Tag Archives: Christmas

Do You See What I See?

A View of the Guiding Light in a World of Darkness is a devotional that seeks to apply Biblical principles to our everyday lives, written by inspirational speaker and writer, Jeremy Curry.

After Jesus was born in Bethlehem in Judea, during the time of King Herod, Magi from the east came to Jerusalem 2 and asked, “Where is the one who has been born king of the Jews? We saw his star when it rose and have come to worship him.”

3 When King Herod heard this he was disturbed, and all Jerusalem with him. 4 When he had called together all the people’s chief priests and teachers of the law, he asked them where the Messiah was to be born. 5 “In Bethlehem in Judea,” they replied, “for this is what the prophet has written:

6 “‘But you, Bethlehem, in the land of Judah,
are by no means least among the rulers of Judah;
for out of you will come a ruler
who will shepherd my people Israel.’”

7 Then Herod called the Magi secretly and found out from them the exact time the star had appeared. 8 He sent them to Bethlehem and said, “Go and search carefully for the child. As soon as you find him, report to me, so that I too may go and worship him.”

9 After they had heard the king, they went on their way, and the star they had seen when it rose went ahead of them until it stopped over the place where the child was. 10 When they saw the star, they were overjoyed.

Matthew 2:1-10 (NIV)

Last week, much of the world celebrated Christmas. Many of us have heard the story from the passage above over and over throughout our lives. As we prepare for the new year, you may want to take a closer look at the story to learn about what God is putting on your heart.

We all have an image of what we think the manger scene looked like. You might think it looks something like this:

Star of Bethlehem shines extremely bright in the night sky with a bright light shining down directly on the city of Bethlehem.

The star is shining brightly for everyone to see where the Messiah has been born. But, read the passage above again. After Herod is asked where the King of the Jews has been born, we read the following in verse 3: “When King Herod heard this he was disturbed, and all Jerusalem with him.” He was “disturbed”. Why? Well, Herod certainly had his reasons. He was a ruthless king. Around 40 BC, Herod had already been named “King of the Jews” by the Roman Senate. In his mind, he already had the title.

However, in his heart, he must have known he wasn’t truly the King of the Jews. After all, he wasn’t even of Jewish descent. He attempted to make the people think he was Jewish. He had lavish building projects, including the Second Temple of Jerusalem, a port, walls around Jerusalem, palaces, temples, and more. Herod must have known this was never enough because he was always worried about public opinion. He employed secret police among the population to determine how the people felt about him, he had 2,000 bodyguards, and he went to great lengths to murder anyone and everyone who got in his way. We know that he murdered several of his wives, his father-in-law, two of his sons, and all boys in Bethlehem two years of age and under (known as the Massacre of the Innocents). So, to say Herod was “disturbed” was probably an understatement. And if such a ruthless king was disturbed, it is easy to see why the rest of Jerusalem would also be uneasy. The people were likely uncertain what such a madman would do in spite of such news.

If we look at the story even closer, we notice that when the Magi approach Herod to inquire about the birth because they had seen the star, Herod was surprised. Herod didn’t respond with “I saw the star, too.” Instead, he then had to call together all of the priests to find out where the Messiah was to be born. He also had to learn the exact date regarding when the star appeared. What this tells us is that the star was clearly not apparent to everyone. The images we keep in our minds of the star shining brightly over where Jesus was born is, in fact, not what happened at all. If you wanted to see the star, you had to look carefully for it and be aware of the knowledge of its existence. What is even more fascinating is that even though the chief priests knew the location and they were informed of the signs, they still didn’t go to see the Messiah. . .and Bethlehem was a mere five miles away!

I would contend that pride got in the way of Herod’s ability to see the miracle of what was happening around him. Perhaps fear or the desire to stay in power was at the heart of the chief priests, which kept them from seeking God. What we know is that even when signs seem like they should be completely self-evident, such as the Star of Bethlehem, sin can ultimately get in our way of seeking God or doing His will. In Herod’s case, his heart didn’t change. He actually tried to kill Jesus, instead of accepting him as his Savior. As one commentator, put it, “Uncontrolled ambition can turn a person into a monster.” .

What is getting in the way between you and God today? Is it pride? Is it ambition? Is it pornography or another sexual sin? Is it a sinful relationship? Or, something else? Whatever it is, it is time to break the chains of sin and turn back toward God. He has given us much, but we will be blind to it unless we are seeking Him before all else.

Father, help us to seek You before anything in our lives. May we ALWAYS put You first. May we keep you in our sight, listen to Your words, and accept the merciful gifts You have given us, including the greatest gift; the gift of grace, mercy, and forgiveness through Your Son, Jesus Christ. In Jesus’ name, Amen.

The Case Against Celebrating Christmas

A View of the Guiding Light in a World of Darkness is a devotional that seeks to apply Biblical principles to our everyday lives, written by inspirational speaker and writer, Jeremy Curry.

8 And there were shepherds living out in the fields nearby, keeping watch over their flocks at night. 9 An angel of the Lord appeared to them, and the glory of the Lord shone around them, and they were terrified. 10 But the angel said to them, “Do not be afraid. I bring you good news that will cause great joy for all the people. 11 Today in the town of David a Savior has been born to you; he is the Messiah, the Lord. 12 This will be a sign to you: You will find a baby wrapped in cloths and lying in a manger.”

13 Suddenly a great company of the heavenly host appeared with the angel, praising God and saying,

14 “Glory to God in the highest heaven,
and on earth peace to those on whom his favor rests.”

