*SPOILER ALERT* If you enjoy this Christmas time of year, and you are busy mailing out your Christmas cards, preparing to decorate your home and finalize your shopping list for your loved ones, then you will NOT want to read this article. I wish you the happiest of holiday seasons, and may you enjoy your time with your family and friends. *THE END* Really. Do NOT read this.
However, for those of you who claim to be disciples of the Messiah Yeshua (Jesus), and have mixed feelings about how certain religious aspects of this season are portrayed, then perhaps you may find a few thoughts to chew on in the rest of this article. If this intrigues you, then I have a story I want to share with you, and a challenge. Grab a cup of hot cocoa, gather the kids around the fireplace, and read on…
This story takes place a few thousand years ago in the deserts of the Middle East. It was springtime and there was this group of recently freed Egyptian slaves who were wandering the desert. You may have heard of them. Anyway, they had assembled at a specific mountain in Arabia, and were wondering what the heck to do next. They suddenly got the idea that being freed from slavery in Egypt was a big deal; miraculous, even. Since God must have helped them escape, they figured they should honor him in some way. Since all of them had been raised in captivity in Egypt, the only way they knew to honor gods was with figurines and statues that had representative characteristics of those gods. They thought that to pay honor to the figurine or statue was a way of paying respect to the gods. Why not do the same with their own God?
I can hear some of the kids saying, “Wait a minute, I thought this was going to be a Christmas story!” Just a few more minutes, children, and you will see how this ties in perfectly with your little toy trains, your Christmas trees, and stockings by the fireplace. Have some more cocoa…
So the ex-slaves went to work collecting all of their jewelry and precious metals and decided to melt all the metal down to make the most awesome statue ever to honor the most awesome God ever. And what a statue it was! They wanted to represent God’s strength and power in delivering them from slavery in Egypt. What figure could they use that was powerful and mighty? Well, what on earth was more powerful than the mighty ox who helped them farm the Egyptian fields, carry their burdens, and pull their loads of grain and goods? So they melted all of their stuff down and fashioned it into the most beautiful golden ox you have ever seen. It had to be the best ever, because their God was the most awesome God. When it was finished, it really was amazing! It was so amazing that they decided to declare a feast to honor God and thank him for bringing them out of Egypt. They began dancing and singing and drinking and…well, some of the details get a little fuzzy here, but you get the idea. They were honoring God the best way they knew how, and was it ever an awesome party!
Then, if you remember the story, you know what happened next. A party-pooper came down from that mountain and got mad at them for making this awesome statue that they had made to honor God. Can you believe it? He said he had been up on the mountain talking to God, and that God wasn’t pleased with what they were doing because it was all of their own making. They were taking a made-up, representative thing and trying to honor God with it. He said that was a big no-no. He went on to tell them that God was so awesome, in fact, that he wasn’t able to be represented by anything on earth, in the oceans, or in the heavens. And, he told them that God really doesn’t like it when we make up our own ways of trying to honor him, because they typically lead to something other than the truth of who he is.
Then, to make matters worse, you know what that mountain dude did? He actually destroyed that beautiful golden ox that they had made and ground it into a fine powder. Man, was he ever mad! He even forced the people to make a decision: either serve God the right way that he wants to be honored, or do your own thing your own way and pay the penalty. Well, let me tell you, this started a lot of arguments. Some people believed what he had to say, but others thought they should have the right to do what they want to do, as long as they are trying to honor God sincerely. The fighting got so bad, in fact, that a bunch of people were killed because they didn’t want to listen to the mountain dude and wanted to keep honoring God in their own way. It was a sad day.
Then the mountain dude said they should all be ashamed of themselves for having thought they could do whatever they wanted to honor God, and he put them in a time-out until he could hear from God again about what they were really supposed to be doing. After a long time, he came back down from the mountain and shared some basic rules that God had told him about. In fact, the first two rules he shared were specifically designed to deal with the very issue they had encountered there at the foot of that mountain: they were only supposed to serve the one true God, and not make up any representative things to honor him.
