What Does The Bible Say About Christmas?
The Greatest Gift
Christmas Customs ------ Rev. William Mark Bristow
Christ in Christmas ----- Larry Burkett
A Simple Christmas
------ Alice Chapin
---------Walter E. Isenhour
Christmas Traditions ------ Betty Miller
The Greatest Gift
God is a giver, not a taker. Throughout Scripture, we find evidence of His great
generosity towards His creation. From the beginning of time as we know it, when He called
forth Creation--when He gave existence to things that had never before existed--we can see
the true heart of God. He literally gave of Himself to make each one of us. "The
Lord God formed man from the dust of the ground and breathed into his nostrils the breath
of life, and man became a living being" (Genesis 2:7). The
very nature of God is to give, to create, and to bless His creation. Unfortunately, many
of us are so self-absorbed and greedy for gain that we do not even have the eyes to see
the countless gifts that God has already worked into our lives. Yet, God wants us to be
givers too. He created us to be like Him--to pour of ourselves into other people, and to
reciprocate His love for us. God created us with the power to be able to give back to Him!
When I really stop and think about this, it truly amazes me--that God--the
sum of ALL good things, who holds ALL power and authority, would humble Himself in this
way. He didn't make himself entirely independent of His creation, or set Himself up as a
mere casual observer of humankind, though He certainly had the power to do so. Instead, He
allowed Himself to love us to the point where our returned love would be a blessing to
Him. Each one of us, little and insignificant as we are, has been given the profound
gift of the ability to bring joy to the heart of God. It is extremely humbling to me,
when I stop and consider that God has thus set the laws of His creation into motion. That
the One who is Love personified, would actually be blessed by the love that I could offer
Him. This is the greatest gift of all, and it is given to every human being who has ever
lived or will live--the ability to give of ourselves to God and to each other. Without
this gift, life would be very empty indeed.
In the mad rush of the holiday season, the true meaning of giving is often forgotten. What
is meant to be a time of blessing and joy becomes instead, a time of stress and
depression. Recently, as I was praying for the church and the nations of the world, a
great sorrow began to rise up inside of me. God has placed so many gifts within His
church. Each member of the Body of Christ has been given strategic giftings and a unique
place that none other can fulfill in quite the same way. Yet, so many are not moving into
their rightful place. They are afraid to use their gifts, or they think their gifts are
insignificant. Many are secretly hurt and angry at God because they feel they haven't been
given anything remarkable. They mistake God's anointing and talent in certain individuals
as a sign of God's approval of those people, and they assume their "lack" is a
sign that God doesn't love them as much as He loves others...that God is somehow
"prouder" of other people than He is of them. Because of this fear and
resentment, they are crippled in taking their proper place in God's kingdom, falling short
of the gift they were created to be.
Others are busily using their gifts, and by their own efforts are successful in the eyes
of the world. Maybe they have a thriving ministry. Maybe they are making good money. Maybe
they have the respect and admiration of those around them. This doesn't necessarily mean,
however, that their actions are a blessing to the heart of God, or that they are even
obeying what God has told them to do. Ecclesiastes 4:4 says "And
I saw that all labor and all achievement spring from man's envy of his neighbor. This too
is meaningless, a chasing after the wind." Many are so busy creating their
own kingdoms, that the kingdom of God suffers a great lack. Their pride and busy
occupations have blocked the measure of their true worth in God's kingdom.
Who will fill these missing places in the body of Christ? Even now as we go about our
daily lives, all creation groans in frustration, waiting for the sons of God to be
revealed (Romans 8:19-22). There is so much work to be done, and so few
who are willing to do it. John 4:35-36 says ".... I tell
you, open your eyes and look at the fields! They are ripe for harvest. Even now the reaper
draws his wages, even now he harvests the crop for eternal life, so that the sower and the
reaper may be glad together." God intends both the sower and the reaper to
share the same joy of the harvest. There should be no competition among God's faithful
servants, no jostling each other for the "prime" positions, no envy or personal
ambition. If we truly love the Lord, our only goal should be to bless Him, to serve Him,
and to advance His kingdom.
As I was praying, I saw a vision of the Lord, manifested in the person of someone I love
very much. In the vision, I saw this person laying in bed, exhausted after a hard day's
work. The Lord said to me "What do you think she would like right now? How could you
bless her?" I could instantly see that a cup of hot tea and a home-cooked meal would
be just as much, if not more of a blessing to her than whatever big, distant work I could
conjure up to show her my love. Immediately, I could see what God was trying to show me.
We are created like Him. If we appreciate a "small" gift given in love more than
the fanfare of a "big" gift given in insincerity, how much more does God?
As the vision continued, I could see Jesus sitting alone by a road with people running up
and down it. They were all very busy. Some were stopping and chatting with Him for a
moment here and there, but as I overheard their conversations, they were mostly to inform
Jesus of what they wanted from Him, or what they were going to do for Him. One man in
particular ran up to him. "Oh, Jesus, I'm so excited," he cried. "I'm off
to tell the world all about you!" Quickly he ran off before Jesus could say anything
at all. My heart broke, as I saw Him there, sitting by Himself. Yes, He wanted to bless
those people with things beyond their wildest imagination. Yes, He wanted them to find
fulfillment in serving Him. But what He really wanted most of all was for those people to
come and sit with Him and talk awhile...to hold His hand and look deep into His eyes...to
share their dreams and sorrows, and to hear His joys and sorrows...to let Him simply give
His love to them. In all their mad rush to give and get, they missed the greatest treasure
of all, sitting right in front of them.
