It has always interested me that a
large number of our family
celebrations occur at the end of the year. Thanksgiving, Christmas, and
even Halloween take place as winter is coming on and the year draws to
a close. All of these events are family oriented. Even the most jaded
adult has a hard time not smiling at a three-year-old going out to a
Halloween party in a costume. Thanksgiving and Christmas have
traditionally been family times. Such songs as “I’ll Be Home for
Christmas” reflect the nostalgia that we all have as we remember happy
times with family members extending back to our childhood.
We live in hard times. All of us have been affected to some degree by
everything that is going on in the world — terrorist violence, economic
problems, oil spills, and other disasters are always at the top of our
list. Throughout Bible history there were hard times. The whole history
of the nation of Israel has to do with one calamity after another.
Jesus came into the world in the flesh at a time when God’s people were
in slavery and political oppression of a magnitude that we have a hard
time comprehending. Man’s inhumanity to man is nothing new, and
selfishness, greed, corruption, immorality, arrogance, pride, and a
willingness to abuse other human beings have always been around.
An interesting fact about this history is that God has always
instituted times of feasting and rejoicing as an integral part of the
struggles in life. When the nation of Israel prepared to leave the
Egyptian captivity there was a feast instituted to commemorate that
historical event. The Passover celebration continues even to the
present time in the Jewish culture. One part of the Old Law was a
variety of feasts, fasts, and family celebrations to commemorate things
that had happened in the past — both good and bad. When Jesus came to
the end of His life on earth, He instituted the “Lord’s Supper” at a
dinner in which He gave final instructions to His disciples (Matthew
26:26 – 29). Again, this feast is carried on by Christians as an
integral part of their worship to God. All of us are familiar with
biblical stories in which feasts and celebrations commemorated what had
happened — for better or for worse. The parable of the prodigal son in
15:11– 24 shows us a positive view where a great feast was
prepared at the return of a son who was lost. A remembrance of
Jephthah’s daughter in Judges
11:30 – 40 indicates a remembrance of an
unfortunate oath made by a father and its consequences. Notice that
many of these events were not commanded by God, but had a significant
effect upon the faith of those who participated in them.
There are those who have negative views of all of our holidays. Some
feel that Thanksgiving celebrates an invasion of a peaceful people by
dominating violent invaders from another culture. Some feel that
Halloween has pagan roots that recall a violent, abusive time when
people followed mystic, destructive, pagan beliefs instead of following
God. Some feel that Christmas is a corruption of pagan activities at
the winter solstice, while still others view it as an extension of
Catholic militarism in wars from the time of the Crusades. As our
culture becomes more diverse and Christianity in its most general sense
becomes a minority religion in America, these ancient customs become
less known and less applicable.
Atheists and agnostics use the seasons as clubs against the validity of
the Bible, and point out the pagan roots of much of what is done by
various Christian denominations. Many school curricula have sections in
the history units that portray negative views of these holidays. Our
suggestion is that this is a wonderful opportunity for Christians to
educate the world about what the Bible says and what it does not say.
At Halloween we can call attention to the fact that from its inception
Christianity urged people to stay away from pagan worship activities.
We are told in 1 John 4:1
to “test the spirits to see whether they are
from God.” In the Old Testament there were severe penalties for
engaging in witchcraft or human sacrifice. At Thanksgiving we can show
that the Christian system emphasized thanksgiving as a major part of
the Christian lifestyle. Passages like 1 Timothy
2:1 and 4:3 – 4
just some of literally dozens of admonitions to Christians to be
thankful people. Christmas is a wonderful time to show that “The
Christmas Spirit” that everyone wants to have is what Christianity is
all about. Love, peace, giving, caring, and praising God are not
once-a-year activities for those who believe what the Bible has to say.
What better time to spread that message than when people are
participating in activities that move their thoughts in that direction.
Christians are not to be grumpy old men and women who sit around
complaining about everything they see, hear, feel, and experience. Let
us look for the good in what is around us, and spread joy 24/7/365 to
our friends and neighbors. Look for the joy of each season and use it
as a wonderful chance to share with others the glorious gospel message
of the resurrection, life, and teachings of Jesus Christ.
Cover picture at top of
page: 2010 © Cathy Yeulet. Image from BigStockPhoto.com
Cover border at top of page: 2010 © Edward Vetter. Image from
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Does God Exist?, NovDec10.