THE CHRISTMAS CONTROVERSY, A MESSIANIC PERSPECTIVE, 25.12.18
In recent years, controversy and division has spiralled regarding the right date and pagan origins of Christmas. There is no shortage of material regarding the pagan worship that Christmas was founded on, and the history itself will not be our focus here. What STUDY TOPIC will look at is what the best response to this controversy is.
Many know, and disregard, the history of paganism; they see it as irrelevant because they are focussed on celebrating Christ’s birth. Many do not know or care, for it is simply a holiday, and has no particular meaning for them. There are some believers who truly do not know of the pagan roots of Christianity’s “Christmas.” There are those who so much focus on the pagan roots and the wrong date that they forget all about Jesus/Yeshua; they are caught up in the need to set everyone straight, sporting a self-righteous, holier-than-thou attitude, justifying their judgments of those who keep the holiday.
Then there are those of us who are entirely familiar with the pagan history and the incorrect timing of this celebration. The more we familiarity gained, the more the realization that there is nothing to be gained from chastising, rejecting, judging, or superimposing our beliefs on others. We understand that this is not the right focus. We understand that we are to focus on Yeshua, whenever His birth, and that regardless of the origins of Christmas, it is our responsibility (and we will be held accountable for how we have treated others regarding this issue) to be like Jesus/Yeshua in all that we speak and do. We are to be salt and light (Matt.5:14-16), not catalysts of division. “What do people see when they look at your menorah? Does your light shine? When Yeshua inspects your menorah, what does He see? How is your walk?” (Goldberg, Message From The Bema, Dec.1, 2018).
Critical, condemning and judgmental attitudes are exactly what Yeshua admonished the Pharisees for when He said: “Woe to you, scribes and Pharisees, hypocrites! For you cleanse the outside of the cup and dish, but inside they are full of extortion and self-indulgence. Blind Pharisee, first cleanse the inside of the cup and dish, that the outside of them may be clean also” (Matt.23:25,26). Just like these Pharisees, those who focus on the external demonstration of Christmas, and the need to refute it, are neglecting the more important element – the heart issue. If we really want to assist others in developing an understanding of the pagan history and the erroneous dating, critical, condemnation, and judgment – making accusations that those who keep Christmas are not following the Bible – this would not be the ideal way to go about it. Surley, we must first demonstrate the love of Yeshua in all that we do/say. There is nothing noble or admirable or Christlike about sporting holier-than-thou attitudes of condemnation and judgment. Do you actually believe anyone is going to respond to such an approach? Hardly! The most likely response to such accusation is defensiveness.
“I don’t want anyone to feel discouraged from attending family gatherings over the Christmas holiday if you’re invited. Just because we’re a Messianic Congregation who don’t celebrate Christmas, we don’t want to build walls, we don’t want to burn bridges with members of our family and friends. We don’t want to come across as being judgmental and self-righteous. . . . there’s no need to get emotional and have a holier than thou attitude . . … . enjoy the season; chill out and relax, and use it as an opportunity to share your faith. . . . to be an
ambassador as Messianic believers . . . use it as an opportunity to share why you believe Yeshua was born during Sukkot . . . it will make for an interesting discussion . . . . We need to be loving and respectful, even if they don’t share our belief” (Rabbi Goldberg, Dec. 1 Message From The Bema, “Hanukkah, the Feast of Dedication”). This demonstrates a “Christlike” approach, just as we are instructed in Phil.2:5: “Let this mind be in you which was also in Christ Jesus.” “We are part of a great harvest . . . . we want to be in a place where we can help others to know Who Yeshua is .. . . The Church has made Yeshua unrecognizable to His people,” says Goldberg (Goldberg, Dec.15, Message From The Bema, 2018).
Like Amir Tsarfati (“For Unto Us A Child Is Born”) points out, what is most important during this holiday season, is to capitalize on the opportunity to share what the holiday should be about. We should want to share what we know about Messiah. “Neither Hanukkah or Christmas are commanded to be celebrated in the Bible,” says Amir. “What is most important,” emphasizes Tsarfati, is that “Jesus used the season to tell the people about Who He was. He didn’t come to celebrate, or even to validate the traditions, He came to show Who He was,” and this needs to be our focus. “Therefore many from the crowd, when they heard this saying, said, “Truly this is the Prophet.” Others said, “This is the Christ.” But some said, “Will the Christ come out of Galilee? Has not the Scripture said that the Christ comes from the seed of David and from the town of Bethlehem, where David was?” So there was a division among the people because of Him” (John 7:40-43).
“Then the Jews surrounded Him and said to Him, “How long do You keep us in doubt? If You are the Christ, tell us plainly.” Jesus answered them, “I told you, and you do not believe. The works that I do in My Father’s name, they bear witness of Me. But you do not believe, because you are not of My sheep, as I said to you. My sheep hear My voice, and I know them, and they follow Me. And I give them eternal life, and they shall never perish; neither shall anyone snatch them out of My hand. My Father, who has given them to Me, is greater than all; and no one is able to snatch them out of My Father’s hand. I and My Father are one” (John 10:24-30). “Just like Joseph’s brothers did not recognize who He was, His people did not recognize Who He was,” Goldberg explains (Goldberg, Dec.15 Message From the Bema).
