Did you enjoy Christmas with family, friends, and loved ones?
Perhaps you spent time at a family member’s house – the one who hosts all of the big family get-togethers – and ate well, loved well, and laughed well. Christmas lights covered the front of the house and the Christmas tree, providing ambient light when everyone went to bed.
Maybe you engaged in secret Santa gift-giving – small $10 or so gifts to friends or co-workers as a nice gesture of Christmas cheer.
Enjoyed your hunt for the perfect Christmas cards? To your delight, all cards were sent and received on time spreading Christmas joy with those on your list.
Somewhere in between Black Friday sales, holiday travel plans, and deciding the menu for Christmas dinner – how did you “remember” the Christ in Christmas?
We declared Jesus as the “reason for the season”, and held fast to our commitment to say “Merry CHRISTmas” vs. “Happy Holidays”. But in all of the hustle and bustle of this very “commercial” holiday, did we truly remember Jesus Christ, OR the most significant aspect of our Lord and Savior?
While I don’t demonize those who desire to honor the birth of Jesus Christ, on ANY day, nor will I go as far as to make Christmas a heaven or hell issue, I do want the Team to take a look at the how and the why we “remember” Jesus, and align it with our play book, the Bible.
Let’s ask Coach Jesus:
“If there never was another [Christmas | Communion], would you be cool with that, Jesus?”
To begin the comparison of each, let’s go back to the beginning of each. How many of us actually know the origins of “Christmas” and its festivities?
Making the Pagan Holy?
Now, Team Jesus, some of you may clutch pearls on this one – but yes, the origins of the holiday we call Christmas have roots in the pagan Roman festivals of Saturnalia and Dies Natalis Solis Invicti (see page 62). Both pagan festivals paid homage to the god of Saturn or the birthday of the “sun god”, respectively.
Saturnalia was an ancient Roman national holiday, steeped with excessive drinking, rampant overeating, perversion, and annual role reversals. For instance, during Saturnalia, slaves were treated as the masters and masters as the slaves. The celebration also included the sharing of short poems (early greeting cards), singing through the streets – sometimes naked (caroling), and the worship and decoration of trees.
Some writers allude that in exchange for Roman conversion to Christianity, early Christians “negotiated” or “compromised” that Saturnalia was “ok”, but the last day of Saturnalia would be a time of celebrating the birth of Jesus. Scholars vary this date from December 23rd, December 25th, to even January 6th.
Though Christmas has been well commercialized and domesticated throughout the centuries, I find no evidence to support either a mandate or a declaration in scripture that “remembering” Jesus’ birth carries relevance or significant importance.
On the contrary, what I do find interesting is the intent of man to espouse to the King of Kings tokens of birthday honor likewise given to pagan idols.
Call it pure conjecture, but Jesus, being all-knowing and divine, would not command His people to practice the rituals of pagan communities to honor Him.
Think about it. If gods (little “g”) have a date of birth, they have a date of death. And, there’s a staunch difference between a date of death and a date WITH death…
Endings are Better Than Beginnings
As we continue our comparison of Christmas vs. Communion, remembering Jesus’ birth or death, Ecclesiastes 7:8 rings loud and clear: “Better is the end of a thing than its beginning.”
Everything begins, but what happens if purpose, or in Jesus’ case – prophecy – was not wholly fulfilled?
If the Christian story ended at the “nativity”, Death would still have its sting, the grave its victory.
But, thanks be to God that Jesus died for our sins, and in turn, became the ransom for our redemption. Jesus paid the penal price with His death – not birth – and therein conquered death, hell, and the grave.
How Do We Remember Jesus?
“Do this in remembrance of me.” (Luke 22:19, 1 Corinthians 11:24)
Jesus Christ desires to be remembered. “Don’t forget me, Team.” Too much was sacrificed, too much is at stake for us to forget His work on the cross, and His victorious resurrection.
Communion will always win over Christmas. The death of Jesus will always trump the celebration of His birth, why?
Because He Died, We Live
If we accept Jesus Christ and are included in His sin-conquering death, we also get included in His life-saving resurrection (Romans 6:8).
The Father’s Perfect Will Matters Most
Jesus came to do the will of His Father. God did not send Jesus just to be born; Jesus was sent to die. And, likewise, it’s God’s will for us to die to sin, daily – not to simply become born-again.
Communion Remembers the Past, Points to Our Blessed Future
As we partake of the Lord’s Supper, yes, we remember Jesus’ sacrifice for our sins. But, it is also a time of hope and reflection on “when He comes again.” (1 Corinthians 11:26)
Jesus Told Us To
Consider it a direct command from Jesus Himself to partake of His body and blood in remembrance of Him. The prescription for remembrance has been spoken, written, and confirmed – do this.
So, What’s the Play Call?
Well, there are actually several play calls in this lesson:
- Study the origins. It’s important to research the traditions of men to ensure and maintain your freedom from the world’s mandates.
- Choose the better part. Align your life with the most excellent way when it comes to your service and honor of Jesus Christ. Accept no substitutes, mediocrity, or copy cats.
- When you remember Jesus’ death, remember your own death.