Posts Tagged ‘reason for the season’

What is the Reason for the Season?

Every year we have to listen to the comments of those who embrace this holiday known as Christmas.  Some enjoy the festivities and prepare with excitement and anticipation of ‘the morning of’.  They bake cookies, wrap presents, prepare an ‘advent’ calendar,  trim trees, and wait for Santa Claus to come down the chimney.

Others claim they center the holiday on the “Reason for the Season.” They become stressed and obsessed with shopping, gifts, parties, decorating their house and trees, church activities and extra activities until their Season loses its Reason.   If some unexpected event turns their well-devised plans upside down, they become angry or depressed.   Feelings of inadequacy, unfinished business, an urgency to ‘get it all done’ before that ‘great and glorious morning’ arrives replaces the joy the Messiah brought into the world when He became flesh. I know.  I lived it.  Though I tried and tried to focus on Jesus’ birthday by changing the Advent tree to a Road To Bethlehem, reading more and more daily Scriptures, baking a birthday cake for an absent baby, it just didn’t do away with the trappings of the wrappings.

“In the countryside nearby were some shepherds spending the night in the fields, guarding their flocks,  when an angel of Adonai appeared to them, and the Sh’khinah of Adonai shone around them. They were terrified;  but the angel said to them, “Don’t be afraid, because I am here announcing to you Good News that will bring great joy to all the people.  This very day, in the town of David, there was born for you a Deliverer who is the Messiah, the Lord.  Here is how you will know: you will find a baby wrapped in cloth and lying in a feeding trough.” Suddenly, along with the angel was a vast army from heaven praising God: “In the highest heaven, glory to God! And on earth, peace among people of good will!”

“No sooner had the angels left them and gone back into heaven than the shepherds said to one another, “Let’s go over to Beit-Lechem and see this thing that has happened, that Adonai has told us about.”  Hurrying off, they came and found Miryam and Yosef, and the baby lying in the feeding trough. Upon seeing this, they made known what they had been told about this child;  and all who heard were amazed by what the shepherds said to them.  Miryam treasured all these things and kept mulling them over in her heart.  Meanwhile, the shepherds returned, glorifying and praising God for everything they had heard and seen; it had been just as they had been told”  (Luke 2:8-18).

Since our family has embraced the Jewish Messiah as the shepherds who were in the countryside,  we stopped celebrating this time of year as anyone’s birthday or holiday season.  It’s no longer ‘our’ holiday and it has no appeal to us, emotionally or spiritually.   It wasn’t a radical decision that happened overnight and BAM, everything Christmas was gone.   It  was a process of letting go of cherished traditions and warm fuzzies.  The change was gentle, loving and led by the Spirit of God.  When we listened to His voice, read His Word, we found it was His desire to separate us from the chaos in the world and the church around us because He was not part of the celebration nor was His beloved Son.

For the past 20 years, we have had a much more relaxed winter season.   Every stress and struggle disappeared when we stopped insisting  the devil was the root of the problem and  realized the Spirit of God was actually trying to deliver our souls from the god of this world, mammon.  We saved  money and our credit cards breathed a sigh of swipe relief.    We now sit back and watch the chaos around us and pray for Christians to truly find the shalom of Messiah in the disordered season that is supposed to be ‘merry.’

We do celebrate Yeshua’s birth.  We do honor God arrival in the flesh of a human being – Immanu’el.   We remember the birth of the risen King of  the Jews, the salvation of the world at the Feast of Tabernacles in the fall, but without any pomp, obsessive gift giving, evergreen trees decorated with silver and gold, endless parties and financial despair.  It is within a sukkah, the Hebrew word for ‘manger’,  and like Miriam, we treasure all of the things that happened with the shepherds in Bethlehem with a vision and hope for the coming Kingdom.

©2013 Tent Stake Ministries

The Spirit of Christmas

“Dear friends, do not believe every spirit, but test the spirits to see whether they are from God, because many false prophets have gone out into the world…” “This is how you can recognize the Spirit of God: Every spirit that acknowledges that Messiah Yeshua has come in the flesh is from God, but every spirit that does not acknowledge Yeshua is not from God. This is the spirit of the antichrist, which you have heard is coming and even now is already in the world” (1 John 4:1-3).

