24 days of Christmas: Why I don’t believe in Christmas (by Hannah)

Hannah is a photographer/illustrator based in Manchester, madly excited about spending Christmas on Zanzibar this year.

Why I don’t believe in Christmas

I don’t believe in Christmas.

I don’t believe in Santa. I don’t believe in over-indulging. I don’t believe in Christmas carols. I don’t believe in the baby Jesus. I don’t believe the peace and goodwill. I don’t believe the crazed materialism sanctioned as ‘generosity’. I don’t believe the sentiment. I don’t believe the hype.

What makes this more surprising? Well, I’m a Christian. I’m a Christian and I don’t believe in Christmas. But somehow it’s reached the point where saying such things is considered a heresy, especially in church.

Let’s be clear though: Christmas is not Christian. The midwinter festival has been celebrated in Britain long before Christianity reached our shores and for all the religious overtones it has since been given, I’d argue there is still as much secular/pagan influence as ever. The only way St Augustine could see to stop people celebrating 25th December as a pagan festival when converting the country in the 6th century AD, was to call it by another name, so he held a Mass for Christ on it. And the Catholic church began using the date to celebrate Jesus’ birth.

But does that make it Christian? And as a Christian, should I feel obliged to celebrate it? I don’t think so, and I’d like to encourage other Christians that may feel unenthusiastic about it that there is another way!

Looking to the Bible, there’s largely silence around Jesus’ birth. Yes, two of the gospels describe the story (both less so than his death and resurrection) but Mark and John don’t even feel the need to mention it. We have no record of Jesus ever speaking about it. Most importantly for me, he never told us to remember his birth, like he specifically did his death and resurrection. Likewise, Paul never talked about Christmas, and in fact preached against being duty bound to celebrate any festivals of any kind (Colossians 2).

Yes, his coming to earth was an incredible, amazing event. But the trouble with remembering Jesus as a baby is that we end up relating to him as a helpless infant and forget that the baby no longer exists – he is now a grown 33yr old man, son of God, living judge and ruler and will be returning to earth.

“The Word became flesh and tabernacled among us.” (John 1:14)

The bible teacher, David Pawson, thinks it’s quite likely the date of Jesus’ birth was actually during the Feast of Tabernacles, in the autumn. Interestingly, Jews to this day look forward to the coming of the Messiah at this festival. I wonder if there isn’t some significance God wants us to see in that, just in that Jesus died at Passover. In any case, it seems to me that would be a much more suitable opportunity to celebrate his expected return, than Christmas.
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Hannah’s post is the first in a series of posts over the Christmas period. Please feel free to comment on what Hannah has shared, and haste ye back for more guest bloggers who will be sharing over the next 24 days. You can find all the posts so far by clicking here.

How Noah flew to the moon

In the last month my godson has officially made ‘minister’s kid’ status. My friend is now a Probationary Minister with ‘the kirk’ (as we call it in Scotland) in the church another friend is the Minister at. I love it when my prayer turns out to be God’s plan!! Apparently my friends were having lunch with the minister’s family (also friends of mine) who had asked them how they knew me. The Minister’s wife apparently exclaimed ‘Oh!!!! Your son is Elastababy!!!!” as they put two and two together meeting my friends, and recognising their children from photos on facebook.

Hee hee.

Anyway. The pressure to be a good godparent is really on now.

Last summer, the one known as ‘Elastatoddler’ came to the conclusion that the wise men brought the baby Jesus cupcakes when I read his nativity storybook with him.

Well. Tonight I was on the bedtime story duty again.

After ‘The Very Hungry Caterpillar‘ (excellent choice Elastatoddler!) he pulled out a storybook of ‘Noah and the Ark‘.

I read the first line: ‘Many years ago, there was a man who was good and faithful to God. His name was…’

Elastatoddler: ‘NOAH!!!!’

Auntie Laurie: Yes! That’s right!

Around this moment, Elastatoddler got very excited, bounced on the sofa and knocked Mr Teapot’s spaceship toy flying.

Elastatoddler: ‘And Noah built a SPACE ROCKET!’

