Category Archives: Holidays

Should Christians Celebrate St. Patrick’s Day?

Standard

St Patrick Shamrock ImageThe life of Saint Patrick remains wrapped in mystery still today. Is March 17th a day marked with pagan rituals and traditions or is this a day for us to honor and remember Saint Patrick for his life of loving and serving God?

Saint Patrick was born in 385 AD in Scotland.  As a teenager, he was captured to Ireland by thieves and sold into slavery as a sheep herder where he spent six years enslaved as their captive. During his captivity, he turned to God for comfort and found a passion for Christian faith.  At the age of 20, Patrick had a dream where God encouraged him to escape slavery in Ireland and run to the coast.  Back home in Scotland, he was overwhelmed with dreams to move to France and begin studies for the priesthood.  As an ordained Bishop, Saint Patrick spent the next 40 years converting pagan Irelands to Catholicism and building churches and schools for the new believers before his death on March 17th.  Rumors of miracles circulated among the people and his mission for conversions became something to honor and celebrate.  Although he has never been canonized by a Pope, Saint Patrick remains on the list today of saints in the Roman Catholic Church.

Few letters exist of Saint Patrick that gives a narrative of his life.  However, this writing is believed to have been written during his time in captivity: “The love of God and his fear grew in me more and more, as did the faith, and my soul was roused, so that, in a single day, I have said as many as a hundred prayers and in the night, nearly the same.”

What is the controversy over the observation of Saint Patrick’s life?

While many believe Saint Patrick lived a life of serving and converting, others claim that he murdered the Irish pagans who refused to convert to Christianity, believing that he is the person to blame for the Roman Catholic Inquisition that took the lives of more than six million Irish citizens.  The story is told that those who refused to convert were bound and thrown out to sea or were tied onto stakes and left to starve. While Saint Patrick didn’t eliminate paganism, it is believed that he was the catalyst that brought Catholicism to Ireland.

Pagans celebrate the spring equinox, which just so happens to fall near March 17th.  The pagans refer to this season of nature’s rebirth as the Festival of Trees or the Feast of Ostara, the fertility goddess.  The pagans are believed to choose a god or goddess from ancient Ireland during these festivities to praise and pay tribute to.

St. Patrick’s Day symbols are also thought to bring respect and admiration to paganism.  The Wiccan church believes that all symbols associated with St. Patrick’s Day are founded in the worship of goddesses and witchcraft.  Christians believe that any use of pagan or occult symbols are from satan and should be strictly forbidden.  Scripture tells us in Matthew 5:19-20, “Now the works of the flesh are evident: sexual immorality, impurity, sensuality, idolatry, sorcery, enmity, strife, jealousy, fits of anger, rivalries, dissensions, divisions, envy, drunkenness, orgies, and things like these. I warn you, as I warned you before, that those who do such things will not inherit the kingdom of God.”

  • The SHAMROCK –Pagans used the shamrock, also known as the Seamroy, to worship the three faces of the goddess found in the moon long before Christianity existed in Ireland.  They also use the shamrock as a hex symbol that curses and plagues others.  Saint Patrick used the shamrock during his sermons to represent the holy trinity – God, Son, and Holy Ghost.
  • The color GREEN –The original color linked with the St. Patrick’s Day was at one time blue, but the color green has grown in popularity overtime.  Today, March 17th is associated with the color green, maybe because of the color of the shamrock, the most notable symbol of St. Patrick’s Day, or to represent the rebirth of spring.  Pagans believe that evil spirits will pinch you if you are not wearing the color green on this specific day.
  • The LEPRECHAUN – These little green, mischievous men with beards and hats like to stir up trouble and wreak havoc.  A fairy in Irish folklore, they are also supposed to spend their time making shoes and storing away coins in hidden pots of gold found at the end of rainbows.  If caught by a human, they have magical powers to award three wishes to their captor in exchange for their freedom.  The leprechaun is a pagan idol used to observe and celebrate the rebirth of spring.
  • The IRISH GOOD LUCK CHARMS – Good luck charms are forces that are believed to shape events in a person’s life. Charms are said to help people become successful, provide advantageous opportunities, and define circumstances and many Irish wear good luck charms.  Some even believe the work “luck” is derived from the word “lucifer”.  This would mean that to wear or hold good luck charms, it would be the same as wearing a demon or carrying one around in your pocket.  Christians must put their faith in God and cast away in all superstitious philosophies.  Maybe we should reconsider the term “good luck” when sending blessings to others?
  • The CELTIC CROSS – Legend tells us that Saint Patrick combined the Christian cross with the Irish sun cross to represent the importance of the Christian cross to pagan groups.  Because the cross stands higher than the circle, this represents Christ’s authority over the pagan sun.  However, this theory combines pagan practices and Christianity which we are forbidden in scripture.  Let us be reminded evil will corrupt truth.
  • The SNAKES – Folktales recount that St. Patrick stood at the top of a hill and with the swoop of a wooden staff expelled all snakes from Ireland.  The truth is that Ireland was never really a habitat to snakes of any kind.  While the legend is false, it is assumed that the tale is a metaphor of the tattoo of a serpent that many Druids wore and that Saint Patrick banished the serpent tattoo (or snake) when he allegedly banished the pagan religion.
  • CORNED BEEF AND CABBAGE – A traditional meal for Irish Americans is to serve corned beef on St. Patrick’s Day. Cabbage is very popular in Ireland; however corned beef has evolved as a very popular dish over the years.  Irish bacon was once a popular food item to be eaten on this day but has likely been substituted for corned beef to save costs.

