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Christmas

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The Greatest Gift [LEFT]
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 death 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 dead 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.

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Origin of Christmas Customs
By Pastor William Mark Bristow

Origin of St. Nicholas[LEFT]
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 death 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 death. 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.

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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 death 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 death 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 336.1 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. 3 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; 4 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.

Jeremiah 10:5-10 (NRSV) "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. 6 There is none like you, O LORD; you are great, and your name is great in might. 7 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. 8 They are both stupid and foolish; the instruction given by idols is no better than wood! 9 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. 10 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."

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 start 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.

Holly

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 prickly 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 execution, 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

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!

Keeping Christ in Christmas
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).

BALANCE

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 drugs, we deny our children the euphoria that would make them feel "good." But to decide that any and all drugs 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 dominate 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 lust of the flesh and the lust 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 bondage.

WHY BOTHER?


With all the other important issues to deal with, such as crime, abortion, and drugs, 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).

A Simple Christmas

Hundreds of ways to bring Christ and joy back into Christmas in the spirit of More-with-Less
By Alice Chapin

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.
 
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Wow! I must admit there was alot of material in this and I couldn't read it all because I am disabled and can't sit that long!

When it comes to Christmas in general, I believe it falls under the New Testament words of Paul 'if one celebrates it, let him celebrate it to the Lord. If one doesn't celebrate it, let him not celebrate it unto the Lord'. Sorry if that was a rough paraphrase.

I don't believe we should judge a brother in Christ if they do or don't celebrate Christmas. However, I do agree with the wisdom of not allowing materialism and greediness to be the ways to celebrate the holiday for believers because the Bible clearly warns against these sins!

Yes, it was a winter solstace celebration, yes Jesus likely was not born in December (or in winter for that matter), but if you want to take the time to use the season and proclaim the Christ of the gospel and why He came and that He didn't stay a baby, but came to die for sinners like us....then go for it!

Our family sort of took the road of using it as an opportunity to GIVE gifts to the Lord, since it's supposed to be HIS birthday. Give some money from the family for a ministry, such as one that feeds the hungry, clothes the needy (in Mexico, Haiti, many third world countries, etc.). Visit sick people or those in nursing homes and sing them Christ exalting hymns of Christmas! Show them Jesus love even in a time when they are most lonely and missing their family.

There are many good ways to celebrate, if you want to.

However, if it's your conviction not to (as there were people at my former church that didn't), don't judge or condemn them. It was rightly pointed out that Martin Luther used it as an opportunity to show God created trees, snow and light and that's a good thing. But if they feel it's too much idolatry attached, then treat them as the one who doesn't eat meat sacrificed to idols and don't judge them, just as you don't want them to judge you.

I think there is room for either in God's kingdom. One thing there is no room for is just another reason for kids to be taught greed, lust for things, and caring more about getting than giving. That ALL believers can live without. Amen?

God bless you and thanks for the good topics!

Lab
 
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Please read the sticky note in the forum. I do not write these. They are taken from bible.com source and shared with others on this site to help them.

I think its important to understand is that what a person uses and symbolizes the Christmas tree as is between them and GOD. GOD knows the heart and sees their purpose of having a tree. The pagans were utter fools as clearly shown in the Bible but a true believer who has a Christmas tree could be using it because its a pretty piece of nature, GOD's work and its a wonderful time of the year, the birth of our Savior.

God bless you :smile:
 
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I don't celebrate christmas!!!

Yes, I don't celebrate Christmas as it is a pagan's day. Though I first thought that I can share gospel more in that day. But when I surveyed, I could share gospel in any other day than that. But on christmas, all are busy with celebration, none cares to listen to doctrines.
So I decided not to celebrate christmas. As Mr. Chad has given us a good explanation from Bible.com. I really appreciate it and praise God that He is opening many hearts to the deceivings of Satan in the church. Church without knowledge celebrate Christmas and give happiness not to the Lord JESUS, but to devil himself.
Let many believer's eyes be opened up in JESUS's name
 
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hay anathema christmas is celebrated becuase of the birth of christ it is also a time for giving as the "angels told people to give out presents" samething along those lines. the christmas tree is the shape of a cedar tree this is because in the middle east cedars a common especially in lebanon they are a symbol only to represent the birth of christ which a decroated for his birth there is no meaning. buying presents and giving presents to those who give you presents is not considered xmas giving presents was a symbol and memory of saint nicholas not santa claus who loved children and gave presents in the night so that a not seen as a present that seen is not a present at all. This is what xmas stand for and this is why we celebrate it like we do.
 
