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2017 Edition

 

Posted November 08, 2017

My Family Holidays

I am a Christian who does not idolize Christmas trees or Santa Claus. However, I am absolutely certain that Christ was not only born, but born again, born of the spirit, ordained a high priest, lifted up upon the cross, rose from the dead, and ascended into heaven.  It is important to me in the presentation of this essay that the reader understand that I am not wanting to be religious, nor atheist, in my treatment of the holidays.  My points are merely of a historical background.  In a world of extreme Christmas symbols and anti-symbolism, I bother with neither, and thought I would explain.  You might conclude from the Biblical references that on one hand, I am too religious, or on the hand do not believe at all.  Actually, I am oppositely suggesting that the practice of some of these holidays is religiously extreme and I making an argument here for more moderation based on historical context for our most popular holidays.


Christmas

Christmas means “Christ’s Mass”. The word is used in English for the administering the Eucharist or Sacrament, favorable synonyms for the remembrance of the sacrifice of Christ, which is important to observe and keep often and throughout the year. Mass is now an English word, whatever its Latin origins relating to the dismissal of an assembly (Acts 19:41). Baptism and synagogue are also English words (with Greek origins). Adieu is an English word (with French origins). All are used as proper English as language to convey the thoughts of English-speakers who are not using Latin, Greek, or French.  Therefore, Christmas means “Christ’s Eucharist” and not the dismissal of Christ.
 

We acknowledge the birth of Jesus Christ whenever our friends do, even though he was probably born in the Spring since the shepherds were in the field (Luke 2: 8, 11).

In the Bible, Jesus Christ was a carpenter’s son (Matthew 13:55) or the son of Joseph (Matthew 1: 23, 45); and his genealogy was consequently recorded as the lineal son of David (Matthew 1: 1, 1:20, 12:23, 21:9, 22:42, Luke 3: 23, 31), the seed of David according to the flesh (John 7:42, Romans 1:3, 2 Timothy 2:8), and the root and offspring of David (Revelation 5:5, 22:16); and therefore of the tribe of Judah (Hebrews 7:14); whilst his mother Mary was evidently of the tribe of Levi, since her uncle was a Levite priest (Luke 1: 5, 8, 36, 55). Thus, he alone fulfilled prophecies concerning the Messiah inheriting the throne of David (1 Kings 2:45, Isaiah 9:7, Jeremiah 17:25).
 

Although Christmas trees were not popularized in America until the first White House tree in 1856, Christmas trees were probably a tradition amongst my German Catholic ancestors for one hundred years (beginning in 1510) before the English Protestants translated the 1611 King James Bible. Apparently the King James translators worded their translation to deliberately resemble the description of a Christmas tree. Now, some of my extended family members and church friends do not have a Christmas tree based on that King James translation.

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They suggest that the historical origins of this tradition were forbidden by the King James translators, and it commemorates a heathen custom, and imitates an idol, credibly citing Jeremiah 10: 2-4.

2 Thus saith the LORD, Learn not the way of the heathen, and be not dismayed at the signs of heaven; for the heathen are dismayed at them. 3 For the customs of the people are vain: for one cutteth a tree out of the forest, the work of the hands of the workman, with the axe. 4 They deck it with silver and with gold; they fasten it with nails and with hammers, that it move not.

However, nobody has ever before correctly translated this passage and noticed that in Jeremiah, the “workman” (translated from the Hebrew word Charash) was translated throughout the rest of the Bible as a goldsmith, engraver, or artisan rather than as a tree chopper; and more importantly that the word “axe” (translated from the Hebrew word Ma`atsad) is translated elsewhere as simply a tool used specifically by a goldsmith. (For insight and parallels see also Jeremiah 10:9, Jeremiah 10:14, Isaiah 20: 19-20, Isaiah 41:7, and Isaiah 44:12.) So Jeremiah did not refer to Christmas trees at all, but idols chiseled into cedar posts or columns (mistranslated throughout the Bible as “palm trees”), which a goldsmith would then beautify (translated as “deck”), by plating or overlaying with melted gold and sometimes forging (heating and hammering) into shape (Jeremiah 10:9). The idol was then worshipped in a cluster of cedar posts comprising a “grove.” The grove would be set up under an oak tree (1 kings 14:23, 2 Kings 17:10, Jeremiah 17:2, and Ezekiel 6:13).

The question is more simply, whether having an evergreen with lights is too similar to gathering ourselves around these wooden posts layered in gold; even if the trees are artificial, or not idolized and sung to in adoration. I have not traditionally had a Christmas tree, because I am preoccupied with more important responsibilities, but I doubt if it matters. But, either way, this is a private family choice, not something that we judge others about nor ourselves care passionately about. We always feel welcome at the warm festivities in the homes of our friends, and equally welcome anyone into our own home: “That I may rejoice in the day of Christ” (Philippians 2:16).
 

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More than one hundred million trees will be cut this year for Christmas. Christmas trees consume over a million acres of land that could be used to grow food for starving populations. Artificial trees will last limited years in a home and will last unlimited centuries in a landfill. More than one-fifth of American homes will not have a tree this year. President Theodore Roosevelt refused to put a tree in the White House.
 

