30 Minute Radio Lesson - WAVG Radio 1450 AM
Clarksville church of Christ
December 24, 2000
Speaker: Richie Thetford
"The Perversions and Diversions of Christmas"
Good morning and welcome to another presentation of "What Is Truth?" I'm Richie Thetford, evangelist for the Clarksville church of Christ, located at 407 W. Hwy 131 in Clarksville. I want to thank each and every one you for taking the time to listen this morning as we examine another truth of God's word. It is my hope and prayer that those of you that are listening today will honestly examine your heart to ensure that you are in fact doing only those things that are pleasing to our almighty God. As we discuss the topic of the hour, "The perversions and diversions of Christmas", I want to encourage you to have your Bible readily available so that you can examine the scriptures to make sure that what I am presenting is in fact God's will for you. Remember, the Bible clearly states that we must obey God rather than man (Acts 5:29). It is my hope that each one of you this morning will have the kind of heart that the Bereans did back in the first century. It was said of them that "These were more fair-minded than those in Thessalonica, in that they received the word with all readiness, and searched the Scriptures daily to find out whether these things were so" (Acts 17:11). Also the apostle John warns us that we should "....not believe every spirit, but test the spirits, whether they are of God; because many false prophets have gone out into the world" (1 John 4:1). By looking at the Bible passages, you can see for yourself that what I am teaching this morning can in fact be backed up by book, chapter, and verse in the Bible. This is so vitally important as we strive to do only that which is authorized by God and not what some man may say about a given subject. Now I invite you to please have your Bible, pen and paper ready and let's study together another truth of God.
Good morning friends. This morning or sometime today there will be many who will attend a religious service somewhere for the very first time this year. The holiday season is a beautiful time of year because it gives us the opportunity to get together with our family and friends. However, Christmas celebrated as a religious holiday by most in the world today is done so without any mention of such in the Bible. Sowhat we have is perversions and diversions of Christmas.
Before I proceed, I think it would be good to define what perversion and diversion is. Perversion is "To lead astray; to misuse; to distort; to twist or turn from what is true." Diversion is "Turning aside; distraction of attention." An example of a diversion would be when a parent wants to sneak in a toy from the car that he or she does not want their child to see. So what does the parent do? A diversion is used to get it in the house by saying to the child "look over there, what is that?" As the child turns his head in the opposite direction to look, the parent runs in quickly with the toy behind their back and gets to the other side of the room without the child even noticing that the parent had anything. The parent has diverted the attention of the child in a different direction for the purpose of sneaking in the toy.
Likewise, in the Christmas season there are diversions that take us away from the true gospel of Christ. But first, let's talk about the perversions of the Christmas season.
The first perversion is that December 25th is the birthday of Jesus Christ. History shows us that this most likely would not be the month that Jesus would have been born because the shepherds were not normally in the fields in that part of the country after November 1st. The Bible says that the shepherds were in the fields when he was born. Notice what is said in Luke, chapter 2, verses 7-9; "And she brought forth her firstborn Son, and wrapped Him in swaddling cloths, and laid Him in a manger, because there was no room for them in the inn. Now there were in the same country shepherds living out in the fields, keeping watch over their flock by night. And behold, an angel of the Lord stood before them, and the glory of the Lord shone around them, and they were greatly afraid." Shepherds have not and do not now live in the fields, keeping watch over their flock around Bethlehem during this time of the year. There is nowhere stated in the Bible that Dec 25this Jesus' birthday.