“What is the ‘spirit of Christmas?”  Many will respond with ‘warm fuzzies’ like family and a sense of emotional well-being.  However, it is during the Christmas season that people incur huge debt and the rate of suicide escalates.  How can a ‘spirit of emotional well-being’ breed debt and death?

The ‘spirit’ behind Christmas has actually deceived the masses while perpetuating a false god worship that began in Mesopotamia with the god, Marduk.  It progressed through early Europe and the Celts with the Yuletide and Scandinavia with “the Prodigal Sun.”   As centuries passed, Persians celebrated it centered on the god Mithra, and  eventually in Rome, it was commemorated as Saturn’s day or the Saturnalia.

“For how many years shall this festival abide! Never shall age destroy so holy a day!  While the hills of Latium remain and father Tiber, while thy Rome stands and the Capitol thou has restored to the world, it [Saturnalia]  shall continue.”

Originally, Saturnalia was celebrated for one day on December 17, but then it grew into a week-long spectacle of pleasures culminating on December 24.    Rome borrowed most of Saturnalia’s cultural celebrations primarily from the Greeks.  However,  Saturnalia has its roots in Egyptian culture with Osiris and Isis, the two gods who protected the dead and mummies.  These two gods were judged  with the ‘death of the firstborn’ when Israel was delivered from Egypt. 

Saturnalia celebrations began by dedicating the temple to Saturn through human sacrifices, especially children.  Saturn was affiliated with the Greek god, Kronos, who ate small children.  He is also known as Father Time and looks a lot like our modern-day Santa Claus.  Could this be why small children fear Santa?  Could this be why so many people take their lives at this time?  Could it be they are the human sacrifices that the ‘spirit of Saturnalia’ requires?

After the human sacrifices were completed, celebrants would shout “Io, Saturnalia!” and the week-long festivities would begin.  Huge public banquets were prepared. Cookies were made with simple face shapes.  People would eat,  drink, and be merry.  It was a time for friends and relatives to exchange gifts, especially wax candles and little dolls.  Slaves would be set free and wore peaked woolen caps, similar to modern-day Santa hats, that symbolized their freedom.

Many of the Saturnalia decorations involved greenery, swathes, garlands and wreaths, being hung over doorways and windows. Sigillaria or figurines made out of clay were hung on the bows of pine trees.  A Saturnalia tree was common in Egypt and Rome long before Christianity incorporated it into Christmas observance.  In Egypt,  a palm tree honored Baal-Tamuz (Ezekiel 8:14).  In Rome,  the fir was used to honor  the same god, but who was known as Baal-Berith.  From a branch of these trees came the Yule Log.  Trees in these cultures were not cut down and brought inside,  but remained outside where they were  decorated with sunbursts, stars and faces of the God Janus.

The Sol Invictus, the god of the sun,  was the main god of the Roman Empire.  The Roman emperor Aurelian made Sol Invictus the official religion of the empire combined with their other  gods: Jupiter (supreme deity), Apollo (destroyer), Sylvanus (guardian of the flocks, shepherd).     The image of the Sol Invictus appeared on coins minted by Constantine in spite of his supposed conversion to Christianity.   After the week-long celebration of Saturnalia and the end of the solstice, December 25 became known as the “Birthday of the Sun.”  

In the fourth century, the Roman church united all religions and their multiple gods through a catholic vision.  Pagan religious observances were given new names and Saturnalia was transformed into the Christ Mass.

The word ‘mass’ may come from the Latin word missa meaning a ‘death sacrifice.‘   How ironic that the date for the birth of Jesus Christ, believed and accepted for many centuries by the Christian church as December 25, is actually the death sacrifice part of Saturnalia.

