On December Five and Twenty

In our family, we make aepfel skivers on Christmas morning – it’s tradition. It got me to thinking about how many other things we associate with Christmas that are simply tradition, man-made precepts, which are not exactly biblical. Many Christians like to say, “Jesus is the reason for the season,” but this is, in fact, is a mere half-truth. The book of Luke states this about the night Christ was born; “In the same region, shepherds were staying out in the fields and keeping watch at night over their flock.” (Luke 2:8) Generally, shepherds only stay out with their sheep at night two times a year, in the late summer when the sheep are mated, or in the early spring when the lambs are born. Anyone who is familiar with animal husbandry, can tell you that mating season can be managed without camping out in the fields, but birthing is a different story. Babies – whether human or animal – are born when they are born, and more times than not, it’s the middle of the night, suggesting that the time of year when Christ was born was in early spring, “as shepherds watched their flock at night.” We celebrate the “Nativity of the Christ Child,” which is what early Christians called it, on December 25th bcause it’s a tradition; a tradtion based upon something other than what the Bible teaches. In the early “church” only the anniversary of Christ’s death was revered, as was the death of all the martyrs, but the early Bishops, who it seems would say just about anything to get the pagans to convert, started reasoning that perhaps Christ’s birth coincided with the Roman celebration of the Winter Solstice which was December 25th. Because Christ, reasoned Augustine of Hippo, ” for symbolic reasons,” would choose to be born on that day – the Winter solstice, when the sun begins to bring the light back into the world. Since then, more and more “traditions” have been added over the centuries –wise men arriving at the manger (they in fact arrived at the “house where they saw the child and his mother Mary…” Matt 2:11), evergreen trees decorated with brightly colored “witch” balls and set ablaze with light, mistletoe, holly, St. Nick/Santa, giving of gifts, reindeer and elves, songs about chesnuts and snow – layer upon layer of blending that which is holy with that whih is not. Today, as millions of people across the world gather to celebrate the tradition of Christmas, I would submit this for consideration: In Matthew 15, Jesus asks the Pharisees, “And why do you, by your traditions, break the direct commandments of God?” Telling them further that Isaiah had it right about them when he prophesied, “Their worship is a farce, for they teach man-made ideas…” Paul also addresses the subject of following man-made ideas when he states in 2 Timothy 4:3-4, “For the time will come when people will not tolerate sound doctrine, but according to their own desires, will multiply teachers for themselves because they have an itch to hear what they want to hear. They will turn away from hearing the truth and will turn aside to myths.” And I wonder, with all of the “traditions” we hold dear about Christmas, traditions that even non-believers celebrate, have we turned aside to myths, because it pleases our itchy ears? Something to ponder, to seriously and thoughtfully consider so that we do not find ourselves amongst the Loadiceans, thinking “we are rich” when we are in fact “wretched, miserable, poor, blind and naked, neither hot nor cold and must be spit out of the Lord’s mouth.” ~SLM

Proverbs 9:13-18 The Great Pretender

Sometimes it’s hard to determine what is true and right, and in our search for a better life, a wise life, we must be ever vigilant, ever discriminating, because foolishness dresses up as wisdom would do. She is the great pretender. She puts on her costume, recites her lines, and invites us in with trickery and dishonesty, only to entrap us with lies and deception.  She’s that person who we’ve all trusted and shouldn’t have, the direction we’ve taken that became a dead-end, the hope of change we’ve put our faith into that appeared to be something it was not, and that’s what this section of Proverbs 9 reminds me of, misplaced trust.

But it’s more than simple misplaced trust; it’s an active pursuit to mislead. There are so many voices shouting out for our attention, urging us to follow blindly the latest fads, telling us what the “cool” kids would or would not say, and asking us to accept without question the opinions of “enlightened” thinkers who can show us the way to a better world.  “Beware of the teachers of the law.” says Luke 20:46-47, “They like to walk around in flowing robes and love to be greeted with respect in the marketplaces and have the most important seats in the synagogues and the places of honor at banquets. They devour widows’ houses and for a show make lengthy prayers.” Folly’s whole end-game is to steel our lives and to lead us into darkness. Therefore, we must consider the spirit of things; test their metal, to see who it is we are following.

Wisdom is of God, of His spirit and of His word, and as such is reflective of His character. Folly is not of God, and while she would have us believe that she is, when we scrutinize her actions, her behavior, the advice of 1 John 4:1 rings true: Dear friends, do not believe every spirit, but test the spirits to see whether they are from God, because many false prophets have gone out into the world.

 

~SLM