Posts Tagged “Christmas starts with Christ”

Jesus out of focus and Christmas with Christ

Cross out of focus © 2014 Simon Peter Sutherland

Cross out of focus © 2014 Simon Peter Sutherland

I greatly admire Christmas and it is at this season of the rolling year that I have a few traditions of my own. One such tradition I have is my reading of ‘A Christmas Carol’ by Charles Dickens.

First published in 1843 after a visit to Manchester, Dickens clearly wrote the book with the aim of reforming the festival that was starting to fade. I think he did a good job of it. His term “humbug” was a masterly description. The problem is, Scrooge was in fact correct, Christmas was a “humbug”. A 19th century definition means ‘fraud’.

In the 21st century, Christmas is in fact a time for paying bills, acquiring heavy debts and a time where people indulge in constant spending, socialising, gluttony and alcoholism in an industrious commercial institution that focuses upon materialism and not the person of Jesus Christ. In that context Scrooge was correct; ‘Christmas sir is a humbug’.

But for me and many Christians, Christmas is not merely a time for gaining material or spending, and I certainly do not drink alcohol or indulge in gluttony. Christmas for me, is a time for remembering the birth of the Lord Jesus Christ and in that, Christmas is with me 365 days a year.

However, despite the fact that a secular Christmas has little to do with Jesus Christ, there is little doubt in my mind that many people today, Religious and none Religious would seek to abolish Christmas, and replace it with something else or nothing. In many ways, secularist culture has done just that, it has abolished the true historical meaning of Christmas.

Likewise, the use of the abbreviation “X” rather than “Christ” can be argued that the secularists have used a historic meaning. The letter “X” is from the Greek “Χριστός” which means Christ. The problem is that the majority of people, especially the secularists or average soul, has little or no knowledge of the Greek language, so “X” to them is just a letter.

Secularism has turned Christmas away from a festival where people celebrate and remember the birth of Jesus and turned it into a time of worldliness and sin and selfish gain. People are celebrating the sins that Jesus came to set us free from.

St Paul Outside the walls, Rome, Out of Focus © 2014 Simon Peter Sutherland

St Paul Outside the walls, Rome, Out of Focus © 2014 Simon Peter Sutherland

In the year 1647, the Puritan government in England banned Christmas and regarded it as little more than a snare of “Antichrist” and “Popery”. But today in the 21st century it is difficult to connect Christmas with the Roman Catholic Church or even as a Religious festival. We all know that for many people in the West, particularly in Britain, Christmas has little to do with the Lord Jesus Christ.

But for me as a Christian, the season is very much related to our Lord Jesus. He is everything! And even though we do not know the exact date or year when Jesus was born, we do know that the early Church made the decision to celebrate His birth at this time of year.

Because of a 4th century reference to Christmas in the calendar of 354 AD, we know that early Christians at Rome regarded the Nativity to have taken place on 25th December. However, Christians in the East celebrated the Messiahs birth on January 6th.

Moving forward in history toward the Protestant Reformation, I would think that no accurate case can be established to claim the 16th century Reformers denied Christmas. It is true that governmental 17th century English Puritans banned Christmas, but such was not the case with the 16th century Reformers. The facts remain that 16th century Lutheran, and Church of England Reformers continued to celebrate Christmas: that point is clear from history and the Book of Common Prayer.

Christmas reminds me in many ways of the Jewish season of Hanukkah, recorded by Jewish historian Josephus as “The festival of lights” (Antiquities X11) In this festival the Jewish people commemorate the establishing or rededication of the Holy Temple, and is an eight day holiday which starts on the 25th day of kislev. This can occur from late November to late December. Concluding for many on what we call ‘Christmas eve’.

It is clear to me that the things which Jewish people celebrate in Hanukkah were fulfilled in the life, death, burial and resurrection of Jesus Christ. I see that in and through Jesus, Judaism is made whole. Without Him I see little conclusion or fulfilment of the Torah and the Prophets. Not only is Jesus the “Light of the world” and not only has did He fulfil the prophecies but He has rededicated the Temple and purified it in His people. And if one desires to see Jesus in this, a good place to start would be throughout the Gospel of John, where Jesus is at the Feast of dedication during winter (John 10: 22-23) and also the book of Hebrews.

