Saturday, July 11, 2009

Why don't we celebrate Christmas?

I get asked this question mostly in December. In 2007, I wrote up a little essay to answer the question. I considered posting it here, but I really didn't want to mess up anyone's holiday. And then I don't really think about it much unless someone asks. Well, today someone asked. I figured why not write about Christmas in July?

So here is the essay I wrote almost 2 years ago. We've learned more since then and realized I left out a few things, but I really don't have the time at this moment to edit this and it gives the basics at least. Feel free to ask questions if you'd like. If you aren't being rude or argumentative, but sincerely curious, we'll be happy to answer them.

I want to make it clear that I am not posting this to try to convince anyone or debate with anyone what YOU should do or not do. I am simply sharing why we made our decision. This is not posted here to persuade anyone, just to answer the question of why. What you celebrate or don't celebrate is between you and our Creator, not you and me.

Why don’t we celebrate Christmas?

I guess it started a long time ago. First we gave up Halloween. Many Christians can easily see that one. It’s pagan in origin and we could find nothing that glorified God in the celebration of it. And we’d stopped celebrating Easter pretty much completely. We had done away with anything about it that we knew was pagan—egg hunts, the Easter bunny, etc. We still celebrated the Resurrection of Christ on Easter Sunday though.

Over the years we kept minimizing the materialistic side of Christmas. We phased out Santa when our oldest child learned the truth about him and wanted to know, “why did you lie to me?” I’d never thought of it as a lie, but what else can you call it? We weren’t telling the truth.

As with Easter, we tried to get rid of the pagan aspects of Christmas. We were still doing stockings, but then we tried calling them camel packs—as in the wise men bearing gifts while traveling on a camel. We gave each child one gift plus the “camel pack” stuffers. Then the children drew names and gave each other a gift. That’s not too bad. We were trying to get the focus on Christ, not ourselves or the gifts.

One year we did a birthday cake for Jesus. But it seemed so trivial. Here it was Jesus’ birthday and we were getting presents and eating His cake.

Even our decorations got reviewed. If we couldn’t find some spiritual symbolism to the decoration, it didn’t go up.

Then we noticed that in our daily Bible reading we kept coming across the same idea over and over. We read about how the Israelites kept turning toward pagan ways and mixing worship of God with pagan worship methods. God stated clearly that that was wrong. Exodus 23:24 says, "You shall not bow down to their gods, nor serve them, nor do according to their works; but you shall utterly overthrow them and completely break down their sacred pillars.” Deuteronomy 6:13-15 "You shall fear the LORD your God and serve Him, and shall take oaths in His name. You shall not go after other gods, the gods of the peoples who are all around you (for the LORD your God is a jealous God among you), lest the anger of the LORD your God be aroused against you and destroy you from the face of the earth.” Again in Joshua 23:7-8 "and lest you go among these nations, these who remain among you. You shall not make mention of the name of their gods, nor cause anyone to swear by them; you shall not serve them nor bow down to them, but you shall hold fast to the LORD your God, as you have done to this day.”

We were reading this and we knew the origins of Christmas include taking a pagan festival and trying to make it Christian. This was to make it easier for the pagans to convert to Christianity. They wouldn’t have to give up their festivals. That had always seemed perfectly legitimate to me before, but I was starting to question that.

Then we learned that Ishtar (pronounced easter) supposedly laid an egg on Easter Sunday. This egg hatched bringing forth her son—Nimrod resurrected—her dead husband whom she had pronounced to be the Sun god. And when do they celebrate the birth of the Sun god? December 25th. How convenient that was for Constantine. All I had previously learned about him was that he was the one that stopped persecuting Christians. But now I was learning that while he did accept Christ, it was only as one of the many gods he worshiped. His favorite god was the Sun god. So he was able to set it up so that he could worship his favorite god along with Christ and everyone would be happy. The Christians were okay with this. Wouldn’t anyone be? They got to stay alive.

About the same time that we were learning all this, we were also wondering why we don’t celebrate the Biblical feasts anymore. Jesus did. God said to keep the feasts forever. Did “forever” mean to quit when Jesus was resurrected? Paul continued to keep the feasts after the resurrection. Why don’t we still keep them? We couldn’t find an answer. So we started to try to figure out how to keep the feasts.

We then decided, as a family, that we just didn’t feel right celebrating Christmas anymore. We just can’t do it. We can’t see how it pleases God.

But do we feel like we are sacrificing something? Yes and no. We no longer celebrate a holiday that we celebrated all our lives. But God gave us many celebrations to keep. Hanukkah is not a commanded feast, but Jesus kept it (see John 10:22) and what a cool story that is! And most of the feasts that God gave us (what a great God! He “commands” us to celebrate and have fun!) are long—7 days for Passover, 8 days of Hanukkah, and the weekly Sabbath. We actually gained much more than we gave up.

We are learning so much about God through the keeping of these feasts. Much more than we ever learned singing Christmas carols, eating cookies, or giving and receiving gifts.


Anonymous said...

