Why does it matter?

Lev. 10 (ESV) Now Nadab and Abihu, the sons of Aaron, each took his censer and put fire in it and laid incense on it and offered unauthorized fire before the Lord, which he had not commanded them. And fire came out from before the Lord and consumed them, and they died before the Lord. Then Moses said to Aaron, “This is what the Lord has said: ‘Among those who are near me I will be sanctified, and before all the people I will be glorified.’” And Aaron held his peace.

Jeremiah 32 (NLT) 33 My people have turned their backs on me and have refused to return. Even though I diligently taught them, they would not receive instruction or obey. 34 They have set up their abominable idols right in my own Temple, defiling it. 35 They have built pagan shrines to Baal in the valley of Ben-Hinnom, and there they sacrifice their sons and daughters to Molech. I have never commanded such a horrible deed; it never even crossed my mind to command such a thing. What an incredible evil, causing Judah to sin so greatly!

Malachi 1 (ESV) “A son honors his father, and a servant his master. If then I am a father, where is my honor? And if I am a master, where is my fear? says the Lord of hosts to you, O priests, who despise my name. But you say, ‘How have we despised your name?’ By offering polluted food upon my altar. But you say, ‘How have we polluted you?’ By saying that the Lord‘s table may be despised. When you offer blind animals in sacrifice, is that not evil? And when you offer those that are lame or sick, is that not evil? Present that to your governor; will he accept you or show you favor? says the Lord of hosts.

This may be the first time you’ve read any of these passages. They may seem random, and they may not seem to make much sense. But, there is a common theme in these passages, and a very important lesson…Yahweh cares about HOW we worship Him, so much so, that, in the first passage, Yahweh killed Nadab and Abihu for presenting an offering in a way that was not commanded. In the second passage, it is understandable that Yahweh would see, as evil, setting up “abominable idols” in His Temple, building “pagan shrines”, and, most certainly, sacrificing “sons and daughters to Molech”. But notice, in the third passage, Yahweh also considers their deeds to be evil. The people were presenting offerings and sacrifices to Yahweh (which he commanded), however, because they were “polluted”, “blind”, and “lame or sick”, Yahweh considered their worship to Him as evil. Yahweh cares HOW we worship Him!

In the book of John, chapter 4, we can see what Yeshua has to say on this matter…23 “But the hour is coming, and is now here, when the true worshipers will worship the Father in spirit and truth, for the Father is seeking such people to worship him. 24 God is spirit, and those who worship him must worship in spirit and truth.”

We discovered in the previous studies that there is very little, if any, biblical truth to the celebration of Christmas. If this is the case, how can we worship the Father in the way that He seeks to be worshipped–in spirit and in TRUTH?

In Mark 7, we see Yeshua speaking on the subject again…And he said to them, “Well did Isaiah prophesy of you hypocrites, as it is written,

“‘This people honors me with their lips,
    but their heart is far from me;
in vain do they worship me,
    teaching as doctrines the commandments of men.’

You leave the commandment of God and hold to the tradition of men.”

And he said to them, “You have a fine way of rejecting the commandment of God in order to establish your tradition!

Could Yeshua speak these same words to Christians today? Are we rejecting Yahweh’s commands in order to continue in our beloved (man-made) Christmas tradition?

Deuteronomy 12 (ESV) 29 “When the Lord your God cuts off before you the nations whom you go in to dispossess, and you dispossess them and dwell in their land, 30 take care that you be not ensnared to follow them, after they have been destroyed before you, and that you do not inquire about their gods, saying, ‘How did these nations serve their gods?—that I also may do the same.’ 31 You shall not worship the Lord your God in that way, for every abominable thing that the Lord hates they have done for their gods, for they even burn their sons and their daughters in the fire to their gods.

