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Bah Humbug – What’s All The Fuss About Christmas?

Bah Humbug – What’s All the Fuss About Christmas? (Audio)

Originally posted 12/06/10…
Updated, Re-Posted, 12/12/13, 12/22/17

(John 10:22-24 KJV)  And it was at Jerusalem the feast of the dedication, and it was winter. {23} And Jesus walked in the temple in Solomon’s porch. {24} Then came the Jews round about him, and said unto him, How long dost thou make us to doubt? If thou be the Christ, tell us plainly.

Christmas is a holiday observed generally on December 25 to commemorate the birth of Jesus, the central figure of Christianity.  The date is not known to be the actual birthday of Jesus, who, in fact, may have been born in the Spring. But our current date for celebration may have initially been chosen for several other reasons:

  1. To correspond with either the day exactly nine months after some early Christians believed Jesus had been conceived, or
  2. The date of the winter solstice on the ancient Roman calendar, or
  3. One of the various other ancient winter festivals.

Christmas is central to the holiday season although Christ is often not the central figure. Christianity marks the beginning of the larger season of something that has been called Christmastide –  which lasts twelve days, from which we get the crazy little song about the “12 Days of Christmas.” Although nominally a Christian holiday, Christmas is also widely celebrated by many non-Christians, and many of its popular celebratory customs have pre-Christian or secular themes and origins. Modern customs of the holiday include:

  • gift-giving
  • music
  • greeting cards
  • church celebrations
  • perhaps a special meal,
  • and of course, decorations – trees, lights, garlands, mistletoe, nativity scenes, and holly.

In addition, several similar mythological figures, known as Saint Nicholas, Father Christmas and Santa Claus among other names, are associated with bringing gifts to children during the Christmas season.

Because gift-giving and many other aspects of the Christmas festival involve heightened economic activity among both Christians and non-Christians, the holiday has become a significant event and a key sales period for retailers and businesses. The economy is greatly impacted and retailers foretell of a future year of victory or woe based up sales that begin on Black Friday (the day after Thanksgiving), and more recently added, Cyber Monday, Small Business Saturday and Last Shipping Day!

Writers, singers, and storytellers have often tried to put meaning to the season of Christmas. Just think about Ebenezer Scrooge and you think about his famous retort – “Bah humbug….”

So, I ask you today, “Bah humbug – What’s all the Fuss about Christmas?”

What was the original Christmas time like?

Winter for Jerusalem would have been much like winters of Texas because of its proximity to the same latitude lines. So winter travel would not have been impossible for the masses, but still highly unlikely. A friend in Alabama is bemoaning cold weather and looking to her hometown of Houston and the mild temps they are experiencing. I’ve been in Israel as early as February, and as late as March…cool at night, warm in the daytime, and essentially light jacket weather.

At the time of what we call Christmas, Jesus goes to a feast at the temple in Jerusalem. He was there for something other than what we make it be in this modern world.

I have grown weary of our culture of Christmas. Let me say it again, “Weary…”

  • Crazy schedules and parties to celebrate something that most people do not even believe in
  • Maddening shopping experiences that sap the strength and test one’s resolve to be civil
  • Earlier and earlier arriving Christmas shopping days – now we see aisles ready in September!
  • Thrashed credit cards and people living outside of their means
  • Fake trees, fake garlands, fake tinsel, fake mistletoe –  fake, fake, fake…
  • Or, if the trees are real then I stress at the unseemly death of something that can grow to 100 feet tall
  • Gifts are given that the receiver doesn’t even want or need
  • Lights that are dangerously threatening our national power grid (!)
  • Crowds. Bell ringers. Toy drives. Food drives.
  • Depression deepens. Suicides heighten.

So, I ask you again, “Bah humbug – What’s all the Fuss about Christmas?”

We have not put up any Christmas decorations in years. There are no kids at home. No little ones to enjoy the potential magic of Christmas morning (even though we never waited until that day to open up gifts). Christmas cards are no longer posted on the wall in the form of a Christmas tree, but stacked by the microwave. With our kids, we celebrate Christmas at odd times of the year. In fact, we won’t celebrate this year Christmas until February of next year (2011)…it’s impossible to get us all together during the holiday season.

After all of my humbug spirit, we all realize that Christmas doesn’t have to be this way…..

Consider a couple of our Christmas traditions and help me to look at it a little differently.

In John’s gospel, Jesus went to Jerusalem during the winter season to celebrate the Feast of Dedication. It is not mentioned elsewhere in the Bible – mainly because of neither the OT or NT documented the event. It is a new festival added to commemorate the re-dedication of the temple. Over time it was given the name the Festival of Lights or Hanukkah.

