After six years of the study of the Hebraic heritage of our faith and these last nine months studying early church history; I honestly have felt some confusion! It seems God likes to get me good and lost before He finds me! God’s feasts and holy law. . .verses the traditional church calendar and what many call the “new law of Christ”. If God is the same yesterday, today, and forever, then what of all this mess? That in itself would be a book to write, so I will stick with the current Holiday-Season and go with one theme.
I feel like for the first 27 years of my life a celebrated a Christ-mess! Several years ago the Lord asked us to lay all of that down. It was a little difficult but I honestly didn’t see what all the holiday mess really had to do with His incarnation anyway! Study of history showed that the Church more than likely took a pagan holiday and just put a big “Jesus” sticker on it to justify all the parties and revelry that was going on among pagans (and some Christians) during the Winter Solstice. So letting go of this didn’t really seem like a very big deal to us. Overeating, overspending, watching football and the Macy’s parade didn’t really seem too heretical to give up each December. We saw banners that read “Keep Christ in Christmas”. . . . So television shows like “Desperate Housewives” do a special Christmas episode and I am suppose to be happy that they have called it ‘Christmas’ and not ‘Holiday’! That’s what this big Christ-mess is. How did God’s holy named get dragged into the mud of celebrity albums, inappropriate holiday movies, and drunken parties? I asked myself why in the world and early church Christian would have mixed God in with the pagan revelry going on at the time. After MUCH study (and time) the mess is beginning to clear up a little. As it turns out, the early believers didn’t try to stick God’s name in the middle of the pagan festivities. They instead held a special MASS to honor Christ in the attempt to turn the pagans away from idolatry and to the Lord Jesus. If you are a Protestant you may have no idea what a MASS is. Well, that is part of what I researched this year. Mass comes from 'Missio' meaning: ‘to be sent forth’ of which is also derived the word 'Mission'. (Scripturally derived; see Mathew 28:19 -' go therefore and make disciples of all nations' Or again: Mark 16:15: 'go into all the world and proclaim the good news'.) If you have ever attended a Catholic Mass then you know the entire service is a proclaiming of the death, burial, and resurrection of the Lord. At the end of each Mass are the words: "Ite, Missa est”. . . or “Go, you are sent forth”. As in. . . now you are to go and proclaim the good news!
So in a pagan world the early believers held a special Christ-Mass to proclaim the good news to those who were worshiping the sun god. Come out and away from your partying, gluttony, selfish ambition, and idolatry and come and meet the One who brings light to the Nations!
Isaiah 9: 2 The people who walked in darkness have seen a great light; Those who dwelt in the land of the shadow of death, Upon them a light has shined.
If you are not Jewish, this verse is about you! (Remember before the birth of Christ, Israel is the only people group that knew the one true God.)
Now I must ask, what has happened? Through the years we may have kept Christ’s name involved but many of the practices of the heathen have been adopted in. The Christ-Mass was meant to draw people out of darkness and to the Light. It was meant to bring the nations to worship the one true God of Israel. How has this great Mass (telling) turned back into a mess over the centuries? That is not a question I can answer for anyone but myself. I had personally allowed Christ’s-Mass to become just a fun time to eat, drink, and be merry. A time for me to get stuff. A time for me to get time off of work. A time for me to; me to; me to. . . . (ME–ME- ME -ME! It’s all about ME!) Instead of letting the Light shine into my darkness, I had chosen to take on the ways of the nations and put Jesus as my ‘side dish’ each holiday season.
For six years my family has celebrated the nativity of our Lord in the fall during the Feast of Tabernacles. History gives a good argument for this being the accurate time and after all the scripture tells that:
The Word became flesh, and did tabernacle among us, and we beheld his glory, glory as of an only begotten of a father, full of grace and truth. (John 1:14)
This has been a great time of cleansing out all the dross in our life. (Okay, I guess it’s not all out yet, but we are working with the Lord on that!) It caused us to get rid of the mess we had allowed in. And though we will continue the celebration of His birth at Tabernacle, we have now had the Christ-mess cleared up and are able to see the original intention of the Christ-Mass.
This year we participated in Advent for the first time. Our family lit the advent candles while reciting the liturgy, prayers and scripture each week. We experienced a Chrismon service. Our children opened the Advent calendar and read the daily devotions that go with it. We really felt that time of “preparation”.
As for Christmas: We attended the actual Christ-Mass at St. Anne’s this morning. Then we took our children to the local nursing home to sing worship songs and give out gingerbread cookies to the residents. We talked with a sweet gentleman who was a little down as he no longer has any family. Perhaps, in a small way, we were able to bring Christ to him today. No gifts for us; for the gift of Immanuel has come to the gentiles! If you feel like you are stuck in the middle of all the mess that culture has created, don’t be afraid to take a time out, and bring the Light back into focus! How the Lord has you and your family bring this about will be different than my families journey. Just be open to His voice and allow Him to clean any mess that may have come in over the years.
May God’s peace rest on you, people of good will!
Fun at the Nursing Home!