The question remains, is St. Patrick’s Day a Christian holiday?  It is in my opinion that it is not.  Pagan practices and celebrations were in motion long before Saint Patrick began his mission of converting pagans to Catholicism.  Because of this truth, the links of many of the symbols and customs were already longstanding pagan traditions.  I believe that Saint Patrick’s death just so happened to coincide with the pagan festivals of spring’s rebirth and that overtime the two somehow became one.  The devil is very clever like that.  1 Peter 5:8 reminds us, “Be sober-minded; be watchful. Your adversary the devil prowls around like a roaring lion, seeking someone to devour.”  The devil knows the Bible and he mixes truth with sin to confuse us and ultimately destroy us.  Be aware of these ploys!

———-

You might also like:
1. How Should Christians Celebrate Valentine’s Day?
2. What is Ash Wednesday?
3. Should Christians Celebrate Halloween?
4. What is Lent?
5. Christian Focus on Thanksgiving

Advertisements

What is Lent?

Standard

lent

Lent is the 40 day journey (excluding Sundays) set aside in the church calendar in preparation for Easter. The time spent during this period is to be devoted to prayer, repentance, and self -reflection of one’s life. Although not every church or denomination observes Lent, many Christians choose to observe this season as a way to keep their focus and shift their thoughts on the forthcoming death and resurrection of our Lord Jesus Christ. Lent is not specifically mentioned in scriptures and therefore is not a command or requirement.

The rules for fasting during the Lent season vary from denomination and geographical location. Generally, those who fast during the Lent season, fast six days a week over the course of six weeks. Ash Wednesday marks the first day of Lent and was instituted to bring the exact number of fasting days before Easter to 40. The types of food and drink people fast from also vary but generally include meat, animal products, and soda. In some religions, the fasting modifications have relaxed drastically to make the process more simple and easy. Today though, Christians are still encouraged to give up something for Lent as a form of self-denial.

Another, less popular, Lent tradition is to limit your meals to just one per day. Traditionally, this meal would be eaten in the evening or at 3pm and should be void of meats and dairy. The absence of dairy products led to the tradition of eating pancakes on Shrove Tuesday (also known as Fat Tuesday) and the blessing of the Easter eggs. The Lent practices for fasting have evolved overtime to allow for additional meals for strength as well as eating fish, other meats, and dairy.

Does the number 40 sound familiar? The number 40 holds special significance for Christians. Moses spent 40 days and 40 nights on Mount Sinai in preparation to receive the 10 Commandments (Exodus 34:28). Elijah walked 40 days and 40 nights before the Lord appeared to him on the mountain of God (1 Kings 19:8). And the most importantly, Jesus spent 40 days and 40 nights in the wilderness fasting while continually being tempted by the devil (Matthew 4:2). Ash Wednesday also symbolizes the beginning of Jesus’ 40 day fasting and prayer while in the wilderness.

The choice to observe Lent should be a personal decision. When deciding what to give up for Lent, do so with a grateful and humble heart. Don’t give up something that doesn’t take effort or act like a Pharisee and look for loopholes in the guidelines. Fasting without the desire to renew your relationship with Christ is a form of blasphemy. Whether you fast from something small, give up your meals during the day, or add something to your schedule during this season, the effects of atonement and self-discipline will astound you and your relationship with our Savior will forever be changed.

While the fasting practices have changed over the years, the intent for the Lent season has remained the same – to repent of your personal sins, to renew your faith and commitment to the Church, and to prepare your heart for the return of Jesus Christ. How do you strengthen your relationship with Christ during the Lent season?

Here are some great ways for your family to celebrate Lent together:

  • Begin a Lenten devotional that accommodates the whole family.
  • Read your Bible and be intentional about memorizing scriptures.
  • Simplify your schedules and eliminate luxuries.
  • Serve others with the hope of sharing Christ.
  • Replace urges with time spent in prayer.
  • Walk humbly and keep your focus on Jesus.  Don’t publicize your Lent practices and bring the attention on yourself.  This time is about reflection on Christ, not your personal accomplishments.

———-

You might also like:
1. What is Ash Wednesday?
2. Should Christians Celebrate St. Patrick’s Day?

What is Ash Wednesday?