The second perversion is that the wise men were at the manger. I want to encourage you to open your Bible and turn to Matthew 2:11 and read what the word of God says concerning the wise men. "And when they had come into the house, they saw the young Child with Mary His mother, and fell down and worshiped Him. And when they had opened their treasures, they presented gifts to Him: gold, frankincense, and myrrh." Did they come to the manger to see the baby Jesus or did they come to His house? The scripture of our Lord says plainly that they came to His house to see Him, yet you'll see scene after scene of a manger with Joseph, Mary and baby Jesus and THREE wise men looking on. I wonder how this perversion of scripture ever got started? We know for sure that it could not have been from God, therefore, it must have originated in the mind of man. In our scripture we read of "wise men" coming to the house, but it does not tell us how many wise men in number. Yet most people, when asked how many wise men came to see the baby Jesus will respond with "3." Why three? It probably came about because the scripture says that they presented gifts of gold, frankincense, myrrh. Since there was three things mentioned then that must mean that there was three wise men. But friends, that would not be wise of us to conclude that there were three wise men. There could have been two or there could have been four or more. We really don't know do we? To illustrate this point lets suppose that I received some money, a shirt and a tie. How many people gave me those gifts? Any number of people could have given me those gifts, at least one person and maybe more than three. The point I am trying to make is that we often times treat things as the gospel truth when in fact it is not the gospel truth. Many things that we do are things that we have practiced all of our life simply because we have been taught that way from our parents, friends, or even preachers and teachers that are not putting forth the true gospel of Christ. If you have a manger scene at the church where you attend, why not ask your preacher where in the Bible that the wise men came to the manger and where is it mentioned that there were three of them?
The third perversion of Christmas is that Jesus approves of it. We need to understand that Jesus has all authority and that he instructed his disciples to: "teach them to observe all things that I have commanded you....." (Matt 28:18-20). We are only to teach others those things in which we have been commanded to teach others from the word of our Lord. Is there any mention of keeping His birthday in the Bible? If you think there is, I would encourage you to find the passage of scripture that so states and please let me know where it is. There is no passage of scripture that tells us to honor the birth of Christ on a yearly basis. I'm sure that if there was one, that the inspired writers of the Bible would have made sure that we knew to keep it.
The fourth perversion of Christmas is that many people think that the New Testament teaches that we are to observe Christmas as a religious holiday. If so, where in the New Testament does it teach us to observe Christmas? Where is Christmas even mentioned in the pages of the New Testament? I'm afraid that an awful lot of things that people practice in the name of religion during this time of year is practiced based upon tradition, tradition of their families and of other men, rather than the inspired word of God. Surely if one is to practice New Testament Christianity then one would ensure that all they do is in accordance with New Testament Bible teaching. To do otherwise is to pervert the gospel of Jesus Christ as the apostle Paul warned about in Galatians 1:6-9.
The fifth perversion of Christmas is that the church is to observe it. For more on this thought I want to encourage us to open our Bible right here and read from the book of 1 Corinthians. Please open your Bible to 1 Corinthians, chapter 4, verse 6. Here it says, "Now these things, brethren, I have figuratively transferred to myself and Apollos for your sakes, that you may learn in us not to think beyond what is written, that none of you may be puffed up on behalf of one against the other." Here we find Paul saying NOT to think beyond what is written. Now notice verse 17, "For this reason I have sent Timothy to you, who is my beloved and faithful son in the Lord, who will remind you of my ways in Christ, as I teach everywhere in every church." Paul is reminding young Timothy, an evangelist, of the things that he taught in Christ and that he taught everywhere in EVERY church. His gospel message of Jesus Christ did not change from season to season or from place to place. It was a constant and consistent message of Jesus. Now let's continue with this thought and turn to the eleventh chapter of 1 Corinthians and read from verse 2 which says, "Now I praise you, brethren, that you remember me in all things and keep the traditions just as I delivered them to you." Now friends, Paul did not say to keep ANY tradition, but rather the traditions that he delivered to them. What traditions? In 1 Thessalonians 2:15 the same apostle Paul wrote:"Therefore, brethren, stand fast and hold the traditions which you were taught, whether by word or our epistle." These were the traditions of the Lord, whether taught by word or by letter by the apostle Paul who was an inspired writer. Again, the point is that he did not teach any tradition, but rather only that which came from the Lord. Now, let's continue this thought with the reading of 1 Corinthians, chapter 11, verses 23-26. Here it says, "For I received from the Lord that which I also delivered to you: that the Lord Jesus on the same night in which He was betrayed took bread; and when He had given thanks, He broke it and said, "Take, eat; this is My body which is broken for you; do this in remembrance of Me." In the same manner He also took the cup after supper, saying, "This cup is the new covenant in My blood. This do, as often as you drink it, in remembrance of Me." For as often as you eat this bread and drink this cup, you proclaim the Lord's death till He comes." What was it that the apostle Paul delivered to the church in Corinth? He delivered to them the instructions on what they were to keep and that was to proclaim the Lord's death until He comes again. Friends, where is the mention in any of these passages or any other that you might be aware of that there was a birthday party for Jesus that was to be kept? If we are to observe His birth, then why is not mentioned in the pages of our Bible? We are clearly told what we are supposed to celebrate and that is His death, burial and resurrection and we do that on a weekly basis, not just once a year. Again, where is it mentioned that the church is to keep the birthday of Christ?
