrations. The word holiday actually means “holy day”; hence these events should be remembered and celebrated in a holy manner. We have strayed from that purpose over the years as we have embraced many unholy practices and worldly customs and added them to our “holy days.”
Christmas has also been mixed with many secular and traditional additions that take away from this celebration of our Lord’s birth. The materialism that surrounds this season is one of the most obvious; however, there are others. Office parties with the alcohol flowing freely certainly desecrate all that the day stands for. As Christians, we celebrate this day because it is the Lord’s birthday and it gives us pleasure to remember the Christmas story as recorded in the Bible in Luke 2. Celebrating Christmas is not wrong. It is the way we treat it which makes it right or wrong.
Was Christ Born on December 25?
Scholars do not know the exact date of Christ’s birth. For more than 300 years, people observed His birthday on various dates. In A.D. 354, Bishop Liberius of Rome ordered the people to celebrate on December 25. He chose this date because the people of Rome already observed it as the Feast of Saturn, celebrating the sun. Christmas is not, as some have claimed, historically descended from the celebration of the Roman Saternalia with its fleshly excesses, but was set up by Christians to counter it. Christians honored Christ, instead of Saturn, as the Light of the World.
Due to this and other error, some Christians argue we should not even observe Christmas since December 25 is not the true birth date of our Lord Jesus Christ, as most scholars agree it was in the fall. However, the date is not important but the attitude of our hearts in celebrating it. It is how we celebrate Christmas that pleases or displeases the Lord. Since it is observed around the world, it is a wonderful time to witness to people, and the holiday does cause many to think of Jesus.
Celebrating Christmas is not wrong. It is the way we treat it which makes it right or wrong.
Unholy Customs and Traditions
For many years, people observed Christmas as a religious festival only. But they gradually adopted more and more customs unrelated to the church. In England, during the Middle Ages, Christmas became the merriest day of the year. Celebrations eventually became so rowdy that the Puritans in England did away with the observance of Christmas by law in 1643.
Our present day celebration here in the United States is a combination of several customs and traditions that come from different European countries. (The World Book Encyclopedia gives an in-depth description of these for those interested.) Since we are looking to the Bible for our standards it would be well to eliminate those things that are not Christ-exalting. We should avoid going to extremes, but on the other hand we should not partake of things that are not honoring Jesus’ birthday.
What About the Christmas Tree?
One tradition that we might mention that has been a controversy in Christian ranks is the decorating of the Christmas fir tree. There are several stories about the origin of the Christmas tree. People in Scandinavia once worshiped trees. Other cultures such as the Romans believed the green tree branches brought good luck. The Germans were probably the first to use Christmas tree decorations. Some Christians think this tradition should not be observed because of this. However, we find in the Bible that the same custom existed in that day and we find the Lord’s instructions as to what our stand should be.
Hear ye the word which the LORD speaketh unto you, O house of Israel: Thus saith the LORD, Learn not the way of the heathen, and be not dismayed at the signs of heaven; for the heathen are dismayed at them. For the customs of the people are vain: for one cutteth a tree out of the forest, the work of the hands of the workman, with the ax. They deck it with silver and with gold; they fasten it with nails and with hammers, that it move not. They are upright as the palm tree, but speak not: they must needs be borne, because they cannot go. Be not afraid of them; for they cannot do evil, neither also is it in them to do good. Jeremiah 10:1-5
Here the heathen of that day where cutting down trees and decorating them and worshipping them. But the word of the Lord was for his people not to fear this practice as He pointed out to them that the tree itself had no power to do good or evil. Evil is in the heart of man. So putting up a Christmas tree is not evil or good in itself. If we decorate a tree and celebrate in honor of our Lord Jesus then, to us it is good. To those with improper motives, it is evil. There is a Biblical reference for bringing boughs into the house for celebration. The Lord commanded Israel during the feast of tabernacles to do just that.
And ye shall take you on the first day the boughs of goodly trees, branches of palm trees, and the boughs of thick trees, and willows of the brook; and ye shall rejoice before the LORD your God seven days. Leviticus 23:40
What About Santa Claus?