I think Christmas has been hijacked by secular culture and I think that unless peoples hearts and minds are won over to the Truth, there is little that can be done about that. Christmas for secularists merely implies faith, hope and gluttony:

  1. Faith in “Evolution”.
  2. Hope in “Science”.
  3. Indulgence in the flesh.

A person cannot honestly take Christ out of Christmas and continue to celebrate the festival as though He never was who He said He was, it is intellectually dishonest. And as for the mess that the world makes of Christmas, should we really expect anything else? The world would turn every celebration into a hotchpotch of drunkenness and fleshly pursuits, and entertainment. So what more can we expect? It is up to each one of us to be different, because we are different. We are not of this world, if we belong to Christ. Thus, it is up to us to know and understand what we believe and it is up to us to show the people of the world the historic Truth behind the Christmas many know and love.

Many Christians are speaking out for the Truth, but far too many Christians in Britain desperately need to start speaking out!

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“Christmas Starts with Christ” Large poster at St Ann’s Church, Manchester

Christmas starts with Christ St Ann's Church, ManchesterChristmas starts with Christ St Annes 2012Apparently it is the largest poster in the North-West of England.

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Jesus is “Peace on earth, goodwill toward men” Christmas 2012

“Glory to God in the highest and on earth peace, goodwill toward men”Luke 2: 14

Christmas starts with Christ St Ann's Church, ManchesterFor some unknown reason to me, the so-called nativity texts of the gospels are, for the most part only explored at Christmas.

So often in England we hear the passages from Matthew and Luke read out during Christmas services, followed by traditional carols and verses from the prophet Isaiah. All very well and good but somehow I feel that much of this tradition is little more than going through the motions, a tradition rather than an understanding? A reading rather than a knowing.

It feels to me that when read in most churches in England at this time of the year, the texts of Matthew and Luke appear to lack reality and historic value. People appear to look at them as though they are just ancient myths and stories based upon some real historical events. It has become a culture to believe the Biblical narratives have been retold and edited to a persuasion by ancient spin doctors. Grand assumptions have been made by modern scholars and people have bought into it through ignorance and lack of knowledge.

The original gospels were never written to be told as fairytales or myths but actual eye witness accounts.

But still, the claims of some modern scholars dominate the minds of many. Many people seem to believe the claims, just because scholars make them.

Yet anyone who can think for themselves know that scholarship so often takes its position and defends it regardless of evidence or contrasting opinion.

I do not respectfully disagree with the many claims of modern critical scholarship which has infiltrated the church, I disagree full stop, with no respect whatsoever and I do so not without historical evidence.

Today amongst many, the knowledge of the historical reality of the gospels has become a lost goldmine of which the location is known only by the few.

I often sit within whichever church I choose to attend at Christmas listening to Christmas services, enjoying the carols and the splendour of the season, followed by a walk through the town with all its glittering lights and nativity scenes.

I am glad that the enemies of Christianity have failed in their attempts to remove the nativity scenes from our streets, even if they have corrupted much of the so-called Christian church.

But still, this year I have been pleased to see churches packed with people and an array of carol singers. I have at times, felt the Christmas spirit and the text from Luke has rung so often within my ears, “on earth peace, goodwill toward men”.

But there is no peace on earth, I say to myself. The earth is filled with horror, evil, wickedness and violence which at times is hard for the human to cope with.

This week I have read of the horrors of children murdered in a school in America. I read of wars, theft, lies, corruption, I see evil films being played on Television, filled with bloodshed and human beings slaughtering one another, treating humans like a butcher treats animals and all in the name of entertainment. I often ask the question, ‘are people stupid or what?’ do people not see that what the eyes take in, the mind conceives and what the mind conceives, the flesh gives birth to?

It is a wicked world we live in.

I see new atheists seeking to destroy Christianity with falsehood, lies, and delusions. I see corrupted sciences attempting to take God out of His creation and claiming the earth and humans are a product of chance. I hear people tell me that evolution is a fact, yet when I refute the theory I am insulted like a child by a bully in a playground. Yet in reality, the theory of evolution cannot be seen without embracing Charles Lyells “principles of geology” and philosophy that the present is key to the past. Even Darwin confessed this in chapter 9 of his famous book. It is for this very reason that modern evolutionists deny the flood, because if the flood is proven, it will disprove the theory of evolution.

I see modern evolutionists ignoring and rejecting the evidence of the ancient flood, which changed the face of the planet. I see them bombarding the media and making a culture out of believing that man evolved from ancestral creatures, so much so that people like myself who think critically and for themselves are bullied and labelled as uneducated, ignorant and deluded, just because I do not accept the word and authority of evolutionary scientists.

