Undergroundchurch Blog

Preparing the Church for the future

12 Days of Christmas Correction – Correcting “Christmas”

Posted by undergroundchurch on December 18, 2009

If you like to hold to traditions, you don’t want to read this article.  Just wait, and in a couple days I’ll come out with another you might like (or not).  However, if you want to dig down and discover some truth, even when it hurts to swallow, then read on.

Right out of the gate, let me be blunt – evangelical believers cannot celebrate “Christmas”.

Your defensive mechanisms just engaged, but you need to follow through to understand.  I am not saying throw the baby out with the bath water as some tend to do when discovering something new, but I am saying that we might need to see clearly and understand why things are the way they are and how it relates to your relationship with God.

To be sure, the core of this season is to commemorate the birth of the Son of God, Jesus Christ.  All the rest is fluff, and some of it is fluffier than other stuff.

The Real Christmas Defined

The term we have come to know and even defend, may not mean exactly what you think it means.  Christmas does not mean, “the birth of Christ” or “advent of Christ”.  In fact, it means that absolute opposite, “Christ’s death”.

The first part of the word is indeed, “Christ”, but the whole word comes from the old English, Cristes mæsse which means, “Christ’s Mass”.  Coined in 1038, it literally is the Mass of the Catholic church.  That being the case, we have to defer to the Catholic understanding of what a Mass is to get the full meaning of the word, “Christmas”.

The term Mass is the English word for the celebration of the Eucharist (the body and blood of Christ). It comes from the Latin, missa, and means “dismissal”. It’s from the last phrase uttered in the mass, “Go, it is the dismissal”.

The Council of Trent (1545-1563) reaffirmed traditional Catholic teaching that the Mass is the same Sacrifice of Calvary offered in an unbloody manner. The victim is one and the same: the same now offers through the ministry of priests, who then offered himself on the cross; only the manner of offering is different. And since in this divine sacrifice which is celebrated in the Mass, the same Christ who offered himself once in a bloody manner on the altar of the cross is contained and offered in an unbloody manner… this sacrifice is truly propitiatory” (Doctrina de ss. Missae sacrificio, c. 2, quoted in Catechism of the Catholic Church, 1367). – Wikipedia

The Catholic Mass introduces Jesus literally into the bread and wine.  This process called transubstantiation, is substantially different from the Evangelical teaching that sees Christ’s work on the Cross as “finished” and the communion time as a time of remembrance (1 Corinthians 11:24). In fact, James tells us in essence that it brings public disgrace on Jesus to subject Jesus to sacrifice all over again (c.f. Hebrews 6:6).

So in short, the “Christ-mass” doesn’t exactly fit into evangelical theology.

Does this mean that you should stop saying, “Merry Christmas”? I’m not going to tell you one way or another, but I have heard many people complain that companies, schools, etc. are forcing their workers, students, etc. to say, “Happy Holidays” in place of “Merry Christmas”.  I get it.  I know that you want to keep Christ in your greeting.  But the true meaning of the season is buried under a blizzard of man’s traditions, pagan celebrations and theological inaccuracies, that I really think that being able to say, “Merry Christmas” is the least of our problems this time of year.

If we are celebrating the birth of Jesus, then celebrate his birth, but if you are going to throw trees, lights, presents, yule logs, Santa Clause, elves, snowmen, and sales at Macy’s in the mix, maybe you need to reevaluate what you are really celebrating.

Jesus came quietly in the night to a stable in the desert. Maybe, we should desert some of our traditions and focus on the real source for hope and peace in the world.

I’m just saying…


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