Monday, November 28, 2011

Our Christmas Begins To Take Shape

As Trever and I seek God as to whether or not we should celebrate Christmas, and what exactly that celebration should look like if we do, we will share with you some of the things we are thinking through and trying to walk out.

But first, I'd like to tackle some of the comments we have received regarding our dear friend, Mr. Interesting. As I mentioned before, we love him very much and he is truly a believer. He is our brother. And if he is wrong, if Christmas is indeed something Christians have liberty to celebrate, to redeem, well, then that would make him what scripture calls the weaker brother. I just think we need to love him, to be sensitive to him, and to make concessions where we can. {Please understand, I am NOT saying he IS wrong. I am simply making the point that if we are right and he is wrong, our behavior toward him should still be loving and Christ like. I was a bit shocked to get so many private messages that essentially suggested we should not care about what he thinks and just go on with our celebration, even if it causes him to stumble. That it wasn't *our* problem. This just doesn't sit well with me, even if it was meant well by those who suggested it.}

I've have Christian friends {and family members} who don't eat pork or shellfish, who attempt to obey the Levitical diet laws in the Old Testament. They have very firm convictions about it and are convinced they are obeying God. I don't carry that same conviction, based on several passages in the New Testament. However, when they come over for dinner, or even if we order out, I don't put pork chops or shrimp on the menu, and I don't order it while I dine out with them, for *their* sake.

So, in the same vein, we felt the Christmas issue demanded our thoughtful consideration, prayers, and sensitivity. That's just how we feel about it.

It has brought a lot of topics up for discussion I have never really thought about before.

One of the things Trever and I did was start a facebook thread about it. We got lots of great insight, opinions and ideas. It gave us a lot to consider. Based on this, and a lot of research we have done, we have found that the argument for or against Christians celebrating Christmas generally falls into three main categories. I will briefly touch on each.

First, there is the group that says Christmas is, at its inception, pagan. Christians are not supposed to mix holy and unholy things. God finds this an abomination, because He demands His people be separate and worship Him in the pattern/way He has commanded. Therefore, Christians should not celebrate Christmas or participate in any way.

Second, Christ redeems. Therefore, it matters very little if a particular tradition was started by a pagan. The tree, for example, belonged to God before it was used by pagans to make idols. So, Christians can, and should, change and redeem pagan practices to reflect Christ and give thanks for all things.

Third, it is a conscience issue. Christians have liberty to basically do whatever they want as long as they are not convicted otherwise or it is specifically forbidden in scripture. Therefore, they can participate in pagan practices, as long as their hearts are right with God.

{I hope I did not communicate any of this in a flippant manner. That is not my intention. I am simply trying to be brief, since this is a rather long post.}

Honestly, Trever and I see merit in the first two viewpoints, the third one not-so-much. Several people shared their thoughts with us who would fall into this third viewpoint, and essentially, they told us about how much they loved Christmas, how much fun they have with their families, how they didn't care what the pagan origins were and how they didn't see any issue with celebrating it because they were not convicted of God otherwise. Ironically, these were usually also the people who seemed annoyed with our Mr. Interesting and who advised us to ignore his issues with the holiday and do whatever we felt was right for our family.

The problem is, it doesn't *really* matter if we like something, if it is fun, pretty or something we look forward to because it evokes happy feelings and family togetherness. I am quite sure all of that is true. It's just that the real issue is whether or not it is acceptable to God. And honestly, I'm not sure if the I-don't-feel-convicted-so-it's-okay rationale is going to cut it with God.

Christian liberty is not an occasion to sin. Period. So, the question becomes, does God want us to celebrate Christmas?

Again, I don't know the answer. But Trever and I have talked through all the aspects we could think of, prayed about it, listened to other Christians... and THIS is what we have come up with. {Please understand I am not suggesting every family do this, or that we are right and everyone who does something different is wrong. This is just what we are doing, as we attempt to follow Christ.}

DECEMBER 25TH
While we know this was not the birth date Jesus was born, and very likely not even the season He was born in, we find some merit in choosing to celebrate at a time when a large majority of the world, our brothers and sisters in Christ, all remember Emmanuel, God with us- the gift of the birth of Christ. As for the fact that December 25th is linked with paganism, well, all days belong to God, and we believe all days should be used to worship Him.