Jeremiah 10 (ESV) Thus says the Lord:

Learn not the way of the nations,
    nor be dismayed at the signs of the heavens
    because the nations are dismayed at them,
for the customs of the peoples are vanity.
A tree from the forest is cut down
    and worked with an axe by the hands of a craftsman.
They decorate it with silver and gold;
    they fasten it with hammer and nails
    so that it cannot move…”

This generation of Christians (you and I) did not inquire how anyone was worshipping their false god, so it is rather easy for us to remove the celebration of Christmas from its four thousand year old pagan roots, “But do not overlook this one fact, beloved, that with the Lord one day is as a thousand years, and a thousand years as one day.” (2 Peter 3:8)

I will end with this–very often, Yeshua would speak in parables. He would tell a story about something that his audience could identify with, and then he would tell them the deeper, spiritual significance behind that story. I heard a man tell a story once that has stuck with me. I cannot recall what the man’s purpose was in telling this story, but it has stuck with me because of the point Yahweh wanted to make to me, through it.

The story is as follows…

In my neighborhood, just a few houses down from mine, lived a woman and her teenage son. She got home from work one day, opened the garage, and found her son dead; he had hanged himself. Some time later, a young couple moved into the house across the street from this woman. This couple loved decorating for the holidays. One of their favorites was Halloween. Every year they would set up Halloween scenes in their front yard. Among other Halloween decorations was a dummy hanging from their tree. It seemed like an innocent decoration, but, every time the woman would look out her window, or step outside, for the couple of weeks around Halloween, she would be painfully reminded of her son’s tragic death. The couple didn’t know of the woman’s past, or that of her son. They certainly were not deliberately offending her, or in any way trying to hurt her. Nevertheless, every year, for that woman, old wounds were made fresh again.

I know that you are not deliberately trying to offend or hurt Yahweh. But because of where Christmas came from, because of all the traditions attached to it, and because of the date it is celebrated on, Christmas is a painful reminder to Yahweh. It is a painful reminder that those, chosen by Him, chose to worship another. It is a painful reminder of innocent lives being sacrificed to false gods. It is a painful reminder of abominations, horrible deeds, and incredible evil.

Please pray that Yahweh would reveal His truth to you on this matter.

 

 

 

 

 

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Why does it matter?

Why, Then, Do We Celebrate Christmas on December 25?

Did you know…Christmas as an American holiday is only 150 years old. In fact, for some time, Christmas was seen as decadent–characterized by or reflecting a state of moral or cultural decline.

If we travel back to the 17th century… (From History.com) “When Oliver Cromwell and his Puritan forces took over England in 1645, they vowed to rid England of decadence and, as part of their effort, cancelled Christmas… The pilgrims, English separatists that came to America in 1620, were even more orthodox in their Puritan beliefs than Cromwell. As a result, Christmas was not a holiday in early America. From 1659 to 1681, the celebration of Christmas was actually outlawed in Boston. Anyone exhibiting the Christmas spirit was fined five schillings.”

Christmas slowly became more accepted, and was declared a federal holiday in America on June 26, 1870 (less than 150 years ago), but didn’t gain much popularity until the late 1800s/early 1900s when a great opportunity was recognized by greeting card companies, Coca Cola, and others willing to capitalize on gift giving and tree decorating.

However, even though Christmas was unpopular in America until fairly recently, it did exist, and was celebrated, elsewhere. Let’s travel back to the 4th century to find its inception.

The first time you will find mention of December 25 being linked to the birth of Christ is in Rome, 336AD. In fact, up until this point, the birth of Christ wasn’t really celebrated at all. So, what was going on at this time in history, that December 25 was chosen as the day to celebrate Yeshua’s birth? (From allaboutjesuschrist.org) “At that time, two prominent pagan winter festivals were celebrated. The first, starting on December 17 and lasting seven days, honored Saturn, the Roman god of agriculture. The second, starting on December 25 and lasting through January 1, commemorated the birth of Mithras, the Persian god of light. Constantine (the Roman Emperor) merged many of the traditions from these festivals with the Nativity story in the Bible and Christmas was born.” So, whether he was trying to unify his empire, or trying to make it easier to convert to Christianity, Constantine thought it a good idea to blend Christian and pagan traditions (we’ll find out how God feels about this in the next study).