So much of what we do for God is with mixed motives for our own personal fulfillment. We
all want to have a purpose and reason for living. We all hope that if we were to die
tomorrow, we would leave a legacy of some kind behind us. Yet for most of us, this becomes
the end to which we live. Sadly, when we make anything other than God our reason for
living, that thing will become an idol in our lives. Even if it is a good thing, like a
ministry or a mate, it can still never fulfill us because it wasn't designed to. It simply
can't! It doesn't even have the ability to fulfill. In fact, those idols will
begin to work against us, and cause us suffer spiritual barrenness. They will put us on a
treadmill until we become broken-hearted and exhausted trying to keep it all alive. On the
other hand, if we receive them simply as the gifts they are and continue to love God first
in our lives, we will be given the ability to enjoy them, for this too is a gift.
Ecclesiastes. 3:13 says "That everyone may...find satisfaction in
all his toil--this is the gift of God." The key is simply to
"seek first his kingdom and his righteousness and all these other things will be
given to you as well" (Matthew 6:33).
When all is said and done, only those things which were done "as unto the Lord"
will count for anything. In God's eyes, there are no "big" or "small"
things done for His Kingdom. All He asks of us is to obey Him in what He tells us to do.
Let us follow through and obey Him, whether His commands seem great or small. After all,
it is Jesus we are talking about here! The One who left His home in glory to
bleed and die a humiliating, painful death for each one of us. The One who made himself
vulnerable to us, by giving us the ability to bless him or hurt him. As we obey Him, we
bring such joy to His heart! Then His joy, which is a strength to the spirit of man,
becomes our joy as well. God is not impressed, nor is He blessed by the best of our works
done in self. He is only impressed by the attitude of our hearts.
As we look around the world this holiday season, let us stop and consider Who's birthday
we are celebrating. Let us not forget to offer sincere thanks to our precious, precious
Lord for His many blessings in our lives. And let us show our thankfulness by our actions!
Let us offer the same mercy that God has given us to those around us. Let us press deeper
into the heart of God, that we may have something to offer this world besides the same old
cycle of greed, pride and rebellion. Let us not be ashamed to become the servant of all,
showing our love for God by laying down our rights, our plans, our time and money for the
sake of others. Let us demonstrate our love to God by giving Him the very things we are
afraid to lay down, trusting that He has the best plan for our lives and would never use
or abuse us. Let us truly fulfill the greatest commandment, which is to "Love
the Lord our God with all our mind, soul, and strength; and to love our neighbor as
ourself" (Luke 10:27). Each of us is destined to make a profound difference
in the world. Let us not fall short of our destinies! Let us give the greatest Christmas
gift that we have been afforded to give; one that we can give year-round--to bless the
heart of God!
If you do not know God the way you want to, you can receive the gift of knowing Him right
now. Simply pray to Him from your heart and ask him to forgive you for your sins and
turning your back on Him. Romans 10:9, "If you confess with
your mouth that Jesus is Lord and believe in your heart that God raised him from the dead
you shall be saved." Ask Him to come into your life and make you a new
person, born of His spirit. You can give to Him a gift He considers more dear than
anything else in the world--yourself. In return, you will receive eternal life with Him,
which begins the moment you are born again. May God bless each of you richly as you seek
to give unto Him your all.
If you just prayed to ask God into your heart, or you would like to know more about
becoming a Christian, please visit the link on becoming born again. http://christunlimited.com/answers/aborn.html
Return to Table of Contents
By Pastor William Mark Bristow
Origin of St. Nicholas
Every year Christians ask me, "Should I celebrate with all the
traditional customs of Christmas? They all seem so materialistic. Aren't some of these
customs really pagan?" So every year, I endeavor to bring out a few facts from our
Christian heritage. Let's start with the real shocker -- There really was a Santa Claus
(however, he is not the one that people know today). The real Santa Claus was a PREACHER!!
Yes Sir! His name was St. Nicholas and he lived and worked as the Bishop of a little town
of Myra, (now in the country of Turkey). Tradition says he was born in Patara, a seaport,
and traveled to Egypt and Palestine as a young man. Eventually he became bishop of the
church at Myra. During the period of persecution of Christians by Emperor Diocletian, he
was imprisoned, but he was released by Diocletian's successor, Constantine the Great.
By the 6th century his burial shrine was well known at Myra. In 1087 his
remains were moved to Bari, Italy, which became a crowded pilgrimage center in his honor.
Devotion to him spread throughout the Christian world, and he was chosen patron saint of
Russia and Greece. Thousands of churches throughout Europe have been named for him. His
feast day was set on December 6. He was credited with many miracles. In one story he saved
three officers from death by appearing to Constantine in a dream. In another legend he
provided bags of gold to a poor man as dowries for his three daughters.╣ When he died on
December 6 in the year 345, he was revered for his generosity and kindness. It became the
custom to give gifts to loved ones on his saint's day, the date of his death. Later
Christians adopted St. Nicholas for Christmas day, which commemorates the date God gave
the greatest gift of all, Christ Jesus for the redemption of the world.