Standard

ash wednesdayAsh Wednesday celebrates the beginning of the Lent season, the 40 day period leading up to Easter Sunday. This day is celebrated on the seventh Wednesday leading up to Easter and follows Shrove Tuesday (also known as Fat Tuesday).   This season is meant to spend time reflecting on your personal life and penance for your sins.  The 40 day Lenten journey leads us to the ultimate redemption through Jesus Christ’s resurrection and atonement for all of man’s sins.

The Ash Wednesday ceremony, originally called dies cerinum which means the day of ashes, dates back to the 8th century.  But the season of “repentance” dates back to biblical times.  In Leviticus 16:34, the Lord established an annual day of repentance for the Israelites saying, “This is to be a lasting ordinance for you: Atonement is to be made once a year for all the sins of the Israelites.”  In the old tradition, those offenders who had committed grievous sins would come before the priest wearing sackcloth.  Wearing rough material or animal hair was meant to show an outward demonstration of an inward sorrow and shame.  The priest would then sprinkle ashes on their head and bless them.  They were expected to spend the next 40 days in penance and reconciliation and would return to the priest on Maundy Thursday for their first communion following their repentance.

Christians today have been blessed with the blood of Jesus Christ who made the greatest atonement for our sins.  However, many Christians continue the tradition with a time of fasting and prayer.  We spend this time of year bringing our hearts back in accordance with the will of God and giving thanks for the atonement made by Jesus Christ.

During an Ash Wednesday observance service, the cross is marked in ashes to the forehead of each church member to signify an inward repentance.  This process is meant to humble our hearts and remind us of the sacrifices made for our eternal life with Christ.  The service brings our focus back to the mission of the Church and the sacrifice Christ made on our behalf.  It is encouraged to spend time reflecting on the last year of your life and giving a greater commitment to God and the Church.

The ashes are a symbol of man’s mortality and remind us that life is not guaranteed. Ecclesiastes 12:7 tells us, “And the dust returns to the earth as it was, and the spirit returns to God who gave it.”   Traditionally, the ashes used in an Ash Wednesday ceremony come from burning the palm branches used in the Easter service the previous year.  The ashes are blessed with holy water and rest with burning incense to create a pleasant scent until the next Ash Wednesday service. 

Because Ash Wednesday and the season of Lent are not specifically mentioned in the Bible, Christians are free to observe this time as they desire.  The most popular method for celebration is fasting, or giving something up that would be difficult during the Lent season.  Others add an activity such as a daily devotional.  Both are great methods that lead you constantly back to the Lord, reminding us of our need for repentance and the need for our Savior.  Any activity chosen during this season is meaningless if not done with the intent for spiritual renewal and repentance.

———-

You might also like:
1. What is Lent?
2. Should Christians Celebrate St. Patrick’s Day?

How Should Christians Celebrate Valentine’s Day?

Standard

vday1Valentine’s Day… dare I say it’s probably a more loathed holiday versus a loved holiday, contrary to its theme and modern intent?  Christians have been very bold in their disgrace towards the commercialization of Easter and Christmas; why are we not as vocal about Valentine’s Day?  And should we?  Although it is a holiday aimed at sharing love with those closest to us, is it a secular celebration?  What are the origins of Valentine’s Day and are there really Christian foundations in this holiday? Is there any harm in cupid, red hearts, candy, flowers, and romantic dinners?

At one time, a pre-Roman pastoral festival known as Lupercalia was observed from February 13th through the 15th.  This three-day festival time of celebration was acclaimed to refine the city, deter evil spirits, and increase health and fertility.  As Christianity continued to grow, the festival was adapted over time by different cultures and people began to add their own customs.

The patron St. was a priest and physician in ancient Rome and was well-known for his kindness and generosity towards others.  He spent much of his time caring for the poor, performing good deeds, and healing the sick and afflicting.  He was arrested by the Roman emperor Claudius Gothicus (268-270 AD) during the time of Christian persecution.  During his time under arrest he healed his attending officer’s blind, adopted daughter which led to the officers’ family’s conversion to Christianity.  Gothicus heard of these “deeds” and ordered St. Valentine to be beheaded on February 14th.

While the Lupercalia festival was still highly respected, it was Pope Gelasius who officially added February 14th as a holiday on the church list in 496 AD, known as St. Valentine’s Day.  From that point forward, this day was honored and celebrated in memory of St. Valentine for his life of service.  The new name of the Lupercalia festival was easily adapted and new elements to the holiday were quickly added into the fold.  The emphasis on the holiday was never meant to reflect romantic love but to honor St. Valentine and mirror agape love and goodwill towards all people.  It was never about cards, flowers, and chocolate candy.  But somehow the commercialization has managed to taint the holiday and steer our focus away from loving others in need.