Throughout the centuries these catholic holidays and their traditions became deeply rooted into the church.  Even the Protestant Reformation through Martin Luther did nothing to remove itself from the pagan practices in which it was steeped.  Today, all Christian churches no matter which denomination embrace the roots of Saturnalia as Christmas.  Remember, if the root is unholy, so are the branches. 

Sadly, most Christians celebrate this holiday while claiming to be anything but catholic.   Many acknowledge the Reformation and Martin Luther’s breaking away from the Roman catholic church, but continue to embrace many Christmas traditions that have their roots in unholy catholic and Saturnalia practices.

In Mark 7, Yeshua discusses traditions of men and commands of God.    If a tradition nullifies a command of God, it should not be embraced because the commandments are greater than the traditions.  One holiday tradition, specifically mentioned in Jeremiah, that nullifies a command of God needs to be addressed. 

“Hear what the LORD says to you, people of Israel.  This is what the LORD says: ‘Do not learn the ways of the nations … for the practices of the peoples are worthless.  They cut a tree out of the forest, and a craftsman shapes it with his chisel.  They adorn it with silver and gold; they fasten it with hammer and nails so it will not totter” (Jeremiah 10:1-4).

Some may read these verses in Jeremiah and say that cutting down a tree and decorating it has nothing to do with a Christmas tree.  They argue that they don’t shape it into an idol, however, let’s look at the verses in context.  Cutting down a tree is a way of the nations, a way of the gentiles, that Israel was not to embrace.  When gentiles enter a covenant relationship with the God of Israel, they join the commonwealth of Israel and are to leave their pagan ways behind . Just like Israel, they are not to mix the holy things of God with the idolatries of the nations. 

Of course, we don’t craft the tree into a literal idol, but that’s because we’re either too busy or too lazy.   Then there are fake or artificial trees, poles with branches fashioned by the hands of man to  represent  something on earth that God created.  This is called idolatry in Exodus 20:4.   

The tree,  whether cut down from the forest or not, is central  to a holiday from the nations  that was never meant to honor God or His Son.  It cannot stand on its own; it needs a tree stand.   Both inside  and outside homes, trees are adorned with gold ornaments and silver icicles.  They are lit up with strings of lights.  On top is the face of an angel or a star.  Beneath it is the visual sacrifice of finances through extensive gift giving.   The decorated tree becomes the holy place in a home, central to the celebration of Christmas, and adored by those who erect it and those who visit.  If you disagree, then I challenge you to remove it from your home.  If you can’t, then check your heart for idolatry.   

The most common argument for having a Christmas tree is that we can transform something pagan into something holy because we can sanctify it and give it to the LORD.  With this rationalization, the Christmas tree begins to sound like a modern-day golden calf.

The Golden Calf

“When the people saw that Moses was so long in coming down from the mountain, they gathered around Aaron and said, ‘Come, make us a god who will go before us….  “Aaron answered them, ‘Take off the gold earrings that your wives, your sons and your daughters are wearing, and bring them to me.’  So all the people took off their earrings and brought them to Aaron.  He took what they handed him and made it into an idol cast in the shape of a calf, fashioning it with a tool.  Then they said, ‘‘Here is your god, Israel, who brought you up out of Egypt.’

“When Aaron saw this,  he built an altar in front of the calf and announced, ‘Tomorrow there will be a festival to the LORD’” (Exodus 32:1-4).

This passage is about the infamous golden calf and it is important to acknowledge several details.  First, Aaron, who was chosen as a spiritual leader of Israel, guides the people into worshipping a false god, an idol.  They had no excuse for listening to Aaron.  They had just been miraculously set free from slavery in Egypt.   They had witnessed the destruction of Egypt’s gods by the power of Yod Hey Vav Hey.   Yet, with their new-found freedom, they did not listen to the LORD, they listened to man.

We must always be like the Bereans in Acts 17:11 and make sure that what our leaders have been taught and subsequently teach us to do lines up with God’s Word.   The Israelites had already had their encounter with God at the foot of Mt. Sinai.  They had experienced His presence and heard His Words, especially the first of the Ten Commandments, but they didn’t test Aaron’s leadership with that of God’s Word.