So, we have come to find out that until the 4th century, Christians were not observing Christ’s birth (on December 25 or any other day). It turns out, though, that December 25 was already being celebrated up until this point, with its beginning dating back thousands of years before Yeshua was even born. Let’s go back in time a little further then, to find out who was celebrating, and, what (or who) the celebrations were about.

In Genesis 10, we are introduced to Nimrod, son of Cush, grandson of Ham, and great-grandson of Noah. Someone we are not introduced to is Semiramis, Nimrod’s mother and wife. That’s right; when her husband, Cush, started losing popularity and power, Semiramis married her own son, Nimrod, who was gaining popularity and power. By marrying Nimrod, Semiramis could maintain her position of authority. Once Nimrod was murdered, however, Semiramis was, once again, in danger of losing all she had. It wasn’t long before she came up with a plan…

Recall the prophecy given in Genesis 3:15. “I will put enmity between you and the woman, and between your offspring and her offspring; he shall bruise your head, and you shall bruise his heel.” This prophecy was well-known to the people of that time (remember this was only 3 generations after Noah, and 13 from Adam). What the prophecy meant was that, one day, a savior would be born. This savior would bruise the head of the serpent in order to save the people from their sins. Semiramis believed that if she could convince the world  that her unborn son was the one who would “save the world”, she might still retain her power. If her unborn child was “the promised seed”, he would practically be a god. According to Semiramis, her unborn child was Nimrod reborn. According to her, Nimrod reincarnated himself in her womb. Semiramis “slept with no man,” and became pregnant by his “holy” spirit. (Sound familiar?)

In the end, Nimrod was seen as a martyr, who died for the sins of the whole  world, and rose again as this child, and, Semiramis was looked at as “the great mother”. Semiramis, Nimrod, and the child, Tammuz became deified.

Throughout history, in just about every culture, these three, a”trinity” of false gods, have been honored and celebrated. However, in every culture, they were known by different names. Common names for Semiramis and Tammuz include:  Isis and Osiris/Horus, Cybele and Deoius, Fortuna and Jupiter. Two more names for Tammuz, that may ring a bell, are Mithras and Saturn. If you will recall, the births of Mithras and Saturn were both celebrated on, or around December 25.

Now that we have discovered why Christmas is celebrated on December 25, let’s look at some of the traditions that go along with this holiday…

The Christmas Tree…Nobody is really sure when Fir trees were first used as Christmas trees. It probably began about 1000 years ago in Northern Europe. The evergreen fir tree has traditionally been used to celebrate winter festivals (pagan and Christian) for thousands of years. Pagans used branches of it to decorate their homes during the winter solstice, as it made them think of the spring to come. The Romans used Fir Trees to decorate their temples at the festival of Saturnalia.

Wreaths…Since ancient Greece and Rome, the wreath has been used as a symbol of power and strength. In Rome and Greece, kings and emperors often wore laurel wreathes as crowns – a practice they themselves borrowed from the Etruscans, who predated them. The Greeks and the Romans connected the laurel wreath to their sun god, Apollo, and considered the crown to embody his values.

Gift Giving…During Saturnalia, children would often be given gifts of wax dolls. These dolls were used to represent human sacrifices that Rome had given to Saturn in the past as payment for good harvests. Boughs of certain trees and other plant matter were also common gifts during Saturnalia, and were used to represent bounty and good harvests.

Mistletoe…Mistletoe has a large mythological background across many cultures. The Greeks believed that Aeneas, the famous ancestor of the Romans carried a sprig of mistletoe in the form of the legendary golden bough. In Eddic tradition, mistletoe was the only thing able to kill the god Baldur, since it had not sworn an oath to leave him alone. Amongst other pre-Christian cultures, mistletoe was believed to carry the male essence, and by extension, romance, fertility, and vitality.

And, the list could go on.