God is not opposed to us loving others; it’s quite the opposite.  He commands us to love others unconditionally.  God wants us to show love to others through words and actions, Let us not love in word or talk bur in deed and in truth,” 1 John 3:18.  While God wants romantic love shared between a husband and wife, He wants us to show love to others as well.  We should be doing both year-round, not just on a single day when an overly-commercialized holiday says we should be showing love to our significant other.  It should be our mission to love others at all times and make sure our actions show God’s love.

Romans 15:13 says this, “Greater love has no one than this: to lay down one’s life for one’s friends.”  This is the highest and most respected form of love.  As Christians, we certainly need to love and honor the spouse God blessed us with, but we need to do away with our love for “things”.  Let’s celebrate the holiday in memory of Saint Valentine – by doing something special and anonymously for someone in need.  Spend the day and your money modestly on others.

Click HERE for some Valentine family games that celebrate God’s love and HERE for Valentine devotionals.

———-

You might also like:
1. A Jesus Lover’s New Year’s Resolution
2. Christians and Biblical Marriage
3. Does Santa Belong in Our Christmas Celebrations?
4. Christian Focus on Thanksgiving
5. Should Christians Celebrate Halloween?

A Jesus Lovers New Year’s Resolution

Standard

newyear2It’s the end of another year and the majority of us are eagerly awaiting the chance for new beginnings and blessings.  We certainly never look at the new year as a time for added stress, pain, or sickness.  In our anticipation and hope of new things to come, we tend to make new year’s resolution – to lose weight, cut out caffeine, go to the gym, work less, sleep more, find a new job, etc.

The question I ask of you as we close out 2013…. What does Jesus want from you?  He very well may be calling you to cut calories, lose weight, and exercise.  He may be tugging at your heart to work less and be at home with your family more.  But what does He want from your heart?  How can your life glorify His name in this coming year?  What changes does God want from you that will ultimately lead you to a closer relationship to Jesus Christ?

Here is a list of New Year’s resolutions all Christians need to work on in 2014:

Forgive more – As a forgiven sinner, you are required to forgive sinners.  Let go of other people’s mistakes and shortcomings, even if those decisions directly affected your life.  Satan will remind you of the pain others have inflicted on you but YOU are a forgiven sinner and are called to forgive the sins of others.  Remind yourself that you have not always been a Christian and that you too have hurt others.  We have all fallen short and we will all fail again.  Pray for those who have hurt you, that they are blessed by God and that those blessings change their lives.  “Let all bitterness and wrath and anger and clamor and slander be put away from you, along with all malice. Be kind to one another, tenderhearted, forgiving one another, as God in Christ forgave you.” Ephesians 4:31-32

Pray always – It’s so simple to say “pray more” but the thought of praying all the time can seem very daunting.  Rest assured, if you miss an opportunity to pray, you must not give up!  Begin by praying every morning or evening and slowly add in other specific times in your day devoted to prayer.  You will soon notice how your prayers shift from specified times to daily conversations with God throughout your day.  Make sure you also add a few minutes of reflection time to listen to what God says to you about your prayers.  “Rejoice always, pray continually, give thanks in all circumstances; for this is God’s will for you in Christ Jesus.” 1 Thessalonians 5:16-18

Quit worrying – We begin to worry when we feel as if we are not in control.  The truth is, very seldom do we have full control over anything.    When we allow worry to seep into our lives, we are saying to those around us that we are helpless and have no one to turn to.  But as Christians, we must have faith in God and faith in His plan.  Find the good in every situation and be thankful for what God has already blessed you with.  “Do not be anxious about anything, but in everything by prayer and supplication with thanksgiving let your requests be made known to God.” Philippians 4:6

Give more – Give more of your time, your money, and your effort.  Pray about this specifically and see where God wants you to give.  Does he want you to give more of your money to your church or a mission?  Does He want you to give more of your time and volunteer efforts?  Does He simply want you to give your family more quality time?  Whatever it is that He leads you to give, give wholeheartedly and give as if you are giving to the Lord.  “Each one must give as he has decided in his heart, not reluctantly or under compulsion, for God loves a cheerful giver.” 2 Corinthians 9:7

Go to church – Attending church should not be a Sunday morning visit when times are hard.  Church is a time for weekly reflection and an energy boost.  It’s a time for us to put aside the craziness of life and refocus on Christ and His will for our lives.  Church is a time for Christians to fellowship with other believers and together build the kingdom of God.  “And let us consider how to stir up one another to love and good works, not neglecting to meet together, as is the habit of some, but encouraging one another, and all the more as you see the Day drawing near.” Hebrews 10:24-25

Learn more – Read your Bible this year, start a devotional, or commit to reading that book your spouse has asked you to read.  If you’ve already read the Bible in its entirety, read it again to gain more knowledge.  You cannot go wrong opening your Bible and reading scripture!  But there is power when reading with other Christians and discussing life together.  “An intelligent heart acquires knowledge, and the ear of the wise seeks knowledge.” Proverbs 18:15

