Wednesday, December 17, 2014

What Christmas Are You Celebrating?

By Pastor David L. Brown, Ph.D.

First Baptist Church of Oak Creek Wisconsin

Audio Sermons:


The idea for this message came from the tract titled A Christmas Trio by Trumpet Tract Ministries of Milwaukee. A husband-wife team from our church published a number of good Gospel tracts, all of which use the King James Bible for Scripture quotes.


Christmas is one of the United States of America’s “OFFICIAL” Holidays! Yet, there are a variety of different ways that Americans celebrate Christmas. The tract suggests three different ways people celebrate this National Holiday. I will add one more. As you listen to the four descriptions of Christmas, ask yourself this question: “What Christmas am I celebrating?”


Here are three, and a fourth category


1) The Secular Xmas

2) The Mythical Christmas

3) The Religious Christmas 

4) The True Christmas


Let’s begin by looking at…


·       The Secular Xmas

Even atheists and agnostics take part in this national holiday, however they are SURE to “X” Christ completely out. “The birth of Christ carries no relevance for them and the main concerns are gifts, parties, and family gatherings.”1 They view the primary value of the holiday as financial boost to the economy. It certainly does give a BIG boost to our economy. Americans will spend from $455 to $475 billion this Christmas.


But, there is a warped bent within this Xmas crowd that takes things even further. They desire to remove all public manifestations of Christ from Christmas. Nativity displays MUST GO! They insist that Christmas Trees become Holiday Trees. No “Merry Christmas” greetings! That’s a BIG “No, NO! It must be “Happy Holiday’s.” They make sure that every one knows that they are offended if “Christ” is in any way included. One community was even going to ban Red and Green because they make people think of Christmas. After a HUGE public outcry, the city council voted it down.  Red and Green can be displayed


Here is an email that I received from Liberty Counsel that illustrates the militant attack on Christmas-

Southwestern Oklahoma State University in Weatherford has issued a disturbing directive forbidding employees to say or write the word "Christmas." This directive was given by the University upon legal advice of the Oklahoma Attorney General, W.A. Drew Edmondson. Liberty Counsel sent a demand letter to the University following a complaint from a University affiliate.


The controversy began when the University's Director of Human Resources recently visited various departments and said that decorations featuring the word "Christmas" in any areas of the University must be immediately removed.  


He also instructed the employees not to say "Christmas" while on the job. As a result the employees cannot respond "Merry Christmas" to other employees or visitors to the University. Read our News Release for more details. (After being confronted by a law firm, the University President intervened and brought sanity back to the situation)


Then, closer to home, we have a group of atheists who can’t stand the fact that Racine permits a Christian Nativity scene to be erected by a private group in Monument Square. So atheists decided to erect a pyramid with various anti-religious quotes on it, right next to the crèche scene.


An article on the Racine Post Blog says, “David Nelson, 81, another of the half-dozen atheists who helped set the pyramid up on the square Wednesday night -- about six feet from the Nativity Scene -- insisted, ‘we're trying to educate the American public. The Founding Fathers left too many loopholes in the doctrine of separation of church and state.’”

One person who identified himself as an American agnostic is quoted to have said – “The only problem with putting the pyramid next to the nativity is that you come off as a XXXX [fool]. The atheists are probably right, that Christianity is a make-believe myth that can cause people feel all good and faithy inside, and that religion should be separate from government. But, keep in mind that it's that same government (and maybe a forgiving religion) that is keeping you (the atheists) from being lynched.”

As you can see, this crowd celebrates Xmas. No religious convictions are involved. Jesus is completely crossed out of the picture. They refuse to recognize the paramount importance of His birth. “The irony of this Christmas is that people are participating in a holiday that came about as a result of the birth of the Savior, Jesus Christ; however, they don’t recognize Him as such, don’t pay attention to Him, yet will still participate in His birthday. It is made a common thing and that is a sad thing. Is this the Christmas you are celebrating?”1


The appropriate Scripture for the Xmas crowd is -- Psalms 14:1 “The fool hath said in his heart, There is no God. They are corrupt, they have done abominable works, there is none that doeth good.” They are fools!


·       The Mythical Christmas 


This is perhaps the most popular version that Americans celebrate. Those who celebrate the mythical Christmas combine pagan mythology and modern folklore to come up with their celebrations. Here’s what I mean. The PRIMARY character of this mythical Christmas celebration is none other than Santa Claus! The focus is on Santa not the Savior. Santa Claus got his biggest boost in America from a seminary professor, Dr. Clement Clarke Moore. He taught Oriental and Greek Literature at General Theological Seminary in New York City. At age 43 he had six children. Moore had purchased the first American Book about secular Christmas. It was called A NEW YEAR'S PRESENT FOR THE LITTLE ONES FROM FIVE TO TWELVE." It inspired him to write his poem called “A VISIT FROM ST. NICHOLAS, OR SANTA CLAUS” for his children. He read it to them at the dinner table on Christmas Eve, 1822. We know the poem better as "T'WAS THE NIGHT BEFORE CHRISTMAS". The following year it was published in the Troy New York Sentinel anonymously. This was the beginning of Santa and his reindeer-powered sleigh. It was not until 1837 that Moore allowed his name to be used in connection with the poem.