Here’s the story. In 168 BC, on the 25th day of Kislev (December), Antiochus Epiphanes plundered Israel and polluted her temple. Israel revolted and 3 years later (25th of Kislev/December), the temple was cleansed and dedicated to the Lord. Many assembled on the day the temple was rededicated.

What impressed Israel the most during the re-dedication, was the light which blazed again in the holy place. The golden candlestick was gone and was replaced by one built of iron and encased with wood. When the sacred fire burned again, something ignited in the heart of each Israelite and every year since the Jews would again celebrate the Festival of Lights. Great chandeliers were placed in the temple court to light the festivities.

    • In all the homes of Jerusalem, small replicas of the golden candlestick could be seen burning.
    • Singing was permitted, but mourning was not allowed.
    • During this feast, processions with people waving branches of evergreens wound their way throughout Jerusalem.

While the Romans celebrated Christmas time as the birth of the Sun, the Jews celebrated Christmas for the rebirth of their hallowed temple. Both used evergreens. Both used joyfulness and festivities.

According to our scripture, there is a single time that there was a difference – Jesus went to Jerusalem for this winter Feast of Dedication.

So, based on this bit of history, let’s give Christmas a new meaning!

In this holiest season, we stand in the midst of tinsel, scented boughs, frenzied shopping, commercialized extravaganzas, music that may or may not represent the true meaning of the season. Remember that Jesus celebrated this season as a re-dedication of the temple.

Perhaps we should use it likewise, as a time to commemorate the day that the temples of our hearts were given to the Lord.

  • Truly our hearts were plundered and polluted. False gods had arisen in a place that God was meant to be worshiped.
  • But the birth of Christ marks the day where Christ was not only born into this world but the day Jesus was born in our hearts. Idols were cast down, our hearts were cleansed, and now new light burns within our hearts.

Christmas Symbols

Lights

When we see Christmas lights, let’s not think of possibly a pagan festival.

  • Remember the hallowed hush which fell over Israel when the sacred fire burned again.
    • Recall Simeon’s words some 2000 years ago where he prophesied that Jesus would be the “light to lighten the Gentiles.” (Luke 2:25-36).
  • Then, recollect the day when the sacred fire of Christ’s spirit began to burn in your heart.
    • Remember the words of those that sat with Him all night after His resurrection in Luke 24:32 “…..Did not our heart burn (light) within us, while he talked with us by the way, and while he opened to us the scriptures?”
  • Jesus said we should let our light shine before men the way a candle is placed on a candlestick to be seen by all.

Let His Light shine in our hearts the same way.

Trees

When we see Christmas Trees, let’s look at them differently.

  • Evergreen boughs and trees don’t necessarily represent an object of pagan worship. Rather, think of the evergreens waved in the temple courts by celebrating Israelites.
  • In the OT at the Feast of Tabernacles, it was ordered and ordained by God.
    • Lev 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.
  • On that eve of His birth, hear the host of rejoicing angels parading through the heavens crying, “Glory to God in the Highest!”.
    • Rejoicing is the order of business when we think of Christ’s entry into this world.
  • Long after His birth, most of Jerusalem would welcome Him and then, not understand him, ascend him to an earthly throne by waving palm branches before Him in  John 12:13 where they met Him ‘….and cried, Hosanna: Blessed is the King of Israel that cometh in the name of the Lord.”
  • Ps 96:12 –  Let the field be joyful, and all that is therein: then shall all the trees of the wood rejoice

Gifts

When we give and receive gifts, let’s start looking at what gifts truly represent.

  • Remember how special you felt that day you received a very special  “gift” from God, His Spirit, into your heart.
  • How happy you were that day! You wanted to share your experience with everyone else. As we share gifts with friends and families this year, remember the “gift” of Jesus to the world in John 3:16 and the “gift” of His Spirit that would keep us comforted.

Finally…

Bah Humbug… What does this mean?  Most dictionaries define this word as “Nonsense; rubbish.”

How could Ebenezer Scrooge use this word for Christmas?

  • Like many of us, he doesn’t have a good understanding of Christmas.
  • Like many of us, he’s struggling with the season and what it’s going to cost him.

So, we certainly can’t sanctify every tradition and myth which have entwined themselves around Christmas, yet Jesus celebrated the Festival of Lights. By doing so, He gave a different meaning to the season than the ones used by the Romans. Perhaps we too can give a different meaning to this season. Christmas is the day we celebrate the renewal and rebirth of our hearts! Perhaps you need a renewal in your Heart.

What better day than on the eve of His Birth celebration for you to find your rightful place with Him!