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why we celebrate xmas and give gifts

rimes1 said:
hay anathema christmas is celebrated becuase of the birth of christ it is also a time for giving as the "angels told people to give out presents" samething along those lines.

The christmas tree is the shape of a cedar tree this is because in the middle east cedars a common especially in lebanon they are a symbol only to represent the birth of christ which a decroated for his birth there is no meaning.

Buying presents and giving presents to those who give you presents is not considered xmas giving presents was a symbol and memory of saint nicholas not santa claus who loved children and gave presents in the night so that a not seen as a present that seen is not a present at all as it is wrong to be bustful about giving. This is what xmas stands for and this is why we celebrate it like we do.

People in america and australia have carols that are about sainta claus and gifts i gotta to admit their knid of cute if you go to the midde east their carols are all about jesus the journey and Bethlehem or mary even the majority of children songs I can send you same if you wish in arabic with the english translation.

I can't touch the bible at the moment as in lebanese culture if a christian girl is dirty (time of the month) she shouldn't go near the alter of the church or touch the bible this is beacuse when mary got her period at 12 she was sent out of the temple as she no longer was a child.

I am eastern orthodox or if you like we call it Antiochian orthodox we where the very first people to be called christians and my church is called saint nicholas we have Antiochian churches in lebanon,syria,america,australia etcs we are the second largest christianity group in the world
I personally think xmas is a time where people came together such as families and friends who show hospitality to eachother using xmas as an excuse which is a good thing as people invite friends and families for get togethers where they can catch up on what their doing with their lives. people take breaks to spend time with their families etc which could hold security for a family.:confused:
 
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I have done research on the origins of the traditions associated with Christmas. And like Labrador said "I believe it falls under the New Testament words of Paul 'if one celebrates it, let him celebrate it to the Lord. If one doesn't celebrate it, let him not celebrate it unto the Lord'."

Because I know about the worship of "the sun god" and the winter solstice I can't in good conscience go to a yule log celebration at the local nature perserve anymore. (I never before realized it was ruse of the enemy to trick us into "worshiping" a pagan god. It seemed so "festive" and was just a part of the "holiday" celebrations) Now I know better.

This year I have chosen to not allow any "pagan" ritual or symbol in my home. MY CHOICE.

Celebrating the birth of our savior "Emmanual" (God with us) began the night Jesus was born, when the angels sang joyfully as they announced Jesus' birth to the shepherds.

In 2 Kings 23, King Josiah, destroyed the "pagan" worship places. He wanted to honor God and the people had been worshiping baal and "the sun god" among other false idols.

I want Christ and Christ alone! For me this year, I will be very selective as to how I celebrate!

IMHO
 
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Personally I think there are good points and bad points, the commercialism and children without families for example that feel rejected are bad points.

But alot of people get together to celebrate the birth of Christ (whatever exact date this was) and gather together with friends and family, and the 'goodwill to all men' attitude can't be bad.

I agree there should be more Christ in Christmas, but today it is greed and money making that affect its purpose not Pagan Idols and old festivals.
 
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I love Christmas personally. My family gets together, a yearly family tradition and we all enjoy fellowship together. I think of Jesus Christ and the special day He was born, what He has done for us and what He has blessed us with including our own familes, the wonderful food, etc.

Hoping all will give to the needy this season as well. You can start off here
www.gfa.org
www.feedthechildren.com
 
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I put up a tree this year but I don't worship pagan gods. I know the true meaning of Christmas. We should remember Jesus everyday of the year and what he has done for us. Also we should be blessed on what we have and think of those who are less fortunate than just around Christmas time. I am very blessed with what I have now. There was a time when I didn't have a penny to my name.
 
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KJV

I personally don't celebrate Christ-mass (although if someone kindly invites me round for a feast at that date I will not say no!). The puritans rejected it as a Popish superstition and I have had great opportunities to wittness to people when they here I don't celebrate it.

One question: "Santa" is the spanish feminine word for saint. Is Santa Claus therefore a man dressed as a women or a women dressed as a man?
 