Origin of the Modern Day Santa Claus
Santa Claus is probably a Dutch mispronunciation of Sinter Klaus (Saint
Nicholas). Kriss Kringle is probably an English mispronunciation of the German,
"Christkindlein" (little Christ child). In 1822 Santa received a drastic
makeover through the poem penned by a pastor. Rev. Clement C. Moore felt his church's poor
offerings were going to make a very dismal Christmas for his children. The weather was
bleak and everyone needed some cheering. Rev. Moore held down a secular job to help meet
expenses. He had been thinking of Saint Nicholas, from all accounts a very serious and
austere man in appearance. A story began to form in Rev. Moore's mind, his children would
love a good story. What about a visit from Saint Nicholas? He looked over at the portly
German fellow who drove the sleigh on their way home from work. A new vision of St. Nick
began to take shape -- the horse drawn sleigh ... NO! ... flying reindeer. Well, you know
the poem by its first line, 'Twas the night before Christmas... The poem was
intended for his children's ears, only, but after great insistence it was read to his
congregation. A parishioner published the poem a few years later in a Troy, New York
newspaper. In the 1950's Coca Cola needed a spokesman for their soda at Christmas time.
Someone drew an artist's rendering of Rev. Moore's St. Nick and Coca Cola made the jolly
ol' elf famous as we have him today.
How We Came to Celebrate on December 25th
Another question is always asked, "Why December 25th? We know Jesus
was probably born sometime between April and November. - after all the scripture says that
shepherds were watching their flocks in the fields?" Recently, I was seated at a
table with hosts of a major television program. The question of the date of Christ's birth
arose and I was told in no uncertain terms that Jesus was born on the 15th of Tishri
(Sept/Oct) which is the feast of Tabernacles, or Hebrew "cukkah", (pronounced
'sook-kaw'). Although this is a real possibility -- I must tell you after hours of
searching Matthew Henry, Halley's Bible Dictionary, Compton's Encyclopedia, The American
Book of Days, the 12 Volume Interpreter's Bible, Holman's Bible Dictionary, Revell Bible
Dictionary and volumes on Christian Sites on the World Wide Web, all definitely state,
"we do not know when Jesus was born, or even what year." (Although he had to be
born sometime between 4 and 8 BC due to Herod's reign and death which is known from
archaeological records.) While it is accepted that Jesus was born in the small town of
Bethlehem a few miles south of Jerusalem, there is no certain information on the date of
his birth, not even of the year (see Jesus Christ). One reason for this uncertainty is
that the stories of his birth, recorded in the New Testament books of Matthew and Luke,
were written several decades after the event. And for several centuries the Christian
church itself paid little attention to the celebration of Jesus' birth. The major
Christian festival was Easter, the day of his resurrection. Only gradually, as the church
developed a calendar to commemorate the major events of the life of Christ, did it
celebrate his birth.╣
Till about the year 250-300 there was little celebration of Christ's
birth, other than a solemn memory. His death and resurrection were all important to new
Christianity. As the church spread around the world, it encountered the Roman/European
festival of the Winter Solstice. This was a day of great festivity in the pagan world.
Because there was no knowledge about the date of Jesus' birth, a day had to be selected.
The Eastern Orthodox and the Eastern Rite churches within the Roman Catholic church chose
January 6. The day was named Epiphany, meaning "appearance," the day of Christ's
manifestation. The Western church, based at Rome, chose December 25. It is known from a
notice in an ancient Roman almanac that Christmas was celebrated on December 25 in Rome as
early as AD 336.1 In about 547 A.D. St. Augustine was sent by Pope Gregory the Great as
the first official missionary to England. He followed an edict from the Pope, "If the
religious customs of the people are not evil in origin, they should be blended into
Christianity." (This is scriptural read Acts 15:19-20). The early
church had a real problem with this all important festival of the SUN God. The church in
the Holy Land had begun to observe January 6th at the birth of our Lord. The Austrian
church observed May 20th. Still other parts of the church observed March 25th.
In 625 A.D. central leaders of the church decided since people were going
to celebrate the re-birth of the SUN on December 25th -- the church would really celebrate
-- the most important birth, the birth of the SON of God. It took a little time but
Christianity prevailed. Although two customs, the Yule long, and kissing under the
mistletoe still remain from the pagan days, most every other custom we have today comes
from Christ's birthday.
Celebrating and Gift Giving
The word "CHRISTMAS" comes from the Old English term Cristes
maesse, meaning "Christ's mass." This was the name for the festival service of
worship held on December 25 to commemorate the birth of Jesus Christ. Gift giving is one
of the oldest customs associated with Christmas: it is actually older than the holiday
itself. When the date of Christmas was set to fall in December, it was done at least in
part to compete with ancient pagan festivals that occurred about the same time. The
Romans, for example, celebrated the Saturnalia on December 17. It was a winter feast of
merrymaking and gift exchanging. And two weeks later, on the Roman New Year January 1,
houses were decorated with greenery and lights, and gifts were given to children and the
poor. As the Germanic tribes of Europe accepted Christianity and began to celebrate
Christmas, they also gave gifts.╣
Should We Celebrate With The Christmas Tree?
