Saving Christmas

As a Kirk Cameron fan, I’m disappointed with his new movie. Saving Christmas is rated as the worst movie ever by Rotten Tomatoes and iMBD. He blames the atheists and haters for the ratings. But could it be that it’s because he’s ticked off his own supporters who know the truth about Christmas? The plot centers around a family Christmas party.  In my family, I play the part of Kirk’s hypothetical brother- in- law Christian. Christian has several reasons why he isn’t feeling the Christmas spirit or drinking the film’s new line of Christmas cocoa. Christian says, “Explain to me how that Christmas party honors and glorifies Jesus, because I’m not seeing it.” Should my brother- in- law decide to sit in a car and try to fix me of my “scrougeness,” he’ll have to do better than Kirk. Starting with a nativity slow globe, Cameron explains Jesus’ birth, then goes on to say that Christmas trees are ok because Jesus died on a tree, Santa is ok because of the “real” Saint Nicholas, and materialism is appropriate because Jesus entered our material world to give us the ultimate gift. Unlike Cameron’s last two films, Monumental and Unstoppable, Saving Christmas is pathetically missing anything remotely close to a good exposition of scripture or evangelical.  He’s trying to save Christmas from Christians and put Christ into something which he never belonged. Sunny Shell blogger for the Christian post says, “The movie belittles Christians. (The impression is)- If you don’t believe like Kirk then you’re not a learned faithful Christian or you’re a legalist or you don’t live in grace.” Shell charges that the film has no Biblical support. Responding to the charge, Darren Doane, Saving Christmas’s film director and writer, tweeted “the film does make fun of wannabe Berean unimaginative Christians who need to lighten up.”

The goal of this post is not to offend anyone or to change anyone’s mind.  People are going to do what they want to do. But can we Christian “Grinches” get a little more respect than being labeled radicals who deprive their children? There are sincere well-meaning Christians on both sides of the “to celebrate or not to celebrate” issue and there is such a thing as Christian liberty. Pro-Christmas advocates cite Romans 14:5, “One man esteems one day above another esteemeth every day alike. Let every man be fully persuaded in his own mind. He that regardeth the day, regardeth it unto the Lord, and he that regardeth not the day, to the Lord he doth not regard it.” The verse isn’t about Christmas. Christian liberty doesn’t afford us the option to embrace what God calls an abomination. “Holy Days” are pagan customs, repackaged, and claimed for God’s glory. Saving Christmas would mean going back to its pagan roots and we need to ask if God is honored by such a thing.

Jeremiah 10:2-4 says, “Thus says the Lord, “learn not the way of the heathen… for the customs of the people are vain: for one cutteth a tree out of the forest, the work of the hands of the workman, with the axe. They deck it with silver and gold; they fasten it with nails and with hammers, that it move not.” Both sides claim context. Those who are for Christmas say this has nothing to do with Christmas or trees. “Christ hadn’t been born yet. Don’t misquote the verse.” They say.  Those opposed say that it does and that putting up a tree in your house is what pagans did and we don’t party like that. Here’s my point. “No one is like you Oh Lord you are great and your name is mighty in power. Who should not fear you O King of the nations? This is your due the Lord is the true God, he is the living God, the eternal king (Jeremiah 10:6-7). Matthew Henry says of this verse, “Let us stand in awe and not dare provoke God by giving that glory to another which is due to him alone.” But aren’t we taking His glory and giving to ourselves? We say it’s my house, my time, I’ll celebrate how I want. Leviticus 18:30 says, “Keep my requirements and do not follow any of the detestable customs that were practiced before you came and do not defile yourselves with them. I am the Lord your God.” But Kirk Cameron suggests we take the pagan stuff and reformulate it to be about Christ. Isn’t Christ supposed to be glorified in everything? Deuteronomy 12:3-4 says, “And you shall destroy their altars break their sacred pillars and burn their images with fire you shall cut down the carved images of their gods and destroy their names from that place. You shall not worship your God with such things.” The context- people were going into Canaan trying to change the altars and shrines of the gods of the Canaanites and use them for YHVH. So much for the “it’s what is in your heart” or “what you make out of it” argument. In Second Chronicles 33:15-17 the Israelites kept the pagan form (high place of Baal) but had introduced the worship of God into the pagan form. God didn’t like that.

