My grandparents spent 34 years working in India. They lived among the people and stayed for years sharing the light and life of Jesus with them. One of the things that still bugs my grandpa today is this idea that nothing in our lives should have any hint of past pagan worship or festivities.
India is well known for their brilliant, light and color filled holidays that are just that, HOLYdays. But they are held in honor of Hindu gods and are not appropriate for a follower of Jesus to take part in. The last thing new Christians needed was a dull, cheerless void in their calendar. For many, when the church leaders tried to simply outlaw festivals, they ended up returning to their old ways and taking part in the idolatrous merriment of their neighbors.
So, Christmas and other Jesus-centered holidays were an important part of helping these people break with their past. I remember my dad telling stories of how the village Christians would sing carols and celebrate from house to house late into the night. Decorations and color were important along with a time to focus on the wonder and joy of Christ’s advent (our fancy term for moving in to be one of us).
One of the articles I shared on Christmas Eve rightly points out that picking the date of December 25th didn’t have anything to do with the pagan holiday from the same time. The first celebrations were calculated based on the time of Jesus’ death and some added assumptions and just happened to land then.
But, even if Christmas was deliberately pasted over a pagan festival, I wouldn’t care. I’ve always lived in the north, sometimes WAY up north and it gets dark at this time of year. If Christmas didn’t come now, with all its color and light, I would be depressed.
Everyone up north knows about Seasonal Affective Disorder, a special type of sadness that comes just because you don’t have enough sunlight shining in your eyes. God designed us to need light in ways that you would never have thought of until experiencing it for yourself!
What better way to fill the long nights and gloomy days around the dark, cold winter solstice than with songs, candles and beauty in honor of Jesus, God in the flesh, our brother and Savior?
I think now is good time to share one of the axioms from Jackson Hole Bible College that I read in their book The Genius of Ancient Man. (I asked Don Landis for permission to share these)
Axiom #8: Satan can’t create, he can only pervert.
Axiom #9: Satan is the ultimate counterfeiter
Bless the LORD, O my soul. O LORD my God, you are very great; you are clothed with honor and majesty. Who covers yourself with light as with a garment: who stretches out the heavens like a curtain: Psalm 104:1,2
Before his corruption, Satan lived in the presence of God Himself, who dwells in unapproachable light. The Accuser himself was designed to be full of music, fire and beauty for the worship of God. His fall was brought about when instead he coveted these for himself [Ezekiel 28:13-17].
God told Satan in the Garden that Eve would have a seed that would crush his head one day. So, from the beginning, Satan knew there would be a man born who would be his undoing. It is hardly surprising that Satan soon afterwards begin a false worship system centered around a false son with a false light absorbing worship from all the people he could deceive.
But we worship the True Light and the True Son! All things are His and are properly used in His worship and honor and the goal of all true worship: God the Father!
And when all things shall be subdued unto him, then shall the Son also himself be subject unto him that put all things under him,
that God may be all in all.
I Corinthians 15:28