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Thursday, December 23, 2010

Religious Holidays

Christians have our two most important holidays of the year. Christmas and Easter. They're when we celebrate the birth of Christ and the resurrection of Christ. It's all about the Christ. But I notice something about how we observe these holidays. They seem to look quite different than the religious holidays of the Old Testament.

Passover and the Festival of Unleavened Bread, the Festival of the Harvest and the Festival of the Shelters seem to be the main religious holidays that God prescribed for the Israelite Jews. Now those holidays tended to be enormous affairs. There were sacrifices to God, there was prayer & fasting, there was feasting.

But above all, in each of these religious holidays there was prolonged worship and adoration of God. We're talking about several days. And there was Sabbath-like stopping of work. The world stopped revolving so that the people could worship their wonderful God. It's quite unlike what we're used to in the modern religious holidays of Christianity.

I think if I were running a Christian church today, I would definitely lean toward adopting and even embracing some of the Old Testament traditions. I think, for example, that we could look at the passover and consider that God called us to be His people. We couldn't even respond to Him if He hadn't first chose us.

And certainly we'd have something to celebrate in the Festival of the Harvest. Maybe we would do that one after the deadline for filing income taxes had come. It would be then that we could clearly count our blessings from the prior year. We'd have a feast. We'd have lots of prayer. And we'd have dancing and worshipping like nobody's ever seen.

The thing is that we Christians only have a couple of religious holidays, Christmas and Easter. Materialism and capitalism seem to have done a good job of hijacking both of them too. But when I look at the model for religious holidays in the Old Testament, there was of course no room for capitalism or commercialism.

Of course, Jesus had to deal with the money-changers in the temple. Still it's hard to imagine that the Festival of the Harvest, for example, had cards to mail, clothes to buy, etc. It's clear that God intended religious holidays to be solely focused on Him ... to the exclusion of all else. What do you suppose Christmas, for instance, would look like, if it were exclusively focused on Him?

I was in India earlier this month and was surprised to see how many Hindus celebrate Christmas. They put up trees, put up lights on their houses, buy gifts, wrap presents, etc. They have an entire Christmas season and holiday celebration --- completely devoid of Jesus Christ. How is this possible? How did we take something that was all about God and remove any trace of God from it?

Maybe we owe the Lord an apology. We need to apologize for Santa Claus, for Rudolph, for Frosty. We need to apologize for the Easter Bunny. The stockings hung by the chimney with care, and sleigh bells ... they've become serious contenders for the focus of our religious holidays. Knowing that He is a jealous God and wants our exclusive devotion, I can only imagine that these worldly things that we've saddled our religious holidays with really sadden our Lord, God.

So this Christmas, I find myself trying to think of ways to shut out the world of capitalism, the world of TV specials, Frosty the Snowman, Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer, the Grinch and even Percy the Puny Poinsettia. Gosh, these stories and fantasies have all been fun and light-hearted. But I'm not finding that there's enough Christ in my Christmas. How can I put Him back in His rightful place ... at the center of my Christmas season?

My prayer is that the Lord will purify my Christmas and my Easter. My prayer is that He will help me shut out the trappings of capitalism and all in good fun. Let me find joy in the celebration without the food, without the music, without the smells and sights. But let me find my Christmas joy in Him alone. Yes, Lord, that is my prayer.


  1. Anonymous4:11 PM

    Christmas and Easter are both Pagan Holidays. The early Church lines those holidays out with the Winter Solstice and the Fertility Festival so they would keep the populus happy. I personally think celebrating these Pagan holidays are detrimental to Christianity. The Apostles did not celebrate Christmas or Easter.

  2. I'm intrigued by your comment. Thanks for sharing.