Christmas – A Revival Celebration
Recently I read in Plain Truth Magazine an interesting article, Jesus Christ – God Incarnate. It mentioned how originally December 25 was a pagan festival commemorating the birthday of a false sun god. It is believed, the church intentionally selected this day to celebrate Jesus’ birth to counteract the pagan feast of the sun god and turn people to the Son of God. Instead of Christianizing a pagan festival the church established the celebration of Jesus’ birth as a revival celebration.
And who do people remember today, Jesus or this sun-god? Seemed their plan worked.
Yet, interestingly after all this time we still have dual celebrations. One is a secular celebration with Santa Claus, Christmas trees, decorations, giving gifts, etc. The other is the celebration of Jesus’ birth.
I knew about the sun-god, that Jesus wasn’t born on December 25th, and the pagan origin of many of the secular festivities and for awhile these facts put a hiccup in my enjoyment of the season. If there was one thing that God didn’t like, it was His people taking on pagan practices as their own because it could lead them to sin. To top it off the description in Jeremiah 10:2-5 sounded like a Christmas tree to me. Whatever happened to being in the world but not of it?
What struck me in this article was the intention of the church – to have a revival celebration not to “Christianize” the pagan festival. What mindset do we hold today as Christians? For years, like most people I saw it as Christianizing something pagan. Therefore, it seemed silly, compromising, not what we should do as a people set apart, and it felt disloyal somehow. So I disengaged to a certain extent from the secular fanfare. (more on this later)
But with this deeper understanding that the intention was a revival celebration . . . my view has started to change. This new awareness infused a new profound joy into everything about the season – it wasn’t about compromise, it was about revival. Compromise dishonors. Revival honors.
Revival is why we celebrate Christ. The word revival suggests new life, new birth, renewal, bring to life someone who once dead. We celebrate His birth and what His birth was the forerunner of, our spiritual birth. Jesus’ birth paints a picture of ours – as He was born of flesh and spirit, we are born of flesh and spirit. Once we are born of the spirit, His life of peace, power, strength, love, mercy, truth, and joy lives in us and gives new life to our mortal bodies. Romans 8:11 We are no longer one of the walking dead, but have become eternal beings experiencing true life. We no longer are who we were; we are free from our past destructive lives and all the pain, sorrow and trouble they manifested. We are no longer mere men but spirit beings having a human experience. 1 Corinthians 3:3
This true life that lives within us is the revival that we bring to each day and what we celebrate this time of year.
As for the pagan festivities. . . as I was praying over this situation I “accidently” read 1 Corinthians 8 when my next reading was 2 Corinthians 8 and it spoke right to my heart. Everything in itself is pure. Romans 14:20 . . . we live with an incredible liberty that the Old Testament folks didn’t have because we have the Holy Spirit to guide us into all truth. They needed all sorts of rules because they didn’t have the spirit of truth and discernment guiding them like we do. Without this spirit it was easy for them to take on pagan beliefs, so they had to stay away completely.
Pagan artifacts become harmful when people attribute power to them however small. Otherwise they are just a tree or a piece of wood – God’s creation. The pagans put up greenery in their homes this time of year, winter solstice, to protect them from death. They attributed a false saving power to it and that is what is harmful. If I put up greenery in my house – I do it because I think it is something beautiful of God’s creation, nothing more. Nothing is harmful in itself it is what we attribute to it – and from His Word, I believe that is what God doesn’t like.
Most of us don’t attribute power to decorations – that is silly, but what about the gifts we give. If we give gifts to show our “goodness” or to prove our goodness, then we are attributing something more to that act than we should. Or what if we give certain gifts out of pride. All we do should be in love, not for self-glory. Or what if we get caught up in envy and want? Then we are not trusting in God’s perfect provision and we are intermingling with pagan thought practices (thoughts against His will). There are plenty of things during this season to lead us astray in our hearts . . . as with every day. If in our hearts attribute more than we should to things or activities then we are setting them up as idols, otherwise we are free to enjoy. This is one of His many gifts of freedom and joy to us in Christ. 1 Corinthians 6:12
This is a wonderful and joyous time of year where we take time to celebrate Christ and the new life He came to give. I encourage you to infuse a spirit of revival with each gift you give, each family encounter, each party you attend and each decoration you hang. Live in the freedom and newness of life and share that life with others by loving them with His love.