Helpful Tidbits for Organic Church Life                                     December 22, 2008
More Pagan Christianity?
My Reflections
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wreath_redI love Christmastime. I love sparkly lights, Nat King Cole, See's chocolates, and frosted cookies. I remember not sleeping one wink on a decade's worth of Christmas Eves in eager expectation of all those presents under the tree!
I absolutely loved Christmas, that is, until my older son made this honest observation: "If Santa's not real, then perhaps Jesus isn't either." Although my son's observation alone didn't cause me to observe Hanukkah this year in place of Christmas, I thought I'd devote just a little space to the question all my "Christian" friends are asking: So why the switch Trav?

THIS WEEK'S QUESTION/TOPIC: Christmas and Hanukkah
More Pagan Christianity?
Excerpt from

present_floatWe all know the main elements of Christmas. Some elements, such as giving to the poor and the efforts to emphasize the nativity (even though it comes two months too late) are good. And it is these two elements which Christians use to justify their keeping of their celebration. But all the other important elements of Christmas are not righteous and clearly come from pagan sources - the tree, the holly, the wreaths, the kissing ball, the Yule log, the hanging of stockings by the fire place, the entire concept of the sanctification of and the granting of special powers to this imaginary person called Santa Claus, the flying reindeer, the naming of many of the reindeer with pagan names, the annual "letter to Santa," the gold and silver balls used to decorate the tree, the evergreen branches which are brought into the home for decoration, the placing of a Christmas tree by the alter in a church which is expressly forbidden in the Torah - and on and on. All of these are not righteous. And I submit to you that if you took these things away, you could not call that celebration "Christmas."

 My Reflections
There's no way around it, for every action there is an equal and opposite reaction. Said another way, there's always systemic consequences for everything we do...even if the thing we do seems innocent enough. For example, iconic pictures of the Virgin Mary in Catholic churches affect people's thought patterns over time. While it's easy for Protestants to see the negative connections associated with such icons, it becomes difficult to see the connections when it's our own ideologies that are called into question.
rustic_menorah_smBriefly, then, I've swapped Christmas for Hanukkah. And for the record, I still love reflecting on Jesus's birth narrative. And no, I've not opted for a legalistic version of Judaism. Instead, I and my family have simply taken an honest look at the systemic issues surrounding Christmas and have corporately agreed Hanukkah is a better option. Here are a few reasons:
  • By celebrating Hanukkah we rid of nearly all pagan associations: the tree, Santa, consumerism, and so on.
  • By celebrating Hanukkah we get to be peculiar. When I celebrated Christmas, no one asked me about Jesus. Now they say, "I'm confused, I thought you were a Christian." To which I say, "I am a Christian!" Then, I explain the connections between Hanukkah and Jesus, namely that "Jesus is the light of the world."
  • By celebrating Hanukkah we get a little closer to Jesus's culture. John 10:22 tells us, "It was now winter, and Jesus was in Jerusalem at the time of Hanukkah" (NLT). And in this context, Jesus stated, "But while I am still here in the world, I am the light of the world" (NLT). Hanukkah, of course, is often referred to as the "Festival of Lights."

So, here's the deal. The Scriptures do not prescribe either Christmas or Hanukkah. But for now, my mantle is graced with a menorah (hanukkia) and a tree is mysteriously missing from my "Christian" home.

What's this got to do with "organic" church? Although my space is running short, part of the beauty of our movement is the appropriate questioning of systems and structures. We should all be asking the tough questions: "Why do we do what we do?" and "Do I do what I do just because that's what my culture dictates?"
So, from my home to yours, Happy Hanukkah! Jesus, indeed, is the light of the world! And for those of you with Christmas trees in your homes, by all means, feel no judgement from me! Together with you, I praise God for the gift of Jesus! As the Scriptures say, "Behold, a virgin shall be with child, and shall bring forth a son, and they shall call his name Emmanuel, which being interpreted is, God with us" (Mt 1:23, KJV). Hallelujah!
Hope this was of some benefit to you.

Traver Dougherty
The Banqueting Table