There is one area in our Christmas celebration however, that has no Biblical basis. We realize this is a sensitive issue but we feel Christians should be made aware of this as it is having a tremendous effect on our children that produces no Christian fruit. This is the interjection of “Santa” into our Christmas gatherings. Satan has infiltrated and defiled our Christian celebration of Christmas by adding the dimension of emphasizing Santa Claus over the celebration of the Savior’s birth. Satan chose this date because he hates to see people worshipping the Lord. Instead he diverts adults and children alike to revolve their attention around what Santa will bring that day instead of what the real meaning of the day really is. The name “Santa Claus” was taken from a kindhearted Christian bishop, Saint Nicholas, who lived in the A.D. 300′s. He became the patron saint of many European countries. In the Netherlands and Belgium men in bishops’ robes pose as Saint Nicholas and visit children, examine them on their prayer and urge them to be good, and give them gifts. Hence, the Dutch brought “the visit of Saint Nicholas” to the Americas. The Christmas visit of Santa Claus came from this custom.
You can see how through the years it has changed now and Santa Claus has replaced the celebration of our Lord’s birth. “Old Saint Nicholas” or “Santa Claus” has been interjected into the day to take away from the true meaning of Christmas. Santa Claus is portrayed as a god. He supposedly “knows all” as does God. (“He knows when you are sleeping, he knows when you’re awake, he knows when you’ve been bad or good…”) He has supernatural power as he flies through the air making stops throughout the world in one night. He comes down chimneys that would be impossible to enter and has an unlimited supply of toys in one sleigh. He has elves as assistants. (Elves originated in Scandinavian mythology. There were good and evil elves who could disappear at will.) The belief in Santa Claus is also based on a lie. This lie by parents undermines the trust of their children. Later the children may then doubt the reality of God because parents lied about Santa Claus. The emphasis is on receiving gifts in many homes, instead of exchanging gifts. Gifts for the Lord are forgotten.
As Christians, we should ask the Lord how to purge this holiday of Satan’s false god, Santa Claus, and put the emphasis on Christ and His love so that our children know the true meaning of this holy day. Many children only know that it is a day that Santa will come and bring them gifts. They know nothing of the gift of love that was sent to us in the birth of Jesus, our savior. Wouldn’t it be better if we refused to tell our children the lie about Santa? Some may say how terrible to deny children the fun of Santa Claus because he is only a fairy tale like other fairy tales. However, if we ask why Santa Claus is promoted at Christmas instead of another day of the year, I believe we can see the answer clearly. He has become a substitute in the lives of millions of children so that they know nothing of the true gift of life in Christ. I dare say if you ask any child in America who Santa Claus is they would be able to tell you, but many of those same children if asked who Jesus Christ is would not be able to answer that question.
What About Gift Giving?
So much emphasis is put upon getting gifts at Christmas. This has promoted materialism and selfishness in many children as well as the adults. It is the Lord’s birthday. Where are our gifts to Him and His interests? It isn’t wrong to give gifts at Christmas as this is part of the spirit of Christ – giving. What is wrong, is that we have gone to the extreme and forgotten the Lord and the poor in our giving. Biblical celebrations such as the one in Esther 9:22 are approved by God: “As the days wherein the Jews rested from their enemies, and the month which was turned unto them from sorrow to joy, and from mourning into a good day: that they should make them days of feasting and joy, and of sending portions one to another, and gifts to the poor.”
Our modern Christmases have become mostly tinsel, and every true believer is aware of it. Stress from all the shopping and cooking keeps many from even enjoying this time of year. The media at the holiday season will carry advertisements for items to be given as gifts, which are a disgrace to Jesus Christ. The replacement of St. Nicholas over Christ’s birth, the notorious Christmas office party, the giving of drunken entertainment, the materialism and selfishness which have paganized and spoiled Christmas of its true Christian meaning are things we need to resist and have no part in. Our task, if we are true Christians, is to recapture this holiday from the pagans. It really belongs to us as believers! In fact, in our spirits we should celebrate Christmas every day of the year, instead of once a year as the world does. It does not take tinsel and decoration to remind us of Jesus when we truly love and worship Him from our hearts.
Betty Miller has written several books on other topics as well. To view titles or purchase those books visit our bookstore.
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Topic: What the Bible says about Christmas
Reference: What the Bible says about Christmas