15 When the angels had left them and gone into heaven, the shepherds said to one another, “Let’s go to Bethlehem and see this thing that has happened, which the Lord has told us about.”

Luke 2:8-15 (NIV)

This week, billions of people around the world will celebrate Christmas. It is a time when humanity celebrates the birth of our Lord and Savior, Jesus Christ. We read about the birth in the verses above noted in Luke. How amazing it must have been to see angels appear and sing glory to our God! Finally, the time had come for the prophecies to come true and the Messiah had come to save all of us from sin.

All of us know that the above passage clearly happened on December 25, right? Wrong. The passage above notes that the shepherds were living out in the fields and watching over their flock at night. However, flocks would not be out in the cold season due to the bad weather in Israel during this time. They were brought in around October and would not return out until after winter. Other factors that indicate that Christ was not born in December are that we read that the inn was full when Mary and Joseph arrived. This is likely due to the many people traveling just after harvest and prior to winter. Some have attempted to calculate an exact date that Jesus was born based on the birth of John the Baptist in relation to when Mary conceived. This data is used in conjunction as to when John’s father, Zechariah, was selected to go into the temple of the Lord, as we find in Luke chapter 1 in an attempt to calculate the exact time of Jesus’ birth. In fact, some churches are so legalistic and want to be so exact about the fact that Jesus wasn’t born on December 25 that they tell Christians and others not to celebrate Christmas.

Picture of Christmas candle, bow, and ribbon

To take a closer look at the case against celebrating Christmas, let’s dig deeper as to why it is celebrated on December 25. The birth of Christ is first recorded as being celebrated on December 25 in 336 AD under Roman Emperor Constantine. Constantine was the first Christian emperor and thus, he began pushing Rome toward Christianity. As a result, in 350 AD, Pope Julius I officially declared that Christmas was to be celebrated on December 25. Why did he pick this day? Some say it is because he believed that Mary conceived on March 25 (with no real foundation for that fact) and then nine months later would have been when Jesus was born. This obviously would have been calculated as December 25. However, the more likely story is that the Christian church was trying to “piggyback” off of the pagan traditions that were already being celebrated in the Roman Empire, rather than to compete with them. Saturnalia was celebrated from December 17 to around December 23 or 24, honoring the god, Saturn. The winter solstice happened during this time of year with many celebrations, including that of Saturnalia. The Romans believed that the sun was leaving them during the winter solstice and lit candles to scare away darkness, as well as to celebrate the sun and light. This tradition eventually led to the display of Christmas lights in modern America. People also gave gifts in honor of the goddess of vegetation, Strenia. Gifts that were edible were common among people to celebrate a goddess who brought harvest. Later, gifts that were non-edible became commonplace. Mithra, the god of light and wisdom, was said to be born from a rock on December 25. The Mithraic religion was one of the predominant religions in the Roman empire, and the birth of Mithra was celebrated symbolizing the sun.

Since pagans already had traditions they were celebrating this time of year, the church essentially hijacked these traditions and started to celebrate the birth of Christ on December 25. As a result, the church began to change the holiday traditions to be less pagan. However, not all Christians believed that carrying on pagan tradition was a good idea. The Puritans were very much against the idea of Christmas, and in fact, spent December 25, 1620 building one of their first structures. Boston even made it illegal to celebrate Christmas from 1659 until 1681. If you were found celebrating Christmas, you would be fined 5 shillings. That is correct; it used to be illegal to celebrate Christmas! While Christmas became legal to celebrate again, much of the tradition had been lost, as the hearts and minds of much of the American colonies had done without it for over two decades. Finally, in 1843, A Christmas Carol was written and people started to remember how and why they could celebrate Christmas again. It wasn’t until 1870 that Christmas became a federal holiday and it continued to evolve throughout the rest of the 19th century and has become what it is today in the 21st century.

If Christmas is rooted in pagan religion traditions and has absolutely zero historically factual accuracy in regards to the birth of Christ, why should we celebrate it at all? Shouldn’t we be like the Puritans (or even a few of the modern day churches) and refuse to celebrate it? Even today, many would say Christmas has become all about consumerism, carrying on in its pagan founding. So, why celebrate it? My answer to that question would be, “why not celebrate it?” For me, it isn’t about celebrating pagan gods. It isn’t simply about buying stuff for people. It is about celebrating the birth of my Lord and Savior, Jesus Christ. Was He actually born on December 25? No, but does it really matter? After all, what other time of the year do I get the best opportunity to talk about my faith? Would it really be better if we just never celebrated the birth of our Savior? I cherish the time that I get to be with my friends and family during this time of year, and I get to talk to them about Jesus. I absolutely love giving people gifts in celebration of God’s greatest gift to all of us. Why celebrate Christmas? We certainly never see this as a requirement in any scripture. But, for me, it provides me an opportunity to remember to love the Lord my God with all of my heart, mind, and soul, as well as to love others and to love my neighbor as myself (Matthew 22:36-40). This is why I celebrate Christmas. How about you?

Lord, guide us and keep us this Christmas season. Help us to reach others in Your name. Thank You for Your Son. You know all of us need Your mercy and grace. Thank You for such a precious gift. May others see You in me. In Jesus’ name, Amen.

If you have been touched by this devotional, Your Blind Faith would like to hear from you. If you don’t feel comfortable leaving a public comment, send a note to jeremy@yourblindfaith.com to let us know how God has touched your life with this devotional. We will not publish or share your information.