I love Jewish tradition and holidays. From Passover to Purim, each one memorializes God’s mercy and provision. Many of our Christian holidays stem from that same desire to see God exalted and to pass on the tenets of the faith.
Unfortunately, many of our Christian holy days have slipped into commercialism and self-centeredness. Others, because of questionable beginnings, sometimes in paganism, or a root in ritualism, have fallen into disrepute with those of us who hope to purge evil from our daily lives. I’d like to suggest something which may seem almost as questionable to those who are zealous for purity, and which may seem fanatical to those who are “just enjoying the season:” Don’t be afraid to celebrate, if your celebration glorifies the Lord!
To me, the idea that Christmas as we know it was rooted in a pagan holiday makes it even more appropriate for me as a believer: God has a habit of turning the profane into the holy! We were dead in our sins, but the Lord has made us His righteousness through Jesus (II Cor. 5.21). Praise God! But don’t use this as an excuse to participate once again in the profane. Leave the selfishness and greed the world associates with Christmas behind. Celebrate what memorializes Christ and use the time to pass God’s precepts on to your children.
I believe in taking every opportunity I can to teach my children (and remind myself) about the Lord’s love. If I need to make up a tradition, so be it. I’ve made up plenty. But if I can use something which is already being celebrated, then so much the better: The foundation is laid and the time is already set aside. Children and adults are released from school and work. Capture the time! So what if Jesus probably wasn’t born in December? My sister, whom we adopted at age 5 from Korea, had been arbitrarily assigned a birthday and age. It hasn’t hindered us from celebrating: We’re just as glad that she was born, whether it actually happened in May or in December.
The measuring stick I like to use when evaluating whether a tradition is worth holding onto, needs revamping, or needs to be thrown away completely, is very simple: DOES IT GLORIFY GOD? In many cases, this is something which can only be answered between you and God. Gift-giving can be centered in greed or a desire to look good, or it can stem from a genuine desire to bless others. Having a birthday party for Jesus can be a true reminder that God gave His only Son so that we can know Him, or it can simply be an attempt to whitewash a sepulcher and show off how “holy” we are.
My book, Celebrating Advent, soon to be re-released, is actually a combination of approaches: Advent is an already existing time of year, with some traditions that I’ve kept, some I’ve altered, and some I’ve made up completely. In it, I suggest some ideas which you may be able to use as you share Jesus with your family and friends this December. Evaluate whether those that appeal to you would be genuinely used to glorify God in your family.
One final note: If the Lord has convicted you not to celebrate Christmas, please don’t take this as an argument that you should abandon those convictions. Paul makes it clear in Romans 14 and 15 that some people’s consciences won’t allow them to do things which are perfectly fine for others. “Each man must be convinced in his own mind.” (Romans 14.5) Both those who are able and those cannot celebrate must be very careful not to judge those of opposite persuasion. If you can’t celebrate, then praise God that your brother or sister in Christ has that freedom. And if you are free to celebrate, praise God that your brother or sister is standing firm to their convictions.
How This Book Differs From The First Edition
I have been asked by a number of people to put this book back in print. I also do it for personal reasons. I gave a copy of this book to each of my children, back when they were growing up … when they were too young for me to imagine them having families of their own. Well, life has gone beyond my imagination and those little children are now grown, with children of their own. (I have 7 grandchildren so far!) So they need several copies for their own families. I’ve had similar requests from others who used this and other Tools For Godly Living books that were published in the 1990s. I’ve kept this version basically the same, with very few changes, so that the two editions can be used together.
One thing that has happened in the intervening years, which I think will be helpful, is the development of youtube. You may not be familiar with the carols I’ve included in the book. You can find these songs on youtube and listen to them to learn them, or even play them while your family sings along as part of your advent celebration. (Of course, you’re completely welcome to use other songs instead.) I’ve created a playlist of the songs used in this book. If you subscribe to my youtube channel, isaiah3020, you’ll find the playlist, Celebrating Advent.
The book, Celebrating Advent, was just released this morning! You can order it at http://www.thebookpatch.com/BookStoreResults.aspx?search=celebrating%20advent&ddl=any The introductory price is good until December 1, which is also when Advent starts this year.
Let’s glorify Him together.
Atwater, Minnesota (and yep, there’s already snow on the ground!)