Happy Jesus Day

I’m sure non-Christians must be very confused when they see some Christians celebrating Christmas exactly like they do, other Christians not celebrating it at all and calling it “pagan”, and then still other Christians complaining that the world is trying to take Jesus OUT of Christmas and secularize it!

What IS “Christmas”? The birth of Jesus? Roman Catholic mass and tradition? “Season’s Greetings” with Santa, Rudolph, the elves and the “Holiday” tree? A giant marketing machine? A time for family? An excuse to party?

In truth, it is all these things by virtue of tradition and association. Looking back at its historical origins, we see that the Catholic church acknowledges Augustine’s campaign to Christianize pagan temples and festivals in order to grow church membership and increase the number of RC converts:

Under the wise orders of Gregory the Great, Augustine aided the growth from the ancient traditions to the new life by consecrating pagan temples for Christian worship and turning pagan festivals into feast days of martyrs.

Though there is debate regarding a December 25th birth date for Christ (a date made official by Pope Julius I over 400 years after Christ’s crucifixion, death and resurrection), centuries of tradition have established that association in the minds and hearts of many. A tradition still others want to change:

Americans are taking the “Christ” out of Christmas. As the holiday approaches and last-minute shoppers stampede through malls to  buy presents for everyone on their list, a new poll has shown that Christmas has  lost its religious meaning for many Americans. The story of hope surrounding the birth of Jesus, it seems, has been swamped by  commercialism and the routine aspects of the day, like visiting family and  friends. (Commercialism makes Christmas more ‘$acred’, less sacred in US: Pew poll, http://www.nydailynews.com/news/national/commercialism-christmas-acred-poll-article-1.1552398)

Atheist activist group American Atheists hate Jesus so much that they are willing to defend winter solstice rituals, which were religious practices and celebrations in honor of pagan gods. One has to ask why the bias against Jesus from atheists, who claim to deny any existence of God, including pagan gods:

We all love this time of year. Christianity has been trying to claim ownership of the season for hundreds of years,” Silverman added. “But the winter solstice came first and so did its traditions. The season belongs to everybody.” http://www.theblaze.com/stories/2013/12/06/christmas-is-better-without-christ-atheists-take-their-anti-christmas-message-to-nycs-times-square/

The last four years I have not taken part in Christmas celebrations. I don’t like the confusion, I don’t desire to take part in traditions that dishonor Christ because they are rooted in pagan idolatry. Worship of the gods Oden, Saturn, Mithra and others were in part the basis of Christmas traditions. The “evergreen” tree was a symbol of everlasting life through the return of the god Ra for the ancient Egyptians, which is contrary to belief that everlasting life is in Jesus Christ alone.

On the other hand, the strong push to secularize Christmas and take Jesus out of it is disconcerting. Living in a world that grows increasingly hostile to Jesus Christ every day is to live in a world that seeks to remove any reference to Him or Christianity from schools, holidays, and even the bible.

Joking claims are made that even the animals are trying to take Jesus out of Christmas. Every year, stray cats from Brooklyn NYC take over a Christmas nativity scene for the sake of keeping warm, kicking “baby Jesus” out to make room for their furry bodies. The dull lifelessness of the plastic statues stand (or topple) in stark contrast to the kitties which God created and animated with the spirit of life. But not missing an opportunity to mock the God of the bible, animal worship is then recommended:

There would probably be no war if everyone worshiped cats. The ancient Egyptians were definitely on to something. Praise be to kittens.

Another reason I struggle with whether or not to celebrate Christmas is this: how can I celebrate my own birthday but ignore celebrating the birth of the Savior of all mankind? Traditional Christmas celebrations fall short to this end because we give gifts to each other, not to Jesus. Apparently I’m not the only one who feels this way. Here’s an excerpt of an article by a Christian also struggling with the huge debate over Christmas, suggesting a completely separate day designated for celebrating Jesus’ birth:

I know what you’re thinking: What about “the reason for the season”? But that’s precisely my point. Do Christians really want to think of the son of God as the reason for reduced-price waffle-makers and winter wonderland scenes at the local mall? That sounds like Ricky Bobby‘s baby Jesus from the movie Talladega Nights, not the babe whose arrival is heralded in the Gospel of Luke. The battle for the soul of Christmas ended a long time ago, and cultural forces won. That’s clear when Christmas trees fill homes and apartments in Japan, a country where 2% of the population is Christian.

As for the religious holiday, I’m calling it Jesus Day. When I was young, my family celebrated Christmas very literally as Jesus’ birthday. My Baptist grandmother baked a birthday cake for baby Jesus, along with more traditional cookies and pies. And at church, which we attended on Christmas Day, all the kids and children’s choir alumni gathered at the front of the sanctuary to belt out the tune “Happy Birthday, Baby Jesus.” http://usatoday30.usatoday.com/news/opinion/forum/story/2011-12-04/christmas-jesus-holiday-secular/51642322/1

This year, I decided to do something different and celebrate Jesus’ birthday by giving Him not cookies and cake but a gift and offering of song and praise, worshipping and upholding His name. A wonderful woman of God named Brenda joined me and my guitar, and we sang hymns of praise and Jesus’ birth for the elders at a nursing home. His law is to love God with all the heart, mind, soul and strength, and neighbor as self. What is better than taking the gifts that God gave us and giving them back to the Lord?

I love you Jesus! I’m happy like Mary and Elisabeth, like Anna and Simeon, happy like the sons and daughters of men, the children crying in the temple and saying, “Hosanna to the Son of David” that you were born. You said, “Lo, I come (in the volume of the book it is written of me,)”, taking on flesh and being born to die on the cross and live forevermore. If it weren’t for your birthday, there would be no death on the cross for our sins and no resurrection from the dead. But through these events, through your birth, life, death and resurrection as the glorified Son of God, you have offered to all those that believe in you forgiveness of sins, salvation from the wrath of God to come in His day of judgment, and a new birth.

In summary, Jesus had one birthday in order to offer us a second one: a birthday of the Spirit, being born again as a child of God. Halleluiah! If you don’t know the Lord today, will you take Him up on that offer?

That if thou shalt confess with thy mouth the Lord Jesus, and shalt believe in thine heart that God hath raised him from the dead, thou shalt be saved.
Romans 10:9

Then Pilate entered into the judgment hall again, and called Jesus, and said unto him, Art thou the King of the Jews? Jesus answered him, Sayest thou this thing of thyself, or did others tell it thee of me? Pilate answered, Am I a Jew? Thine own nation and the chief priests have delivered thee unto me: what hast thou done? Jesus answered, My kingdom is not of this world: if my kingdom were of this world, then would my servants fight, that I should not be delivered to the Jews: but now is my kingdom not from hence.

Pilate therefore said unto him, Art thou a king then? Jesus answered, Thou sayest that I am a king. To this end was I born, and for this cause came I into the world, that I should bear witness unto the truth. Every one that is of the truth heareth my voice.

Pilate saith unto him, What is truth? And when he had said this, he went out again unto the Jews, and saith unto them, I find in him no fault at all.” John 18:33-38