Auntie Laurie: ‘ummm….no, I don’t think Noah built a Space Rocket’

Elastatoddler: “Yes he did! There was a flood and Noah built a Space Rocket!!!’

After some debate, we did agree that Noah had built an ark, but Elastatoddler still maintains that after Noah built an ark, he also built a Space Rocket and flew to the moon. We then moved onto a book of children’s devotions he pulled out from the bookshelf, and opened it up to the story about Jesus as a child visiting Jerusalem during Pentecost, and based on pictures is adamant that there was a castle in Jerusalem like Edinburgh castle.

Soooo, to sum up:

Three wise men brought cupcakes to Jesus when he was born.

Noah built an ark, and afterwards built a space rocket.

Jerusalem has a castle just like the one in Edinburgh.

Hopefully I did redeem my ‘Auntie/Godmother’ status by helping him with the number 4, learning how to read and some adding skills.

 

Zophar: Enemy of the Emetophobic

I ran into an unexpected obstacle this week while doing the bible in one year.

Zophar’s rant at Job.

There was so no need for that particular analogy Mr Zophar! Nor to go into such graphic detail.

It actually took me a couple of days before I was able to pick up and continue the daily readings from the book of Job.

I did consider doing what the character of Joey from Friends would do, which is to put my bible in the freezer.

Only I don’t have a freezer.

So I didn’t.

Anyway. I’m caught up now, ready for Day 38 tomorrow.

And I’ve made a note in my journal to make sure I skip Job Chapter 20 if I’m ever headed in that particular direction of God’s Word again, and any other folks who have emetophobia & are thinking of reading the bible may want to do the same. And also avoid the pilot episode of NCIS too.

Bible commentary from a pregnancy counsellor…

“There Judah met the daughter of a Canannite man named Shua. He married her and lay with her; she became pregnant and gave birth to a son and named him Onan”

- Genesis 38:2-3 (NIV)

So I’m now on Day 19 of The Bible in One Year. A lot of the readings from Genesis (first book of the bible) have included sentences like these.

And I’d just like to say, I’m pretty sure Judah did more than just ‘lay’ with his wife for her to become pregnant.

Laying in the same bed does not a child conceive.

Sexual intercourse without contraception (and occasionally even with contraception) does. I mean yeah, you might be horizontal while doing this, but it does require a bit more energy and activity than simply laying next to someone. ;)

You know. Just in case any of you were freaking out after you accidentally fall asleep in a pew next to a guy in church or something — you don’t need to come to me for a pregnancy test. :)

On another note about Judah & Shua: they named their son Er.

Yes.

Er.

That sound you make when you aren’t sure about something or what to say.

Way to give your kid a complex in early life and make him feel secure. 8O

Of all the controversial things I could write..

…I never thought that mentioning that I’m attempting to read the bible in one year would be one of them.

But apparently I was wrong.

Because on Wednesday, when 100s of us all over the country opened our Bible in One Year bibles to begin this little adventure, I posted the following on facebook:

Well. My friend (who to my knowledge isn’t a Christian) was the first to reply, and said he understood. Other comments followed that were nothing major. People ‘liked’ my status. And then 2 people decided to discourage me from doing it because it’s ‘really all about meditation’, and ‘reading one verse a day is better’.

Now don’t get me wrong. I TOTALLY understand where these guys are coming from. What’s the use of reading something and not taking it in, or applying to my own life if I believe it to be true?

BUT…do you realise some of my friends who do not have any faith beliefs have actually read the bible (plus the mormon bible and the Qu’ran…)? And yet I’ve never read the whole bible, and profess to be a Christian.

I don’t know the whole story.

I mean of course I know the basic principles and important bits. It’s kind of like how I could read an episode summary of a TV show though…I know the key plot points and the exciting bits, but unless I watch the whole thing, I have no idea how the story unfolds.

So I’m frickin’ well going to read it so I do.

Will it get tedious? Probably.

Will some of it go completely over my head? Yup. I hit the genealogy of Noah today in the book of Genesis….wooooossshhhh – SPLAT! Over my head. I couldn’t have given a toss about who was married to who or born to who or how many years they lived really. But at least I know it sounds a little weird. At least I’ve discovered another part of the story I didn’t know before. At least I was reminded of bits of history I’d previously forgotten.

