I wrote this back in December of 2012 — I am moving it over to my blog and this will be my only word for the year on the subject.
America is a strange place with some strange concepts. The more I get to know people around the world, the stranger and stranger we seem. First of all, we are a people who, by and large, know nothing about persecution. Oftentimes we consider the fruit of our own actions to be tantamount to it, instead of seeing it as a natural consequence of what we have done. We believe that anyone who does not see things our way is somehow persecuting us, but that is a terrible disservice to those in our not so recent history, who have indeed been persecuted — tortured, killed, denied basic human rights because of their beliefs, race, or country of ancestral origin. But so many people have written about this that I will not rehash it; there is much sin to be repented of, much hatred in the name of religion, patriotism and race.
Over the past decade I have become increasingly aware of a strange attitude indeed, although it existed when I was a child but it did not bother me because I agreed with it. Namely, the idea that if I refuse to say “Merry Christmas” that not only do I somehow hate the Messiah of scripture but that I am also un-American. But that belief is predicated on what I will call a minhag, because it very closely resembles a custom of the Pharisees, which is what the word minhag refers to.
Minhagim were customs (and “A custom of Israel is law”) that were held to the level of scripture, and in fact were extra laws above and beyond scripture. Anything that a Jewish community practiced 3 or more times was considered minhag, and thus legally binding. Even though it was not in scripture, the members of the community were legally bound to it, and if they refused (no matter how silly it was) they were shunned, they were no longer considered members of the Jewish community. Refusing to abide by minhag was considered an attack on the fibers that held society together, an attack on Israel, an attack on the rabbis and, of course, an attack on YHVH Himself.
Which brings me to the celebration of Christmas (and Easter) and the perceived war on it, and the way people react when it is challenged, even though more and more Bible believing Christians refuse to celebrate, refusing to mix the holy and the profane. And I am talking about church-going people. Their stand is not based on hatred of the one they call The LORD God and who I call YHVH Elohim, and Yeshua the Messiah (called Jesus Christ) — far from it — it is based on wanting to honor Him in the way He prescribes, by “going back to the Bible,” to what is written. Christmas, and any endorsement of it, is not found in scripture, and therefore cannot be used as a litmus test of loving God based upon non-participation. Nowhere in scripture does it say, “Celebrate Christmas if you love me.” (But scripure does say, over and over again, if you love me obey My commandments, in both the “old” and “new” Testament) So where do we get off promoting any minhag, or any of the other Pharisaic type of law, that says otherwise?
Where does this attitude come from? Have we become so much like the Pharisees we were taught in the church to revile? Should we add laws (halacha) through inference (like changing the Sabbath), or by taking things out of context (like “the Lord’s Day”), or add laws (takanot, gezerot) through ignoring the word all together and just making things up (like indulgences)? These are the things we were taught not to do, by Messiah Himself — and yet we are doing them for the express purpose of having a “fun holiday.”
Are Christmas and Easter in the Constitution of the US, that not wanting to celebrate them, that indeed seeing them as of pagan origin, makes one un-American? Does covering our eyes and assuming the endorsement of God in everything we see fit to stamp His Name on make us more American? There are people in this country who say it is un-American to stand against a woman’s right to have an abortion, there are some who even say that “god” would agree. Are they right? Does the community have a right to set up celebrations and new laws and judge my love for God and His Messiah based upon them? Did the Pharisees have a right to enact their halacha, takanot, ma’asim, and minhagim and judge a person’s “jewishness” based upon them? Messiah said no — can we hold ourselves to a different standard? Do we dare look at the hand washing of the Pharisees with disdain and yet see celebrating Christmas as somehow holier? I can assure you that the people doing both these things, with all their hearts, believe they are honoring God, but the Word says that our hearts are deceitful and wicked above all things and cannot be trusted. The Word cannot be lying.
I have a genuine question for all of you posting about the “war on Christmas” because when you get angry at me for not celebrating Christmas, you are focusing on my outward adherence to your traditions. Do I have an obligation to keep traditions just because you enjoy them? Do you really have to insult me — to call me unpatriotic, tell me to go find somewhere else to live? Do you have the right to say that Christmas is an American Holiday and rebuke me for not wanting to play along? Do you have the right to judge my love of God and my patriotism based on something that has nothing to do with loving God or being a good citizen? Do my good works and my Bible study mean nothing because of what I am not doing on December 25? Does it really hurt you if I don’t say Merry Christmas? Why are you really feeling so threatened? Do I have to do everything the way you do it? Is that what this is about, because honestly, I am really struggling to see what is so dangerous about my not celebrating.
Do I deny the Son of the Living God, come in the flesh, born of a virgin, who died, was buried and rose again three days later? No. So ask yourself why on earth you would judge me for not saying “Merry Christmas.” Ask yourself if you have the legitimate right to judge me, or look down on me, because of a tradition. Do you have the right to do to me what some of the Pharisees were doing to our Savior?
I don’t hate the people celebrating Christmas, there is no reason to, but many of them hate me. Based upon the minhagim, takanot and halacha inherited by our Fathers, I am considered to be a hater of God — just as Messiah was considered to hate His own Father, and to be a blasphemer. Messiah told them to toss their unscriptural man-made rules and traditions and to just follow the written Word of God, and many refused — but many others were able to drop the decrees and traditions that were not scriptural (the ones that had hijacked Judaism) and followed Yeshua the Messiah. Not to say that they didn’t still cause a ruckus with their religious baggage sometimes (read Acts 15, Romans and Galatians to see the problems caused by their “circumcision NOW or leave” ma’asim), but that isn’t any different than the baggage I inherited through my teachers that still gets in the way sometimes.
Following YHVH through Messiah is not called a walk for nothing, it is a lifelong journey, a lifelong process. It’s not important that we get everything right, right away, but it is important, like the children we are, that we learn day by day through obedience to the Father, and we do that through, like the sheep we are, following the Shepherd — who always spoke the Words His Father gave Him.So whenever you are holding someone to a standard that cannot be justified through scripture, through the words of the Tanakh (OT) and in the gospels of Yeshua Messiah, you are sinning against your brother or sister in judgment. If your only justification is Paul, and if Peter said that Paul was easily misunderstood, then it is safe to say that you must go back to the lifesource and see what He Himself has to say. He is the Word, which means that He is the Tanakh, the “OT.” He is the Word which you had from the beginning (Bereshith = Genesis) I John 2:7. As He is perfect, so is His Word perfection. Be at peace today!