The Great Lie That Stole Christmas

Dear Children
Dear Children

What we know today as the Christmas season has a long history. The celebration of the Winter Solstice and related mid-Winter celebrations and holidays have been part of the cultures of most of the world’s people far back into antiquity. Rome had various celebrations during this time of year as did most of the people of Europe.   Most of the iconic traditions of the Christmas season can be traced to various pagan cultures and, so, continue to connect the modern holiday to the ancient celebrations of various people groups. And while there are vast differences between how this season is celebrated throughout the world, many of the traditions have common roots.

In more recent times Evangelicals and other conservative Christians have engaged themselves in a culture war over the meaning of Christmas as a holiday in the United States. The common refrains of “Christ is the reason for the season,” or “keep Christ in Christmas” have become rallying cries for many Baptists as they enter the fray over the meaning of Christmas. And, in some cases there are good reasons for Christians to be concerned about the dilution of Christmas. However, Christmas has no real Christian origins. Jesus, or His disciples, never taught that the birth of Himself was to become a holiday for regular observance. In fact, none of the holidays identified with Christianity, including Easter, find their institution in the Bible. And so, for Baptists, it can be rightly asserted that there is no biblical justification for Christmas at all. Yet the celebration is not without merit.

The idea of taking a special time to remember the coming of the Lord is a great idea. The idea that there is value in remembering the great condescension of God to take on the fullness of humanity in order to make satisfaction on our behalf is a reflection of a Gospel-oriented sense of value. The centrality of Jesus Christ during Christmas is something that Christians should seek to cultivate in every season. Yet, many Christians fail to even focus on Jesus Christ in a committed way during the Christmas season. Christians join with the world every year in propagating a great deception which does more than dilute the meaning of Christmas and distract people from the birth of Jesus Christ, it outright contradicts it.

I am speaking of Santa Claus. Many Christians will profess that Jesus is the reason for their Christmas celebrations and simultaneously that Santa Claus is the one who brings gifts to their children. There is only one phrase that can describe this second figure in Christmas celebrations: a lie. Santa Claus and everything about him is a great deception that has no merit at all for Christians. A simple examination of the attributes of this fictional character should turns the stomachs of those who love the Gospel of Grace. “He sees you when you’re sleeping; he knows when you’re awake; he knows if you’ve been bad or god; so, be good for goodness sake. … He’s making a list, checking it twice, gonna find out who’s naughty or nice.” This is a god-like figure with omniscience and a strict accounting of moral uprightness. And the consistent picture of Santa Claus is one who brings gifts for all the good girls and boys and passes over the naughty ones. This is hardly a figure with any Gospel characteristics, yet he is welcomed into the homes and celebrations of many Christian families.

And the worst part about Santa Claus is that he is an outright fabrication. He doesn’t exist, he has no power, nor any gifts to bring. Yet, Christians who would be shocked at being called liars and deceivers are just that. To tell your children something that is not true is a lie. Good parents seek to cultivate honesty and truthfulness in their children, yet many Christian parents join the world in this great deception called Santa Claus and think nothing of it. And, these Christian parents do so when there is no reason at all to lie to their children. Why is the message that Immanuel, God with Us, has come and that God has given Him to us as a gift in order to accomplish our salvation not enough? Why is the message of Jesus Christ not enough for some Christians?

No easy answer is forthcoming except for a realization at the struggle even believers have with sin, but why does the church not call its members to a higher standard. If a person were to habitually lie they would be called a liar and ought to be subject to church discipline for dishonoring themselves and the name of Jesus Christ. Yet millions of so-called Christians do this very thing every single year and are never challenged on it. This is a Gospel issue. If a person is willing to lie about something as frivolous and bereft of meaning as Santa Claus, why would their children or anyone else trust their testimony about Jesus Christ? It is a betrayal of our Lord to profess faith in him and then encourage faith in Santa Claus amongst our children. And it betrays a failure on the part of those who engage in the promulgation of this lie to separate themselves from the things of the world when the separation is truly simple and the benefits truly profound. Isn’t Jesus a good enough reason to celebrate? Isn’t his coming to us in the form of a baby, living the perfect life that we could not, suffering on our behalf on the cross, and rising again to secure eternal life for us a powerful and awesome enough message to merit celebrating all year long? Why mix that great a message with anything else? Why make yourself a liar to your children and to the world? Why compromise on something so utterly devoid of value or meaning? Why betray your Lord for the sake of a fat man in a red suit? Repent and return to your first Lord this Christmas season!

Priesthood – Aaron, Melchizedek or Jesus Christ?