Saint Nicholas was evidently a rightful bishop before A.D. 340, who gave church money to the poor. However, Santa Claus was a Dutch-American invention. My children now trust me, rely on me, and honor me—because I am always truthful. My little ones are already taught about a one true God (1 Kings 8:60 and Ephesians 4:6), who knows what we are “thinking” (Hebrews 4: 12-13). They look forward to Jesus Christ being the one that is “coming” (1 Corinthians 1:7). They have learned that the first and great commandment is to believe in God exclusively (Exodus 20: 3-5 and Matthew 22: 37-39). However, they also remember that the second commandment is to love their neighbors, and so they are not judging of the views of others.
 

I give modest gifts to my children, then and year around, for birthdays, affection, and reward. However, not so much as would encourage greed, selfishness, and pride. They know that these temporal gifts come from nobody else but friends and family members, though the blessings of God.
 

New Year

This is a day to celebrate our thankfulness from year to year, ideally with a feast for the poor on New Year’s Day. Like many people, I choose not to participate in the wilder midnight parties the eve before (avoiding the excessive indecency and drunkenness that are often included in this tradition)—although in moderation this is a good day or eve to celebrate, and I like to see people joyful.
 

Saint Valentine’s Day

Some experts state that it originated from Valentine, a Roman former-day Saint who worked as a temple priest sealing marriages, and was martyred in A.D. 269 for refusing to give up Christianity. Love and romance are, of course, good for society, but this is neither a religious nor national holiday.
 

Saint Patrick’s Day

This one is muddled in folklore, but apparently Patrick died in something like A.D. 461, was probably Catholic, and is the namesake of this Irish national holiday. My children are Irish, and I have Catholic roots—but I am not Irish nor Catholic and therefore I do not keep this Catholic holiday which is not a national holiday in the United States. Like most people, I choose not to participate in the wilder street parties (avoiding the excessive indecency and drunkenness that are often included in this tradition)—although in moderation this is a reasonable day for others to celebrate their religious or national heritage should their basis be correct.
 

Easter

We appreciate the resurrection of Jesus Christ whenever our friends do, even though in actuality it probably occurred on Saturday, not Sunday; maybe even on April 6th.  He would have been resurrected just before sundown at the end of the 7th day Sabbath, since he was buried for exactly three days and three nights (Jonah 1:17 and Matthew 12:40, 27:40, 63).  He was crucified just before sundown before the Passover Sabbath “high day” (John 19:31) that evidently then fell on Thursday, so then he was crucified on Wednesday evening and resurrected on Saturday evening.  Mary Magdalene and the other Mary came to the tomb after waiting past the end of the 7th day Sabbath (Matthew 28:1 and Mark 16:1), on the dawn of the first day of the week.
 

We do not celebrate the Passover exactly, but recognize that the Passover was to be kept by Israelites “forever” (Exodus 12:17).
 

My children eat candy in moderation, as long as it does not have a significant amount of the addictive stimulants similar to caffeine (chocolate has caffeine-like substances).
 

Because we are truthful, my children do not believe that bunnies bring eggs and candy, but they still eat a limited quantity of candy.
 

4th of July

This is a day to be thankful for our freedoms, such as the right to believe as we choose, in a culturally tolerant nation. Usually, we watch fireworks on the historic temple lot in Independence, Jackson County, Missouri, from where 1,200 early settlers were banished for their religion in 1833. Those same settlers moved to Far West, Caldwell County, Missouri, and nevertheless laid their cornerstone beneath the stars and stripes (my own predecessors shot a canon over a Lake Michigan harbor in commemoration on July 4, 1850). We believe in being subject to our federal and local governments, and in “obeying, honoring and sustaining the law.” Flags serve a necessary emblematic purpose, and are called “ensigns” or “standards” in the Bible. Really though, we should pledge our allegiance to our heavenly King and his laws, or in nationalism to the Constitution, not to an inanimate object nor a person other than Jesus Christ.
 

Halloween

We are careful on Halloween because it is not a national holiday nor does it retain any trace of a religious holiday (holy day) in any modern sense—but our neighbors have the freedom to believe as they choose, and should allow us the same freedom.
 

I do not dress my children as devilish, wicked, and evil characters at any time of the year, and it is not fitting to my particular children.
 

Like most people, I choose not to participate in the adult parties (avoiding the excessive indecency and drunkenness that are often included in this tradition).
 

In case you feel that Halloween is sinful, which I am not alleging that it is, no sinning should be justified by it being harmless fun—for the same argument could be made for breaking many of the commandments of God.
 

Thanksgiving

This is a day to feast and be thankful for blessings, in this promised land, perhaps the most upright national holiday.
 

Others

Because true religion requires us to honor and sustain the law, we recognize at a minimum all of the legal national and state holidays.
 

We believe in celebrating, thanksgiving, feasting, music, dancing, and remembrance for any special blessings in our lives, such as the annual celebration of the births of children, or any anniversaries, or church history days, or special Sabbath days. In our own family, we remember our personal thankfulness like this on April 6th, 8th of July, and the Fall Equinox (approximately September 21st) days that commemorate notable events to our cultural history. True holy days are more significant than secular holidays or national holidays.

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