Does Jesus want us to celebrate his birthday? Biblically there are only two birthday celebrations mentioned. One was King Herod who chopped off the head of John the Baptist (Matthew 14:6-8). The other was the Pharaoh who decided to hang his chief baker to death in celebration of his birthday (Genesis 40:20-22). Biblically only unbelievers celebrated birthdays. Perhaps that’s the reason why scripture doesn’t mention when Jesus was born. Only 2 of the gospel writers say anything about his birth at all.  Even if Jesus wants his birthday celebrated we need to deal with the facts. The scripture doesn’t say when it was so how can celebrate a birthday when no one knows the date? Jesus was not born in the winter, the shepherds would have frozen (Luke 2:8). The census would have been frozen in the middle of winter (Luke 2:1-3). The scripture doesn’t say there were 3 wise men (Matt 2:1), but it does mention 3 gifts (Matt 2:11). The wise men were wise and didn’t arrive in Jerusalem until well after Jesus was born (Mat 2:2-9). When the wise men came to give their gifts, Jesus was in a house not a manger (Matthew 2:11). The shepherds got to see Jesus in the manger the night of his birth (Luke 2:16). The incarnation is the only thing that saves Christmas. Learning about Christ through paganism is what Jeremiah 10 condemns. People say that evergreens teach us that Christ is eternal or there is eternal life in Christ, holly represents the thorns, berries represent his blood. Candy canes are J shaped like a shepherd’s staff, with white indicating a sinless life and the think red stripe representing his blood, and the three thin red stripes referring to the Trinity. Using a candy cane to teach about Christ trivializes the reality of deity.  One movie reviewer wrote, “The oft repeated formula here (Saving Christmas) is to take something that exists and work backward to find a way to make it Biblical. Had Saving Christmas run any longer Cameron would have found a way to find the divinity in Frosty, Rudolph, peppermint bark, and Mr. Hankey the Christmas Poo.” The verse says learn not the way of the heathen; so don’t teach my kid about Christ using the paganism of Christmas.

Many people are taking the glory that belongs to God alone and giving it to a bearded child pedophile. This year “Dirty Santa”- a convicted child molester was spotted and arrested working in a Kansas City mall. The Apostle Peter wrote, “For we have not followed cunningly devised fables when we made known to you the power and coming of our Lord Jesus Christ” (2 Peter 1:16). Paul told Timothy, “Have nothing to do with irreverent, silly myths. Rather train yourselves for godliness” (1Timothy 4:7). The Santa Clause myth takes scripture that applies to Christ and tries to apply it to a person who doesn’t exist. Jesus is eternal (Revelation 1:8). Is Santa? Jesus ascends on high and gives gifts (Ephesians 4:7-8). Does Santa really fly through the air and give presents? Jesus shall soon descend from the sky (1 Thessalonians 4:16). Is Santa really coming soon? The gospel teaches that no one is good. Santa promotes works righteousness. Jesus sees you when you are sleeping, and he knows when you are awake (Proverbs 5:21). Does Santa? What color is Santa’s hair? Revelation 1:14 says about Jesus, “His head and his hair were white like wool, as white as snow.” Santa has omniscience so does Jesus (Proverbs 15:3). Santa is omnipresent so is Jesus (Matthew 18:20). Santa is trying to steal the glory away from Christ (Matthew 24:5). We tell kids to believe in Santa and wonder why they have a hard time believing in Jesus. No wonder the atheists love Santa and hate Jesus. Parents teach their kids not to lie, but don’ see a contradiction; instead it’s the rationalization- it’s make believe. If the real Saint Nicholas was the same man that Cameron talks about who attended the Council of Nicaea in AD 325 to reject Arian heresy- that Jesus wasn’t pre-existent- even to the point that he punched out Arius than it is very unlikely that he would approve of his name being abused or confused with Father Christmas. In the 70’s the Vatican 2 made an official statement and said that the guy didn’t exist but came from the pagan god Ordin. Even worse is the elf on the shelf. Kids are supposed to behave better because a creepy elf is watching. Parents are literally tearing up their houses and blaming it on a doll. What does that have to do with Christ?