Of course, the vast majority of people celebrating Christmas are doing it to honor the birth of Yeshua (who wasn’t born that day), and not to honor Tammuz, or any other false god (many, of whom, were born that day). From the Christian’s perspective, this is a holiday all about Christ.

What is God’s perspective on the matter?

 

Why, Then, Do We Celebrate Christmas on December 25?

When was Yeshua born?

With 90% of all Americans, and 33% of the entire world celebrating Christ’s birth on December 25th, the question has to be asked…Can millions of people be wrong?

Was Yeshua really born on Christmas day? Does the bible even tell us when Yeshua was born?

To answer these questions, we will first look at when Yeshua WASN’T born…

According to Luke’s account of the birth of our Messiah…

” And in the same region there were shepherds out in the field, keeping watch over their flock by night (Luke 2:8 ESV)” to whom an angel announced Yeshua’s birth.

Believe it or not, this one sentence tells us a great deal about the timing of Yeshua’s birth.  Since the shepherds were still in the field with their sheep, it is unlikely, almost impossible, that this would have been in the winter.  As the weather turned colder and the rainy season began,  sheep were normally brought into centrally located pens or corrals, especially at night. The latest that shepherds would have been seen in the fields watching over their flocks by night, would have been about September or early October (and then not again until spring).

Our next clues also come from Luke’s account…

Luke 2 (KJV) And it came to pass in those days, that there went out a decree from Caesar Augustus that all the world should be taxed. (And this taxing was first made when Cyrenius was governor of Syria.) And all went to be taxed, every one into his own city. And Joseph also went up from Galilee, out of the city of Nazareth, into Judaea, unto the city of David, which is called Bethlehem; (because he was of the house and lineage of David) 5to be taxed with Mary his espoused wife, being great with child. And so it was, that, while they were there, the days were accomplished that she should be delivered. And she brought forth her firstborn son, and wrapped him in swaddling clothes, and laid him in a manger; because there was no room for them in the inn.

We can take two things from this passage. First, Caesar sent out a decree that all should be taxed. This taxation would have most likely taken place in the fall. (From bible study.org) “When it came to taxes, Rome knew what it was doing. It commanded a taxation census be taken when the people of the land had the free time (right after the big fall harvest), the money (from the harvest) and weather to permit them to travel.” Second, there was no room in the inn.  This would have likely been the case during the fall feast days, when God, himself, required that all Israelite males make a pilgrimage to Jerusalem (Exodus 23, Deut. 16). During these pilgrimages, Jerusalem would have been overflowing with people, so that even the surrounding towns would have had no room in their inns (Bethlehem is only 5 miles from Jerusalem).

So, we can see from the first 8 verses of Luke 2 that Yeshua was most likely not born in December. It is more likely that he was born in the fall. But, is there any other support for this, and, does the bible give us anything more specific?

To get a more definitive answer to when Yeshua was born, we will have to follow a trail, starting with Zechariah.

From Luke 1 (ESV)…

In the days of Herod, king of Judea, there was a priest named Zechariah, of the division of Abijah. And he had a wife from the daughters of Aaron, and her name was Elizabeth…Now while he was serving as priest before God when his division was on duty…11 there appeared to him an angel of the Lord standing on the right side of the altar of incense…13 the angel said to him, “Do not be afraid, Zechariah, for your prayer has been heard, and your wife Elizabeth will bear you a son, and you shall call his name John”… 23 And when his time of service was ended, he went to his home. 24 After these days his wife Elizabeth conceived…

This passage will start to give us a timeline. We see that John was conceived right after the time of Zechariah’s temple duty was completed. So, when did Zechariah serve as priest? If we take note that Zechariah was of the division of Abijah, we can find the answer in 1 Chronicles 24.