THE CHRISTMAS TREE:
We tossed ours. I know, shocking, right? Actually, at first we put it up, deciding to only put Christ centered ornaments on it. Then we talked about it with the kids, the pagan origins, etc. We explained that we were NOT worshiping the tree, or making an idol of it. But then we started thinking, well, why *ARE* we putting it in our living room for the month of December anyway? We couldn't think of anything about it that represented or honored Christ, and if it was simply a pretty decoration to enjoy, we could find something else pretty to do that *didn't* have pagan origins and that left our consciences clear. We asked our children if we found another way to decorate with lights and our Christ-centered ornaments, if they would miss the tree. They all enthusiastically said no. So, out it went, and this is one of the things we did instead:
{with the lights on}

{with the lights off}

GIFT GIVING:
Some say we give gifts in imitation of the wise men giving gifts to the Christ child. But what were the gifts given? You all know the answer to this one: gold, frankincense, and myrrh. Why these gifts? Gold, because they recognized Jesus was a king. Frankincense, because he was also a priest. Myrrh, because he was born to die, a sacrifice for all of mankind. These gifts were given for a purpose, thoughtfully. So, we have decided the gifts we give others, and especially our children, should follow this pattern. If my children need a new pair of pants or shoes, we think this is a perfectly acceptable gift. Otherwise, we want to focus on giving gifts that further our walk with Jesus. We just don't see how buying video games or things of that nature honor Christ. {Not that there is anything wrong with these kind of gifts, we simply reserve them for birthdays or other times, since THIS holiday is supposed to be about JESUS.} We also think it is extremely important to be outward focused as well. In other words, our giving should extend past our families to others in need. We love looking through World Vision, Compassion International and Gospel For Asia gift catalogs, where you can purchase items such as blankets, mosquito nets, medicine, farm animals and seeds for planting, all for needy families throughout the world. Caring for the least of these is certainly a God-honoring way of giving, we believe. {We also recommend Amazima and Mercy House ministries}

CAROLING:
We are avoiding all the secular aspects of the holiday, to include Santa, Rudolph and Frosty. So, we won't be singing songs about them with our kiddos. Rather, we find such a rich variety of beautiful hymns and praise songs about the advent of Christ, that we are not only happy to sing them and teach them to our children, but we are very strongly considering singing them all year, and not just in December!

MISTLETOE:
I don't need a hanging plant to encourage me to kiss my hunky hubby, and I'm surely not planning to kiss anyone else under it! {wink}

EGGNOG, HAM, OTHER HOLIDAY FOODS:
We believe God made all foods clean. Incidentally, I love eggnog and gingerbread all year long.

OTHER THINGS WE PLAN TO DO:
We are going through an advent devotional with our children, which begins with the creation story and goes up through the birth of Christ, tying together all the prophesies Christ's birth fulfilled and, hopefully, bringing us into a worshipful and thankful place in our hearts this season.

We share this with all of you in hopes we are being transparent as we try to follow Christ. We are still learning, and very well may tweak things as we go along. None of this is meant to be received in a harsh, rude, or judgmental tone. It's all in love, friends.

May we all seek to make every season, every day, be Christ centered and God honoring.

~amy danielle

{Please feel free to share your kind thoughts in the wee box below. Differing viewpoints are welcomed, as long as they are communicated in love. We would also love to hear ways you are making Christmas Christ-centered.}

4 comments:

  1. Well done for finding something you and your family are comfortable with Amy Danielle. We started a similar process last year, no longer buying presents for each other but sitting around the dinner table with catalogues for oxfam unwrapped and others - this year we are going to twin our toilet! http://www.toilettwinning.org/

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  2. Jane- what a neat charity to support! I had never heard of it until you mentioned it. :)

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  3. Hi Amy Danielle,

    Thanks for sharing your thoughts about Christmas. We have been through the same heart-searching questions, and for 10 years we didn't celebrate Christmas at all...no carols or hymns, no presents (we gave our children gifts at Thanksgiving to show them how thankful we were for them), no tree or any kind of Christmas decorating.

    Last year we reevaluated where we were and where we had come from on this issue. And we decided to change some things. We now celebrate Christmas in many similar ways to what you mentioned. We do have lights but not a tree. I know Christians don't really worship the tree, but for us it just isn't something we feel we need. We also are aware that Jesus probably wasn't born at this time of year, but we know it pleases Him for us to worship Him all year long, and we try to keep that attitude of all-year-long worship.

    We love to sing hymns of worship to the Lord, and we now enjoy singing Christmas hymns at Christmas time. We give our children gifts at Christmas now instead of Thanksgiving.

    We can totally understand both sides of the issue, and we don't judge those who celebrate or those who don't. We don't judge those who have a tree or those who don't. We don't know all the answers, either, and we don't expect anyone to live in the same way we do. I think in the past 10-12 years we have been humbled so many times. We just don't know all the answers, and there is something so freeing in being in this place. Because we don't have to be "right" about issues like this, and we can extend grace to others wherever they are.

    I just thought I'd share some of where we have been with this issue. It is encouraging to see Christians actually thinking through what they are doing and why. May you and your family be blessed as you seek to serve Him!

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  4. I am here. I am thinking about this. I would like to discuss this. But I'm always on bloomin' blogger so late that my eyes hurt! But since the boys were born Christmas has been a tension for me. I think this year for the first I feel more peace. There are reasons for this! I will be back!

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