18 December 2014

Is God Against Christmas?

Courtesy of Two Hearts Design


Dear Ladies,

May God's blessings be upon you and your families!  I hope that you all are enjoying the beauty of December, whether skies are misty, stormy, or blazing with sunshine.  

I found the following article on the website of the Eternal Word Television Network and thought that some readers might find it of interest.

Hugs and smiles!  Please keep praying for us; I pray for all of you each day.

Agape always,
Cynthia

“Is God Against Christmas?”
Raymond L. Cox via EWTN.com

Is God against Christmas?

If you listen to certain partisans you might adopt that idea! With the annual approach of this holiday, writers burst into print, radio preachers harangue and pulpiteers propagandize against observance of Christmas.

"Christmas is a pagan holiday!" thunder some.

"Christians shouldn't celebrate Christmas!" warn others.

"God's against Christmas!"

So the charges fly.

When opponents of the observance get down to particulars they voice objections on five specific grounds. Christians should not celebrate Christmas because of the name of the holiday, because of the commercialization of the observance, because of the use of the abbreviation Xmas, because Christmas trees are condemned in the Bible and because December 25th is the wrong date.

What's wrong with the use of the word Christmas?

The ecumenical atmosphere which seems prevalent in many religious circles today tends to muffle this objection, but it will be heard this year and next and probably for a long time to come. The objection to the name pertains to its derivation. Christmas is obnoxious to some because it represents the combination of two words, "Christ" and "mass." The word means "the mass of Christ."

But what does "mass" really mean in the compound word Christmas? Any authoritative dictionary will reveal that the English term mass evolved from the Anglo-Saxon word maesse, which derived in turn from the Latin missa, which is a form of the verb mittere, which means "to send."

Consequently, the root meaning of Christ-mass is "to send Christ," or "Christ is sent."

Is God against describing the coming of His son with a word meaning "Christ is sent"? Did not Paul refer to Immanuel's incarnation as the sending of Christ? "When the fullness of the time was come, God sent forth his Son, made of a woman..." (Galatians 4:4). Moreover, the Savior spoke often of "him who sent me." There is nothing inherently obnoxious in the name Christmas. The term accurately represents what the holiday is all about or should be—the sending of Christ.

But Christmas is becoming terribly commercialized. Shouldn't Christians repudiate its observance on that score?

No Christian would justify much that goes on in the name of Christmas. No one disputes that the holiday is grossly prostituted to unchristian purposes. The world abuses Christmas. Alas, the church often abuses Christmas. But does abuse dictate abandonment of the observance?

We'd have very little left if we gave up everything which is abused or misused. We couldn't eat corn, for distillers misuse it in making whiskey, which robs families of food, clothing and shelter. We'd have to prohibit all fires, because arsonists employ them for criminal ends. We'd have to eliminate knives from the kitchen because murderers use them to kill.

Christians certainly deplore the modern manner of celebrating Christmas. But that does not mean we must discontinue the holiday. We don't do away with all birthday parties because some of them become drinking bouts. We don't discard the Bible because false cults misuse it. No more does the abuse of Christmas dictate its repudiation by Christians. God is certainly against the gross commercialization of the birthday of His Son. But millions of believers celebrate Christmas reverently. Is God against this?

"But the use of the abbreviation Xmas takes Christ out of Christmas!" opponents allege. "Xmas is an irreverent modern substitute for Christmas. The abbreviation represents the substitution of X (which means the unknown quantity) for Christ."

Most Christians today would nod in agreement with those charges. And certainly some who use the abbreviation may employ it for such purposes. Neither is it my intention to whitewash the use of Xmas. But in all fairness and honesty we must recognize that the abbreviation did not originate either to take Christ out of Christmas or as an "irreverent modern substitute for Christmas."

