End of Year Joy

NovDec10 coverIt 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 Luke 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 are 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.
--John N. Clayton

Cover picture at top of page: 2010 © Cathy Yeulet. Image from BigStockPhoto.com
Cover border at top of page: 2010 © Edward Vetter. Image from BigStockPhoto.com

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