by Jack Hoehn, December 19, 2016: — Can we just trash the whole Christmas mess?
He should have been born in Rome. Or at least in Athens. London or Paris? But why was he born in Touchet? In Lowden? In Funkley, Minnesota? Bethlehem is a little nothing, some struggling shops selling olive wood camels carved in China.
And the angels lied. He did not bring peace on earth. Tell that to the bleeding babies and their weeping mothers of 4 BC Herodian Bethlehem.
The people of God did not welcome the son of God. Pagans reading the lies of a false prophet came to his support using a non-biblical prophecy. And idolaters who worshiped sun, moon, the Nile river, and mummified cats gave him a place of refuge.
Then there is the whole Christmas thing. Return of the sun after the solstice, birthday of Saturn before the Christ, candles for the sun’s light, round balls like little suns hung on trees. Mistletoe was an aphrodisiac used during the sun festival. Isn’t that why you still kiss someone under the mistletoe?
Jesus as a baby is quite easy to adore and ignore. If you go to Catholic art in churches and museums all over the world, they tend to keep Jesus as a baby on Mary’s lap. Pictures show his honored mother, surrounded by celibate adult male headship guys in funny robes and hats, and an infantile Jesus ignoring most everything while Ellen and the General Conference (pardon me, Mary and the bishops) run Heaven’s earthly enterprise.
Then there was the uterus. According to Wikipedia, “a section of the Holy Umbilical Cord believed to remain from the birth of Christ, is currently in the Archbasilica of St. John Lateran.”[i]
So, can we just trash the whole Christmas mess as a poorly disguised pagan infiltration of Christianity?
There was a shortage of fir trees in Zambia, so for one Christmas we took a Ficus or wild fig tree into our home in the summer weather of December south of the equator, and bedecked it with some round glass globes shaped like the sun, and gave gifts to each other like pagan wise-guys from the east, and I kissed the mother of my children and the fruits of her womb under some African mistletoe we took out of the tropical forests about Mwami Adventist Hospital.
Our Lesotho friends considered the Christmas meal as an outdoor barbecue! After all, it was the start of the South African summer.
We also had communion in Zambia using raisins soaked in water for our fruit of the vine, although I thought that using local granadilla or passion fruit juice from the local vines could have been a step forward.
And instead of a partridge in a pear tree, during the Christmas season in Zambia fantastic electric green pigeons with beautiful bright yellow feet came to the wild fig outside my bedroom window.
Another time in my life, in an apartment in Zurich a kind family took in a student far from home and shared a small fir tree with real dangerous candles lit on Christmas Eve, and a large slab of Frigor chocolate as gifted to me in place of gold, frankincense or myrrh.
Once another year, two small boys in a large Swiss cathedral celebrated Christmas with large brown bear-shaped gingerbread, given to them by this apostate church in Bern. And then there were small cakes in the shape of hedgehogs covered with chocolate to help celebrate the season without any tree at all.
So is it the weather, the symbols, the customs, the details, the origins, the ethnicity of Christmas that matters? Is Christ to be celebrated in some pure and refined, unpaganized, uncultured, original and uncorrupted manner? Shall Adventists become holier-than-thou in our Christmas avoidance or celebration? Shall we “bring Christ back to Christmas” or leave him fully out of it?
Should we have fir trees or fig trees? Mistletoe or hyssop? Authentic gifts permitting only incense, funeral spices, or 100% pure gold coins permitted as authentic Christmas presents?
The male headship guys should have been there shouting his praises the week before Calvary, but instead little boys and little girls did the job, waving palm branches and singing hosannas. Pagans gave him birthday presents and provided him a place of sanctuary when the people of God refused to do so. Courageous women stayed around him on the cross and were first to announce his resurrection, when most of the men hid behind locked doors in fear.
Jesus was born in obscurity in a nothing village, center of controversy and suffering for two thousand years, tented in a human body formed inside a teenage uterus, ending his brief ministry in criminal execution, followed by many from the lower classes—slaves, servants, and women. Jesus has conquered and will conquer the world!
He has taken Saturn-day back from the pagans as the Sabbath.
He has taken sun balls back as Christmas tree decorations.
He has taken the evergreens back as symbols of the tree of life that rooted from Eden again sprung up on Calvary.
Your wrapped toys, socks, Amazon gift cards, and bars of chocolate return as tokens of the Giver of every good gift.
Orion in the sky was a pagan god, but Adventists now look to his sword to bring them back Jesus.
Bacchus has lost his wine to communion.
And mistletoe now serves love instead of lust.
Ride on, King Jesus; the Lion of the Tribe of Judah has conquered not as lion but as lamb! Every custom, every tradition, every joy will bend and bow and become subject to his loving rule. Every gift can become a token of his love.
He will take the jackpot from gamblers, the science from evolutionists, the high from drug users, the luxury from the wealthy, the music from the bands, the high notes from the opera, the drama from the movies, the prizes from the winners, the flavors from the restaurants and redeem them all, all to himself.
“Here there is no Gentile or Jew, circumcised or uncircumcised, barbarian, Scythian,
slave or free, but Christ is all, and is in all.”[ii]
“For God has put everything under his feet.”[iii]
“Let everything that has breath praise the Lord.”[iv]
We don’t need to try to put Christ back into Christmas; he has already taken all pagan half-truths back for himself, and he is very soon going to take much, much more.
Merry Christmas, indeed!
[ii] 1 Corinthians 10:23
[iii] 1 Corinthians 15:27
[iv] Psalm 150:6
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