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

Advertisements

What are you expecting?

Yesterday I was sitting with some of our students sharing about our family Christmas traditions. We talked about what food our family would prepare, whether we went to evening or morning church services, if presents were exchanged Christmas day or Christmas eve and how the day was made to be special.

I find that it is always a blessing to be invited to share about my family and traditions and they also appeared to be blessed by the opportunity. When it came time for one of the girls to share I was humbled by what I perceived as the simplicity of her family Christmases as a child. Growing up in Zimbabwe at a time when bread and rice was uncommon, these staples became special treats Christmas. It was hard for me to perceive how a loaf of plain sandwich bread could be seen as a treat. I suppose it is the same as loving mince pies because I only get them at Christmas, or my brother’s famous egg nog!

This same woman went on to share how excited she and her siblings would become at Christmas time, too, because it was the only time when they would get new clothes. I used to also get new clothes sometimes and her excitement showed up my mindset. I used to groan when I’d open a packet containing socks. As I got older I didn’t groan anymore, but I did put them aside for the next gift!

I think what I’ve taken away from her sharing and also hearing the other students share, is that it isn’t so much what my family tradition is that makes the day special for me. It is the fact that I have a loving family who has built these traditions with me. It is also the fact that all of the traditions we shared about involved going to church. What a blessing it is to be raised in a loving family who raises us in the ways of the Lord! I was never allowed to miss the fact that Christmas is about Christ, not clothes or food. These extras enable us to enjoy the day and celebrate but I think that if they were taken away it would still be a joy to gather with my family and close friends to celebrate the birth of my Saviour in fellowship.

I would challenge you to consider what your expectations are this Christmas. Are you putting the expectations on others to get you the perfect gift or are your eyes on the one who has already given you the perfect gift – Christ Jesus, who brought us salvation? Are you focused on making the day perfect by cooking the perfect food, or are you teaching your children about Christ and the miracle of His birth? Do you want to be the perfect host to your friends or are you witnessing to them of the love of our God? Finally, consider what Christmas traditions you are building and which ones do you want to build?

God’s desire has always been to dwell with His people and He made a way for this to happen by sending Christ Jesus, His Son; Emmanuel, God with us!

Old Testament: Exo 29:43-45 There I will meet with the people of Israel, and it shall be sanctified by my glory. I will consecrate the tent of meeting and the altar. Aaron also and his sons I will consecrate to serve me as priests. I will dwell among the people of Israel and will be their God.

Present: Eph 1:13-14 In him you also, when you heard the word of truth, the gospel of your salvation, and believed in him, were sealed with the promised Holy Spirit, who is the guarantee of our inheritance until we acquire possession of it, to the praise of his glory.

Future: Rev 21:3-4 And I heard a loud voice from the throne saying, “Behold, the dwelling place of God is with man. He will dwell with them, and they will be his people, and God himself will be with them as their God.  He will wipe away every tear from their eyes, and death shall be no more, neither shall there be mourning, nor crying, nor pain anymore, for the former things have passed away.” 

Matthew 1:23 Behold, a virgin shall be with child, and shall bring forth a son, and they shall call his name Emmanuel, which being interpreted is, God with us. 

023