“I AM the LORD your God, who brought you out of Egypt, out of the land of slavery.  You shall have no other gods before me” (Exodus 20:1-2).

Second, Aaron cast an image; he created an idol.   The image was of a calf, an animal worshipped in Egypt and judged with one of the plagues. After being enslaved for 400 years, the Israelites had lost their understanding of the God of Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob.  They had absorbed the idolatry and concepts of other gods. They knew they had been brought to the mountain to worship their God, Yod Hey Vav Hey,  yet they had no idea how to do that.

While Moses was on the mountain receiving the details for worshipping their Deliverer, they became impatient.  They made up their own ways according to what they had learned in slavery.  They embraced idol worship.  There was so much immoral revelry, dancing and celebration around the golden calf that Moses had to ask Aaron, “What did these people do to you, that you led them into such great sin?” (Exodus 32:21).

Third, and most importantly, Aaron built an altar and dedicated the golden calf to the God of Israel.  He took a symbolic pagan idol and sanctified it to Yod Hey Vav Hey and set an ‘appointed time’ to worship it.  God did not look at the intention of anyone’s heart; He struck the people with a plague and many died (Exodus 32:35). 

What had they done?  They took a manmade image, an idol, and then claimed they made it  to honor the One True Living God.  They mixed the holy and the profane, the hot and the cold and became lukewarm. 

Moses took the calf and melted it in the fire.  He scattered its powder on the Israelite’s water.  He made them drink the contaminated water, non-living water.  Is this the same water you are drinking, water polluted with the remains of pagan gods?

Today many Christians crying out for the world to put ‘Christ’ back into Christmas. They  fight to sanctify a pagan holiday that became a catholic mass.   Their rationalizing voices in the ears of God sound much like that of Aaron and the Israelites. 

The salvation of the world that came from the Jews was never in the Christ Mass.  It is a deception created by a false priesthood that has turned believers away from the God of Israel into worshipping an   abominations of the nations.  Generations of catholics accepted this unholy rooted festival because the Word of God was not available to them.   Today, however,  there is no excuse.  Everyone, in any and every language, has access to the Scriptures; and,  to whom much is given, much is required (Luke 12:48).

“Saturnalia,” by Selena Fox

It is the middle of December. The nights are long, the weather is colder, winter comes. Celebration is at hand. Renewing bonds of friendship. Visiting with family and friends. Exchanging gifts with loved ones. Candles, Dolls, Cookies, Sweets, Holly, Wreaths of Green. Surprises. Courts close.  Battles stop. Time off from school and work. Holiday break. Singing, Dancing, Games, Merry-Making. Food … Lots of Food and Drink. Great Feasts and Parties.

To celebrate the Sun, the Land, the Ancient Ones, the great Circle of Nature. To welcome in the Winter and the New Year. To bring forth renewal, peace, and joy.  Solstice Present … Solstice Past. This is the legacy of Saturnalia. Weeklong Pagan Winter Solstice Festival of Ancient Rome.

Saturnalia, your spirit and these traditions live on in the world today in Christmas feasts and New Year’s parties, in our Winter Solstice celebration tonight. Bless our connection with the ancients. Bless our connection with each other. Bless our connection with future generations. We rejoice.

Io, Saturnalia! Io, Saturnalia! Io, Saturnalia!

Selena first publicly shared this poem on Solstice night 1994 during Circle’s public Winter Solstice Celebration in Madison, Wisconsin.

Contents©1998-2010 by Circle Sanctuary.

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Several years ago, I came across the poem above regarding Saturnalia.  Even though our family had stopped celebrating Christmas, the shock of the words in the poem brought a different light to the whole celebration.  There are those who are alive and well on planet earth who worship Saturn and celebrate Saturnalia. Notice the poem thanks Christianity for keeping their pagan holiday alive for millennia! The reality of this holiday became even more clear when that particular year we received a “Happy Saturnalia” card from friends.

©2010 Tentstake Ministries, chapter from Journey with Jeremiah on amazon.com