According to God’s instructions, King David divided the sons of Eleazar and Ithamar, the sons of Aaron, into 24 groups. This would allow the Temple of the Lord to be staffed with priests all year round in an orderly manner. After the 24 groups of priests were established, lots were drawn to determine the sequence in which each group would serve in the Temple. The sequence can be found in 1 Chronicles 24:7-19, but suffice it to say, the order of Abijah was the 8th course. Now, each one of the 24 “courses” of priests would begin and end their service in the Temple on the Sabbath. Three times a year, all Israelite males were required to travel to Jerusalem for feasts of the Lord, so on those occasions all the priests would be needed in the Temple to accommodate the many sacrifices offered by the crowds (same feasts as mentioned above, so, again you can refer to Exodus 23 and Deut. 16.)

(Taken from biblelight.net) The Jewish calendar begins in the spring, during the month of Nisan (Est 3:7), so the first “course” of priests, would be that of the family of Jehoiarib, who would serve for the first week of Nisan, Sabbath to Sabbath. The second week would then be the responsibility of the family of Jedaiah. The third week would be the feast of Unleavened Bread, and all priests would be present for service. Then the schedule would resume with the third course of priests, the family of Harim. By this plan, when the 24th course was completed, the general cycle of courses would repeat. This schedule would cover 51 weeks or 357 days, enough for the lunar Jewish calendar (about 354 days). So, in a period of a year, each group of priests would serve in the Temple twice on their scheduled course, in addition to the 3 major festivals, for a total of about five weeks of duty.

If you’re not quite following along with all of this, don’t worry. I know that it may seem confusing. Hopefully, it will start to make more sense as we get back to Zechariah. (Also, below, you can find a link to a chart that might help make better sense of things.)

Because Zechariah was of the order of Abijah, and the order of Abijah was the 8th order, we know that Zechariah served in the Temple the 10th week of the year, or the 2nd week of the Hebrew month, Sivan. Therefore, based on what we read in Luke 1, Elizabeth would have conceived during the 3rd week of Sivan. Now, the reason that all of that information was important…

Luke 1 (ESV)24 After these days his wife Elizabeth conceived, and for five months she kept herself hidden, saying, 25 “Thus the Lord has done for me in the days when he looked on me, to take away my reproach among people.” 26 In the sixth month the angel Gabriel was sent from God to a city of Galilee named Nazareth, 27 to a virgin betrothed to a man whose name was Joseph, of the house of David. And the virgin’s name was Mary…35 And the angel answered her, “The Holy Spirit will come upon you, and the power of the Most High will overshadow you; therefore the child to be born will be called holy—the Son of God. 36 And behold, your relative Elizabeth in her old age has also conceived a son, and this is the sixth month with her who was called barren… 39 In those days Mary arose and went with haste into the hill country, to a town in Judah, 40 and she entered the house of Zechariah and greeted Elizabeth…56 And Mary remained with her about three months and returned to her home. 57 Now the time came for Elizabeth to give birth, and she bore a son.

We should now have all of the information we need to piece together when Yeshua was born. Elizabeth conceived during the 3rd week of Sivan. 4o weeks later, she gave birth to a son, John the Baptist, during the middle of Nisan, which coincides with the Passover and the Feast of Unleavened Bread. Knowing that Mary conceived 6 months after her cousin, Elizabeth, we can see that the conception of Yeshua would have been in the later part of Kislev (which is the same time as Hanukkah, also known as the Feast of Dedication and Festival of Lights; but that’s a whole study in itself). 40 weeks later, and 6 months after John’s birth, we can see that Yeshua would have been born in the middle of Tishri–precisely the time of Feast of Tabernacles!

Just for fun, let’s look at one more piece of information to corroborate what we’ve already learned. We will look at the end of Yeshua’s life to give us some information about the beginning. We know that Yeshua’s ministry lasted for a period of 3 1/2 years (42 months) until His crucifixion on Passover, and Luke tells us (in chapter 3 verse 23) that Yeshua began his ministry when he “began to be about thirty.” Therefore, Yeshua was crucified, on Passover, at about 33 1/2 years old. If you move back 6 months from Passover, you land right on the fall feast of Sukkot (Feast of Tabernacles).

 

Order of Abijah

When was Yeshua born?