Much confusion has concerned the beautiful Christmas tree. Jeremiah
10:2-4 (NRSV) "Thus says the LORD: Do not learn the way of the nations, or be
dismayed at the signs of the heavens; for the nations are dismayed at them. 3 For the
customs of the peoples are false: a tree from the forest is cut down, and worked with an
ax by the hands of an artisan; 4 people deck it with silver and gold; they fasten it with
hammer and nails so that it cannot move." This scripture certainly sounds
like a description of the Christmas tree. Many use this scripture to teach against a
Christmas tree and the customs in the celebration of Christmas. But, is that really what
the passage speaks of? Let's read on.
Jeremiah 10:5-10 (NRSV) "Their idols are like scarecrows in a
cucumber field, and they cannot speak; they have to be carried, for they cannot walk. Do
not be afraid of them, for they cannot do evil, nor is it in them to do good. 6 There is
none like you, O LORD; you are great, and your name is great in might. 7 Who would not
fear you, O King of the nations? For that is your due; among all the wise ones of the
nations and in all their kingdoms there is no one like you. 8 They are both stupid and
foolish; the instruction given by idols is no better than wood! 9 Beaten silver is brought
from Tarshish, and gold from Uphaz. They are the work of the artisan and of the hands of
the goldsmith; their clothing is blue and purple; they are all the product of skilled
workers. 10 But the LORD is the true God, he is the living God, and an everlasting king.
At his wrath the earthquakes, and the nations cannot endure his indignation."
Custom of Decorating the Christmas Tree
Verse 5 has the key -- this is speaking of hewing down a tree and carving
an idol to be gilded or silvered, and placed as a "god" for worship. This has
nothing to do with a Christmas tree as you and I know it. The nations around Israel had
some terrible idol "gods" whom they worshipped. The custom of decorating a tree
comes directly from the Great Reformer Himself, Martin Luther and from a German Play about
Adam and Eve in Paradise. One Christmas eve, Martin Luther was out in the field and the
beauty of the start shining through the snow covered limbs of the tree overwhelmed him
with the beauty of God's creation. He had to show his children. Rather than risk their
health in the snow, he cut down the tree and carried it home. Candles replaced the stars,
and thus the Christmas tree began. There was also a very popular play in the German church
about Adam and Eve. The paradise tree was a central theme of the play. It was adorned with
fruit -- all representing the things they were allowed in the garden. After Martin
Luther's example, many families adorned a paradise tree with fruit, or even gilded fruit
(our glass balls) as gifts to their children, and to teach them of the provision and
goodness of God who gave the best gift. Later Prince Charles carried a tree home to
Buckingham Palace where Queen Victoria decked it for Royalty. Society news spread all over
the world, and the decorated tree immediately became the symbol of the gifts God had
given, and, the evergreen tree, the symbol of everlasting life.
There is a legend that Holly was originally a thorny vine, and was
originally used as the cruel crown of thorns for our Lord. The berries being originally
white, when they became stained with His blood, they turned forever red, and the plant
withdrew its vicious thorns for the spiny leaves. The plant was probably originally called
"HOLY" not Holly. Whether true or legend only, the early French and English hung
a piece over the door of a house where Christ was celebrated. Holly, with its prickly
leaves and red berries, came into holiday use because it reminded people of the crown of
thorns worn by Jesus on the way to his execution, the berries symbolizing droplets of
Lights, Food and Bells
Our burning of lights (previously candles) is a symbol that Christ is the
light of the world.The rich foods and deserts come from the precious gifts the Magi
brought to Christ. Mincemeat pie is the real symbolic food of Christmas. It is full of
spices and fruits (and yes, if made correctly) meat! (A luxury in the days of no
refrigerators). It was baked as a symbol of the gifts, spices, and treasures of the Wise
Men from the east. Originally churches rang (or tolled) their bells when someone died.
Churches in medieval times tolled their bells to tell the devil his time was short,
because Jesus was born.
Christmas Carols bear a remarkable origin. In 1223 St. Francis of Assisi
decided the regular celebration of Christ's Mass was in a rut. So, he had an entire manger
scene built in his church in Italy, replete with hay, actors, and animals. He thought the
singing was also in a rut. So he took a couple of secular, pagan, songs and wrote words
telling the story of the birth of Christ. The church elders said he was crazy. The people
said he was a saint. The most loved hymn of all time has an interesting history, and, of
course, is a Christmas carol. On Christmas Eve 1818, Joseph Mohr, assistant pastor of the
church of Saint Nicholas asked the organist Franz Gruber to put music to a poem he had
written for the midnight celebration of mass. Franz went to the organ and found that rats
had eaten holes in the bellows. Thinking quickly, he took out his guitar and played the
only song he knew well on the guitar -- an old bar song -- a beer-drinking pub song! The
poem fit perfectly (and surely everyone would know the music?!) Silent Night. Holy
Night. All is calm. All is bright. Roun' yon virgin mother and child. Holy infant so
tender and mild. Sleep in heavenly peace. Sleep in heavenly. Silent Night, holy night. Son
of God, love's pure light. Radiant beams from thy holy face. With the dawn of redeeming
grace, Jesus, Lord, at thy birth. Jesus Lord at thy birth. (These are verses 1 &
3. Verses 2 & 4 were added later and are anonymous.)
Over the years, the very pious and religious have sought to stamp out festivities. Old
laws can be found which forbid any celebration in 1644 in England, and several in the
early years of the American Colonies -- but the truth is, we have something to celebrate!
