To Christmas or Not To Christmas? That is the Question

JesusIsTheReasonForTheSeason

Rudolph. Santa. The elves. The lights. The tree. The toys. The songs. One popular song touts it as being ‘the most wonderful time of the year’. Yes, obviously I’m talking about Christmas. As a child all these things and more, were a staple around my house. And all those cartoons! I can still remember them all! And ‘The Yule Log’! Just sitting and watching that fire burn as the music played, or just having it on in the background as you moved around the house. I enjoyed it all so much!

As a child growing up, I knew nothing about Jesus. I remember going to church on Easter a couple of times, but that’s about it. When I got saved at the age of fifteen, everything changed. Christmas took on a whole new meaning. Now I really understood what Linus was talking about at the end of ‘A Charlie Brown Christmas.’ I learned what a manger was from that song and I found out that the three wise men may not have been just three after all. And now, on a more serious note, I began to celebrate the birth of Christ.

Call me naive (though I don’t think I am), but up until several years back, I thought all Christians celebrated Christmas in one way or another. I was surprised to find out that this is not the case. The reasons many Christians don’t celebrate it varies. They range from ‘It’s not in the bible’, and, ‘Jesus never told us to do it’, to ‘Christmas is a pagan holiday,’ and ‘Jesus wasn’t born on December 25th.’Allow me to briefly address each; not so much theologically (though I will use scripture), but from a more practical standpoint.

So, is Christmas in the bible? I think it depends on what you mean. Will you find any of the trappings and traditions the world embraces there? No. Will you find the word ‘Christmas’ there? No. What you will find is the birth of Jesus Christ, including the events that led up to that magnificent event. The Holy Spirit through the writers go to great lengths to describe and capture the mood of the times, along with the various people groups involved. Mary and Joseph. Herod the King. The shepherds. They all played their part in this wondrous story. His birth matters.

But in spite of all this, should we celebrate this birth? First, let’s define the word:

celebrate=to publicly acknowledge a significant or happy day or event…to commemorate; observe; to honor, keep or remember

Isn’t this event worthy of all this, seeing that it centers around our Saviour, Jesus? The wise men thought so. They came a great distance to do so. They unabashedly proclaimed to Herod, ‘…for we have seen His star in the east, and are come to worship Him’ (Lu.2:2). We read further that when they saw the star that they followed, standing over where young Jesus was, they responded by rejoicing with exceeding great joy (Mat.2:10). This means that they were absolutely enthralled beyond measure over what had taken place! Is this not cause for celebration? And what about the angels? Lu.2:13-14 says,’…And suddenly there was with the angel a multitude of the heavenly host praising God, and saying, Glory to God in the highest, and on earth peace, good will toward men.’

If the angels, who wish to look into these things, because they have no understanding of salvation and its implications (1Pe.1:12), can honor Him in this way, based on His mere presence, ladies and gentlemen I believe I ought to honor, praise, worship and celebrate the fact of His coming! I am a recipient of the results of His grace!

And the Word was made flesh, and dwelt among us, (and we beheld his glory, the glory as of the only begotten of the Father,) full of grace and truth. (Jn.1:14)

As to Christmas being a pagan holiday, I am very well aware of this argument. I will not take the time to go into detail, but whatever the reasons those involved did what they did, it has nothing to do with me now. I know many don’t see it this way. I am not guilty of trying to take something evil, wrap it up in good, and make it alright. I believe the birth of Christ ought to be celebrated; along with His life, His death, and His resurrection. I know I won’t change anyone’s thinking on the matter, and that’s not my purpose, but if we could all take into account that these are things that we should remember daily, not just a couple of days out of the year, and that He is so worthy of it all! Even if your mind revolts against the word ‘Christmas’, celebrate Him. Of course we know Jesus was not born on December 25th (shepherds would not be out in the field with their sheep on a winter night), but if I choose to honor Him on this day, or any other day or days for that matter, I do not believe my Lord takes me to task for this. Let no man therefore judge you in meat, or in drink, or in respect of an holyday, or of the new moon, or of the sabbath days: (Col.2:16).

