Christmas is commercialized, but there are deeper meanings for the season

January 1, 2014 

Christians around the world prepare to celebrate the birth of Jesus Christ (Yeshua the Messiah) during December.

Christmas trees go up, shopping malls are filled, and the mail is full of greeting cards. Music also lets us know the season of Christmas has arrived, as we hear songs that are familiar.

With all the business that surrounds Christmas, here is one concern and two considerations for fellow believers to ponder.

My concern is the dilution of celebrating Yeshua’s arrival with the secularization of our culture. The technical term for this mixing of things that essentially differ is syncretism.

With all the purchases made and the money spent on Christmas, it seems the only “winners” are the merchants. Many Christians go further in debt just to impress others, or because they feel obligated to provide a gift.

Besides the commercialization of Christmas, even the music of the season causes syncretism. Songs like “O Holy Night” are followed by the trivial “I saw Mommy kissing Santa Claus,” so is it any wonder that non-believers are confused about the meaning of this season?

With all the stuff believers do during the season, little time is allowed for really focusing or celebrating Yeshua’s birth. The fact that a prominent slogan during this time is “Jesus is the reason for the season” alerts us that we have diluted the season, or we wouldn’t need the slogan.

I urge my fellow believers to spend less and volunteer more during the Christmas season, and to focus on those who really need our help.

Here are a few other points for your consideration:

On the Gregorian calendar, the day of Yeshua’s birth is Dec. 25. For now, I will forego giving the history of how modern Christianity arrived at the 25th as the day to celebrate Messiah’s advent.

Within the Biblical text, there is an alternative calendar that operates based on what the Bible calls the “appointed times.” For a thorough accounting of these Holy Days, I direct your attention to Leviticus 23.

As the Hebrew Scriptures were the only Bible for the writers of the New Testament, the Holy Days of Leviticus 23 are the operative calendar at the time of Yeshua’s birth.

Many of my fellow believers are unaware that a completely different calendar system regulates the Bible. Space prevents me from laying out the details, but suffice it to say that Yeshua’s birth was connected with the festival of Sukkot, or what modern translations call “Tabernacles.”

Sukkot memorialized the deliverance/salvation that Israel experienced as it came out of Egyptian captivity. After their salvation from Egypt, the children of Israel lived in makeshift huts or booths knows as sukkahs.

Sukkot requires that, every year, for eight days, the time of G-d’s provision in the wilderness be remembered. During Sukkot, small booths are constructed, and Jews live and sit in the sukkah for eight days.

Yeshua’s birth occurred during the festival of Sukkot, but we miss that connection and its implications if we are focused solely on Dec. 25.

My challenge is for all believers to study the Biblical festivals, as they are relevant and have much to commend them. Yeshua’s first coming and second coming are based on the festivals of Leviticus 23.

Also, consider the book of Luke, especially chapter 2. There are only two gospels that give us narrative regarding Yeshua’s birth, and Luke is one (Matthew is the other).

During December, Luke 2 is read in churches around the world, but I want to focus your attention on parts of Luke 2 that you might have neglected before.

Many Christians read only the first 20 verses of Luke 2, but I want to focus our attention on verses 21 and following.

In Luke 2:21, we are informed that Yeshua was circumcised on the eighth day. For the Hebrew Scripture background of circumcision, see Genesis 17:1-11.

In verse 22, we are told that Miriam (Yeshua’s mother) purified herself with an immersion based on Leviticus 12 and did so “according to the law of Moses.”

In verse 23, Yeshua’s parents offer a sacrifice and “redeem” their son based on Exodus 13:11-16, Numbers 3:38-51 and Exodus 13:2.

Verses 21-24 of Luke 2 reveal that Yeshua’s parents (Joseph and Miriam) were devout observers of the Torah commands within Hebrew Scripture.

Skipping down to verse 41 of Luke 2, we see that Yeshua’s parents observed the “appointed times” I mentioned. Yeshua was born to a family that was meticulous in obedience to the Hebrew Scripture.

Is it any wonder that, born into a Jewish family, in the land of Israel, immersed in the Hebrew Scripture, we find Yeshua also immersed in these same texts?

As you celebrate Christmas this year, I hope you read Luke 2 and focus on the family lifestyle Yeshua was birthed into.

On Faith columnist Brent Emery can be reached by email at torah4today@comcast.net.

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