Monday, December 7, 2009

Myths about Christmas

( by Allen Yeh

OK, you might think that I’m being a Grinch for posting this blog, but I hope that we as Evangelicals are being biblical at all times, especially when it comes to something as important as the birth of our Savior! So here are some common myths I’d like to bust regarding Christmas:

-Silent night, holy night, all is calm, all is bright.
On the night of Jesus’ birth, it was not a silent night — and probably not calm! Jesus was fully human; he almost certainly cried. It is no sin to cry, it is how babies communicate since they can’t talk. Not only did Baby Jesus probably cry, the animals made noise. Cows, sheep, and donkeys are noisy animals. The Silent Night myth probably comes from us wanting hushed reverence and awe, but I think that noise can be just as meaningful if it is celebratory and social! Those shepherds and angels, if nothing else, were making noise out there!

-Hark the herald angels sing … and angels we have heard on high sweetly singing o’er the plains.
Unfortunately, angels do not sing! Though a couple of times in the NIV it does say that angels “sing” (e.g. Rev. 5:12), in the Greek the word is always “say.” Angels always speak; only humans have the ability to sing. So when you sing your Christmas carols, sing it with gusto — this is a privilege that God only affords humans!

-The Magi presented gifts at Jesus’ birth. (see the lyrics to “The First Noel”). The Magi (Wise Men) from the East did not come when Jesus was born! The dirty stinky shepherds were there (Luke 2:15-16) but not the Magi. Jesus was actually two years old when the Magi arrived, as Herod tried to kill all the boys under two years old in accordance with the time the Magi had said (Matt. 2:7,16). So I’m afraid all those Nativity scenes showing the wise men with the gifts at the manger are a couple of years too early!

-Christmas trees are Christian. Nope — they are pagan (see Jeremiah 10:1-5). That being said, I don’t think they are wrong to have, unless they are seen as biblical or taking the place of Christ. The injunction in Jeremiah is against pagan idolatry, but I think it’s fine to “baptize” pagan things as Christian (after all, we Christians did that when we changed the Sabbath from Saturday to Sunday, when we changed the pagan fertility goddess cult of Ishtar into our Easter, when we turned the Roman pagan holiday of Yule into Christmas, and when we use words like “God” and “church” which are pagan words which have been Christianized (even the Greek words theos and ekklesia are pagan in origin).

Where do most of these myths come from? Unfortunately, often from our beloved Christmas carols and from Christmas cards. We want our picture-perfect Nativity scene, but a lot of that is not biblically correct. However, Jesus was not born into perfection but into a broken world. And it is precisely this world He came to save. So let’s not paint an inaccurate picture of Christmas — it was a messy, noisy night, with a lot of chaos and crying and animal sounds. There were no angelic choirs, though angels did make a heavenly pronouncement. Those shepherds probably stank as they’d been out all day with the sheep. The Magi didn’t come until two years later, and they were not Jews. (But it is interesting that these three “unclean” Gentiles recognized the Messiah before most of the “pure” Jewish people did. This isn’t even the book of Acts yet, and Gentiles are already coming to worship the Christ!) And Jesus quickly became a political refugee, fleeing to Egypt because a death mark was placed upon his head by a lunatic king who massacred all other boys of Jesus’ age.

Why all this imperfection at the original Christmas? Because Jesus is the only one who is perfect. I think it provides a stark contrast, which is this: Even while Creation is groaning, only in Jesus is light and goodness and salvation.

Oh yeah, and while we’re at it … there is no Santa Claus.
Just in case this one slipped through the cracks.

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