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I agree with Chad and Jeffrey1974. Just my opinion---but I worship the Lord Jesus every day. On Christmas, I celebrate His birth and spend extra time with the ones I love, the family God gave to me here on earth. He came here to earth Himself as a little babe. And I am so thankful for that! But most of all I am thankful for the sacrifice He made for me, shedding His blood and dying on the cross for me. A person could debate on this also, because many people focus on Easter bunny and not the death and resurrection of Christ. as the verse said before--"If you celebrate, celebrate unto the Lord. If you do not celebrate, do that as unto the Lord." This verse, to me, is good advice.

I don't teach my kids that santa claus, or the easter bunny, are real. I think it's wrong to tell kids these pretend figures are real. The Lord God is our Master, our hope, and our eternity. And even better, He's for real.
 
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Maybe the Roman church took a pagan holiday and turned it into a day to celebrate the birth of Jesus, similar to what happened with the holiday that pagans used to honor their fertility goddess, Ishtar, which became our Easter.

Whatever happened, it is very appropriate, in my opinion, to pick a certain annual date to celebrate the birth of Jesus. The Puritans went too far in many things, in my opinion.


SLE
 
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KJV,

On your Santa Claus question: It all started with St. Nicholas, the 4th century bishop of Myra, Lycia (in Asia Minor) who was a very generous person. He was the patron saint of Greece and Russia, children, charitable organizations, and merchants. A cult grew around him, based on miracles he was supposed to have performed. But, that cult disappeared in all the Protestant countries of Europe except Holland after the Reformation.

The Dutch brought their belief in St. Nicholas to New Amsterdam (New York City) in the 17th century.. In the Dutch language, his name is Sint Nikolas which morphed into "Sinterklaas" (Santa Claus.).

Info drawn from Merriam-Webster. com


SLE
 
Member

KJV

I thought it largely came from Anglo-Saxon and North European Paganism and Shamanism; with Father Christ-mass being an outsider (cross dresser) like many traditional Magick workers.

When the victorians modified Christ-mass from its slightly popish orientated church roots to an outlet for cheap goods, which were a by product of the industrial revolution, they modified it and added most of the phenomena we associate with the festival.

I don't think we should be trying to put Christ back into Saturnalia (its Roman name), as he was never in there and it is deceptive to try to make out he was.

The verses about about worshiping on different days and food offered to idols, I believe in the context, is talking about God ordained Jewish obsevances; not Devil ordained pagan festivals, traditions and superstitions.

It is easy to claim these verses as an excuse for participating in something that is a sham and a lie, but if Christians search their hearts, I think they will admit they're main reason for observing it is for personal pleasure.
If this is not the case try fasting and praying about it and giving it up for a year, or maybe doing evangelism instead?
 
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I do not know if it's true, but
I read not too long ago that Kris Kringle, translated = Christ Jesus.
:embarasse Makes you think, huh?
 
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While it is very interesting to know the background to the day, I don't think the exact origins really matter that much. What's important is the perception and how the real message can be brought out more In some ways it's Christianity's best moment to show its benfits and virtues to others all around the world - and that's got to be good...
 
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Christmas is the feast of the poor...

If there is no chance for poor to celebrate with us then there is no meaning for Christmas. Christmas is the feast of the poor. Jesus becomes one with the poor to save the poor sinners. So if we avoid the poor and just enjoy ourselves the christmas there is no meaning to it. My best Christmas was walking the Himalayas for 5 days to reach a remotest to village and give them the word of God and bring them to Jesus. On that 120 of the accepted Jesus... What a wonderful christmas? Being with the poor and bringing the good news to the poor.
 
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I've never had any issues with Christmas.

It doesn't matter when the Christ child was born. The fact is that I celebrate His birth on December 25th. And since none of us living today, or anytime in the past 1,500-plus years were present on that most blessed of days, it is impossible to be certain when our Lord and Saviour was born.

Pagans celebrated Yule on or around December 25th. Pagans celebrated a lot of things all throughout the year. I'm certain if one looked hard enough he or she could match a pagan festival to every single Christian holiday on the map.
So, that renders the pagan origins debate moot to me.

I and my family use the weeks leading up to December 25th and the day itself to focus more than usual on the blessings of the Lord and the ministry of His life. We take time to thank God for all of our blessings large or small, and center Christ firmly at the root of our celebrations.

Now if the Holy Spirit convicts you to not celebrate Christmas, than that's between yourself and the Holy Spirit. As for me and my house, we will continue to use the holiday to honor Christ in all His magnificence and (to borrow a line from Dickens), I say God bless it.
 
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