Because He was born, I do not keep Christmas

Movie poster from the new film "Thor 3: Attack of the Sugar Plum Faries"
Movie poster from the new film “Thor 3: Attack of the Sugar Plum Faries”

I forgot today was Christmas.

Last night my family and I arrived home after a long drive, and early this morning I had to drive my son to work. As we were driving through town it was eerie and calm. The “school zone” light was blinking, but there were no children and no cars on the road, and I said, “Wow, it’s creepy! Like some sort of ghost town.” He responded, “Yeah, I wonder why it’s like this?” We half-jokingly speculated that everyone knew something we didn’t, considering biohazard accidents and the rest.

Then it hit us: Oh, yeah! It’s Christmas!

Actually, the whole reason I was even taking him to work is because his employer is in our Church and he, too, was working. Today Boy #1 was apparently going to be helping to clean up after a little local flooding from some rains this weekend.

It aided our ignorance that we were on the road for ten hours last night, coming in a bit late. The fact that it was Christmas Eve meant that many of our potential stops for dinner were closed, but other than that the normal things associated with the evening (comments on TV, etc.) weren’t there, allowing us to wake up in our little bubble of no-Christmas reality.

Every year (or, perhaps, almost every year) I try to write a bit about why I don’t keep Christmas. I’ll try to keep it quick and simple this year: It is because of the fact of the birth of Jesus Christ, the Son of God, that I don’t keep Christmas.

I wholeheartedly do believe that more than 2000 years ago a child was born of a virgin in the “little town of Bethlehem.” That child was God Incarnate–He was the Living Word who had existed with the One we now call God the Father for all Eternity Past. The Word was with God and the Word was God. And then, all of a sudden, here He was, in mortal, vulnerable, human flesh: One of us. I believe that He lived a life in perfect obedience to God, that He taught of the coming Kingdom of God and that God commands repentance to be a part of that Kingdom, that He was executed unjustly, that His blood was shed for humanity’s sins, that He was raised from the grave, and that He is in Heaven now, at His Father’s right hand, interceding for the saints, living within converted Christians through His Spirit, and awaiting the moment when He will return to complete the work of destroying the works of the devil and bringing to complete fullness the Kingdom of God in the Creation.

I am a Christian, and I believe with my whole heart that Jesus Christ is the Son of God, my Lord and Savior, my High Priest, and my soon coming King.

Consequently, I do not celebrate Christmas.

The reason is simple: The Scriptures make it clear that Jesus Christ would not want me to do so. And if I seek to follow Him, I will not keep a tradition He would find displeasing.

That Christmas is a celebration of pagan origins is an undisputed fact of history. Even mainstream Christianity agrees. I’ve seen Dr. James Dobson agree. I’ve seen Dr. R. C. Sproul agree. What we now call “Christmas” was introduced into Christianity from pagan sources, well after the time when Christians were being warned to “contend earnestly for the faith once delivered” (Jude 3) due to the corrupting influences coming into that faith. From Christmas Trees to the gifts beneath them, from the wreath of holly on the door to the mistletoe above it, from the burning Yule logs in the hearth to the ornaments that reflect its light–all of them are customs originating in pagan observances and worship traditions. Even some of the most conservative of mainstream Christian scholars agree on these facts.

The relevant question is whether or not Jesus Christ cares.

That really is the question: whether or not we keep such customs — whether or not we accept a day bearing His name that represents an observance born of the heathen worship days and customs of Saturnalia, Bruma, Dies Natalis Solis Invicti, and the rest — really comes down to whether or not our Lord and Savior wants us to do so.

And our means for knowing whether He would want us to is the Word He has left us with, the Bible, and how His Spirit confirms that word.

From the Bible’s perspective, the facts are simple. Jesus Christ condemned violating God’s laws and commandments in favor of our traditions, regardless of how “religious” those traditions might be (e.g., Mark 7:6-9). God clearly does not want us to adopt pagan customs to worship Him (e.g., Deut. 12:29-31, Jer. 10:1-2).

In the Scriptures we find clear condemnation of adopting the practices of heathen cultures and worship traditions for the sake of worshiping God. It doesn’t make a difference if we claim to be worshiping God instead of the false gods for which those practices were originally designed. Consider Deut. 12:31a, “You shall not worship the LORD your God in that way…” and Aaron’s comment in Exodus 32:5b, where Aaron declared time set aside to worship the golden calf idol a “feast to the LORD (YHVH).” Attaching God’s name to something He forbade and choosing to worship Him with those practices did not make them acceptable in God’s eyes.