Judge less – Learn how to judge righteously and ask God to show you when you’re sinfully judging.  Practice the art of judging the sin and not the sinner.  Find the good in every person and in every situation, even if it’s simply acknowledging that God will use that situation for His glory.  Remember that we have all sinned and fallen short in the eyes of God.  We will all stand on even ground before God one day; your sin is no less than any other man’s.  “Do not judge by appearances, but judge with right judgment.” John 7:24

Be more gracious – Again, find the good in every person and in every situation.  Treat others with kindness and respect.  Even if we don’t think they deserve it, they really do.  Don’t assume the worst in others, even if their track record shows otherwise.  Give people the benefit of the doubt, always.  Complement those who frustrate you, and add a smile.  Work on changing your heart towards others and people will begin to seem far less threatening to you.  “But he said to me, ‘My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness.’ Therefore I will boast all the more gladly of my weaknesses, so that the power of Christ may rest upon me.” 2 Corinthians 12:9

Plant seeds – Write down a list of people who are non-believers and commit to praying for them over this next year.  Make it your goal to talk to them about Jesus Christ and his unending love for them.  Invite them to church, offer to pray for them, connect with them regularly and allow them the opportunity to see how Christ is working in your own life.  The outcome is amazing to see how God uses YOU and your everyday circumstances to change the lives of others.  You plant the seed and watch as God grows new believers.  “And let us not grow weary of doing good, for in due season we will reap, if we do not give up.” Galatians 6:9

Go on a mission – Your mission trip doesn’t necessarily need to be across the world to a third world country.  While that is definitely an incredible experience, your mission field can be right here in your hometown.  Your mission field is the path you drive to work and the places you run your errands.  To be on a mission for Christ is to tell others of Christ and bringing His Good News to non-believers.  Begin by asking strangers, “Do you know that Jesus loves you?”  Spend time everyday preparing for your mission work and ask God to show you where your work needs to be done.  “Therefore go and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, and teaching them to obey everything I have commanded you.” Matthew 28: 19-20

To put our focus on Christ rather than ourselves is ultimately what God wants for our lives.  He wants us to depend on Him.  When we do these things, our lives begin to take on a new meaning and good things begin to happen.  We will still suffer loss and heartache, setbacks and pain.  But life becomes bearable when we walk with our Savior and allow Him to lead the way.

———-

You might also like:
1. What Does the Bible Say About Pornography?
2. Dating and Sexual Purity
3. Should Christians Drink Alcohol?
4. How to Write a Testimony
5. Christians and Biblical Marriage

Keeping Christ in Christmas

Standard

christmas1Gifts, holiday baking, shopping, Christmas trees, reindeer, Santa, decorating the house, Christmas parties, elf on a shelf…. Every year it seems that the focus of Christmas becomes more and more about gifts and shopping and less about the birth of our Savior. Most of us Christians, if we are honest, often get caught up in the secular excitement of the season and find it hard to balance the enjoyment of Christmas shopping and keeping the focus of Christmas on Christ. Romans 12:12 reminds us, “And do not be conformed to this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind, in order to prove by you what is that good and pleasing and perfect will of God.” How do we keep Christ in Christmas? What is the perfect medium to keeping the focus of Christmas on the birth of our Savior and still enjoy the great holiday shopping deals and buying gifts for others? Here are some fabulous suggestions from our readers and other great bloggers about how their families honor the holiness of our Savior’s birth.

Advent is the season leading up to Christmas and begins four Sundays before Christmas. Advent means “coming” and during these weeks, we devote special time remembering the coming of our Lord. We are blessed to know what God’s salvation looks like and have reason to celebrate. Here are several unique ways to observe advent:

The Ultimate Advent Bucket List for the Whole Family
Toilet Paper Roll Advent Calendar
30 Advent Ideas
Christmas with Advent

Christmas Bible lessons are a great way to dig deeper into the meaning of Christmas. Together as a family over a meal or individually, our hearts need to concentrate and be reminded on the reason for Christmas. Spend time reading and in prayer and allow Christ to reveal Himself more fully to you during this season.

Simple Christmas Bible Lessons
A Martyr’s Christmas Study
Printable Advent Devotional

Create specific trees to help teach the life of Christ. Have the kids build a Jesus Tree and introduce a new name for Jesus every night or a tree that chronicles the different Bible stories leading up to the birth of Christ. Having fun and learning at the same time, it’s a win-win for everyone.

The Names of Jesus
Jesse Tree
From the Jesse Tree to the Jesus Tree
Jesus Tree Readings

Christmas cards… are you more excited to send them or receive them? Be mindful about the cards you send as well as the cards you receive. Pray for the families that you send your cards to and pray for those who send you cards. Here are some crafty methods to paying for those families throughout the coming year:

Prayer Wheel
Statement Wall
Prayer Box

Make a birthday cake for Jesus and rejoice with a birthday party. After all, we are celebrating the day of our Savior’s birth and this is definitely a reason to celebrate! Don’t forget to light the candles and sing Happy Birthday, Jesus.