I do want to make it clear that I don’t think that reading the whole bible makes me any better or worse a Christian or any more loved by God than I believe I already am.

This is just something I feel it’s important to do.

Plus it’s an encouraged requirement of the course I’m about to embark on in a month’s time when I begin Inter:act.

And do you know what’s more sad? People saw the comments on that status, and they’ve brought them up with me. I’m not sure it was the best witness in the world.

As my friend who is training to be a church minister (and has done a lot of children & youth work) said to me yesterday “It’s one of the most common things children ask me: Have you read all the bible?…How does it look to them when you say ‘No’?”

I think he makes an excellent point. :)

Bible in a Year

One of the things I was semi-dreading about Inter:act was the idea of attempting (once again) to read the bible in the space of a year. I had taken a glimpse of the reading plan, which is similar to one that was given to me the first time I attempted it (reading the bible in chronological order). My heart sank with a deep ‘ugggggghhhh’.

So imagine how excited I was to go to Momentum last week and discover this:

I saw them in the marketplace, and then Mike and Andy explained at one of the main meetings that they’d decided to put a reading plan starting from September 1st where every day we’d all be reading a bit of Old Testament, New Testament and a Psalm/Proverb each day.

A few good things about this.

1. Every day there’ll be an opportunity to share on the Soul Survivor Bible in a year blog – so we’re not just reading but actually thinking and meditating on it

2. Some guys who go to my church have also bought this bible. And I may have bought a second one for somebody. That means we’re all in this together (and I’ve given permission to one of the guys to keep me accountable!)

3. I’m not going to be spending a month reading just Leviticus, Numbers or something (ie one of the more tedious and dull books of the bible…sorry, but you gotta admit it’s not the most exciting read when you’re reading about family trees or obscure examples of the laws they had back before Jesus times!). You’ve got a little bit of something easier to read with your dull bit. It’s kind of like when you have to eat a gross vegetable, and it helps to put something tastier on your fork with it. :)

So as of September 1st we’re going to be reading the bible all together…..100s, maybe 1000s of us!

Feel free to join us!

The calm in the storm

The last week has not been good (that may be a mild understatement…lol). You ever hear that phrase “you gotta take the bitter with the sweet“?

The sweet – the ceilidh went well, we’ve got some lovely people who are wanting to join our youth and schools team at the centre.

The bitter – the work is piling on. I’m running on empty, and I’m exhausted. I’m seeing so much need and not sure what to do about it. I think I need to re-learn that word….what is it….um….oh yeah! No.

Today was a really pants day. I didn’t sleep well last night. My head was spinning and had a very illuminating chat with friends in the car home from smallgroup. There’s been more of that today…like I said I’m seeing so much need and not sure what to do about it.

Work got really stressful (I left 3.5 hours late today) and in the middle of it I got an e-mail from my best friend in Aberdeen around lunchtime…I started to pour out what had been going on lately and then I lost the whole reply back to her. I started to try and a new piece of work done, and realised that I was staring at a blank computer screen, so upset, so totally wiped out that I just couldn’t do it.

Time to take some time out Laura Anne... I felt God say.

So I did. I found a CD of worship music written by a guy I used to work with, Eddie Thomson. Put it on the computer, prayed and then took The Shaming of the Strong off the bookshelf and read for a bit.

And it put everything into perspective.

I returned to work refreshed and with a lot more peace and clarity for the task in hand.

I did later have a stressed out moment at 4.35 p.m. realising I hadn’t got my road tax and had to make a mad rush to the nearest post office. I grabbed a Starbucks on the way back to fuel my last slog to the finish line.

But you know, I actually felt guilty for taking that time out. I mean I was cutting into my ‘work time’.

Or should I be taking more time to do that at work? Remembering that I have a pastoral responsibility for both our clients, and the spiritual health and morale of our volunteers?

I got tweeted this verse (I’ll add in the verse before it too) which has been on my mind today…

“Praise be to the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Father of compassion and the God of all comfort, who comforts us in all our troubles, so that we can comfort those in any trouble with the comfort we ourselves have received from God.”

2 Corinthians 1:3-4