A Baptist knows the Catholic mass is wrong but every year we celebrate the Christ mas. By the way what does mass mean? Death. But it’d be weird to go around saying Happy Dead Jesus. In essence the mass is the ceremonial slaying of Christ over and over again followed by the eating of his flesh and the drinking of his blood. The mass is the death sacrifice and the host is the victim. That’s Roman Catholic doctrine and the meaning of the word they invented Christ-mas. People argue well the word Christmas has evolved. As a communication major, I agree there is some validity to the argument that the meaning of words change.  But we are talking about Biblical words that carry theological implications. God doesn’t change (Malachi 3:6).Therefore, theological words don’t change. What God doesn’t like back then, He doesn’t like now. The truth is Christmas was outlawed in America until 1850. On December 24, 1871 Spurgeon preached, “We have no superstitious regard for times and seasons. Certainly, we do not believe in the present ecclesiastical arrangement called Christmas. First, because we do not believe in the mass at all, but abhor it, whether it be said or sung in Latin or in English; and, secondly, because we find no Scriptural warrant whatever for observing any day as the birthday of the Savior, and, consequently, its observance is a superstition, because not of Divine authority.” While someone might point out others times when Spurgeon sounded like he advocated for celebrating Christmas, it doesn’t minimizes the importance of the statement.  AW Pink preached “Thus it is of Roman origin, brought over from paganism. But, says someone, Christmas is the time when we commemorate the Savior’s birth. It is? And who authorized such commemoration?”  The fact is, the bishops in Rome decided to make December 25th Christ’s birthday trying to interest the pagan sun worshipers. The pagans had a celebration (Festival of Saturnalia December 17-24) during the winter solstice. They built bonfires to give the sun god strength and bring him back to life. Their most common custom during the festival was giving presents to one another. The evergreen wreath was used to decorate homes and it represented the female reproductive organ. The fact is that evergreen trees have been worshiped by virtually every pagan culture in the world and was a major symbol of sun god worship and fertility. The ever green tree was a representation of the sun god’s certain body part. It was said to be magical because it was able to stay green all year long. Like today they even sang songs to it. “Oh Christmas tree oh Christmas tree how lovely are thy branches.” Kissing under the mistletoe was a practice used in the Celtic Midsummer Eve ceremony as a sign of homosexuality as men kissed under the mistletoe. The worship of the Egyptian goddess mother and her child Isis and Horus were replaced with the Virgin Mary and the Christ Child. As Christians we say we don’t worship like the pagans because Jesus is the reason for our season. The truth is that Christians have brought Christmas out of the pagan world just like the Jews brought the Apis out of Egypt (Hosea 8:2, 5-6). People say God created trees and they are not intrinsically evil. Ok so decorate your home with a tree but keep it up all year. They accuse us “radicals” of insinuating that they are bowing down and worshiping a tree. They say we are not displaying Christian charity.  Here’s a deal for you – keep it out of the church, leave me out of it, and you can do what you want. When Paul gave us the rules about offending our brethren it was the people who knew that weren’t supposed to offend the ones who didn’t. At Christmas the ones with the knowledge are getting offended at the expense of those who don’t. Paul said to turn from idols not rename them (1 Thessalonians 1:8).  As a sales representative, I call on a Buddhist doctor’s office. He’s got his statue of Buddha. But if he came to many Christian homes he’d see the nativity scenes and have a hard time telling the difference between what he does and what we as Christians do. Some people say that the Christmas decorations including the ceramic nativity scenes help them worship Christ. That explanation doesn’t line up with God’s command. The 17th century theologian Francis Turretin summarizes the command this way, “The making of images is not absolutely interdicted (God doesn’t forbid all representational art) but with a two-fold limitation- that images should not be made representing God, nor be employed in his worship.” This is true of Jesus. Though fully human, He is also fully God, which means that visual images of Jesus are, in fact, attempting to picture God.  No one worships the sun god anymore is the explanation but is it ok? As music director I’m in a dilemma. I can either sing Hymn #1 written by a Unitarian who rejected the trinity and Christ’s deity, Hymn #2 written by an Episcopal priest teaching that Christ came to be born into people during the Advent or Hymn #3 written by a Roman Catholic who believed halos would emanate from holy people. Or I could be voted out for not singing, “It came upon a midnight clear”, “O little town of Bethlehem”, or “Silent Night.”