Happy Birthday, Jesus Cake
A Birthday Cake for Jesus

Get creative when your family retells the story of Jesus’ birth. Act it out together, make it a game, or tell the story over a period of time. Here are some fun and imaginative ways to tell the story of the nativity:

Nativity in a Box
12 Ways to Make the Christmas Story Come Alive for Kids
5 Creative Ways to Teach the Christmas Nativity Story
Creative Ways to Teach the Kids the True Meaning of Christmas
Teaching Through the Nativity

Many families have adopted the idea of giving their children three gifts for Christmas. Each gift symbolizes the three gifts Jesus received – frankincense, gold, and myrrh. This is an easy way to minimalize Christmas spending and still keeping the focus of gift-giving on Christ.

The 3-Gift Christmas
Three Gift Tradition

Keep gift giving simple. Your gifts to others do not need to be elaborate and they truly do not need to drain your bank account. Spend more time in prayer about your gifts and their meaning to the recipient and less amount of time on giving the “best” or most extravagant gift.

Homemade Christmas Gifts
Keep Christmas Gift Giving Under Control

Does your family celebrate the season in a unique fashion? Do you have special family traditions that you want to share with our readers? Leave a comment and share with us your family’s special traditions!

———-

You might also like:
1. Does X-Mas Take the Christ out of Christmas?
2. Does Santa Belong in our Christmas Celebrations?

Does Santa Belong in our Christmas Celebrations?

Standard

santa

Many of us grew up believing Santa Claus magically whisked down our chimneys and left us gifts below the twinkling lights of our Christmas trees. Some of us have even carried on that tradition with our own children. There are also plenty of families who have opted out of the Santa Claus myth altogether refusing to lie to their children. Some families also remove Santa Claus from their families traditions because they fear this mystical character takes the focus away from the celebratory birth of our Savior, which is a valid concern.

So who is Santa Claus? The legend of Santa Claus begins with Saint Nicholas, a man who dedicated his life to serving God and giving generously to the poor. Saint Nicholas was born in a village in Patara, which is the village now known as Demre, Turkey. His wealthy parents died when he was a young child leaving him their full inheritance. Saint Nicholas obeyed Jesus’ words in Matthew 19:21, “Jesus answered, “If you want to be perfect, go, sell your possessions and give to the poor, and you will have treasure in heaven. Then come, follow me.” His compassion and dedication to serving God eventually earned him the title of Bishop of Myra.

During this time, many Christians were being persecuted under the Roman Emperor Diocletian and Bishop Nicholas, along with other clergy and Christians, suffered greatly for his faith. He was exiled and persecuted but persevered through the persecution and was ultimately released. Saint Nicholas continued a life of serving God and others and doing good deeds to those who least expected it. He did all of these things without recognition and did so with a humble heart and a focus on Christ.

There are stories upon stories told over the years of Saint Nicholas charitably giving to others – the poor, innocent children, and even sailors. One extraordinary story tells of a poor ancient merchant who was unable to provide dowries for his three daughters to be married. Without a dowry, the daughters were destined to be sold into slavery or prostitution. On three different nights, bags of gold were secretly left through an open window and found in a stocking or shoe that sat near the fireplace. These gifts of gold saved the lives of the merchant’s daughters.

Saint Nicholas’ legacy has been carried on over the centuries by Roman Catholics as well as Christians and has expanded throughout many different countries. Many believing his model for serving Christ and his unselfish giving are worthy qualities to be remembered during this season. Whether you celebrate the Christmas season with the tradition of Saint Nicholas or not, we must all agree he was a great God-honoring man who served Christ with his whole heart. He gave up wealth and even his own freedom answering Christ’s call to serve others. Is there any real harm by bringing this man’s legacy into your Christmas traditions? It’s definitely not a sin to do so! After all, we remember many other remarkable people who have also served Christ and lived Godly examples of what it means to be a Christian.

I also want to add that if your reason for not allowing Santa Claus in your family’s traditions is because of the potential “lie” being told to your children, think carefully about fairytales and other fictional characters allowed in your children’s lives. Remember that while we may fully understand that princesses and superheroes are make-believe, our children may not understand this. I say this to make sure you are staying consistent with your beliefs about not lying to your children.

And for those who choose to carry on the legacy of giving anonymously as Old Saint Nicholas did for years, do so with a humble heart and not for recognition. When you’re children are old enough to understand the faith and history of St. Nick, teach them how to be meek and reverent when serving others as Christ served the church. There is also the option to carry on the tradition of Saint Nicholas and being truthful from the beginning of your child’s lives.

While Saint Nicholas was a great man of noble character and performed many wonderful good deeds, the Christmas season is not about Santa Claus or any other holiday character. It’s about Jesus. However you choose to celebrate, the focus of the season needs to be put on Christ and Christ alone. We can do many things throughout the year and even mimic the lives of other wonderful Christians, but we must always give thanks to Christ and ultimately desire Him to be our one true Guide.