The good news is, once the people understood what God was saying about himself and how he was to be honored, they took those rules to heart and began to try to do everything the way God wanted. They were then able to accomplish some pretty amazing things with his help and guidance. However, whenever they got out of line, he would send someone to remind them of the rules; but when they did what was right, he was very happy.
The moral of the story? It’s time to be reminded of the rules. (Okay, this is a good time to put your seat belt on. Kids, put down your cocoa and hang on to Mommy and Daddy).
In reality, Christmas is a time of year when Christians worship God in a way of their own choosing against his wishes. They think they are honoring him, but he has not authorized the day, the Christmas trees, the decorations, the Nativity idols, the feasting and drinking, the heretical theology of Christmas carols, the never-ending shopping and covetousness of “gifts”, the Christmas cantatas, the living Christmas trees, the children’s plays, nor anything else we associate with this season. To try to wrangle these things into a biblical worldview is nothing but utter and total foolishness; a chasing after the wind. It is taking all of our selfish man-made traditions and then somehow trying to honor God with these filthy rags. It dishonors the majesty of the Son of God by reducing the Almighty to a plastic lighted lawn decoration, and then calling that “witnessing”. It confuses our children by perpetuating the myths of Christmas as somehow having biblical basis and spiritual value. The truth is that ALL of this is nothing more than melting down our goods into a big, fat, golden ox and calling it “Jesus’ birthday celebration”. God help us.
It was Yeshua himself who accused the religious people of the day of the same type of religious hyprocrisy:
(6) He answered and said unto them, Well hath Esaias prophesied of you hypocrites, as it is written, This people honoureth me with their lips, but their heart is far from me.(7) Howbeit in vain do they worship me, teaching for doctrines the commandments of men.(8) For laying aside the commandment of God, ye hold the tradition of men, as the washing of pots and cups: and many other such like things ye do.
(9) And he said unto them, Full well ye reject the commandment of God, that ye may keep your own tradition.(10) For Moses said, Honour thy father and thy mother; and, Whoso curseth father or mother, let him die the death:
(11) But ye say, If a man shall say to his father or mother, It is Corban, that is to say, a gift, by whatsoever thou mightest be profited by me; he shall be free.
(12) And ye suffer him no more to do ought for his father or his mother;
(13) Making the word of God of none effect through your tradition, which ye have delivered: and many such like things do ye.
When we attempt to hold our traditions, even seeming Christian ones, over and above the teaching of the word of God, then we are no better than the Pharisees whom Yeshua rebuked in this passage, or the idolaters at the foot of Mt. Sinai. Take note: the Israelites who were involved with the golden calf had every intention of honoring the God who had brought them out of Egypt with it, but this false representation was an abomination to God.
(3) And all the people brake off the golden earrings which were in their ears, and brought them unto Aaron.
(4) And he received them at their hand, and fashioned it with a graving tool, after he had made it a molten calf: and they said, These be thy gods, O Israel, which brought thee up out of the land of Egypt.
(5) And when Aaron saw it, he built an altar before it; and Aaron made proclamation, and said, To morrow is a feast to the LORD.
Exo 32:30 And it came to pass on the morrow, that Moses said unto the people, Ye have sinned a great sin: and now I will go up unto the LORD; peradventure I shall make an atonement for your sin.
Exo 32:35 And the LORD plagued the people, because they made the calf, which Aaron made.
Please take to heart the clear teaching of the word of God, and Yeshua himself, in this regard. Idolatry of tradition is still a serious sin that we need to repent of, and maybe even more so, in this day and age. Yeshua said that “God is a Spirit: and they that worship him must worship him in spirit and in truth,” (John 4:24). We must worship him not in spirit only (with the right intentions), but in spirit and in truth (according to the Bible; not with traditions of our own making). Yeshua is returning soon for a spotless bride, pure and holy, and not a bride who is unequally yoked with worldly myths and traditions.