 Though Bible-believing Christians were strongly against the mythical celebration of Christmas with Santa Claus and all the pagan trappings like Yule logs, mistletoe, the wassail bowl, holly, etc. in the mid 1830-1850’s, famous American Cartoonist Thomas Nast popularized Santa Claus in Harper' Bazaar from the 1860's to the 1880's. George Webster contributed the idea that Santa's headquarters was at the North Pole. Christ and Santa were further confused by Thomas Nast and Christmas Card publisher Louis Prang who pictures the Christ Child and Santa together in the 1880's and 90's.


Slowly but surely the Santa Claus myth usurped the truth and significance of the birth of our Savior, the Lord Jesus Christ. I ask you, “Is this the Christmas you are celebrating?” I would simply say this, No Virginia, there is no real Santa Claus, but Christ is real and you need Him as your Savior! I remind you, Christ is to have the preeminence in all things (Colossians 1:18).


That brings me to the next Christmas people celebrate…


·       The Religious Christmas


As a Pastor, I can tell you of this; I will likely see people who I never see in any other services the entire year at Easter and Christmas services! I have never quite figured it out to be honest with you. What is the rationale for throwing God a “bone” so to speak, two Sunday’s a year and ignoring Him the other 50?


Christmas is one holiday in which those who evidently see no need of God or church during the year, decide to “play church” for a day and attend a Christmas service. Likely they think they are “giving God His due” so to speak.


Churches go to extra effort presenting plays, musicals, and special messages on this day. You have to wonder if these things are why this crowd comes! I remember reading on one church sign – “Avoid the Christmas rush! Attend church now!”


Don’t get me wrong! I certainly enjoy singing the Christmas hymns. I am blessed by the Christmas Cantata and my heart is warmed by the Sunday School program. However, The religious Christmas crowd too often does not get past the babe in the manger! They come, sing the songs, hear the sermon and as soon as “the doors are opened…thoughts have quickly reverted back to presents, parties, and dinner. In other words, back to everything other than Jesus….”2 For those who celebrate a religious Christmas, there is really no room in their day-to-day life for Christ. Luke 2:11 is not a reality to them "For unto you is born this day in the city of David a Saviour, which is Christ the Lord." The Christmas message “never penetrates the heart and so never gets past being a religiously institutionalized message. Is this the Christmas you are celebrating?” Finally we come to…


·       The True Christmas


The fact is that even the enemies of Christianity claimed that Christ lived, and that He performed miracles! Early Jewish documents such as the Mishnah and even Josephus, as well as first-century Gentile historians such as Thallus, Serapion, and Tacitus, all testify that the one called Christ lived in Palestine and died under Pontius Pilate. As the British scholar, F. F. Bruce put it, “The historicity of Christ is as [certain]. . . as the historicity of Julius Caesar” (NT Documents, 119).


My point is this: since Jesus lived, then Jesus was born! The Gospel of Matthew tell us that His birth was shortly before Herod the Great died (Matthew 2:19). Herod's death can be fixed with certainty. Josephus records an eclipse of the moon just before Herod passed on. This occurred on March 12th or 13th in 4 B.C. Josephus also tells us that Herod expired just before Passover. This feast took place on April 11th, in the same year, 4 B.C. From other details supplied by Josephus, we can pinpoint Herod the Great's demise as occurring between March 29th and April 4th in 4 B.C.


Likely it sounds strange to suggest that Jesus Christ was born no later than 4 B.C. since B.C. means Before Christ. But our modern calendar which splits time between B.C. and A.D. was not invented until A.D. 525. At that time, Pope John I asked a monk named Dionysius to prepare a standardized calendar for the western Church. Unfortunately, poor Dionysius missed the real B.C./A.D. division by at least four years!


Matthew tells us that Herod killed Bethlehem's babies two years old and under. The earliest Jesus could have been born, therefore, is 6 B.C. Through a variety of other time indicators, we can be relatively confident that the Messiah was born in either late 5 or early 4 B.C.


The birth of Christ is the most important event in human history. So important in fact, that the timeline of history is divided by it - B.C. abbreviated for “Before Christ” and A.D. abbreviated for the two Latin words Anno Domini (meaning in the year of our Lord). This was no ordinary birth and it changed human history forever. Even a complete skeptic like H.G. Wells, a professional historian and science-fiction writer who made no profession of Christianity, admitted in his Outline of History, “More than 1900 years later, a historian like myself, who doesn’t even call himself a Christian, finds the picture [of history] centering irresistibly around the life and character of this most significant man.…” The True Celebration of Christmas focuses the birth of Emmanuel (God with us). You can read about all the related facts surrounding the Savior’s birth in the Gospels of Matthew (1:18-2:11) and Luke (1:26-56, 67-75, 2:4-40). But what was the purpose of Christ’s birth? We read in 1 John 4:14 “And we have seen and do testify that the Father sent the Son to be the Saviour of the world.” Why do we need a Savior? The birth of Christ was necessary because all people are lost sinners (Romans 3:23). God gave His Son Jesus a body so that so that He could pay for our sins by offering of His own body (Hebrews 10:5 & 10; 1 Peter 2:24; Colossians 2:13-14). If you have never received Jesus Christ as your Savior, do it today! “The gift of God is eternal life through Jesus Christ our Lord.” Romans 6:23.


Notes 1-2 are from A Christmas Trio by Trumpet Tract Ministry