We must also remember to be respectful towards others regardless of how they choose to celebrate Christmas. Let us not judge others for their choices to include or not include the tradition of Saint Nicholas. We are only called to judge others’ sins, and remembering the legacy of Saint Nicholas is not a sin and it’s definitely not worthy of our strife. Make your life a living example of how Christ lived and served and ask God for others to see His light through you.

———-

You might also like:
1. Does X-Mas Take the Christ out of Christmas?
2. Keeping Christ in Christmas

Does X-Mas Take the Christ out of Christmas?

Standard

jesusIs there really any truth to the saying that when someone writes “X-Mas” that they are intending to keep “Christ” out of Christmas?  Is it true when people write “X-Mas” that they are claiming to be non-religious and yet still celebrating a religious holiday?  Should Christians be offended when we see others shortening the name of our Savior and taking the word “Christ” out of Christmas?

I admit I’ve always been a bit insulted when I see the shortened version of Christmas.  I’ve always justified my offense with the statement that Christ gave us His ALL, including His life, why would anyone save time and shorten His name?  Surely the Savior deserves His full name to be written out during this precious time of remembrance!  This year I decided to dig a bit deeper and search for the truth behind this issue.

I confess… I was definitely surprised!

The “X-Mas” abbreviation is neither recent nor disrespectful as many people believe.  The usage of “X-Mas” has been in use for centuries, possibly as far back as the very beginning of Christianity.  Its Greek origins can even be traced back to the Roman alphabet.  The Greek word for “Christ” is “chi” and the Greek letter for “chi” is represented by the symbol “X” in the modern Roman alphabet.

The fact remains – the X-Mas abbreviation was NOT created to slight Christianity or fashioned for the purpose of demeaning Christ in any manner.  While the abbreviation is definitely an old form of writing from a very different language, it may still cause offense to those who do not know the history of the abbreviation.

Study the facts and be ready to share when you see someone who feels insulted by this abbreviation.  Extend grace to those who choose to shorten the word “Christmas” because they may have absolutely no intention of keeping the “Christ” out of Christmas and were just quick to write the word down.

And most importantly, the method in which someone writes the word “Christmas” is NOT an appropriate time to judge anyone.  Even if you are still offended by the use of “X-Mas”, this is not a sin and we are not called to judge anyone based on their mode of writing.  We do not know their hearts or their intent when abbreviating the word Christmas and therefore we are not to cast judgment based on something so futile.  What we can do is extend grace to those who may offend us and remind ourselves that the abbreviated form has been used for centuries and really does have origins in Christ.

Other fun facts about “X-Mas”:

  • Chi is the first letter of the Greek word Χριστός which translates in English to Christ.
  • The –mas in the word Christmas is a Latin-originated Old English term for “mass”.
  • The expression X-Mas was very popular for religious scribes, who are believed to have started the abbreviation for Christmas.
  • The XP symbol is derived from the Greek letter “X” (Chi) and “P” (Rho).  This christogram is formed by overlaying the two letters to create a monogram.  Although the XP monogram is not exactly a Christian cross, the Chi-Rho letters do resemble a cross.
  • The Chi-Rho symbol was used by Greek scribes to mark respected or significant passages.
  • The wreath around the Chi-Rho symbol signifies the victory over the resurrection over death.

You might also like:
1. Biblical Judgment
2. Christian Focus on Thanksgiving
3. Does Santa Belong in our Christmas Celebrations?
4. Keeping Christ in Christmas

Should Christians Shop on Thanksgiving Day?

Standard

thanksDoes anyone else have a growing concern about our gradually fading Thanksgiving holiday?  Is anyone else offended that stores nationwide have already announced their Christmas shopping ads and broadcasted their earlier-than-ever Thanksgiving DAY opening times?  What was once a full day completely focused on giving thanks, relaxing, and spending time with family has now become just another day for holiday shopping.  I can only imagine this holiday will soon begin to feel like any other day as we put our selfish wants in front of the need to set aside time for rest and give thanks.

While Thanksgiving is not a religious holiday, it is still a national holiday set aside for giving thanks.  This is the most perfect opportunity for Christians to stand up for what is simply “right”.  We are commanded to give thanks daily as written in 1 Thessalonians 5:16-18, “Be joyful always; pray continually; give thanks in all circumstances, for this is God’s will for you in Christ Jesus.” There is no better opportunity for Christians to be bold and claim this ONE day a year when our entire nation sets aside to give thanks in all circumstances.  I believe it is our duty to continue this worldly tradition, if nothing else just the simple opportunity to show others the importance of being thankful in all circumstances.

What would be the negative effects if Christians surrendered to the early holiday shopping hours and disregarded a day of thanks and rest?  We would be those shoppers who told the world we care more about great holiday deals than we do about spending time with family.  We would be the shoppers who took employees away from their families and made them spend the day on their feet dealing with crowds and selfish people.  We would be the Christian shoppers who missed an opportunity to be Christ in this world by simply ignoring a national holiday for giving thanks.