God gave His son for our redemption. Mary celebrated, "My soul doth magnify
the Lord and my Spirit hath rejoiced in God my Savior ... For He that is mighty hath done
to me great things and holy is His name. (Luke 1:46-47)." The shepherds
celebrated, the angels celebrated, the "Wise Men" celebrated and gave gifts. You
can still hear His name in department stores. You still see His image in manger scenes.
You still find people who desperately need to know the truth of this Jesus -- This Savior.
Get out the lights, the food, the gifts. Show your love. God did, He gave us Jesus, His
greatest gift! Yes, you can celebrate Christmas and let others know about Jesus!
╣Compton's Interactive Encyclopedia Copyright 1994, 1995, 1996, 1997
(All information of dates and historical events are taken from the Encyclopedia Americana
and The American Book of Days.)
William Mark Bristow and his wife, Lisa pastor a church in Monahans, Texas
called Grace Fellowship. He is an anointed servant of God who is blessed with the Gifts of
the Holy Spirit operating in his ministry. He is also multi-talented in a music ministry
of leading in praise and worship vocally as well as on the organ and piano. Pastor Bristow
can be contacted via email at:
Return to Table of Contents
Christ in Christmas
by Larry Burkett
It irritates me when I see Christ being taken out of Christmas. That is not limited to
only non-Christians--even Christians have adjusted to the commercialism of the holiday
season. Obviously, not all of it is bad--in fact the holiday season provides the
opportunity for families to reunite and also provides a pleasant break from our routines.
I personally look forward to these days as an opportunity to visit with friends who are
much too busy at other times in the year to just stop and relax.
But we have become terribly imbalanced. We give a myriad of useless gifts at Christmas
because it's expected of us and we feel guilty if we don't. The commercialized world now
makes a $100.00 toy seem perfectly normal. It's easy to observe the stress that our
imbalanced society places on family members. Christian parents who cannot provide the
latest indulgences to their children are often depressed and distraught. Obviously, no one
purposely makes them feel unworthy or insignificant, but the overwhelming emphasis we
place on giving at Christmas certainly does.
So great is this social pressure that the closer we get toward Christmas Day, the more
depressed and unworthy those who can't indulge feel. Unfortunately the pressures don't end
once Christmas is past either. Those who can't afford to compete in their gift-giving
often dread congregating with their friends immediately after the holidays, because at
"show and tell" time they don't have much to show. It is not a conscious act on
the part of most people to openly display their pride. Rather, because we are in a
competitive society we often determine a person's worth by his ability to buy things. "For
you have died and your life is hidden with Christ in God" (Colossians 3:3).
One extreme is not balanced by going to the opposite extreme. The distortion of
Christmas won't be corrected by eliminating all gift-giving and observing Christmas as a
"religious" holiday. The fact is, we do live in this world, and our
families are greatly influenced by others. What we need to do is swing back toward
the middle and eliminate the need to compete with others. Then we will have the freedom to
develop God's plan for our families without the pressure from the commercial world.
In order to do so, I believe that as Christians, we must first believe that God's plan
is different from the world's, and is more--not less--fulfilling. It is a
deception to think that by adopting a more disciplined lifestyle we are somehow denied the
"good life." It's like saying that by avoiding drugs, we deny our children the
euphoria that would make them feel "good." But to decide that any and all drugs
are evil and absolutely refuse to use them makes for a painful experience if you have to
have a broken leg set. The key, as always in God's plan, is balance. That always comes
from following God's wisdom.
SHIFT OF ATTITUDES
Gift-giving at Christmas is a relatively new idea. Until a couple of centuries ago,
Christmas was reserved as a religious holiday on a noncommercial basis. Many of our
forefathers would have believed that trading presents on the day set aside to observe
Christ's birthday was near blasphemy. However, gift giving became a generally accepted
practice and was used primarily to show appreciation to loved ones. Gifts were usually
simple, regardless of the means of the giver so as to not embarrass those who couldn't
afford to give very much. For a long while in most countries, gifts were exchanged on New
Year's Day (not a bad idea today--think of the great buys you could get!). Christmas gifts
were limited to food for the poor or special gifts to pastors and missionaries.
As with most things that start out right, somewhere along the way the direction
shifted. By the early twentieth century, families were exchanging simple gifts, usually
handmade, on Christmas Day. Certainly there was really nothing wrong with that, except
that under the growing influence of secularism it was a golden opportunity for Satan to
divert our attention from Christ to Santa Claus. By post-World War II, Santa was the
dominate figure at Christmas and December was the calendar month for retail sales of all
How did it happen? It would seem apparent that Christians aren't as wise in the things
of the Lord as non-Christians are in the things of the world. The secular world is always
looking for ways to shift attention from God to material things, and we're naive enough to
go along. By the time we realize that our whole direction has been diverted, as it has
been at Christmas, we believe it's too late to change, so we give up. "For
all that is in the world, the lust of the flesh and the lust of the eyes and the boastful
pride of life, is not from the Father, but is from the world" (1 John 2:16).
WHAT TO DO?
By anyone's standard, the way Christmas is celebrated today is a gross commercialism of
the most important birth in history. But we don't need to preach to the unsaved world to
put Christ back into Christmas. They shouldn't; we should. One thing I learned a long time
ago in counseling is not to try to overcorrect too quickly. Not only are past habits, such
as overindulging at Christmas, difficult to change, but quite often others around us don't
see things just the way we do. If you attempt to stamp out all Christmas gifts suddenly,
you'll end up with a revolt on your hands. The correct way to is make some positive steps
to establish a better balance.