“It is what is in the heart that counts, not what is coming out of your mouth,” Tsarfati points out (Tsarfati, “Unto Us A Child Is Born”). So you may even be speaking truth, but if it is being used to condemn, accuse, judge and incite division, that is not the right heart. Our focus is to teach others the truth about Jesus/Yeshua, the Kingdom of God, to transmit His message which, as Amir Tsarfati points out, the first message Jesus/Yeshua gave after His time in the desert, was to “Repent, for the Kingdom of heaven is at hand,” (Matt.3:2;4:17; Mk.1:15).
“God has set a time for Messiah’s return, just as He had set a time for Messiah’s first arrival. He has appointed a day on which He will return to judge . . .. .. it is now the time all over for all men to repent. It’s time for all to acknowledge Who He is, and that these prophecies have been fulfilled (Prov.30:4; John 3:13). This is what is important. Isaiah prophesied the coming of our Lord and Saviour (Isa.9:6,7; Micah 5:2; Lk. 24:44). He didn’t just happen to come. He came to fulfill every single thing that was ever written about Him,” says Tsarfati (“Unto Us A Child Is Born”).
So let us not waste our time on inconsequentials. Let us not join the faction of hypocrites with their smug holier-than-thou attitudes. Let our focus be on spreading the Good News about Who He is. “And you shall call Him Yeshua for He will save His people.. . . . the free gift which came . . . . God gave His own begotten Son. Jesus is the only King that was given His Name before birth . . . .I don’t care how you call it . . . . A lot of Messianics are scared to celebrate Christmas. The birth of Yeshua was great cause for celebration not only on earth, but also in heaven” Tsarfati declares. “Celebrating such an important event cannot be worse that celebrating the feasts when you don’t even know what you are celebrating. So I say, if you were given a new heart, why not celebrate the One who gave you a new heart? Use the season to speak of the reason . . . . Tell them that Jesus is the Star (Rev. 22:16); Jesus is the Gift; Jesus is the Tree of Life . . . . instead of dwelling on the pagan nature of things, use them to teach people what Jesus is about. Remember that when Paul went to Corinth, he went to the pagan Temples where there were all manner of evil things going on. . .” (Tsarfati, “For Unto Us A Child Is Born”): “For though I am free from all men, I have made myself a servant to all, that I might win the more; and to the Jews I became as a Jew, that I might win Jews; to those who are under the law, as under the law, that I might win those who are under the law; to those who are without law, as without law (not being without law toward God, but under law toward Christ), that I might win those who are without law; to the weak I became as weak, that I might win the weak. I have become all things to all men, that I might by all means save some. Now this I do for the gospel’s sake, that I may be partaker of it with you”(1 Cor.9:19-23). Let us model Paul’s behaviour, and become whatever is needed in any given situation. Isn’t this the mark of a mature believer, as Eph. 4: “till we all come to the unity of the faith and of the knowledge of the Son of God, to a perfect man, to the measure of the stature of the fullness of Christ; that we should no longer be children, tossed to and fro” (v.13,14)
And this is the ultimate desire of Yeshua’s heart, “that they may be one as We are” (John 17:11). “Use the season to tell the reason . . . .” Tsarfati says. “Jesus may not have been born on Christmas, but thank God He was born! If the world is celebrating it anyway, use that opportunity to tell them the reason for the season . . . . Tell them . . . . Enjoy Christmas tomorrow with the knowledge that He came . . . Take that message and spread it all around. There is no condemnation . . .”
For those who are focussing on the day of Christmas, and the horrible pagan roots, first of all, get your focus right. We who believe are instructed/commanded to: “love one another; as I have loved you, that you also love one another. By this all will know that you are My disciples, if you have love for one another” (John 13:34,35), in conjunction with Matt.22:38,39, “Love the Lord your God with all your heart . . .. . . You shall love your neighbour as yourself.”
So let’s put first things first, and get our focus right. I like the way Amir Tsarfati puts it: “Use the season for the reason” (Tsarfati, “Unto Us A Child Is Born”). Christ’s heart for unity will only become realized when all His followers focus on HIM – for this is what unites us – the “One New Man” (Eph.2:12-16).
Rabbi Calev Goldberg, Dec. 1, posted Dec. 7, 2018, Message From The Bema, “Hanukkah, the Feast of Dedication,”
Rabbi Calev Goldberg, Message From The Bema, Dec. 15, posted Dec.21, 2018, “Yeshua, the Fulfillment of Messianic Prophecy,” http://www.bethshechinah.com/sermon/yeshua-hamashiah-part-1-rabbi-cal-goldberg/
© 2018 by Verna Crowther. All rights reserved.