Over the last couple months, especially since I had the opportunity to attend the Priesthood Session at the LDS’ General Conference in October, I have been drawn to consider a number of things regarding the idea of priesthood in the Christian church. Of course, a clergy class has existed within the church since it’s earliest days, with Godly men and women being called to special areas of service. For men the roles of Pastor, Bishop, Priest and Deacons have always been open and so the idea of men holding various priestly offices is in no way foreign to the Christian church. The area where I have been drawn to further thought and study is with regards to the priestly role of women within the Christian church, especially since the Protestant Reformation, and then particularly within Baptist theology. And, so, I am drawn to consider more fully the meaning and significance of the doctrine of the Priesthood of All Believers.

This past Sunday at First Baptist Church of Provo, Utah our Pastor preached from Mark 15:33-41 on the death of Jesus. In that we spent a fair amount of time on verse 38: “And the curtain on the temple was torn in two, from top to bottom.” This passage is almost universally recognized as meaningful because the path to the dwelling place of God was opened for all to see and thus access is granted through Jesus Christ to the very presence of God. For many this passage doesn’t inspire much reflection; but, as my Pastor pointed out, it ought to. For any who are not familiar, the Temple in Jerusalem, where the Jewish religion was centered and offered their sacrifices to God, was laid out similarly to the Wilderness Tabernacle with some notable differences. First, there were a series of courtyards surrounding the Holy Place. The outermost was the Court of the Gentiles, within that was the Court of the Women, within that the Court of Israel and then finally the Court of the Priests. Within the Court of Priests and Holy Place the layout was just like the Wilderness Tabernacle, simply a lot grander in scale and beauty.

The entirety of the Temple complex was built to segregate and separate those worthy to approach God. Only certain priests would enter the Holy Place, and only to discharge very specific duties concerning tending to the Table of Showbread, the Altar of Incense and the Golden Lampstand. Most of the priests would have spent their time seeing to the ritual duties connected with the Altar of Burnt Offerings and the Laver of Cleansing. Yet within the Holy Place was the most sacred room of the entire Temple complex, the Holy of Holies. Only the High Priest, and only once a year, was allowed to enter the Holy of Holies to offer blood on the Mercy Seat, which formed the lid of the Ark of the Covenant. The Holy of Holies was the earthly dwelling place of God’s glory and was the penultimate symbol of God’s presence with His people. All the rituals and all the divisions of the Temple complex accentuated the separation that existed between the holiness and glory of God and His people. Because of sin no one could approach God except in the very elaborate way that God prescribed, which allowed God to temporarily turn away His wrath and be approached by the High Priest.

So, what happened in the death of Christ with the veil of the Temple being split in two was a monumental change in the approachability of God. Through Jesus Christ, access was granted for all to look through the Temple to the place where God’s presence dwelled with His people. Access was granted to God through Jesus Christ. This is why in Hebrews and elsewhere we see Jesus Christ presented now as the Christian’s great High Priest. 1 Peter 2:9 calls the whole of the church a “royal priesthood.” Hebrews 4:14-16 in exalting Jesus as the Christian’s High Priest calls all believers to “draw near to throne of grace.” Believers are encouraged to approach God directly through the one mediator between God and men, Jesus Christ (1 Timothy 2:5). Furthermore, in Galatians 3:26-29 we see the great leveling of the Christian church in Jesus Christ. This passage teaches that all are made children of God and joint heirs to the promises made to Abraham through faith in Jesus Christ. Faith alone makes men and women, slave and freemen, Jews and Gentiles equal in their relationship and standing before God. All believers gain access through Jesus Christ to the throne of grace which was once hidden behind the veil of the Temple.

And, so, I am drawn to criticize the LDS church and its misapplication of priestly offices. The distinctions created in the LDS’ doctrine between the so-called Aaronic and Melchizedek Priesthoods and the isolation of men as the only ones worthy to hold those offices distort the message of the New Testament in which these former and inferior priesthoods are laid to rest by the higher and unsurpassable priesthood of Jesus Christ (Hebrews 7). Furthermore, we have no need for priests in the New Covenant. Priests are mediators and the Bible tells us there is only one mediator between God and men, Jesus Christ (1 Timothy 2:5). The true offices of the church, those of Elder and Deacon, are thus obscured and made worthless in the LDS church by their mixture of the true offices with false priestly orders. The LDS church justifies their practice on the grounds of continuing revelation, but for that justification to be valid they must nullify the words of Christ’s own Apostles, who established the order for His Church.

So, let no one be confused by those claiming priestly authority, for there is no priesthood after the order of Aaron or Melchizedek in Christ’s Church, save the priesthood of Jesus Christ. For the true Christian, only two offices stand within the church, that of Elder and that of Deacon. And, according to the teachings of Scripture, while the office of Elder is restricted to men only, and while the office of Deacon may be restricted to men alone, the throne of grace is open to all. And all are called by Scripture to approach that throne of grace through Jesus Christ, and Him alone, by faith. We have no need for sacrifice, nor mediator. We have need of Jesus Christ and Him alone. Everyone who believes on Jesus Christ, and Him alone, is made a priest to God following after the order of Jesus Christ, the great High Priest of the Christian Church.