Such commands stand between us and the Christmas celebration. And what did our living Lord and Savior tell us? Does He give us permission to set aside those commands so that they are no obstacle between us and the traditions we want? No, He did quite the opposite. He condemned such choices: “For laying aside the commandment of God, you hold the tradition of men…” (Mark 7:8). Jesus loved God’s commands, and He taught His followers not to lay those commands aside in order to keep traditions we think are better.

God commands not to worship Him through the practices of the pagans. Jesus condemns laying aside those commands for the sake of our traditions, however well-loved they may be.

Consequently, as a follower of Jesus Christ and a believer in the fact of His birth to a virgin so long ago, I cannot observe Christmas.

I know many who do, to be sure. My mother, until she died, kept Christmas. She didn’t understand what I and those who worship God in my Church have mercifully been shown. I know that she will have an opportunity in the future to learn, and I am thankful for that. I do not judge the sincerity of those who do keep these days — many of them do so with a passion and a zeal that I look at as an example to me, personally. But good intention does not excuse those who know better. And–through no wisdom or intelligence of my own, to be sure!–I know better.

I choose to worship Jesus Christ. I want Him to see in me, however imperfectly, someone He would see as a disciple–as a Christian. So I do not keep the day the world has attached His name to. I do not observe Christmas.

And I’m happy that way. Even if He had not provided other, biblical Holy Days to observe (and thankfully He has), I would still be happy. For although Christmas is generally understood and experienced as a day of joy for those who keep it, there is a profound joy I never would have accessed had I not learned the blessing of stepping away from Christmas and toward Christ. And in His mercy, He helped me to do that.

I know some who come across this post will find it offensive. It isn’t meant to be, and, yet, at the same time I would simply challenge you to make it a profitable offense and begin studying the matter. You might be surprised by what you find, but not all surprises are a bad thing. And it will be a more life changing surprise than anything you found under the tree this morning.

If you’ve got the courage, check out these magazine articles and explanatory booklets:

For those interested in past blog posts on the same or similar subjects, here are some:

How did you observe Thanksgiving?

Well, I know that I already posted this morning, debunking more Alexa silliness as a follow up on my previous post on Alexa silliness, but I would like to post on something more positive today.

I am glad that we spend Thanksgiving yesterday in my family in a manner related to the purpose of the day, though I can’t take credit for it. Of course we ate — and a feast it was, indeed! And in the past I have tried to do things like read Lincoln’s Thanksgiving proclamation and the statements of other presidents. As I always try to do, I thanked God for the faith and obedience of Abraham, which — as we know — is so much more important to the success of this country than delusions of our “superiority” as a people. Our success is rooted in God’s faithfulness, not ours.

But my mother-in-law had the foresight to ask each of our four boys to write up their thoughts on ten things they, personally, were thankful and to do so in the form of a written prayer. Then, yesterday, with the spirit of the day in mind, she had each of them read those thoughts for all of us. It was very moving, and I really enjoyed getting some insight into my children’s priorities and what means the most to them at this stage in their individual lives.

And, since I had my own thoughts on the subject recently, I was able to respond by reading my “I am thankful” blog post.

It was very pleasant and very appropriate. Then, in addition to such meaningful activities, we enjoyed a little “vegetable” time catching up on a few commonly enjoyed television programs. (We enjoy our shallow times as well as our deep ones. 🙂 )

So, what did you and yours do for Thanksgiving? Do you have any particular personal or family traditions? Did you do anything differently? Feel free and let me know below, and, for all those who know the blessing it represents, have a wonderful Sabbath tomorrow!

I am thankful

A happy Thanksgiving Day to all who happen to find their way here over this American holiday. It is nice to have a national holiday every once in a while that we can actually celebrate–all the more when it is one for which the motivating spirit is so godly (even if its more modern spirit is more carnal).

I hope we all take some time from now and the end of the week to thank God perhaps a little more than we all hopefully already do.

I am thankful. I am thankful for the shed blood of Jesus Christ that has allowed me to be forgiven of my sins and for the fact that same Jesus Christ is willing to continue to humble Himself and to live in such an unworthy person as I am. I am thankful that I have been able to come to know Him and His Father–now my Father, as well–to the extent I have in my life and that I can continue to get to know them better, knowing that there is still so much to learn about Them.