Finally, the last perversion of Christmas that I want to make mention of this morning is that we should celebrate Christmas as a religious holiday. Who said so, was it the Lord? The Lord said, "And whatever you do in word or deed, do all in the name of the Lord Jesus, giving thanks to God the Father through Him." Again, the apostle Paul said, "Therefore, brethren, stand fast and hold the traditions which you were taught, whether by word or our epistle." We need to ensure that whatever we do in the name of religion that it is done in accordance with the teachings of Jesus Himself. By the way, Ground Hog Day is a tradition, but do we celebrate it religiously? The inspired writer John wrote, "Whoever transgresses and does not abide in the doctrine of Christ does not have God. He who abides in the doctrine of Christ has both the Father and the Son. If anyone comes to you and does not bring this doctrine, do not receive him into your house nor greet him; for he who greets him shares in his evil deeds." Did you hear that? Those that transgress, which means to go beyond the doctrine, which is the teaching of Christ, does NOT HAVE God! Friends, this is serious. Again, there is nothing wrong with the celebration of the holiday season in a secular sense, but when we attach a religious significance to it making it the birthday of Jesus, then we have gone beyond what is written in the Bible and will be held accountable in the day of judgment for making a religious tradition where one has not been authorized by the word of God. Jesus said, "These people draw near to Me with their mouth, And honor Me with their lips, But their heart is far from Me. And in vain they worship Me, Teaching as doctrines the commandments of men" (Matt 15:8-9).
These things mentioned are some of the perversions of Christmas that man has taken upon himself to do. Now, for the remainder of our time this morning, let's look at some of the diversions of Christmas. Again, a diversion is a "distraction of attention." In the religious sense it is when one does something thinking that it's result is something else. Let's look at some examples of diversions in relationship to the celebration of Christmas as a religious holiday.
The first one we want to look at this morning is that certain rituals equals righteousness. The Pharisees during the time of Jesus were guilty of this very thing. In many cases they did things just to be seen of men. Let's read some passages dealing with this particular point this morning. In Matthew 6:2-7, it says, "Therefore, when you do a charitable deed, do not sound a trumpet before you as the hypocrites do in the synagogues and in the streets, that they may have glory from men. Assuredly, I say to you, they have their reward. But when you do a charitable deed, do not let your left hand know what your right hand is doing, that your charitable deed may be in secret; and your Father who sees in secret will Himself reward you openly. "And when you pray, you shall not be like the hypocrites. For they love to pray standing in the synagogues and on the corners of the streets, that they may be seen by men. Assuredly, I say to you, they have their reward. But you, when you pray, go into your room, and when you have shut your door, pray to your Father who is in the secret place; and your Father who sees in secret will reward you openly. And when you pray, do not use vain repetitions as the heathen do. For they think that they will be heard for their many words." In chapter 7, verses 21-23 it says,"Not everyone who says to Me, 'Lord, Lord,' shall enter the kingdom of heaven, but he who does the will of My Father in heaven. Many will say to Me in that day, 'Lord, Lord, have we not prophesied in Your name, cast out demons in Your name, and done many wonders in Your name?' "And then I will declare to them, 'I never knew you; depart from Me, you who practice lawlessness!" In Matthew 23: we read the following from verses 5 and 23, "But all their works they do to be seen by men. They make their phylacteries broad and enlarge the borders of their garments. Woe to you, scribes and Pharisees, hypocrites! For you pay tithe of mint and anise and cummin, and have neglected the weightier matters of the law: justice and mercy and faith. These you ought to have done, without leaving the others undone." The apostle Paul wrote, "Let no one cheat you of your reward, taking delight in false humility and worship of angels, intruding into those things which he has not seen, vainly puffed up by his fleshly mind." So what do these verses teach us? They teach that if we are only doing something just to be seen of men, then our religious is absolutely worthless. We are not striving to worship God in the proper Spirit and in Truth (John 4:24). Many people will attend church somewhere today that has not attended all year. Why? Is it because they suddenly have a desire to worship the king, or could it be that they are attending to please some family member or in keeping with some tradition? Jesus condemned the Pharisees of His day for practicing lawlessness and He will do the same for those that do so today.