Xmas is not of modern coinage. The Oxford English Dictionary documents the use of this abbreviation back to 1551. Undoubtedly it was employed before that. Now 1551 is fifty years before the first English colonists came to America and sixty years earlier than the completion of the King James Version of the Bible! Moreover, at the same time, Xian and Xianity were in frequent use as abbreviations of Christian and Christianity.

You see, the X in Xmas did not originate as our English alphabet's X but as the symbol X in the Greek alphabet, called Chi, with a hard ch. The Greek Chi or X is the first letter in the Greek word Christos. Eric G. Gration claims that as early as the first century the X was used as Christ's initial. Certainly through church history we can trace this usage. In many manuscripts of the New Testament, X abbreviates Christos (Xristos). In ancient Christian art X and XR (Chi Ro—the first two letters in Greek of Christos abbreviate his name. We find that this practice entered the Old English language as early as AD 100. Moreover, Wycliff and other devout believers used X as an abbreviation for Christ. Were they trying to take Christ away and substitute an unknown quantity? The idea is preposterous.

Some may use Xmas today as an unchristian shortcut for Christmas, but the ancient abbreviation by no means originated as such. The scribes who copied New Testament manuscripts had no intention of taking Christ out of the New Testament. They used the abbreviation simply to save time and space. We use abbreviations for the same purpose today, as witness FDR, HST, JFK, LBJ, and a host of others. Xmas is a legitimate abbreviation. I do not use it because of the possible misunderstanding it often causes as a result of its misrepresentation or abuse. But by no means can the use of the abbreviation be a valid objection to the observance of Christmas itself! Is God against abbreviations?

"But the Bible is definitely against Christmas trees!" many proclaim with reference to Jeremiah 10:2-4: "Thus saith the Lord, Learn not the way of the heathen....For the customs of the people are vain: for one cutteth a tree out of the forest, the work of the hands of the workman, with the axe. They deck it with silver and with gold; they fasten it with nails and hammers, that it move not."

Now if this passage refers to decorated Christmas trees, we most certainly would be disobeying God by having them. But by no legitimate interpretation can this 10th chapter of Jeremiah be twisted into a prohibition or condemnation of Christmas trees! The context plainly associates the action not with apostates in this Christian dispensation, but with idolaters who were alive at the time! Jeremiah is not foreseeing paganism 2000 years in the future (the first Christmas tree apparently was decorated in the 16th century AD), but denouncing rampant contemporary heathenism!

Jeremiah writes to Jews about to go into captivity in Babylon. The circumstance dictating his rebuke was the widespread idolatry in the land whither the captives were bound. The prophet's purpose was to forewarn the Jews against apostatizing further in their new and idolatrous environment, and to give guidance how to avoid involvement in rites and orgies indulged in by their eventual neighbors.

A reading of the entire chapter gives a proper perspective for understanding the chapter. Verse 11 offers a formula pious Jews might use to decline the invitations of their neighbors to participate in the ceremonies: "Thus shall ye say unto them, The gods that have not made the heavens and the earth, even they shall perish from the earth, and from under the heavens."

But what about the tree in this chapter? Obviously the passage has nothing to do with decorating a tree. The warnings relate to the practice of carving idols! A man fells a tree and transports the trunk to a woodworker who carves an idol therefrom with his axe. While the rich could afford idols made of molten metals, the poor had to content themselves with gods of wood (cf. Isaiah 40:19, 20). In Jeremiah 10 we have a wooden idol plated with precious metals. The prophet outlines the steps in the "creation" of such gods: First, the log is felled—"one cutteth a tree out of the forest;" second, the trunk is carved—"the work of the hands of the workman, with the axe;" and third, the idol is plated—"then deck it with silver and with gold."

Verses eight and nine corroborate that this decking refers to the covering: "...the stock is a doctrine of vanities. Silver spread into plates is brought from Tarshish, and gold from Uphaz, the work of the workman, and of the hands of the founder: blue and purple is their clothing: they are all the work of cunning men." Thus not only is the idol plated, it is clothed with bright rainment— something true of no Christmas tree which I have ever seen.