I hear of wars, rumours of wars, I see Israel in turmoil, I see Egypt in turmoil, I see extremist terrorist threats deep within the minds of people who are inwardly afraid. I see threat after threat and authorities seeking to silence the mouths of those who speak out openly and people cry. Tears fall down the faces of human beings throughout the world.

It is not a nice world to live in today. There is no peace. It is a wicked world. A world where a man is afraid to bring children into it.

Religion has not made this world a better place and neither has science. But for all its faults, religion has far less blood on its hands than the scientific world.

Some atheist scientists and thinkers who often attack religion, make out that science is some kind of angel or authority. Yet science is no angel.

Is science not cruel to animals?
Has science not created nuclear weapons of mass destruction?
Has science not created a new wave of warfare?
Does it not now attempt to reduce man to a mere animal creature?
Has the products of science not blown unsuspecting men, women and little children to pieces?

Do I trust you science? Not me.

O indeed, the horrors of science make religion appear an amateur by comparison.

But still, the Biblical text rings clear and remains. It speaks of a pure gospel, a beauty which is not limited by the limitations of the human mind and not governed or ruled by a scientific mad age. It is a spiritual reality, a gospel of peace for those who love the Truth. A perfect saviour who in a wicked world, came down to set things right and gave His own life doing so.

A child born to die. A child, a historical human being who grew to be a man, He healed the sick, fed the poor, clothed the naked, raised the dead and took upon Himself the infirmities of us all. He did no wrong to any man, He never lied, He never sinned, He was never selfish, nor rude, He spoke only of Truth and was a doer of good works, His message was love. Yet still, the wicked hated Him, they mocked Him, they tried to trick Him, they tried to kill Him and all His people, yet still, they were unable to do so until He gave His life.

He spoke the truth to every man and woman, and those who were not of the truth, they hated Him and wanted Him dead and when that time came, they took out their hatred of God upon Him and they spat upon Him, the beat Him, the whipped Him and the set up false witnesses against Him. Not unlike the modern scholars, atheist evolutionists and critics of today. They wanted Him dead and they did it, but God had other plans.

O indeed, it is a wicked world, and when the creator is nailed to a cross by the created, we see just how wicked this world truly is. Yet God sees. God knows. God hurts.

In days of old, Genesis 6: 6 tells us that God even repented for making man. Yet He did not destroy them in the flood, but gave forth new life and He did this because man could no more cure himself of his wretched sick condition than he could cure himself of a common cold.

It is a wicked world, but if we look to the world we will not see the true meaning of Luke 2: 14, for Jesus is not of this world and He is the true meaning of the passage, “Glory to God in the highest and on earth peace, goodwill toward men”. For if we read the text in the original Greek, we see the translation should be, “on earth peace to men on whom His favour rests”.

True peace cannot be known by anyone who remains in a state of total depravity. It is those who seek the truth who find it, and it is those who love the truth and are of the truth from the beginning on whom His favour rests.

This is why there is no peace in the world, it is because those whom Christ came to save have rejected Him yet again and only those who truly know Jesus truly know peace.

As the saying goes, “no Christ, no peace” and for those who love Jesus, no evil can overcome them. As it is written in Psalm 91: 1-16

“He that dwelleth in the secret place of the most High shall abide under the shadow of the Almighty. I will say of the Lord, He is my refuge and my fortress: my God; in him will I trust. Surely he shall deliver thee from the snare of the fowler, and from the noisome pestilence. He shall cover thee with his feathers, and under his wings shalt thou trust: his truth shall be thy shield and buckler. Thou shalt not be afraid for the terror by night; nor for the arrow that flieth by day; Nor for the pestilence that walketh in darkness; nor for the destruction that wasteth at noonday. A thousand shall fall at thy side, and ten thousand at thy right hand; but it shall not come nigh thee. Only with thine eyes shalt thou behold and see the reward of the wicked. Because thou hast made the Lord, which is my refuge, even the most High, thy habitation; There shall no evil befall thee, neither shall any plague come nigh thy dwelling. For he shall give his angels charge over thee, to keep thee in all thy ways. They shall bear thee up in their hands, lest thou dash thy foot against a stone. Thou shalt tread upon the lion and adder: the young lion and the dragon shalt thou trample under feet. Because he hath set his love upon me, therefore will I deliver him: I will set him on high, because he hath known my name. He shall call upon me, and I will answer him: I will be with him in trouble; I will deliver him, and honour him. With long life will I satisfy him, and shew him my salvation.”

Christmas 2012

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