Step 1: Stamp out Santa Claus. Christian parents
should let their children know that Santa is a fraud. Santa's harmless you say? Not so,
when parents knowingly deceive their children about an apparently omnipotent being who
travels the world in the wink of an eye and disburses presents on the basis of good or
bad. It may be a small matter, but it is a place to start.
Step 2: Husband and wife should pray together and agree on a
reasonable amount of gift-giving. Once you have reached a decision that you
feel is God's plan for your family, don't get caught by Satan's condemnation as Christmas
approaches. The pressure to buy when everybody else is buying will be difficult to resist
unless you absolutely agree. And again, I repeat, don't overcorrect. Develop a balanced
attitude that will accomplish your goals over the next few years.
One method that has proved successful to many families is to commit an equal amount
spent on gifts to feeding the truly needy. In many areas of the world, an amount equal to
most of our gift purchases would feed and clothe a family for several months. By giving to
a specific family through a Christian organization, your children can see the purpose and
value of your sacrifice and theirs. "And whoever in the name of a disciple
gives to one of these little ones even a cup of cold water to drink, truly I say to you he
shall not lose his reward" (Matthew 10:42).
Step 3: Stamp out credit. As bad as
commercialized Christmas is, commercialized Christmas on credit cards is even worse. Many
families literally indenture themselves to creditors for a whole year just to buy some
useless junk at Christmas. As Christians, we need to decide if we really serve the
God of the universe. If so, then He knows our needs and will meet them through His people
I know that some of the people reading this have desperate needs. I also know that
others sincerely want to help but don't know who has needs. The use of credit allows those
who have needs to temporarily buffer themselves from God's real source. "As
it is written, 'He who gathered much did not have too much and he who gathered little had
no lack'" (2 Corinthians 8:15). I believe Satan has used credit cards to
cheat God's people out of blessings and to keep them in bondage.
With all the other important issues to deal with, such as crime, abortion, and drugs, a
logical question would be, "Why bother with such a minor issue as gifts at
Christmas?" Because gift-giving is one area totally under our control, and like the
Easter bunny, it is leaven that Satan sprinkles in the church. The practice of giving
gifts is not the problem, just as the use of credit is not the problem. It is the
misuse of these things that entangles us and diverts attention from Jesus Christ to
We have enlisted in God's army and now we can't identify the real enemy. "No
soldier in active service entangles himself in the affairs of everyday life, so that he
may please the one who enlisted him as a soldier" (2 Timothy 2:4).
Our problem is that we keep trying to negotiate a compromise with an enemy who is
totally dedicated to destroying us. It's time that, as Christians, we decide to draw a
battle line again. When it comes to commercializing Christ's birth or resurrection, we
need to establish a balance.
Instruct those who are rich in this present world not to be conceited or to fix
their hope on the uncertainty of riches, but on God, who richly supplies us with all
things to enjoy" (1 Timothy 6:17).
This material was taken from the book "Using Your Money
Wisely" by Larry Burkett. Published by Moody Press, a division of the Moody Bible
Institute of Chicago, IL. Used with Permission.
The book, Using Your Money Wisely, is available in
paperback priced at $10.99 in our CHAPEL BOOKSTORE (Click
here to order).
Return to Table of Contents
A Simple Christmas
Hundreds of ways to bring Christ and joy back
into Christmas in the spirit of More-with-Less
By Alice Chapin
Are you yearning for a Christmas filled with celebrations that actually
mean something? Are you tired of the tinsel and credit card debt; the depression and
exhaustion that this holiday now means to so many people? Do you want to establish family
traditions that will teach your children to honor Christ during the holidays and give them
beautiful memories for the future? If so, this book will be an inspiration to you.
A Simple Christmas will take you through the holiday season,
offering hundreds of creative and meaningful activities that you can do as a family (and
with friends) all during the month of December and into New Year's. The 250 pages in this
book are literally bursting at the seams with heart-warming ideas. The books offers
- Keeping the spiritual heart of the holidays, with peace and joy.
- Lead your whole family is doing things together.
- Find happiness in reaching out to others and giving yourself away.
- Cope with pressures and extra expenditures.
- Overcome the blues and even enjoy spending the holiday alone.
- Deal with selfish or excited youngsters.
- Reshape customs to focus more on the Christ of Christmas.
As I read through this book, I found myself becoming more thoughtful
about life in general and inspired to reclaim, not only Christmas, but many other areas in
my life that have been too easily dictated by the self-dominated society. Perhaps the
chapter that touched me most of all was "Goodwill and Peace to All." Christmas
is about giving and receiving--and most of all to honor the One who has freely given us
every good and perfect gift. May we bring joy to Him this season, as we remember those who
are less fortunate than ourselves. As we all know, but so easily forget, Christmas is not
about the obligatory gifts hastily ripped open and often never used. It is about giving of
our time, sharing of our memories and skills, and teaching others to do the same.
