Understanding Prayer – standing in the gap and hearing from heaven
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We just opened our new address here in Canada
Gottalife Ministries – 5-1030 Confederation street North Sarnia, Ontario, N7S6H1.
Many of you that visit Facebook probably have seen many Christmas memes posted. One was all Text and No Picture, but I am sure you have seen it, or one similar. Today this really struck a nerve and so here is my perspective.
Here is the gist of the meme:
“Some thoughts as we enter the holiday season…It is important to remember that not everyone is looking forward to Christmas. Some people are not surrounded by large wonderful families and friends. Some of us have problems during the holidays and are overcome with great sadness when we remember the loved ones who are not with us. For many, it is their first Christmas without a particular loved one, many others lost loved ones at Christmas time. And, many people have no one to spend these times with and are besieged by loneliness. We all need caring, loving thoughts right now. May I ask my friends wherever you might be, to kindly to give a moment of support to all those who have family problems, health struggles, job issues, worries of any kind and just need to know that someone cares. Please do it for all of us, for nobody is immune.”
All this is an admonition to be considerate of others who seem sad, etc. Well, I stepped in it. I felt compelled to comment on the post. The person who posted the meme removed it, so I don’t have a record of exactly what I said. From memory I wrote something like this:
Not trying to rain on anyone’s parade, but why do you suppose that we need a disclaimer like this for the holidays? I have never experienced any of this while keeping the Father’s Feasts. We (as believers) have allowed the Christmas season to be so over-hyped that it has become an idol. No matter how much we want to claim Jesus is the reason for the Season, the busy-ness, gluttony, lies and hyper-expectations overshadow all of the things we wish most to embrace: our desire for peace, joy and love! And, after the ‘day’ we have placed so many expectations upon is past, we are left with credit-card regret and let-down. Who do you suppose is most happy with that?
Well, no one will accuse me of not being blunt, but I did apologize if my comment was offensive. That was not my intention, so instead I am writing this article.
Refer to my last article Christmas? Bah! Humbug! for another dose of why I no longer celebrate Christmas. In it I mention the high suicide rates during the holidays and how so many of our traditions are just lies. Lies in understanding the trappings and traditions, and lies we tell our children and ourselves. Who is the ‘Father of Lies?’
I don’t mean to imply that I am unaffected by the holiday known as Christmas. I spent too many years and have too many memories of good things associated with this holiday! (see my article The Ghost of Christmas Past). But, when else during the year do we need to be especially considerate of others who have lost someone, or are experiencing difficulties with their health or finances? It just seems like Christmas places a spotlight on problems because the expectations, emphasis on friends, family, generosity and love that are tied up in the myth of Christmas is just impossible to ignore!
My question then: Is that a good thing? I don’t mean the wish for love, joy and peace; but the notion that these are aspirations for a particular time of year!
All those who are sad, lonely and in distress have their misery compounded by the ‘festivities’ that they cannot enjoy. Isn’t it worth consideration that maybe, just maybe, Christmas has gotten out of hand?
I mention that I haven’t noticed this kind of reaction when we participate in YHVH’s Feasts. The only sadness I feel when we celebrate Sukkot or Passover is that so many of the people I love don’t understand. It isn’t that I want them to validate what I believe; I need no validation in that regard. It is worse than that! They don’t know the joy of spending time with the Father during His Feasts that commemorate His Son, our Messiah! It is all about Him. He IS the Reason for His Seasons! And what a blessing to spend time with Him and the Family of Yah!
Since we have begun to walk in the shadow of Him, and to follow in the footsteps of Yeshua and the disciples, we have gained such wonderful friends! Friends that feel closer, sometimes, than family!
Maybe it is because the ‘whole’ world isn’t sharing in our celebrations. They are not accompanied by the 24/7 reminders that are so entangled with Christmas. There aren’t any radios playing the equivalent of Christmas carols for the time leading up and throughout our Feasts. Every store and neighborhood is not decked out with Lulavs, First Fruits or the Ten Plagues and Lambs as we lead up to Sukkot, Shavuot or Passover. His Feasts are quiet (even though joyful when we sing and dance)! They are focused on Him (we actually read the Torah portions and discuss the Bible)! We have our own traditions (many borrowed from the Jewish community). Traditions like, the re-telling of the Exodus story and the rejection of leavened bread at Passover, to which we add the understanding of Yeshua as our Passover Lamb and Savior. We eat latkes and fried donuts, light candles and wave lulavs (depending on the feast and time of year), and we observe His First Feast: Shabbat.
