I am, at times, somewhat of an extremist. When I was a child my parents always told me I should be a lawyer because I was always arguing for some cause. At least when I get a new revelation about something, I become very passionate about it and I also want other people to be passionate about it. I remember when I first became a vegetarian at 21 years old, I knew about 3 other people in my city that were vegetarians (this was 1991, before half the population became vegetarian). I had read a book on the unethical practices of the cattle industry and it rocked my thinking. And I took my new beliefs like weapons to all my friends and family. I had once a long argument with my father (who grew up on a farm raising cattle), about his “terrible diet”. Looking back, I know now how ridiculously immature I was about presenting my new thoughts.
But the older I’ve gotten the more aware I’ve become of how my viewpoints actually affect people–I know they do because I have a strong voice–and especially if something is worth teaching, then it is worth being patient with some things. So I have learned to keep a lot of things quiet until they mature in me, and then share them with the right people at the right time.
I know I am not alone in this. There are a lot of us out there, when we get free in some way, or liberated from something, we want to tear the ceilings off of people. That’s a good thing, but there are times when you shepherd people, and guide them into finding it themselves. And especially guide them into finding their own expression of it which may look radically different from yours or mine.
One subject that is very near to my heart and informs a lot of my thoughts is, for example, the reconnecting of Christianity with its Jewish roots. Derek and I have many Jewish friends and feel strongly about the need for reconnection. But there are many things that still have yet to be revealed in this area and sometimes Christians do get legalistic about this stuff, so I know not to get preachy about it. But we feel strongly enough about that we personally are tuned in to Jewish cycles, teachings, and spirituality. We are tuned in quite organically to this, in some ways more organically than we are tuned into some of the Christian cycles.
For example, I really understand, physically and spiritually, why the Jewish New Year begins in autumn and not in the dead of winter. I understand this in part because I am a gardener and now know the cycles of seasons and how autumn is a time of harvest and looking forward. However, I still feel like the January New Year is still important because people make decisions and it is a changeover in many people’s calendars, and cultural, governmental and economic shifts happen at this time.
Same goes for Christmas, and even more so because at Christmas there is a focus on Jesus–at least for some. Two years ago Derek and I decided to not celebrate Christmas because we were genuinely wondering whether or not we would feel it if we didn’t. I wondered that, since Christmas was a rather arbitrarily settled holiday and not a holiday that the early Christians celebrated, if it was something that God celebrated. Now regardless of what you think here, hear me out. We were just trying to decide this for ourselves.
I do not want to be a person who preaches Jewishness, even though as a prophetic person I see the connections and look forward to the day when Christians and Jews will become the “one new man” that has been spoken about. I don’t want to do that because the early Jewish fathers of the church already struggled with what to do, and made their decision on it–by giving the gentile nations freedom in most areas of religious practice, so that nations would be free to express Jesus in their identity. Even though we’ve come a long way from them, to the point of the church’s center leaving its Jewish roots altogether, it will one day return there, in a surprisingly beautiful organic way we aren’t expecting.
Personally, Christmas has been a difficult holiday for me. From the time I was about 12 years old I had “split” Christmases–one with dad, one with mom. Or if the Christmas was together, it was always kind of awkward. Then as I grew older and other adults divorced among friends and aunts and uncles, there were new husbands and new celebrations. Something about these adjusted families always felt unstable to me, and rightfully so. So I honestly never looked forward to Christmas.
Personal experiences aside, I had to decide whether or not Christmas was right for me. I do not think it is a non-negotiable–i.e., I don’t think Christmas is a doctrine that we’re all going to get judged on. But I don’t believe in the other extreme, either–that it’s something to do away with either because of the commercialism it has been steeped in, or because it was some arbitrarily reconstituted pagan holiday.
But the last 2 years, I have genuinely wondered: God, do you celebrate Christmas? And then I read something yesterday by a respected Christian worship leader, and it really struck my heart:
Thinking of the Christmas season, I’ve heard all about the pagan origins and that we shouldn’t celebrate it because of them. I really feel that Satan would love nothing better than for the church to disengage from Christmas, and let the world just celebrate Santa Claus and the “magic” of Christmas. Every year he tries to kill the growth of anything to do with the celebration of Jesus’ birth. If you are going to celebrate Jesus’ birthday at all, no matter when you did it, I can guarantee you it would be some sort of pagan holiday somewhere. Since it’s been picked as December 25, let’s celebrate Him then.
To me, one day is no different than any other day, but to other people it is. My plan is to take advantage of the heightened awareness that Jesus’ birth is being celebrated, even if it is the wrong day. I am going to worship Him and not be scared off by some winter celebration of some stupid ice god or solstice or whatever they celebrated at the same time.
I think he’s right. I think we can find just about anything that’s Christian and find some pagan root to it. We can take just about any Christian symbol and make a cheap product out if it, too. But I think Jesus is bigger than that and He can handle it. Jesus is lord over the creation, the seasons and the holidays, including all the symbols. He is lord over the trees, even the ones pagans used. Why don’t we proclaim it? As well, He is Lord over gift-giving. I just don’t think He’s going to wipe away the Roman-ness of the church. He used it and will use it. He is not going to turn the whole church into Jewish cycles. He made that clear in Scriptures. I think we will be celebrating some of their holidays more, but if that is true to us. (The Feast of Tabernacles is the only requirement that scriptures say all nations will celebrate).
So, last year we went to visit both of our families and did a proper Christmas. We tried the no-Christmas the year before, so the next year we made the family Christmas. Christmas Sunday we went to Derek’s parents church, and listened to a beautiful sermon and the huge choir singing Handel’s Messiah. I wept as I always do when I hear this–what a bone-chilling song announcing the birth of the true king. This year Christmas is going to be about my spiritual family and friends.
I look forward to seeing Brian and Whitney’s new baby. A boy!
Mark and Hannah just had their baby. A boy!
A new friend has moved to Austin. Shannon is finally back in England. Another new beginning for her. Other friends are stepping out and starting businesses, moving to new cities, new countries, taking new risks. It is new, new new.
So many beginnings happening right now, I guess this year is really about birth! Jesus birthing himself, more incarnation of him, more new lives, more new ground being taken, more and more of his skin, blood, love, mind coming into the world and taking form.