Use your sanctified imagination. On the night Jesus was born a multitude of heavenly host praised God and said Glory to God in the highest and on earth peace good will toward men (Luke 2:13-14). Here these angels have witnessed the miraculous. The pre-existent God the Son whose glory formed the world, created everything, owned everything, the one whose glory radiated from eternity was born in a lowly manger. The sins of mankind were so bad no other alternative could remedy God’s holy wrath towards sin but the gift of himself. Since the fall, man had been utterly hopeless. Now their eternal fate was sealed in the one who would die for sinful men, atone for those who would repent of their sins and put their faith in him, and rise again for their justification. These angels were running around screaming He came. The one the prophets had preached about all through the Old Testament- He came. Can you imagine the scene or the excitement they witnessed? But what if the angels who were present when Christ was born were to come down and look around at our Christmas celebrations. They’d say what on earth is going on? See them sniff a Yankee Christmas Candle. That smells nothing like the manger scene. Everyone is saying it’s the happiest time of the year. But they’d see the season of depression with the highest rate of suicide all year. They hear about the holly jolly, but that’s a far stretch from the seriousness they experienced as God had to come to earth to deal with sin. They saw the gifts of the wise men, but today they see annoying plastic toys. They saw the beauty of the star of heaven, today they see blinking color lights. They saw oxen and donkey, today, their supposed to see flying reindeer one with a blinking nose. They saw humility displayed. Today, they’d see people with road rage running others over in the mall traffic. They saw people gathered to worship Christ. Today they see people gathered to worship self. At church they would experience a record low attendance. Too many church members will have taken the day off so they don’t have to miss a Christmas party. The angels saw Jesus born into poverty. If they visited America at Christmas this year they’d see $2.6 billion being spent on wrapping paper, $750.00 dollars per person on gift giving, $35.00 per family spent on Christmas cards, and Mr. Scrooage saving $1,000.00 by exercising his right not to participate.  As angels they may have been there at Mt. Sinai we don’t know. But they probably know the commandments. Don’t steal- people go into debt buying presents they can’t afford. Don’t covet- everyone’s getting asked what do you want for Christmas? Don’t make any graven images- how many pictures and statues of baby Christ would they find? The Bible clearly teaches against gluttony (Proverbs 23:2). But Christmas is America’s holiday to celebrate type 2 diabetes and obesity.  I imagine their only reply would be what on earth is going on? What would they say to us?  Perhaps they would remind us that giving thanks for Christ’s incarnation is beneficial any day of the year. Apart from its theological meaning, Christmas has no meaning at all. The Spirit of Christmas when stripped of its pagan overtone is really simple. God came to earth in the form of a man. Around this one doctrine the whole question of meaning evolves. Either he came or he didn’t and the sentimental notions of Saving Christmas or putting Christ back into Christmas give no evidence one way or the other. Instead of putting the emphasis where the world puts it we’ve got to stress what the Bible does. God became man to take away the sins of the world. Saving Christmas isn’t about Christ’s birth but his death and resurrection. 1 Timothy 1:15 This is a trustworthy saying worthy of full acceptable Jesus came into this world to save sinners. John 1:14 the word became flesh. The profound truth of Christmas is that Jesus of Nazareth was God made man- the second person of the Godhead became the second Man (1 Corinthians 15:47). As the second representative of the human race, he determined human destiny, by taking on humanity without losing his deity. When we compare the glory of Christ with the glory of Christmas we need to be very careful we don’t trivialize the beautiful saving message of Christ with the jolliness of Santa Claus.

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