The second diversion to Christmas is that traditions equals truth. Again, Jesus said in Matthew 15:8-9, "These people draw near to Me with their mouth, And honor Me with their lips, But their heart is far from Me. And in vain they worship Me, Teaching as doctrines the commandments of men." The apostle Paul wrote, "Now this I say lest anyone should deceive you with persuasive words. For though I am absent in the flesh, yet I am with you in spirit, rejoicing to see your good order and the steadfastness of your faith in Christ. As you have therefore received Christ Jesus the Lord, so walk in Him, rooted and built up in Him and established in the faith, as you have been taught, abounding in it with thanksgiving. Beware lest anyone cheat you through philosophy and empty deceit, according to the tradition of men, according to the basic principles of the world, and not according to Christ. Friends, traditions do not equal truth. That which is practiced today is no different than that which was practiced way back in the first century. Paul warned that people would be cheated and deceived according to the traditions of men. Therefore, I urge you to be careful because this can certainly happen today, and is happening as far as the religious celebration of Christmas is concerned.
The third diversion to Christmas is that giving equals godliness. During this holiday season you will notice that at the entrance of just about every department store the Salvation Army volunteers are camped out with their ding-a-lings inviting anyone and everyone to give something. Many people think that by giving some money to the Salvation Army will make them just a little more godly, after all, it is Christmas. But godliness is something that cannot be bought. In order for us to put on godliness, we must put on Christ. The only way we do that is to be baptized into Christ (Gal 3:27). Paul wrote to the Ephesians "But now in Christ Jesus you who once were far off have been brought near by the blood of Christ." To the Colossians he wrote, "and by Him to reconcile all things to Himself, by Him, whether things on earth or things in heaven, having made peace through the blood of His cross."There is absolutely nothing wrong with giving, in fact the Bible teaches that we should show goodwill toward all men (Luk 2:14). But if we are doing it only because we are keeping with the religious meaning of Christmas, then we are doing it for the wrong reason. Friends, can you see the diversion that is in place? The diversion is that giving equals godliness.
The fourth diversion to Christmas is that benevolence equals brotherhood. We have a Bible example of a man by the name of Cornelius that was a benevolent man, he was a devout man. In Acts 10:2 it says, "a devout man and one who feared God with all his household, who gave alms generously to the people, and prayed to God always." However was his benevolent acts his salvation? In other words, did his acts of benevolence result in his salvation? We see in Acts 11:14 that Peter would come to the house of Cornelius and "tell you words by which you and all your household will be saved." Therefore, even though benevolence is good, it does not result in salvation. We are not part of a brotherhood of Christians by simply doing an act of benevolence, yet this is another diversion to Christmas.