I am thankful for the amazing wife with which I have been blessed. Such a simple sentence seems so inadequate to express just how thankful I am, but perhaps a simple statement of the fact will be more adequate than a longer one would. I am thankful for our beautiful and remarkable children. My wife and children may deserve a far better husband and dad, but I am so thankful that I am the one who has the job. While it is within my power, I am giving it up for no one. I am thankful, too, for the health we have all enjoyed for so long, knowing that in this life such a state is not a given.

I am thankful, too, that my wife’s father and mother are able to live here with us, as they are my father and mother, also. It is a privilege and a joy to have them so near and so accessible.

I am thankful for my family members who live outside of these walls where I sit typing. That certainly includes my fantastic sister and brother-in-law and their kiddos, as well as my beautiful sisters-in-law and their husbands and children, and it includes the rest of my wife’s side of the family who I am so thankful to be able to count as my own family. But it also includes my family in the Body of Christ–the additional brothers and sisters that Christ, true to His word, has provided for me over the years. My incredible congregations now, the congregations I’ve been able to serve before coming here, the many I have met over the years at various Feast sites and conferences, those who I spiritually “grew up” with in Dallas and Waco… Some are here in the states, some are far away in other lands. But I am so thankful for them all. There are too many special people to name individually–some of whom would be so embarrassed that I wouldn’t dare list them anyway–but I am thankful to have them in my family and humbled to know that they consider me a part of theirs.

I am thankful for the Church, itself, and for a Body of Christ that allows me to actually see Christ’s presence and action in the world and in the lives of God’s people. I am thankful for the opportunity I have had on the telecast and on the Council of Elders to see “behind the scenes” in the Work and the Government of God and to find that it is just what I had always prayed it would be. I am thankful for the opportunities I have had to see God’s hand at work in the men and women at our headquarters and to be reminded that God truly does work through human beings and that every effort counts, no matter how small it may seem, so long as it is done with a selfless and loving heart. I am thankful for Mr. Meredith, Mr. Ames, Dr. Winnail, and Mr. Wakefield, and for all of those they lovingly lead in Charlotte. I am thankful for Mr. Weston, Mr. King, Mr. Hernandez, Mr. Tyler, and all those who strive to serve the Body of Christ no matter where its members may be located. I am thankful for Mr. Greer, who serves me as my regional pastor, and for Mr. Millich, who served as my regional pastor before and as my teacher and mentor. I am thankful for the lives of Mr. Ogwyn and Mr. David Burson, which, even so long after their deaths, continue to impact me and affect who I am and who I want to be. I am thankful for Messrs. West & West, Mr. Sena, Messrs. McNair & McNair, Mr. Ciesielka, Mr. Robinson and those others whose examples, along with so many at the “top,” mean so much to me–inspiring me, spurring me, and chastising me at the same time.

And I am thankful that my usual, goofy fear of forgetting in my haste something important or someone important–which I surely have done–has not prevented me this year from giving some sort of voice to my thanks here on this blog. I know that this brief list of things for which I am thankful is so pitifully short compared to all I have to be truly thankful for. But I also know that it still needs to be said from time to time. My life reminds me of the sentiment expressed in Jeremiah 33:9 — “Then it shall be to Me a name of joy, a praise, and an honor before all nations of the earth, who shall hear all the good that I do to them; they shall fear and tremble for all the goodness and all the prosperity that I provide for it.” God has provided so much for me of which I deserve so little, if anything at all. And it does cause me to fear and tremble a little. Probably not as much as it should where I allowed to see the whole of it, but I see enough. And it is as God describes it: Terrifyingly wonderful. His mercy truly does endure forever.

(And by the way: I don’t mean to boast about any sort of special humility by saying how little I deserve the shower of blessings I have received. I know you don’t deserve your blessings either. 🙂 More than that, so many of you are examples to me of real humility. Thank you for that.)

In this land that has been so blessed, not due to its own greatness but due to the faithfulness of Abraham, may your Thanksgiving be a meaningful one.

Traitorous Animals: Smug, cannibalistic turkey

I’ve long been goofily amused by advertisements and logos for restaurants or supermarkets that attempt to sell meat by using a depiction of the animal, itself, offering up some of its brothers and sisters for your dining pleasure — clearly a traitor to his/her/its kind. The most frequent violator seems to be a pig shown dressed in a cook’s outfit for the logo or sign of a BBQ place. (Gotta give those Chick-fil-A cows credit for their loyalty to the bovine brotherhood.)