Beyond Passover, Hanukkah, and the weekly Sabbath, what other feasts and 'holy days' do you celebrate/keep as a family? Beyond the Scriptures, have you found any resources to help with 'what to do'?

Melissa Nelson said...

Leviticus 23 lists the commanded feasts. Passover, the Feast of Unleavened Bread and the Feast of Firstfruits all fall within 8 days of each other in the Spring.

In the Summer there is Pentecost, or the Feast of Weeks. Some people call it the Feast of Firstfruits. This confuses me because there is a holiday by the same name in the Spring. I don't understand enough to know why they both get called the same thing.

In the Fall is the Feast of Trumpets, which is one day. This is also known as Rosh Hashanah. Ten days later is the Day of Atonement, or Yom Kippur. I think it's 5 days later that Sukkot, or the Feast of Tabernacles begins.

Then there is the weekly Sabbath.

I've seen several books that give suggestions as to how to celebrate but they all seem to go back to Jewish tradition. We aren't Jewish and don't feel the need to follow their traditions. We want to follow the Bible. There's not a lot of detail in the Bible as to how to celebrate these feasts. Most of them have sacrifices involved and we don't do that.

It's been a process that isn't finished yet trying to figure out how to make these days special. We tried having a dessert every night for Hanukkah (feast of Dedication) this past year, but it was just too much sugar and we won't do that again. Sukkot we set up tents in the yard and let the kids sleep in them. We eat outside whenever the weather allows. Sort of like a week of camping. I was going to put out my Manger scenes for Sukkot because we suspect that is when Christ was born, but the cows got in our barn and they're all broken.

If you google Biblical Feasts you'll find lots of stuff. It may overwhelm you as much of it conflicts. But I figure really, what matters most is a relationship with God, so I spend some time in prayer and see what He leads us to do for each of these Holidays. Sometimes it isn't much and I feel disappointed, but then it gets here and I see that for whatever reason--sickness is the one foremost in my mind, we couldn't have handled much at that time. And God knew that would be the case.

Anonymous said...

What's wrong with anything pagan? Did you know your oldest son is a satanist?

Melissa Nelson said...

To Anonymous,

I can only assume your intention is to hurt us or Stephen. I can't address your particular issue since you are keeping that to yourself. But I can assure you that you have not come between us and our son.

What is wrong with paganism? If that's what you choose, I guess it's your choice. It is not the choice Roger and I have chosen and we are not raising our children this way. We have chosen to follow Christ and the problem for us with paganism is that it is following our enemy.

Now, you accuse my son of being a satanist as if we know nothing about him. God has no grandchildren, only children. Each of us must choose for ourselves if we will follow Him or not. Our oldest son, like all our other children, has to make that decision for himself. I don't believe he is done with that process. What his final decision is will be his business and will only be on this blog if he wants it there. NO MATTER WHAT he decides, we will continue to love him as unconditionally as ever.

Anonymous said...

I have no desire to come between you and your son. Your passion about Christianity just had me wondering why he would think such things because this seems like a very close family.

I have to question how paganism is following your enemy. Pagans do not believe in the Devil, he is part of the Judeo-Christian Religions and their mythology.

There is a tradition that calls itself Satanist. Satanists are not devil worshipers. They do not believe in god or the devil or any force outside themselves and other living creatures. They believe they can control their lives without the need to place responsibility on a higher power of any kind. Devil worshipers on the other hand sometimes do claim to be Satanists. . . this leads to lots of confusion.

People often ridicule what they do not understand. Fundamental Christianity seems especially threatened by Pagans, although I do not know why. Many hateful, ridiculous, and untrue things about Paganism have been said by Fundamentalist preachers, who obviously were not paying any attention to Jesus message. Hate and prejudice were never a part of Jesus teachings. Hollywood has also created many damaging and untrue stereotypes to sell movie tickets. Funny, no one believes Robo-Cop is real, but people seem anxious to believe any absurd thing said about Pagans.

Anonymous said...

Thanks for your excellent article. We agree. It is where we have come to in our faith path as well. Though no one in our kin for our lifetime said so, we have learned via internet (by "accident" of which we know that there are no such things) that indeed we do have many names in our lineage that turn out to be Jewish. The Father pointed out to me the other day that where we are in our faith path is because some long ago grandparent, seeing the ravaging to the true WORD and the enforced changes, prayed and asked that a descendant be allowed to see these truths and act on them. Best explanation I know of when we wonder WHY it is that we see these things and NO kin have yet? (It has been now 7 years since we began observing the Biblical holidays, etc. and now for ease of identification, though we have not joined any group, we refer to ourselves as Messianic...though perhaps that term does not apply 100% matter, the FATHER knows we are doing our best to follow HIM!!) Blessings on your move...a much smaller town sounds like a good plan these days!!

Jenn said...

Wow, I was just reading your blog and came across this one. I have just started reading the bible (I was raised Roman Catholic) and I wondered about the biblical feasts. This clarifies a ton for me. Very interesting!