2 Cor. 6:14-18
(14) Be ye not unequally yoked together with unbelievers: for what fellowship hath righteousness with unrighteousness? and what communion hath light with darkness?
(15) And what concord hath Christ with Belial? or what part hath he that believeth with an infidel?
(16) And what agreement hath the temple of God with idols? for ye are the temple of the living God; as God hath said, I will dwell in them, and walk in them; and I will be their God, and they shall be my people.
(17) Wherefore come out from among them, and be ye separate, saith the Lord, and touch not the unclean thing; and I will receive you,
(18) And will be a Father unto you, and ye shall be my sons and daughters, saith the Lord Almighty.
Please, I beg you, consider carefully how you navigate this idolatrous season and what types of values you are instilling in your children. Eternal consequences are at stake:
1 Cor. 6:9
(9) Know ye not that the unrighteous shall not inherit the kingdom of God? Be not deceived: neither fornicators, nor idolaters, nor adulterers, nor effeminate, nor abusers of themselves with mankind,
1 Cor. 10:5-7
(5) But with many of them God was not well pleased: for they were overthrown in the wilderness.
(6) Now these things were our examples, to the intent we should not lust after evil things, as they also lusted.
(7) Neither be ye idolaters, as were some of them; as it is written, The people sat down to eat and drink, and rose up to play.
(7) He that overcometh shall inherit all things; and I will be his God, and he shall be my son.
(8) But the fearful, and unbelieving, and the abominable, and murderers, and whoremongers, and sorcerers, and idolaters, and all liars, shall have their part in the lake which burneth with fire and brimstone: which is the second death.
(13) I am Alpha and Omega, the beginning and the end, the first and the last.
(14) Blessed are they that do his commandments, that they may have right to the tree of life, and may enter in through the gates into the city.
(15) For without are dogs, and sorcerers, and whoremongers, and murderers, and idolaters, and whosoever loveth and maketh a lie.
Take the Christmas Idolatry Test
Still not sure if the Christmas tree and other traditions are idolatrous for you and your family? Then take this straightforward test that only involves ONE simple step: don’t have it this year. Just for this year. Tell your family you are not putting up a tree or celebrating Christmas by giving gifts, and see what happens. If you really must spend money in this “season of giving”, then donate the money you would have spent on gifts and decorations to a missions program or local relief charity that you believe in, then tell your kids “to remember the words of the Messiah Yeshua, how he said, It is more blessed to give than to receive,” Acts 20:35.
But here are a couple of things you can’t do with this test:
- Don’t try to justify why it’s not a valid idolatry test; it is valid, and you know it. I’m only asking you to skip Christmas one time. If you don’t see a spiritually mature difference in yourself and your family, and you want to pick all of this back up again next year, and you can do it in good conscience before God, then go for it. (I would be very interested in hearing back how you are able to scripturally justify it next year).
- Don’t justify Christmas by thinking you’re only keeping these traditions “for the kids”. What are you teaching the kids by enabling their own greed and covetousness? Think maybe they might learn a little bit more about what it means to be a Bible-believing Christian by physically demonstrating a separation from worldly idolatry? Why not teach them rather how to give all year long in love when needs arise, not just when worldly desires or commitments demand them to do so.
- Don’t justify Christmas by saying you’re only doing it for your spouse’s family, or other family members who “wouldn’t understand”. What better opportunity to help non-believing family members understand more about what you believe and to be a witness to your kids and your extended family about your commitment to Christ?
We can still be a shining witness to the truth of God without succumbing to the idolatrous traditions handed down to us by our fathers; in fact, even more so. May God be merciful to us in our generation for our unfaithfulness, and may he empower us, and our children, through his holy Spirit to be emboldened to stand for what is right and holy in his sight.