We don’t have to save up all our celebrations for two days in the winter and place all our emphasis there. He has given us three Feasts we must observe: Passover, Shavuot (Pentecost) and Sukkot (Feast of Tabernacles). Although Shavuot is only a single day event, Passover and Sukkot are feasts that last for an entire week!! Talk about party!
And, we have the great privilege of celebrating the first of his Feasts: Shabbat, every single week of our lives! What a blessing!
It occurs to me that if everyone understood what a blessing it is to follow His commandments (which includes celebrating His Feasts) the over-stimulating, over-hyped and over-blown holiday known as Christmas would fade into the dustbin of history where it belongs.
He understands our need to be with each other and to honor Him. Why is it such a ‘burden’ to embrace the great gift He has for us? We can continue to do things ‘our way’ or we can choose to do things ‘His Way.’ Seems to me that the world (that we are supposed to be IN but not OF) is not doing such a great job of bringing Peace and Goodwill toward men. Maybe we need to re-think our celebrations. Might you want to try His plan? After all, He had the plan for us from the beginning. If we truly understand that He loves us, why would we try to do it all ourselves?
Written over the lintel in my home is this:
As for me and my house we will serve YeHoVaH. ~Joshua 24:15
And that needs no disclaimer.
I find myself in agreement with Scrooge! You all know the story of A Christmas Carol by Charles Dickens. It is a classic that has been made into innumerable plays, staged readings, movies and cartoons to retell the wonderful story of how an old miser like Scrooge could find generosity and forgiveness by embracing the Christmas spirit. Before his conversion his curmudgeonly retort to all who espoused Merry Christmas was, “Bah! Humbug!”
After some study, I now think that Scrooge was on to something! He certainly needed a change of heart, but he was right about Christmas being a humbug! Why do I say I agree with Scrooge?
I looked up the definition of Humbug. Here it is from the Merriam-Webster Online dictionary:
noun hum·bug \?h?m-?b?g : language or behavior that is false or meant to deceive people : someone or something that is not honest or true : a hard peppermint candy
Full Definition of HUMBUG
1 a : something designed to deceive and mislead
b : a willfully false, deceptive, or insincere person
2 : an attitude or spirit of pretense and deception
Hmmmm. Am I saying that everyone who celebrates Christmas is ‘willfully false, deceptive and insincere?’ Not exactly. I believe that the majority of Christians are sincere in their wish to ‘keep Christ in Christmas,’ and have no intention to deceive or pretend the holiday is anything other than a celebration of the birth of our Savior. They would be, and are, offended to have their celebration characterized as nonsense or drivel.
But, and this is the hard part for almost everyone to swallow: What if the concept of Christmas is offensive to the Father? What if Christmas itself is humbug?
If you are still reading this, I guess you are willing to explore the possibility that Christmas might not be based in Biblical instructions. I am hoping you are looking for me to explain what I mean so that you can make an assessment of whether I am sincere, or a humbug.
Everyone can point to the lovely Charlie Brown Christmas cartoon where Linus reads the recounting of Jesus’ birth from the book of Luke. “That is what Christmas is all about, Charlie Brown;” and, for many, that is enough. It is a justification for all that Christmas has become. The fact of Jesus’ birth, the shepherds abiding in the fields by night, and the singing of the heavenly hosts is familiar, inspiring and gives us all that warm fuzzy feeling. Christmas is the memorial of this event that brought Peace on Earth and Goodwill to Men, isn’t it?
We are all drawn in by our memories of movies and Christmas stories. Films like It’s A Wonderful Life, White Christmas and many others are perennial favorites that show the spirit of Christmas as a generous and loving heart for our fellow man. But, no story other than A Christmas Carol concentrates on the Spirits that animate our love-affair with all things Christmas.
So why did Scrooge call Christmas a humbug?
Scrooge was a bitter and disillusioned man. His spirit was so darkened that he couldn’t accept that people might actually have love and goodwill in their heart, and certainly that these feelings were not the result of Christmastime. Until he was visited by four spirits (Marley, and the Spirits of Christmas Past, Present and Future) he was unable to recognize that his misery was the result of his own heart and behavior. He became a miser that worshipped money and it cost him the love of his life. To him, all of the good cheer and love others portrayed was a deception. It was, indeed, a humbug. A spirit of deception, insincerity and dishonesty.
Let’s look again at the definition of Humbug. It is “language or behavior that is false or meant to deceive people, someone or something that is not honest or true, or a hard peppermint candy.”