Traitorous Turkey

However, with Thanksgiving coming up, it looks as though traitorous turkeys are coming out of the woodwork. The one above, photographed outside of a Trader Joe’s, is practically smirking as he informs you how to calculate the exact number of his kinfolk you and your family will need to scarf to feel satisfied. Even offering you a fork to do the job right — or is that… wait… Does he have a napkin around his neck? Is he going to eat them himself, right alongside you? What a sicko!

Some Memorial Day blog links

I am doing my best not to turn today into a “work” day and spending time with my family, enjoying life in a country that still remains free. Rather than add new content today, for any Memorial Day surfers I thought I would just list some links to previous posts of mine that have some relevance for today.

Even better, read the most recent commentary on the Tomorrow’s World website, “Trains to Freedom” by Davy Crockett. I thought it was a moving tale and very appropriate reading for today.

I hope your day is pleasant and profitable, whatever you plan to do!

Because He Is Risen, I Do Not Keep Easter

I see that the Church has kindly reposted a commentary I wrote on Easter! I really liked that one. I’m not always the biggest fan of my own writing, but I tried to make that one simple and straightforward, since I thought that would be the best way for it to have its intended impact. Here are the first few paragraphs:

Because He Is Risen, I Do Not Keep Easter

I believe in the risen Jesus Christ, Son of God, Savior of mankind. I believe that after His crucifixion on Passover, He was three days and three nights in the heart of the earth—as He said He would be. I believe He was then resurrected by His Father, restored to the glory He had with His Father before the world was.

He was the perfect Passover Lamb. He also became the perfect wave sheaf offering, accepted by His Father as the first of the firstfruits. In His resurrection, I see confirmation of the promise made to all those who truly follow Him that they, too, will one day be resurrected to live forever as He now does.

Consequently, I do not keep Easter.

Read the rest here: “Because He Is Risen, I Do Not Keep Easter”

It was actually a commentary that was conceived as a post on my blog. That remains one of the benefits of this blog, which is the chance to write without the pressure of being as polished as I would strive to be for one of our Church publications or websites while still staying in a “writing mode” and being able to ruminate with pen and paper (well, keyboard and LCD screen) in such a way that I can explore some topics I might write about in the future. I’ve said before that I don’t have a “dog in the hunt”, as it were, concerning my blog, and if it interfered with the other work I have to do or was somehow unhelpful, I’d be content to stop doing it. But this is one way in which I’ve found it really helpful.

Sure, Parades & Football — but hopefully Thanks most of all

Well, I don’t plan to write much, but at the moment seeing my wife work wonders in the kitchen while I sit here essentially useless has me inspired to say a few brief words. 🙂

The kids are recognizing one of the unintended consequences of our cutting ties to regular television fare to save a few bucks: No access to the broadcast networks’ Thanksgiving Day parades. (We’re purely a Roku/Netflix family now.)

Thanksgiving postcard circa 1900 showing a tur...
Thanksgiving postcard circa 1900 showing a turkey and football player. But where’s Tom Landry? (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

I might hook up the computer to see if there is any simulcasting going on and, if so, connect the TV so they can watch them on the big screen. I’m sympathetic to the sentiment… In my house growing up, it was Thanksgiving Parades in the morning, then a walk down the alley to my grandmother’s house where the rest of my father’s side of the family would gather for food and football. Tom Landry was practically part of the family. The Smiths would watch the games on TV with the sound all the way down so that they could listen to the play-by-play on the radio, which they preferred to the TV announcers. (Does that count as a “multi-media experience”?)

For the Smiths, today–or at least this colony here in Ohio–football no longer plays a big part (though the Super Bowl seems to be discussed much on this blog: here, here. and here). Not that it is inherently evil (which I have covered before, more than once). I’ve just never been much of a sports guy–dodge ball, soccer, a little fencing, and competitive pencil sharpening excluded.

[Free admission: I may not be a sports guy, but I am a Texas Aggie, and it still seems very, very strange not to have Texas A&M playing t.u. on Thanksgiving, even if I usually didn’t watch. All the more bittersweet since sports pundits seem to think that the Aggies would win such a match up this year–something the Longhorns have to be thankful for, I suppose. Psalm 75:10a!]

Regardless, I hope to help all of us here in the Smith Kingdom and our guests today to remember the day for its true purpose: Giving thanks to our Creator.

In an old Plain Truth magazine back in 1969, the Church once wrote:

“There is nothing necessarily wrong with good food, family reunions and football games on Thanksgiving Day. But all too many use these activities wrongly and forget the purpose for the holiday. Many glut themselves with far more food than they ought to eat; few, however, stop to give God thanks for this food — even on Thanksgiving Day.”

