Monday, December 12, 2011

One Jewish Man's Look at Christmas

I have followed the Lord Jesus to the best of my limited abilities for over forty years. However, I am Jewish - raised Orthodox. For many Jews, Christmas does not make sense. Even now as a believer, I fail to see why this one day causes so much commotion. I have listened to all the reasons why we celebrate Christmas. I hear the clamor from those who wish to abolish it like when our nation engaged in a great civil war to abolish slavery. To date, I have not heard one well-reasoned position, which satisfies my personal need to understand why so many millions of people make such a big fuss over Christmas. Why do I relate to Charlie Brown shouting in desperation, "Isn't there anyone, who can tell me what Christmas is all about?"

President Ulysses S. Grant declared Christmas a national holiday on June 26, 1870 to honor Christ's birthday. The celebratory nature of this holiday has changed over time, but from my observation, I am not sure many Americans follow this tenet, today. For example, why do so many people push and shove in stores promoting extended shopping hours, searching for a meaningless gift that is neither wanted nor needed to give a not too-distant relative? If our purpose is to honor the Lord of glory, why do we pursue stress-inducing activities robbing us of our peace and joy?

Is the opposite more accurate? Statistics indicate more people suffer from depression or heart failure, commit suicides, homicides, or crimes of passion, engage in self-destructive adulterous affairs, or cause fatal alcohol and/or drug influenced traffic accidents, than at any other single time of the year. Is this Christmas?

Why did Christians pick a day around the time pagans used to celebrate the winter solstice? Granted, no one knows the exact date Jesus arrived and scripture gives us sketchy information at best. Luke 3:23 tells us Jesus was about thirty years of age when He began his ministry. Church tradition holds to a calculated speculation that Jesus reached 33 years of age when He died on the cross. So, is there a better basis upon which to draw His birth assumption? Historically, rulers took a census at the beginning of a new year. All of Palestine at the time of Jesus' birth recognized the New Year at Rosh Hashanah, which always falls in the September/October time of year. The census forced Joseph and Mary to travel to Bethlehem so the evidence from scripture and history circumstantially point to an early fall birth for our Lord. Maybe Christmas should honor His birthday on a day closer to when the event more probably occurred.

By the way, what does the Lord Himself think about all this wrapping paper, ribbons, bows, trees, and lights? Does He have an opinion on all this? I think He does. In Matthew's Gospel, Chapter 15, verses one through fifteen, and in Mark's account, Chapter seven, verses one through thirteen, Jesus describes His attitude towards these traditions we annually practice. I see a parallel between what Jesus told the people then and what I am sure He would repeat today. We have invalidated the Word of God by our traditions.

Obviously, nothing I think, say, or write is going to change any of these things. People will continue to flock to shopping centers and/or purchase gifts on line. They will exchange these things with friends and family for whatever purpose or reason they hold dear. The practice still looks strange to us who have learned about God from a different point of view. The pursuit of the Yuletide tradition does nothing to present the baby born in Bethlehem as the Messiah of Israel, the One who will save us from our enemy.

Regardless, there is something special about Christmas this time of year. It is good to remember the angel's annunciation to the shepherds:

"And the angel said unto them, 'Fear not: for, behold, I bring you good tidings of great joy, which shall be to all people. For unto you is born this day in the city of David a Savior, which is Christ the Lord. And this shall be a sign unto you; Ye shall find the babe wrapped in swaddling clothes, lying in a manger.' And suddenly there was with the angel a multitude of the heavenly host praising God, and saying, 'Glory to God in the highest, and on earth peace, good will toward men.' " (Luke 2:10-14, KJV)

With that, I wish to offer a simple greeting: Happy Birthday Lord Jesus - whenever it is - and, Merry Christmas to all my friends and family. May you all have a God blessed New Year.

1 comment:

Megan Stephens said...

Hello Charles,
I have been reading some of your posts and would like you to be a guest writer in a blog tour event I am organizing for Christian author John Beehner. Please peruse his website at and contact me if you'd be interested in participating. Hope to hear from you soon!