The fifth diversion to Christmas is that Christmas unity equals Christian unity. The Pentecostals, Baptists, Lutherans, etc. all become united during this Christmas season. They put on community skits, plays, choirs, etc., all in the name of religion and they join hands in doing so. Everything seems to be all fine and every religious denomination can come together during this one time per year in celebration of the birthday of Jesus. Well friends, wouldn't it make sense that if all these denominations can come together on this one day, that they could come together any day? Especially if it is in the name of Jesus. The reason this cannot be so is because the Bible says it cannot be so, not at any time, because there is but one church that is mentioned in the Bible. There are no denominations mentioned in the Bible, just like there is no reference to Christ's birthday on December 25th. The apostle Paul writes, "There is one body and one Spirit, just as you were called in one hope of your calling; one Lord, one faith, one baptism; one God and Father of all, who is above all, and through all, and in you all" (Eph 4:4-6). Then John writes the words of Jesus saying, "I do not pray for these alone, but also for those who will believe in Me through their word; that they all may be one, as You, Father, are in Me, and I in You; that they also may be one in Us, that the world may believe that You sent Me. And the glory which You gave Me I have given them, that they may be one just as We are one" (John 17:20-22).To the Corinthians Paul wrote, "Now I plead with you, brethren, by the name of our Lord Jesus Christ, that you all speak the same thing, and that there be no divisions among you, but that you be perfectly joined together in the same mind and in the same judgment" (1 Cor 1:10). Just because there is unity among denominations in the religious celebration of Christmas, does not mean there is Christian unity. That is simply a diversion. When I step in the mud and get mud on my shoe, that is a union, but that certainly is not unity!
The sixth diversion of Christmas is that the observing of Christmas as a religious holiday makes one a Christian. Friends, the observing of July 4th and the shooting of firecrackers doesn't make me an American. Attending fire safety meetings doesn't make me a fireman. Therefore, the remembering of the birth of Christ once a year doesn't make one a Christian. Yet, many people feel good about themselves when they get to go to a church service just that one time per year! It is my hope and prayer that you will attend services this morning at the Clarksville church of Christ, but that you are doing so because you truly want to worship God and plan to do so again. Going to church is very important but the diversion that is in place is that observing Christmas as a religious holiday makes one a Christian. That simply is not so, and is not taught in the Bible.
The seventh diversion of Christmas is that the birth of Christ gives one a new birth. This simply is not so. It is the death of Christ that gives one a new birth. Notice what is said in Romans 4:25 and Romans 5:6-10, "who was delivered up because of our offenses, and was raised because of our justification." "For when we were still without strength, in due time Christ died for the ungodly. For scarcely for a righteous man will one die; yet perhaps for a good man someone would even dare to die. But God demonstrates His own love toward us, in that while we were still sinners, Christ died for us. Much more then, having now been justified by His blood, we shall be saved from wrath through Him. For if when we were enemies we were reconciled to God through the death of His Son, much more, having been reconciled, we shall be saved by His life." A New Birth means - We are baptized into Christ. We are born again. We are a new creature. We are a babe in Christ. The apostle Paul writes in Romans 6:3-4, "Or do you not know that as many of us as were baptized into Christ Jesus were baptized into His death? Therefore we were buried with Him through baptism into death, that just as Christ was raised from the dead by the glory of the Father, even so we also should walk in newness of life." Then in verses 17-18 it says, "But God be thanked that though you were slaves of sin, yet you obeyed from the heart that form of doctrine to which you were delivered. And having been set free from sin, you became slaves of righteousness." The apostle Peter writes, "Since you have purified your souls in obeying the truth through the Spirit in sincere love of the brethren, love one another fervently with a pure heart, having been born again, not of corruptible seed but incorruptible, through the word of God which lives and abides forever, because "All flesh is as grass, And all the glory of man as the flower of the grass. The grass withers, And its flower falls away, But the word of the LORD endures forever." Now this is the word which by the gospel was preached to you.
Friends, don't let the traditions of men pervert and divert you from becoming and being only a Bible Christian. You need to keep the traditions of Jesus - as was taught by the apostles in the New Testament. The holiday season is a wonderful time of the year. But let us all keep things in their rightful place as we enjoy time with one another. There is nothing wrong with the celebration of Christmas as a secular holiday, just like thanksgiving and valentines day. But when we attach religious significance to Christmas, then we are doing so without Bible authority. Remember it is the death, burial and resurrection that we are to remember each and every week (Acts 20:7), not the birth of Christ on an annual basis. One has Bible authority, the other does not. Let us all be determined to speak where the Bible speaks and remain silent where the Bible is silent.
This is Richie Thetford, evangelist for the Clarksville church of Christ thanking each of you for listening to this morning's broadcast and invite you to listen again next Sunday morning at 8:30 A.M. for another presentation of "What Is Truth?"