From my 2012 Journal. The Christmas story leaves me with more questions than answers. If you just read Matthew’s Gospel, chapter 1, you’d conclude that Jesus was born in Nazareth. But suddenly Chapter 2 declares He was born in Bethlehem–no explanation as to why or how. Without Luke’s account, we’d be left to speculation: that Mary and Joseph left Nazareth due to the shame and embarrassment of Mary’s pregnancy.
We speculate about the town gossip that Mary endured, but I wonder . . . In those days pregnant women remained confined. It was not a condition to be flaunted and exposed like it is today. Even as recent as my mother’s day, any woman with child was termed “p.g.”–rather than the blatant “pregnant.” Because an unwed mother was such a shameful thing, I wonder if it was kept secret, hush-hush. How else could Joseph have “quietly” divorced her? And the marriage could have taken place as quickly as possible so the secret wouldn’t be discovered. Maybe. It’s a thought. But we always assume the other.
Another random thought: In a day when so many children died in birth or infancy and some mothers during childbirth as well, it must have been a tremendous comfort to Mary to hear “This son will live.”
And an afterthought: before sonograms existed, only a handful of people in history knew for sure what the gender of the baby was before birth. Think about it—are they ANY pre-birth announcements of GIRL babies?
Happy birthday, Jesus–even if we don’t know what the actual day was!
In II Kings 23:4-7 we’re told that King Josiah cleansed the temple—not a synagogue, but the sacred temple in Jerusalem—where articles for Satan worship had been used for several decades. By now, asherah poles and houses for male prostitutes were fixtures.
Having been to this holy site in Jerusalem, it is unconscionable to me that anything unholy was ever permitted there. How could the people have strayed so far from the God who loved them? Josiah was 8 years old when crowned king, and 18 years later he discovers The Book of the Law and begins to obey God’s commandments. Up to that point in his lifetime, he had no clue what true worship was supposed to look like.
The question for us today is—what festivals do we practice that have pagan origins or overtones? Why do we celebrate Halloween? Christmas? Easter? I know some who have taken a stand against these holidays and refuse to go trick-or-treating, put up Christmas trees, or decorate Easter eggs. I can respect that. But I don’t think it’s evil to display a tree in my house or send my kids on an egg hunt. In the past I’ve rolled my eyes at those who condemn these holidays as being pagan in origin and therefore shun all activities associated with them—and then I begin to think what if they were right? And what would it take for me to buck the culture and stand up for what’s right and holy and God-ordained?
Finding out the origin of Halloween is a no-brainer. But did Christmas and Easter begin in paganism or with Christ-followers? I hate what Christmas has turned into, and I cringe when I see bunnies and eggs in our churches. Why? Because Easter baskets weren’t part of my upbringing, and because of its association, I guess, to the fertility goddess. Perhaps, like Josiah’s day, we’ve strayed far from the purity of our original celebrations.
And then we rationalize. They may have pagan origins, but Christians say they have reclaimed the holidays for God. We’re not worshipping anyone but the one true God—even if we hide Easter eggs in our backyard—and we’ve turned the symbol into a Resurrection Egg. Is it ONLY a matter of the heart that’s important? The birth of Christ and His resurrection are legitimate historical events—so why shouldn’t we celebrate them?
My mind is free-wheeling here, but the thought crosses my mind that if these two holidays were truly of pagan origin, we wouldn’t celebrate them . . . or would we?
What if I found out, like Josiah, that I’d been doing it all wrong all my life? Would I have the courage to stand up to culture?