Each year around this time, we hear the usual rants from various churches, and individuals, warning us about the ‘evils’ of Christmas. We know the history. Ad nauseam. What I want to know is, what do you do with His birth then? Ignore it? Downplay it? Treat it with scorn? Tell people they are sinning if they acknowledge it? No tree. Fine. Away with Santa (after all, Santa is ‘Satan’ spelled sideways, sort of, right?). No problem. And don’t get caught up in all of the commercialization. Good job. But–do not forget Jesus. I know folk praise and worship Him ferociously for this and that, jumping, shouting and the like and rightfully so, but you cannot then turn a deaf ear and a blind eye to the greatest miracle we’ve ever known; that is, the Incarnation. Our very salvation was made possible because of it. Unfortunately, folk get so caught up in keeping the letter of the law, that they step over the spirit of the law. Celebrate Jesus! 

In the final analysis, you can forget the fact Christmas means nothing more than a few days off from work for some, or an opportunity to embarrass oneself at the annual office party. That’s the world. I stand for Jesus. If He did not come, I would not be here; or else I would be here with no hope.

Thanks be unto God for his unspeakable gift. (2 Cor.9:15) That’s Jesus. Praise Him!

What grace is this that brought my Savior down,
That made Him leave His glorious throne and crown.
The one who made the earth, the sky and sea.
Who put the stars in every galaxy!
What condescension, Oh how can it be!
What shame He suffered oh what agony!
And then the death He died,
For sinners crucified,
What grace is this! What grace is this!

That’s the Word! Take it with you. God bless you.

Authentic Worship

AuthenticWorship_ban1

Worship. Underrated and undervalued. How does it happen? Can anyone engage in it? Is there a wrong way to do it? One thing is for certain: worship needs to be real. Authentic.

However, before entering into a larger discussion concerning our topic, I’d like to first offer an explanation of terms. Those two terms are: 1) Praise and, 2) Worship

I believe sometimes we make the mistake of using the two terms interchangeably. However they are not the same. While there may be elements of each within both of them, let’s take a closer look at the differences.

There are several words for praise in the bible, and without getting bogged down in the original languages, suffice it to say that the definitions range from blessing and thanking Him with our mouth, to lifting and spreading the hands to bowing the knee, or even dancing. Having said that, let’s take a look at several scriptures.
Psa.33:2 Praise the Lord with harp: sing unto him with the psaltery and an instrument of ten strings.
Psa.149:1 Praise ye the Lord. Sing unto the Lord a new song, and his praise in the congregation of saints.
Heb.13:15 By him therefore let us offer the sacrifice of praise to God continually, that is, the fruit of our lips giving thanks to his name.

According to these scriptures, praise can consist of song, music, or words, and should be done consistently, even when it is a sacrifice.
Depending on which version of the bible you use, where the word praise is seen in the KJV, you may read ‘rejoice’, ‘thanksgiving’ or ‘declare’, among others. These words are all reflections of what praise is.

Here’s one more great verse concerning the power of praise:

2 Chr.20:22 And when they began to sing and to praise, the Lord set ambushments against the children of Ammon, Moab, and mount Seir, which were come against Judah; and they were smitten.
This is a great truth! When we praise, it not only serves to fend off the enemy, but also enables us to walk in His power and protection. There is victory through praise!

Worship, on the other hand is defined as, ‘to make obeisance, do reverence to; to serve, or give homage.’
Take a look at these verses:
1 Chr.16:29 Give unto the Lord the glory due unto his name: bring an offering, and come before him: worship the Lord in the beauty of holiness.
Psa.95:6 O come, let us worship and bow down: let us kneel before the Lord our maker.
Psa.96:9 O worship the Lord in the beauty of holiness: fear before him, all the earth.

As we see in these verses and in so many others, worship is not necessarily singing and such (though of course it can be), but it is more of an action taken in acknowledging the Lord in who He is.
Worship goes beyond praise; it is an act of bowing down and honoring Him. Worship is also an act, for example in our daily work or our giving. We even serve others as a way of worshiping the Lord. Our lives should be an act of worship.
The difference between praise and worship can be stated this way: praise is about what God has done; but worship is about who God is.

This subject is much to exhaustive to be treated here, and I am by no means an expert–but I am a participator. Please allow me to offer a few thoughts on this important matter.

