Christmas tree time of year

There are many opinions within the church surrounding Christmas and what we should and shouldn’t do. Some believers think we should change the date because it is unlikely that His birth was in December. Others feel we shouldn’t have one day set aside to celebrate it. Whilst still others abhor anything related to the old pagan celebration of Yuletide. The Eastern Orthodox churches celebrate on different days to the Western churches.

Even Glenn and I have different preferences surrounding celebratory days such as Easter and Christmas. Glenn counts all days the same, where I love keeping special baking treats, music and decorations for certain times of the year. For me, it is a time of reflecting on certain aspects of the Gospel message; keeping these days as special pushes me into a special season with God. Glenn, on the other hand, does not speak to God in the same way and so the days are not made special for his faith.

So what is right, what is wrong, and does it matter?

This morning I reflected on our differences as I put on Christmas music and painted play-dough decorations with my toddler. During this time, I was reminded of Romans 14.

Who are you to pass judgment on the servant of another? It is before his own master that he stands or falls. And he will be upheld, for the Lord is able to make him stand. One person esteems one day as better than another, while another esteems all days alike. Each one should be fully convinced in his own mind. The one who observes the day, observes it in honor of the Lord. The one who eats, eats in honor of the Lord, since he gives thanks to God, while the one who abstains, abstains in honor of the Lord and gives thanks to God. (Romans 14:4-6).

That makes it fairly clear, doesn’t it? We get to make the decision for ourselves and we aren’t to judge our fellow believers. The important thing, according to Paul, is that we seek to honour God. Please note that I am not talking about people celebrating in ways that contradict Scripture (drunkenness, orgies, pagan worship . . .)! I am talking about how we honour God, from believer to believer, can vary. For example, some of us find special days call us to reflection and remembrance, where others do not.

I highly recommend you read through the whole passage of Romans 14 this week and keep it in mind when you come across someone celebrating (or not celebrating) Christmas as you do. By all means, discuss your varying views with others, but only so far as it does not cause another believer to stumble. Let us walk in love, peace and mutual upbuilding. 

Therefore let us not pass judgment on one another any longer, but rather decide never to put a stumbling block or hindrance in the way of a brother (Romans 14:13).

So then let us pursue what makes for peace and for mutual upbuilding (Romans 14:19).

Christmas crafts

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United by Sin and Salvation

United by Sin and Salvation

Paul’s reason for writing to the church in Rome was to address the division between Jews and Gentiles. The Jews were teaching legalism and boasting in the law and their circumcision. Paul shows that none are righteous of their own works, that the Law was given to reveal sin, and that through the sacrifical system none can be saved. Paul shows that all are in sin, and all can be saved only by grace through Christ’s redeeming sacrifice.

But now the righteousness of God has been manifested apart from the law, although the Law and the Prophets bear witness to it— the righteousness of God through faith in Jesus Christ for all who believe. For there is no distinction:  for all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God, and are justified by his grace as a gift, through the redemption that is in Christ Jesus, whom God put forward as a propitiation by his blood, to be received by faith. (Romans 3:21-25).

United as God’s People

Paul also argues that it is those in Christ who are God’s people, His elect, and not those who are Jews by race. They are brothers in Christ, sons of God, heirs with Christ and have been adopted into the same faith. He calls them to live in harmony with one another through love, mutual up building and by serving one another. They have been given different gifts in order to do this; gifts are not for boasting or for selfish ends.

United as the church, today

It is easy to imagine Romans being written to our divided church of today. We are often quick to judge those who common from different denominations, worship in different ways or have different opinions to our own. There can be multiple churches in the one community serving it in a very haphazard way due to pride preventing communication and liaison. The church needs to take a look within itself and start applying some of these truths in order to build unity. We are the church; it is not just the buildings. And we need to humble ourselves for the sake of unity.

Ask yourself: How can I build unity this week? Who do I know has been hurt by the church and how can I show them love? How can I promote unity within my church? How can I prefer others this week? How can I serve one person practically; whether with a meal, weeding, etc?

Unity glorifies God