So what should Christians do about the early store hours and the growing desire to skip Thanksgiving and shop all day?  Is it wrong to take advantage of some good deals?  What if we are spending time with family WHILE shopping?  What’s so bad about feasting with family, taking a long nap, and hitting the stores before midnight?

This is a question that only you can answer and it needs to be based on the prompting of the Holy Spirit.  Does God really want you to honor this day by spending time with family?  Do you have a problem making time for family and need someone to make you take a day of rest?  Do you NEED this day to reflect on the past year?  How often do you truly give thanks in all circumstances?  Would Christians really make a difference if we all held tight to the tradition of setting aside just one day for Thanksgiving?

I believe the Thanksgiving holiday is a gift.  It’s a gift to our family – a paid holiday, a day we see family we may not always make time for, a day when we reflect on the previous year and give thanks to God for all things (including the happy times as well as the not-so-happy times), and a gift of just one day devoted to good food and rest.  A gift to be appreciated from our Father, as started in James 1:17, “Every good gift and every perfect gift is from above”.

Why would we not want to take advantage of this great holiday?  Why do we want to tell the world that shopping is more important than a holiday?  Would we be okay if our employers took this paid holiday away and made us take vacation days since we aren’t using the day as a time to give thanks, the very intention of the holiday?  What would Christians think if shopping hours and great holiday deals took over Christmas day?  Would we regret allowing Thanksgiving Day to slip through our fingers?

Spend time in prayer and ask God what He wants from you.  Ask Him how he wants you to spend your Thanksgiving holiday.

———-

You might also like:
1. Christian Focus on Thanksgiving
2. Should Christians Celebrate Halloween?
3. Does X-Mas Take the Christ out of Christmas?
4.
5.

Christian Focus on Thanksgiving

Standard

The first Thanksgiving was celebrated by the Pilgrim settlers (originally known as Separatists) in 1621.  Of the 102 colonists who came to America for religious freedom and profitable opportunities, 58 survived the first winter season and were left with very little food for survival.  They soon became acquainted with a group of non-hostile Indians who traded crops and meat providing additional resources for their second winter season.  The coming together of the Pilgrims and Indians has since been recognized as a time of feasting and celebration as well as a time for prayer and thanksgiving.  This day of Thanksgiving continued over the years and eventually became a legal holiday to be celebrated on the fourth Thursday of November.

What does the Bible say about celebrating Thanksgiving?  Does the Bible recognize a day of celebration with feasting, prayer, worship, and song?  Absolutely!  While Thanksgiving is not a religious holiday, Christians can celebrate the day for giving thanks just as those in the Bible.  The Israelites sang songs of thanksgiving and praise when they were delivered from Pharaoh’s army, Jesus celebrated the wedding at Cana, and David sang multiple songs of praise and thanksgiving.  Later in time, the Mosaic Law declared three times a year to set aside time for celebration, thanksgiving, and recognition of God’s provision and faithfulness.  These celebrations are known as the Feast of Passover, Harvest or Pentecost, and the Feast of Tabernacles.

“The LORD is my strength and my shield; my heart trusts in Him, and I am helped. My heart leaps for joy and I will give thanks to him in song.” Psalm 28:7

“Be joyful always; pray continually; give thanks in all circumstances, for this is God’s will for you in Christ Jesus.” 1Thessalonians 5:16-18

“Do not be anxious about anything but in everything, by prayer and petition, with thanksgiving, present your requests to God.” Philippians 4:6

“I will praise God’s name in song and glorify him with thanksgiving.” Psalm 69:30

“Give thanks to the LORD, for He is good; his love endures forever.” 1 Chronicles 16:34

“Enter His gates with thanksgiving and his courts with praise; give thanks to him and praise his name.” Psalm 100:4

The Bible is full of scripture and songs of thanksgiving which affirm that thanksgiving should be a part of our daily prayers.  We need to remember the ultimate sacrifice our God made by sending His one and only Son Jesus who paid for our sins.  Without this gift, we would be nothing.  Because of this gift, we are forgiven of our sins and have eternal life with God.  “Thanks be to God for His indescribable gift.” Corinthians 9:15.

The question remains, should Christians celebrate Thanksgiving?  Absolutely and unquestionably!  We should be celebrating Thanksgiving every day of our lives.  We should daily focus on the provisions and grace God so lovingly provides for us.  Remember to give thanks in all things, in every way, and every day.  Thanksgiving needs to be a daily habit and part of our everyday prayers, in times of praise and in the midst of trials.

……Even on Black Friday when we seem to ignore our manners, forget to extend grace to others, and become selfish for the things we purely want.

———-

You might also like:
1. Should Christians Shop on Thanksgiving Day?
2. Should Christians Celebrate Halloween?
3. Does X-Mas Take the Christ out of Christmas?