So how do I worship God authentically?
I’m going to make a startling statement. Anyone can praise. Anyone can shout, dance, or lift their hands. Praise can also be fickle. To be fickle is to constantly change loyalties or affections.  At Jesus’ triumphal entry into Jerusalem, the praises went up, and the garments went down. There were no doubt genuine praisers in the crowd. But among them were many who would shout, less than a week later, ‘Crucify Him! Crucify Him!’ This is not meant in any way to demean praise, and place it on a par below worship. Both worship and praise are absolutely essential elements of every Christian’s life, and both need to be authentic. But because of the nature of worship, it being a way of life, authentic worship can only flow from authentic people of God.

Jo.4:23-24 But the hour cometh, and now is, when the true worshippers shall worship the Father in spirit and in truth: for the Father seeketh such to worship him.
God is a Spirit: and they that worship him must worship him in spirit and in truth.

According to this pivotal verse, God is not seeking authentic worship; He is seeking authentic worshipers–if God gets this, He will get the other.

What does it take to be an authentic worshiper who offers authentic worship? Several things must be in place:

Authentic worship is dependent upon authentic relationship
As stated earlier, authentic relationship cannot happen apart from salvation. I must know Him, serve Him, and appreciate His goodness in order to worship Him.
Authentic worship must be in response to God’s awesomeness
When I am confronted with God’s greatness, I am filled a desire to honor Him. Worship has to with the worth of its object. Worship is ‘worth’ship. He is worthy!

Rev.4:11 Thou art worthy, O Lord, to receive glory and honour and power: for thou hast created all things, and for thy pleasure they are and were created.
Psa.145:3 Great is the LORD, and greatly to be praised; and his greatness is unsearchable.
One version translates a portion of this verse as: ‘and most worthy to be praised’

Authentic worship should have the heart as its source
Mat.15:8 This people draweth nigh unto me with their mouth, and honoureth me with their lips; but their heart is far from me. (also Isa.29:13)
Worshipping the Lord with our heart is synonymous with worshipping Him ‘in Spirit’

Authentic worship must be transparent
We must come to Him as we are, not trying to be who we’re not. In John 4, the woman at the well was never going to enter into proper worship of God until she came clean about who she was.

The Binding Tie

The final thing that ties all this together is the fact that worship is sacrifice. Read these crowning words from scripture:

Rom.12:1 I beseech you therefore, brethren, by the mercies of God, that ye present your bodies a living sacrifice, holy, acceptable unto God, which is your reasonable service.

Rom.12:1 (Expanded Bible) So [Therefore] brothers and sisters, since God has shown us great mercy, I ·beg [urge; appeal to] you to offer your ·lives [selves; L bodies] as a living sacrifice to him. Your offering must be ·only for God [holy] and pleasing to him, which is the ·spiritual [or authentic; true; or appropriate; fitting; or rational; reasonable] way for you to worship.
This verse makes it plain that authentic worship is to be:

An offering of ourselves
This statement lines up with Jo.4:24. It states that we are to worship ‘in spirit’. This means that we are to worship God with all that we have: mind, body, soul and spirit.
Exclusive to God
Only God is deserving of and is worthy of this type of worship.
Isa.42:8 I am the LORD: that is my name: and my glory will I not give to another, neither my praise to graven images.
God does not share His glory with another, and neither should we.
Pleasing to God
Our main goal as Christians, as it pertains to God, is to please Him. This means obedience. Jesus said ‘…why call ye me, Lord, Lord, and do not the things which I say?’
When it comes to authentic worship, you cannot be a member of the ‘eighteen inch club’. Eighteen inches is the approximate distance between the brain and the heart. To worship Him authentically, I must not just know Him: I must know Him. Listen to David’s heartfelt cry:

Psa.27:4 One thing have I desired of the LORD, that will I seek after; that I may dwell in the house of the LORD all the days of my life, to behold the beauty of the LORD, and to enquire in his temple.
Psa.27:4 (Amplified Version) One thing have I asked of the Lord, that will I seek, inquire for, and [insistently] require: that I may dwell in the house of the Lord [in His presence] all the days of my life, to behold and gaze upon the beauty [the sweet attractiveness and the delightful loveliness] of the Lord and to meditate, consider, and inquire in His temple.

Is this where I am? To please Him, to dwell in His presence and simply gaze upon the greatness of who he is? Ladies and gentlemen, this is the attitude of authentic worship. We all fall short because we are all still wrapped in this flesh; yet God sees graciously sees our hearts. Even now, let us begin to enter in to his presence by lifting up holy hands. I will therefore that men pray every where, lifting up holy hands, without wrath and doubting. (1 Ti.2:8)