The spirit of Christmas is a lifestyle, not something that can be simply
turned on during the holiday season. Even so, at Christmas I think we all yearn a little
more to express God's love in meaningful ways to the world around us, and exalt the truth
of Jesus Christ to those who do not yet know Him. A Simple Christmas brings these
foundational truths of Christianity to the forefront of our hearts and shows us practical
things we can do, not only to make the holiday more meaningful, but also the rest of our
lives as well. The book is not only spiritually uplifting, but also practical. It comes
equipped with a budget guide, and Christmas goals worksheet for you to use as a planning
tool. It will help simplify your Christmas and place the focus on the real meaning of
Alice Chapin is the author of many articles and thirteen books, all
written to fulfill her life's goal of helping others. The titles of some of the books she
has written are 400 Creative Ways to Say I Love You, Gifts of Love, Reaching Back, 365
Bible Promises for Busy People, 365 Bible Promises for Hurting People, 365 Bible Promises
for People Who Worry a Lot or a Little. Alice Chapin is a pastor's wife and has been
on the staff of Campus Crusade for Christ International for twenty years. She and her
husband, Norman, live in Newnan , Georgia, and have four grown daughters. She attends
Central Baptist Church in Newnan.
The book, A Simple Christmas, is available in paperback priced at
$14.00 in our CHAPEL BOOKSTORE (Click here to order)
Return to Table of Contents
By Walter E. Isenhour
As you think of giving presents
To your friends on Christmas Day,
Dont forget the poor and needy
That you meet along lifes way.
Give them something that is helpful,
That will tell them of your love,
For such giving pleases Jesus
As He watches from above.
If you cannot give abundance,
Give a little in His name;
For a little given rightly,
With His blessings on the same,
May be bread upon the waters
You will find again sometime
Multiplied to loaves of blessing
That are wondrous and sublime.
Give and help to spread the Gospel
On the mission fields of Earth
Where the natives by the millions
Have not heard of Jesus birth.
Give to causes that are worthy
Of your money with a prayer;
Give and help to share the burdens
That so many people bear.
Let the Christmas thought of giving
Go with you throughout the year,
Then your life will be a blessing
And youll have the thrill of cheer;
For in making others happy,
You will get a great supply,
As our Lord who reigns in heaven
Will then bless you from on high.
This poem was taken from the Overcoming
Life Digest (Nov./Dec. 2000 Issue); click here to view Digest
Return to Table of Contents
By Betty Miller
Christians look forward to the time of the year when we celebrate two
important holidays, Thanksgiving and Christmas. These holidays have their beginnings and
roots in Christian celebrations. The word holiday actually means "holy
day"; hence these events should be remembered and celebrated in a holy manner. We
have strayed from that purpose over the years as we have embraced many unholy practices
and worldly customs and added them to our "holy days."
Christmas has also been perverted with many secular and traditional
additions that take away from this celebration of our Lord's birth. The materialism that
surrounds this season is one of the most obvious; however, there are others. Office
parties with the alcohol flowing freely certainly desecrate all that the day stands for.
As Christians, we celebrate this day because it is the Lord's birthday and it gives us
pleasure to remember the Christmas story as recorded in the Bible in Luke 2.
Was Christ Born on December 25?
Scholars do not know the exact date of Christ's birth. For more than 300
years, people observed His birthday on various dates. In A.D. 354, Bishop Liberius of Rome
ordered the people to celebrate on December 25. He chose this date because the people of
Rome already observed it as the Feast of Saturn, celebrating the sun. Christmas is not, as
some have claimed, historically descended from the celebration of the Roman Saternalia
with its fleshly excesses, but was set up by Christians to counter it. Christians honored
Christ, instead of Saturn, as the Light of the World.
Due to this and other error, some Christians argue we should not even observe Christmas
since December 25 is not the true birth date of our Lord Jesus Christ, as most scholars
agree it was in the fall. However, the date is not important but the attitude of our
hearts in celebrating it. It is how we celebrate Christmas that pleases or displeases the
Lord. Since it is observed around the world, it is a wonderful time to witness to people,
and the holiday does cause many to think of Jesus.
It is not that to celebrate Christmas is wrong. It is the way we treat it which
makes it right or wrong.
Unholy Customs and Traditions
For many years, people observed Christmas as a religious festival only. But they
gradually adopted more and more customs unrelated to the church. In England, during the
Middle Ages, Christmas became the merriest day of the year. Celebrations eventually became
so rowdy that the Puritans in England did away with the observance of Christmas by law in
Our present day celebration here in the United States is a combination of several customs
and traditions that come from different European countries. (The World Book Encyclopedia
gives an in-depth description of these for those interested.) Since we are looking to the
Bible for our standards it would be well to eliminate those things that are not
Christ-exalting. We should avoid going to extremes, but on the other hand we should not
partake of things that are not honoring Jesus' birthday.
What About The Christmas Tree?
One tradition that we might mention that has been a controversy in Christian ranks is
the decorating of the Christmas fir tree. There are several stories about the origin of
the Christmas tree. People in Scandinavia once worshiped trees. Other cultures such as the
Romans believed the green tree branches brought good luck. The Germans were probably the
first to use Christmas tree decorations. Some Christians think this tradition should not
be observed because of this. However, we find in the Bible that the same custom existed in
that day and we find the Lord's instructions as to what our stand should be.
Jeremiah 10:1, "Hear ye the word which the LORD speaketh unto you, O house
of Israel: 2 Thus saith the LORD, Learn not the way of the heathen, and be not dismayed at
the signs of heaven; for the heathen are dismayed at them. 3 For the customs of the people
are vain: for one cutteth a tree out of the forest, the work of the hands of the workman,
with the ax. 4 They deck it with silver and with gold; they fasten it with nails and with
hammers, that it move not. 5 They are upright as the palm tree, but speak not: they must
needs be borne, because they cannot go. Be not afraid of them; for they cannot do evil,
neither also is it in them to do good."