True then, true today.

There are those few–in a celebration of the post hoc ergo propter hoc fallacy as well as, in some cases, other, less innocent motivations–who confuse the American Thanksgiving with pagan harvest festivals, falling for the same faulty arguments that some use to claim that the Feast of Tabernacles is pagan in origin. But the day’s clear path to its place on our calendar is easy to trace, and Thanksgiving is, truly, a national holiday that a Bible-believing Christian can celebrate. (Ditto for arguments that Mother’s Day and Father’s Day are pagan, which they most certainly are not.) What a shame, then, if those who are Bible-believing Christians fail to observe in the good and godly spirit it was originally intended, even if no one else is doing so.

So, however you choose to enjoy your time with family and friends today–whether it involves parades on TV or football in the backyard or whatever your own family traditions might be–I hope it includes some sincere thanks for God’s promises to Abraham and for the blessings this undeserving country continues to enjoy. Happy Thanksgiving!

What are you thankful for this Fourth of July?

For July 4th, today, I’d like a post that focuses on the positive! And rather than fill it with my own ideas, I thought I’d turn to you. 🙂

As we celebrate the birth of the United States of America–and, thus, the fulfillment of God’s prophecies on the matter–what are some things you are thankful for as an American? (And if you are not an American, feel free to weigh in, as well!)

Pi Day thoughts

I just realized that Pi Day is almost over, and thought I should post a little something on the subject. However (and I hope π (pi) does not take offense), a good bit of what I will post is a bit anti-π. For instance…

  • I’ve finally given in to the idea that π is not the legitimate holder of the title of “circle constant,” and that the title should go to τ (or tau, the name suggested by the value’s proponents for 2π). For those (few) interested in the reasoning, check out I admit that what happens to everyone’s favorite equation (explained here) does not please me (and the attempt to sooth that reaction by author of the Tau Manifesto doesn’t succeed much), but the evidence is hard to ignore.
  • I wish that my favorite constant got more attention: e. However, I recognize that e‘s value, 2.718281828459045235360…, doesn’t lend itself to being made into a day easily, since 2/7 only carries two significant digits. Some, however, have taken to using the Day/Month format and celebrating e Day on January 27 (27/1). Perhaps, rather, there could be a build up to the e-minute at 6:28PM on February 7. I don’t know. e just doesn’t get the respect it deserves. Poor little guy. Though perhaps September 18 might be a good date to celebrate e.  Anyone know why?
  • As a day to muse on things mathematical, I’ll point out that it’s interesting to me that two of the posts on this blog that have the longest tail of search engine hits (meaning they continue to get hits regularly long after they were written) are the one I wrote on why a negative times a negative is a positive and the one about why 0.999999… equals 1. So hopefully I have contributed to someone’s understanding somewhere about something.

Enjoy the remainder of Pi Day! (Unless you’re a protester holding out for Tau Day, of course, in which case we’ll see you in June.)

Valentine’s Day: A day for beating women with bloody animal skins?

This Tuesday, which much of the world will call Valentine’s Day, I will strive to do the most romantic thing I can do for my wife: Provide her with a God-fearing husband who does not observe Valentine’s Day. 🙂

The origins of Valentine’s Day are very clearly pagan and pre-Christian. Research into the details of where it came from can take you all sorts of places (some very yucky places, frankly), but standing out among them is Lupercalia, a pagan fertility ritual celebrated in February that involved, among other things, animal sacrifices (goats and dogs, apparently) and whipping women with strips made from the animals’ bloody flesh. Yes, I wish I was kidding.

If you want to just dip your toes a wee bit into the origins of Valentine’s Day, the History channel website is making it easy, with an interactive graphic (I’m not sure why a graphic that doesn’t do anything but sit there is called “interactive,” but there you go) and a video that shows a painting (apparently by Jon Foster) of a fellow looking delightfully popish presiding over a sacrifice-the-critter-and-hit-the-ladies-with-carcass-straps ceremony. (Full disclosure: The History channel video also shows old “classic” paintings with naked people. What is it with “classic” artists and naked people?)

So, no pagan, hit-your-woman-with-bloody-animal-parts, Lupercalia-warmed-over, Jeremiah 10:2 (et al.)-violating Valentine’s Day for me, thanks!

As for my Beautiful Wife (who feels the same way I do about February 14): Good thing for her that I’m a super-romantic fellow 24/7 & 365, am I right? And so modest, to boot! 🙂