Isn’t it interesting that a ‘hard peppermint candy’ shows up as a humbug? As Christians we are taught that the candy cane is fraught with Christmas symbolism. Yet, there is no conclusive evidence that the many Christian stories attributed to the symbolism and evolution of the candy cane are based in fact – as much as we would like them to be! Regardless of whether you think the ‘J’ shape is for Jesus, or represents a shepherd’s crook, or whether the stripes of red remind you of the blood shed by the Savior, etc., the de-bunking site of Snopes.com declares this:
“Claims made about the candy’s Christian symbolism have become increasingly widespread as religious leaders have assured their congregations that these mythologies are factual, the press have published these claims as authoritative answers to readers’ inquiries about the confection’s meaning, and several lavishly illustrated books purport to tell the “true story” of the candy cane’s origins. This is charming folklore, but one should not lose sight of the fact that such stories of the candy cane’s origins are, like Santa Claus, myths and not “true stories.” http://www.snopes.com/holidays/christmas/candycane.asp
Now, let’s look at the other definitions. “Someone or something that is not honest or true.” Christmas celebrations probably fall into this category. If we are honest, we must conclude that Christmas and its attendant trappings of trees, holly, mistletoe, Santa and reindeer etc., are all based on myths or ancient pagan practices. A quick search on the internet yields an abundance of evidence that places all of these things we associate with Christmas as pagan symbols and celebratory customs that we have ‘Christianized.” They are found nowhere in the Scriptures. The reason all of these pagan practices were adopted by the Christian church may sound okay to you, but it flies directly in the face of what the Father asked of us.
He said, “Do not learn the ways of the heathens and say you do them unto me, it is an abomination!” (Deu 18:9, Jer 10:2)
You will not find in the Bible, including the New Testament, an instruction to celebrate the birth of our Messiah. None of the apostles observed Christmas, and for centuries it wasn’t even on the radar screen! In fact, it was well into the 1800’s before it was even legal for Americans to erect a Christmas Tree because our founding fathers (you know, those folks who fled England because of religious persecution) understood that it was a pagan practice!
So, aside from the traditions that have been co-opted from pagan celebrations (which surely we could conclude fits the definition of a deception), the dark under-belly of Christmas is also a deception.
Why do I say that?
Sadly, the ‘most wonderful time of the year’ is not for many people. It is well-reported that there is a spike in suicides during the Christmas season. The expectation and hype associated with this holiday results in further alienating those who are alone, mentally unstable, or are experiencing a down-turn in their lives. When the magic of Christmas fails to materialize, many cannot cope with the disappointment.
Another deception is our ability to ‘rational-lies’ to our children. We tell them fantastic tales of flying reindeer, Santa and elves that bring good girls and boys the desires of their heart, and elves on shelves that watch everything they do and say in the run up to Christmas morning. We think we are creating a spirit of ‘magic’ when in fact we are just lying to our children and setting them up for disappointment and disillusionment when the truth comes out.
Deception. On every level! We all want to embrace the thought of ‘good will and peace on earth.’ And many actually attain a level of that, until the post-Christmas crash and bills for how much we over-spent in the ‘spirit’ of generosity arrive in the mail. We have substituted honest emotions of love and goodwill for Black Friday fist-fights over material goods. We feel pressured to purchase gifts for everyone we see lest we fail to embody the Christmas spirit. We strive for and expect the ‘Christmas spirit’ during December, and fall back into our everyday mode the rest of the year! If it is from the heart, it should be apparent all year round, don’t you think?
If you really examine the theme of It’s a Wonderful Life, it really isn’t about Christmas at all. Although it is a holiday classic and the climax occurs on Christmas Eve, the real story is the culmination of a life well-lived. George Bailey is a man of integrity. He honors his father and mother by giving up his dream to leave Bedford Falls in order to handle his father’s business. He lives his life with a heart to help others, and because of that, this honest, hard-working man is rescued by his community in his hour of need. Incidentally, his rescue from his own suicide was the result of a prayer for help, but it is easy to gloss over that and hang the entire ending on the ‘Christmas Spirit.’ It makes for a nice setting, but the story could have been told without Christmas in the picture and the result would have been the same.
Now I guess I have ruined your favorite Christmas movie. It shouldn’t have. It is still one of my favorite ones too, but I can see it as a reward of a life well-lived and an answer to prayer. The setting is irrelevant although the snow is nice, and the winter-time ties it all up in a neat bow. It wasn’t Christmas that caused the happy ending, it was love.
So, now that Christmas can be properly characterized as humbug (deception), what should we do with that information?
What if we love the Father enough to search out the truth? What if we discover that He instituted Feasts that He does want us to observe? What if we understand that Leviticus 23 is for all mankind, and not just for the ‘Jews?’ What if we realize that celebrating Christmas that began as a pagan festival is no different than the Israelites who built the golden calf and declared it a feast to YHVH?
What if we rightly call Christmas a Humbug?