Seasons greetings to everyone. One of my favorite U.S. presidents was Harry S. Truman. Truman was completing his last few months at 1600 Pennsylvania Ave. when yours truly was born on Aug. 23, 1952. I like the dress hat that he famously wore.
As commander in chief, Truman had many decisions to make, including the effects of the Manhattan Project (atomic solutions for Hiroshima and Nagasaki and Japan's World War II surrender), statehood for natural Israel, refurbishing the White House, the Gen. McArthur debacle, the Korean conflict and civil rights. Eubie Blake from my hometown of Baltimore, Maryland, wrote the famous song, "I'm just wild about Harry." Harry believed that "The buck stops here." As a pastor and called minister of the Gospel of Jesus Christ, I'm reminded at the cross of Jesus Christ "the buck truly stops."
The title of this article is from Hebrews 12:2; "Looking unto Jesus, the author and finisher of our faith." We've just completed another joyous and busy holiday season. We should understand that though most traditions and ideologies of Christmas and New Year's celebrations have pagan roots, "Jesus" is still the reason for the season.
Let's reflect on some of these origins. Christmas is traced back to celebrations of winter solstice, the sun god and Saturnalia (planet Saturn), which was a Roman harvest festival where all classes of people exchanged gifts, the commonest being waxed tapers (candles) and clay dolls.
The date Dec. 25 is linked in part, to sometime during the fourth century, 300 years after Christ's death, burial, resurrection and ascension. The word "Christmas" comes from the medieval Roman Church custom of celebrating mass at midnight on the eve of Dec. 25 or "Christ-mass." In the United States, "Dec. 25, Christmas Day" has been a federal holiday only since 1870.
The Gospel of Luke refers to taxation, census and "shepherds watching their flocks by night" which in reality brings the birth of Christ during springtime and not in the cold weather of December. When you link Nimrod, Semiramis and Tammuz of ancient Babylon (now Iraq); Yule logs, evergreen trees, wreaths, branches, boughs and colored eggs first come into view. Wreaths are also connected to Roman origin and trace back to ancient sun god (Nimrod) worship.
In Holland, SinterKlaas, Sint Nikolass, extends from the legend of Saint Nicholas, and is derived from ancient Norse and Scandinavian mythology where he was named Odin, Wooden and Thor. Now we call him Ole Saint Nick or Santa Claus.
New Year's Day customs reflect Babylonian and Roman influences as well. Julius Caesar and the Romans decided on Jan. 1 for the beginning of the New Year, as being influenced by the Roman god Janus which looks "forward" and "backward."
Many religious customs and worship have Babylonian-Roman origin. In Revelation chapters 17 and 18, the Bible speaks much about the demise of this "mysterious Babylon influence." I'm reminded of Revelation 18:4, "And I heard another voice from heaven, saying, 'Come out of her, my people, that ye be not partakers of her sins, and that ye receive not of her plagues.'" Paul too, writes to the church at Thessalonica about "the mystery of iniquity."
A famous quote from a 1994 movie compares life to a box of chocolates because "You don't know what you are going to get until you open the box." "Babel" or "Babylon" means "confusion." If there was ever a time when we worship in a confusing box of "chocolates," it is now. This earth should beware that when many "false world religions" soon unite, there will be terrifying results.
True "oneness" in Christ comes only by the Holy Spirit's direction. Dearly beloved, we're looking for "a new heaven and new earth wherein dwelleth righteousness." "That he might present it to himself a glorious church, not having spot, or wrinkle or any such thing; but that it should be holy and without blemish," Ephesians 5:27.
Though we all have different opinions about our denominational structure, doctrines and worship, "We must look to Jesus, the author and finisher of our faith." Apostle James declares, "Faith without works is dead." Religion without "spirit and truth" is dead. Paul tells us in 2 Timothy 3:5, "Having a form of godliness but denying the 'Holy Ghost' power thereof: from such turn away!"
During this holiday season, most are talking of the repeal of "don't ask, don't tell." Personally, we're concerned for our youngest son's morale and safety, as well as anyone serving this nation in a military uniform. If you ask "Jesus, the author and finisher of our faith," his word will tell you about his feelings on this matter in Genesis chapters 18-19 and Romans 1:18-32.
As Mary travailed to give birth to the Christ child in his first advent, we now anticipate his second coming "as travail upon a woman with child." He will come as a "thief in the night." We are now "by faith" facing our future in this new year of 2011. What if this would be the year Jesus returns? Would you be ready to meet him?
As for peace on Earth and good will to all men, we must be "looking unto Jesus, the author and finisher of our faith." When we speak of the "Peace of Jerusalem," we read in Revelation chapter 19 verses 11-21 where Christ, "The King of Kings and Lord of Lord," with a vesture dipped in blood and named "The Word of God," "Faithful and True" and is "Prince of Peace," will return to earth with the armies of heaven on white horses. "In righteousness he doth 'judge and make war.'" "Looking unto Jesus, the author and finisher of our faith."
Happy New Year.
(The opinions of this article are those of the author and not necessarily those of The Inter-Mountain, the Randolph County Ministerial Association or the author's church affiliation.)