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 1:10-19 Who You Hang With

While reading this section of Proverbs 1, I was reminded of when I was a teenager, and I would try to persuade my mom that it was O.K. for me to do something because “everybody else was doing it,” and she’d say, “well, if so-and-so goes and jumps off a bridge, would you want to do that as well?” Thinking of it now makes me smile, and even though I didn’t appreciate the answer at the time, I certainly can now. Who you hang with says a lot about who you are, and to me these verses are a warning against a “gang” type of mentality, against acting as others act, because it’s cool, against going along blindly, before considering the consequences.

Peer pressure can sometimes be overwhelming in our society. Falling in line with everyone else, so that we may fit in, or so that we can have the things that others tell us we should have, even when we know that our actions are wrong, seems to be almost expected. But at what cost do we race after the images of an “ideal” life? Do we hurt others, and profit from their misfortunes? Are we willing to debase ourselves and take advantage of any means for fame and fortune? One thing I know for sure is that Karma’s a bad-ass, what we throw out there will most certainly be visited upon us. Verses 17-19 assure us of this, that when we are so foolish and smug in our belief that we the smartest that ever lived, we surely set a trap for ourselves, and sooner or later, the bill comes due.

We live according to the company we keep, and if we seek wisdom, we must know who we can listen to and who we should avoid.

It’s amazing to me how simple truths that were recorded thousands of years ago still are relevant today.