Whatever you may think of the world with all the social and political turmoil, Christmas is a few days away. As every year we hear the songs, see the colours and decorations and live the challenges. It is one of the lovely Feasts on the Christian-calendar, with Easter (that I would like to call Passover), Pentecost and Thanksgiving. If you take a moment to think about your personal festivities through these special times of the year, then you will know that you give content to the celebration in your home in a very unique way.
As the Feasts of old Israel that found their fulfillment in the life, death and resurrection of Jesus, our Feasts are Jesus-focused. Without Christians in the world, who celebrate the real message and carry the light of Truth and Love, the rituals, legends and stupid little stories are all “much ado about nothing”.
Many Christians have also “fallen” into some pagan traditions that muddles the message of God’s love and goodness. Father Christmas brings gifts to the children who are threatened by the Elf on the Shelf that snitches and squeals about every misdemeanour and threaten their gifts. Is there a message of Grace and the undeserved favour of God in there somewhere? Is Grandma’s manger-scene now too old-fashioned and colourful to find a place somewhere in our modern houses to portray just a slight suggestion of the truth?
Our world is buckling under disruption and tragedy – internationally, nationally, public and private. It is ours to determine and direct the content and meaning of Christmas celebrations and let hope, peace, love and joy rule in our homes in such a way that it permeates to a community who is dying in hopeless misery in body and soul.
You matter! What you do is important! In the time of Nehemiah, when the rebuilding of the wall around Jerusalem looked like an insurmountable task, he encouraged the people to build the wall in front of their own homes. (Nehemiah 3:28,29) The people were so inspired that they finished the wall in only 52 days.
One could think that Christmas is hijacked to be celebrated in a secular way especially with a superficial look – even in the world of Islam with trees and shiny decorations on a gigantic scale. We cannot change anything about it, but we can determine and control what happens in our own homes. We build the wall of Jerusalem, the Church, the Kingdom to secure our communities – with the sword of the Word in our hand – the Truth of Jesus. We stand in the front line against evil because we have the true revelation of who Jesus is, just like Peter. The gates of hell will not prevail against us. (Matthew 16:18)
We are already victorious. Christmas was not celebrated in the early church – the Church of the First Century. The tradition originated around the end of the third century after Jesus. In the Julian calendar that was in use, solstice is celebrated on December 25. (We follow the Gregorian calendar with solstice on December 21.) In the darkest days of the year in the Northern Hemisphere many feasts were held in honour of the sun-gods of several pagan traditions – the Oriental Sun goddess, the Egyptian sun-god Ra, the Roman sun-god, whom they called the Sun of Righteousness and the Son of Zeus, their equivalent of Jupiter as the head of their wide spectrum of gods and goddesses.
Some people do not want to celebrate Christmas because they think Christmas has its roots in these pagan traditions. Christmas is however not the shimmer of a pagan feast – it is the response to the seeking and yearning of all pagan traditions. Christmas is the solution to every problem the world may have now and in future. We stand at the centre of this big answer to all questions.
At the end of the first century there were a hundred thousand Greek Christians for every Jew that became a Christian. Pagans flocked to accept Christianity as the answer to the confusion and disappointment of their man-made gods. What do you think when you hear the date December 25? Do you think of Ra of the Oriental Sun-goddess? Of course not! Do you know what they looked like? I don’t think so – I don’t know either. We think of Christmas and all the heart-warming traditions around it.
I can easily imagine how a priest in a small village somewhere decided to invite his congregation to church to celebrate the Sun of Righteousness (Malachi 4:2) and the Light of the World (John 8:12) while the pagans had their wild parties. He could have mentioned that the Jews celebrate their Festival of Lights (Hannukah). Jesus is after all the only person ever that said: I am the Light of the World. He has enough light for all the darkness evil could ever bring about.
December was not the time of Jesus’ birth. Scholars agree that the lambs would not have been outside in December and that the birth was somewhere closer to April and the Jewish Passover.
Jesus is the Light of Truth for the fulfillment of the miracle of lights that the Jews celebrate with Hannukah, a feast that is traditionally celebrated in December. He is the Light of the Lampstand. The Lampstand is the Church – the bearer of the Light. The oil of the Holy Spirit flows through the Lampstand to light the fire that gives light. Jesus said: I am the Truth… the Life and the Way. (John 14:6) Jesus is the Light of Truth for the pagans and the Jews.
[For the origins of Hannukah see Pebbles 55 and 118]
The Christmas of 1818 in the Austrian village of Oberndorf just south of Salzburg was cold and dark. Twelve years of Napoleonic wars decimated crops in Europe. As if it were not enough a massive volcanic eruption in Indonesia, Mount Tambura, sent so much ash into the atmosphere that it caused climate change over central Europe. Storms in summer caused the harvest to fail and famine was raging. 1816 is well-known as the year without a summer.
The priest of Oberndorf, Joseph Mohr, wrote a six-verse poem to encourage his people about the love of the Father poured out over them in Jesus as a message for Christmas. He was a gifted musician himself, but he asked a friend to write the music for the poem. A week before Christmas Eve the organ failed and on that dark night before Christmas the carol Silent Night was sung the first time with guitar accompaniment. Today it is one the most well-known and most-sung carols.
Pebble pals, sing the songs, play the music of Christmas, bring in the tree – the symbol of the Tree of Life (Genesis 2:9 and Revelation 22:2). The leaves are for the healing of the nations. Pray for the nations as you decorate your tree.
The Branch from the stump of Jesse (Isaiah 11:1,2) is the Messiah. He is the Tree of Life. Hang the lovely balls as a symbol of the Tree that bears fruit all twelve months of the year – God’s provision that is not seasonal rather constant and reliable. The silver and gold are for the only King that matters – the Child, the King of Kings. Bring the green decorations in – the splendour of Creation.
Celebrate with lovely food. When David danced as a joyous welcome to the entrance of the Ark of the Covenant into Jerusalem, the symbol of the Presence of God, he distributed raisin cakes to all the people. (2 Samuel 6:19). Cut the Christmas cake and rejoice over Immanuel, God with us.
Jesus’s life on earth is described beautifully in the song by Sydney Carter: The Lord of the Dance. Sing it and dance to the rhythm of the universe.
https://youtu.be/Umj0Lucha1w The Lord of the Dance – Laurika Rauch