24 December 2016

1,000 Words On The Night Before Christmas

1 John 4: 19
I used to be suspicious of cultural influences, learning a disdain for secular traditions affecting religious themes by following sharp legalistic opinions.

I now try to look beyond suspicions for the 'good' or the 'how it started' story that typically accompanies the genesis of traditions.

Christmas is one such tradition that has come under greater suspicion thanks to social media...and with the internet, we can read the past to see exactly how what we experience Today came about.

Looking past the consumerism that typically overrides a time of giving and inner reflection, let's instead focus on how the celebration of Christmas developed over the years.

This article isn't so much a suspicious critique as past articles about traditions have been, but a brief look at what really “is”, and why...leaving undeserved fears and suspicions in the past.

From the article:

“The modern Santa Claus grew out of traditions surrounding the historical Saint Nicholas, a fourth-century Greek bishop and gift-giver of Myra, the British figure of Father Christmas, the Dutch figure of Sinterklaas (himself based on Saint Nicholas), the German figure of the Christkind (a fabulized Christ Child), and the holidays of Twelfth Night and Epiphany and their associated figures of the Three Kings (based on the gift-giving Magi of the Nativity) and Befana.”

Focusing on the historical and scholarly origins of a story is, I think, the best place to start (and finish) when considering the motivations behind a legend.

Questions to ponder after reading the historical development of Santa Claus, initially modeled after the historical person Saint Nicholas:

Did the idea of Santa Claus (or similar) develop out of an aim, or desire, to stimulate people to spend money and consume merchandise, or something more considerate?

Has the idea of Christmas caused more harm than good or has it developed more good than bad over the years?

Do secular ideas diminish the work that a man named Nicholas (and considered a saint by many) inspired so long ago?

Considering your answers and the reasons behind your answers, it is important to remember what has been written down prior to Nicholas regarding traditions, rituals and celebrating certain days:
Therefore do not let anyone judge you by what you eat or drink, or with regard to a religious festival, a New Moon celebration or a Sabbath day. These are a shadow of the things that were to come; the reality, however, is found in Christ. 
- Colossians 2: 16-17
This passage in Colossians seems to be speaking to people who celebrate certain things which other people may consider “meaningless” or “wrong”.

It may speak to a freedom embracing religious or secular activities that do not cause depravity, but can be a tool towards promoting a Christ-centered theme...and this is actually what Nicholas effected and what some still forward Today.

The following passages speak more deeper and clearer to the temptation of judging others when forgetting the bigger picture of what God has established and what is more important:
Who are you to judge someone else’s servant? To their own master, servants stand or fall. And they will stand, for the Lord is able to make them stand. 
One person considers one day more sacred than another; another considers every day alike. Each of them should be fully convinced in their own mind. Whoever regards one day as special does so to the Lord. Whoever eats meat does so to the Lord, for they give thanks to God; and whoever abstains does so to the Lord and gives thanks to God. For none of us lives for ourselves alone, and none of us dies for ourselves alone. If we live, we live for the Lord; and if we die, we die for the Lord. So, whether we live or die, we belong to the Lord. For this very reason, Christ died and returned to life so that He might be the Lord of both the dead and the living. 
You, then, why do you judge your brother or sister? Or why do you treat them with contempt? For we will all stand before God’s judgment seat. It is written: 
“ ‘As surely as I live,’ says the Lord,      ‘every knee will bow before Me;          every tongue will acknowledge God.’ ” 
So then, each of us will give an account of ourselves to God. 
- Romans 14: 4-12
Realize the new reality of love and grace in Christ.

The new age speaks freedom over a believer's activity (that doesn't lead to depravity).

This is an extension of their faith while on earth; the blending of a righteous life in view of a secular world.

With these two particular passages in Romans and Colossians, in their context, we can see a variety of interpretations from others.

Some use these very passages to enforce more rules and restrictions, while others use these same passages to encourage freedoms in Christ.

I am of the latter perception, having experienced the former while learning hard lessons of narrow-minded critical interpretations.

We do see the evidence of the latter interpretation having flourished the world over in the many faces and cultural varieties of Christendom.

We see the arms of God having spread wide and far around what people carry with them in tradition while still proclaiming Jesus as Lord and God of their lives.

It is the gate which is narrow, and it is the Master who ultimately decides how their servant stands.

It simply isn't an individual's place to make what is already narrow more narrow according to a critical and accusing view of meaningful or meaningless traditions.

For some people, Christmas is very meaningful.

For some other people, Christmas is absolutely meaningless.

As I understand Christ, both are correct for each individual.

It is possible that both people, having opposing views, can be unified, at peace and loving one another.

This is possible with God; when love, peace and obedience to the Way is pursued.

This is not possible if men attack their brothers over what they do or do not observe.

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