Here the heathen of that day where cutting down trees and decorating them and
worshipping them. But the word of the Lord was for his people not to fear this practice as
He pointed out to them that the tree itself had no power to do good or evil. Evil is in
the heart of man. So putting up a Christmas tree is not evil or good in itself. If we
decorate a tree and celebrate in honor of our Lord Jesus then, to us it is good. To those
with improper motives, it is evil. There is a Biblical reference for bringing boughs into
the house for celebration. The Lord commanded Israel during the feast of tabernacles to do
Leviticus 23:40, "And ye shall take you on the first day the boughs of
goodly trees, branches of palm trees, and the boughs of thick trees, and willows of the
brook; and ye shall rejoice before the LORD your God seven days."
What About Santa Claus?
There is one area in our Christmas celebration however, that has no Biblical basis. We
realize this is a sensitive issue but we feel Christians should be made aware of this as
it is having a tremendous effect on our children that produces no Christian fruit. This is
the interjection of "Santa" into our Christmas gatherings. Satan has infiltrated
and defiled our Christian celebration of Christmas by adding the dimension of emphasizing
Santa Claus at the celebration of the Savior's birth. Satan perverts that date because he
hates to see people worshipping the Lord. Instead he diverts adults and children alike to
revolve their attention around what Santa will bring that day instead of what the real
meaning of the day really is. The name "Santa Claus" was taken from a
kindhearted Christian bishop, Saint Nicholas, who lived in the A.D. 300's. He became the
patron saint of many European countries. In the Netherlands and Belgium men in bishops'
robes pose as Saint Nicholas and visit children, examine them on their prayer and urge
them to be good, and give them gifts. Hence, the Dutch brought "the visit of Saint
Nicholas" to the Americas. The Christmas visit of Santa Claus came from this custom.
You can see how through the years it has changed now and Santa Claus has replaced the
celebration of our Lord's birth. "Old Saint Nicholas" or "Santa Claus"
has been interjected into the day to take away from the true meaning of Christmas. Santa
Claus is portrayed as a god. He supposedly "knows all" as does God. ("He
knows when you are sleeping, he knows when you're awake, he knows when you've been bad or
good...") He has supernatural power as he flies through the air making stops
throughout the world in one night. He comes down chimneys that would be impossible to
enter and has an unlimited supply of toys in one sleigh. He has elves as assistants.
(Elves originated in Scandinavian mythology. There were good and evil elves who could
disappear at will.) The belief in Santa Claus is also based on a lie. This lie by parents
undermines the trust of their children. Later the children may then doubt the reality of
God because parents lied about Santa Claus. The emphasis is on receiving gifts in many
homes, instead of exchanging gifts. Gifts for the Lord are forgotten.
As Christians, we should ask the Lord how to purge this holiday of Satan's false god,
Santa Claus, and put the emphasis on Christ and His love so that our children know the
true meaning of this holy day. Many children only know that it is a day that Santa will
come and bring them gifts. They know nothing of the gift of love that was sent to us in
the birth of Jesus, our savior. Wouldn't it be better if we refused to tell our children
the lie about Santa? Some may say how terrible to deny children the fun of Santa Claus
because he is only a fairy tale like other fairy tales. However, if we ask why Santa Claus
is promoted at Christmas instead of another day of the year, I believe we can see the
answer clearly. He has become a substitute in the lives of millions of children so that
they know nothing of the true gift of life in Christ. I dare say if you ask any child in
America who Santa Claus is they would be able to tell you, but many of those same children
if asked who Jesus Christ is would not be able to answer that question.
What About Gift Giving?
So much emphasis is put upon getting gifts at Christmas. This has promoted materialism
and selfishness in many children as well as the adults. It is the Lord's birthday. Where
are our gifts to Him and His interests? It isn't wrong to give gifts at Christmas as this
is part of the spirit of Christ -- giving. What is wrong, is that we have gone to the
extreme and forgotten the Lord and the poor in our giving. Biblical celebrations such as
the one in Esther 9:22 are approved by God. "As the days
wherein the Jews rested from their enemies, and the month which was turned unto them from
sorrow to joy, and from mourning into a good day: that they should make them days of
feasting and joy, and of sending portions one to another, and gifts to the poor."
Our modern Christmases have become mostly tinsel, and every true believer is aware of
it. Stress from all the shopping and cooking keeps many from even enjoying this time of
year. The media at the holiday season will carry advertisements for items to be given as
gifts, which are a disgrace to Jesus Christ. The legend of St. Nicholas, the notorious
Christmas office party, the giving of drunken entertainment, the materialism and
selfishness which have paganized and spoiled Christmas of its true Christian meaning are
things we need to resist and have no part in. Our task, if we are true Christians, is to
recapture this holiday from the pagans. It really belongs to us as believers! In fact, in
our spirits we should celebrate Christmas every day of the year, instead of once a year as
the world does. It does not take tinsel and decoration to remind us of Jesus when we truly
love and worship Him from our hearts.
This article was taken from the Overcoming
Life Digest (Nov./Dec. 1997 Issue); click here to view Digest
Return to Table of Contents