But some might still be puzzled about why Jeremiah would refer to an idol as a tree. The prophet here uses a figure of speech called synecdoche by which the name of the material is used to denote the product made of it. Since the tree was used in making the idol, the finished product is by synecdoche called a tree. Likewise the Bible refers to Jesus' cross as a tree because its materials came from such a source.

Is God against Christmas trees? The Bible certainly does not so reveal. But even if he were, that would hardly dictate abolition of the whole Christmas observance. Is there anything intrinsically immoral or unrighteous about a decorated tree? Are lights on a fir tree more evil than candles on a birthday cake? Is a tree in the house more improper than having plants and cut flowers indoors? If you think so, then by all means remove your tree. But don't use a Christmas tree as a whipping boy to slander Christmas!

Which brings us to the final principal objection against the holiday. "December 25th is the wrong date."

Probably it is. There is one chance in 365 (or 366 if Jesus was born, as some suppose, in a leap year) that the date is correct. But because we do not know the date, must we ignore Christ's birth? We don't know for sure in what year Jesus came. Yet we mark our calendars according to anno domini (AD). We do know for sure that Jesus was not born in the year one of the Christian era, for Herod the Great died in what we call 4 BC! Shall we junk our calendars and stop keeping track of dates just because the year marked AD is incorrect?

Jesus' birth probably did not take place in December. But those who insist it could not have taken place in December go too far. They argue that shepherds could not have been in their fields as it was the height of the rainy season. However, weather is a variable quantity and the Palestinian climate is quite mild. The particular December—if it was December—could have been a warm, rather dry, month. But what if Jesus was born instead in January, March, April or October, as has been suggested? Would that make God object to the observance on December 25?

Secular events are sometimes observed on dates different from their occurrences. England's late King George VI annually proclaimed a date in June for the celebration of his birthday, but he was born on December 14th. His people did not rebel, because they celebrated his birth and not just its date!

"But isn't Christmas on December 25th a continuation of the pagan holiday of the same date?" ask opponents.

December 25th was indeed a pagan holiday. In ancient ages many new converts yielded to temptation to keep that feast. It seems that Christian leaders endeavored to counteract that practice by giving believers a Christian festival on the same day, celebrating the birth of Christ. Some churches in our day conduct special banquets or other attractions for their high school seniors on the night of the senior prom for much the same motive. Certainly the celebration of Christmas is not a continuation of the pagan holiday. It is a unique Christian observance hailing the birth of Jesus Christ.

Moreover, December 25 is especially fitting in that it comes four days after the winter solstice. As the days grow longer with more light, Christians rejoice in the hope of the world in the birth of him who called himself the Light of the World. G. H. Montgomery wrote, "Church leaders saw in the birth of Jesus a triumph of light over darkness, spring over winter and of life over death. What more appropriate time could have been selected to commemorate the birth of the Man whose life, teachings and vicarious death were to change the trends of history, cause light to shine out of darkness and offer light to those who dwell in the valley of death! It will be good to keep these things in mind as you observe Christmas."

God isn't against Christmas. God is in favor of Christmas—of the proper observance of the holiday, that is. God planned and executed the first Christmas. No matter how flagrantly men may abuse this holiday, they cannot rob devout believers of its wonder and glory as expressed by the angel of old, "Fear not: for, behold, I bring you good tidings of great joy, which shall be to all people. For unto you is born this day in the city of David a Savior, which is Christ the Lord" (Luke 2:10, 11).

Copyright by Raymond L. Cox.

Permission is granted for non-commercial replication of or excerpting from this material, provided (1) that appropriate notice is included of its copyright status, as above, and (2) that an appropriate reference to the Answers In Action name, address and phone number be included with all replicated and excerpted material.

Answers In Action
P.O. Box 2067
Costa Mesa, California 92628
(714) 646 9042

29 November 2014

Update Regarding My Fascinating Womanhood Classes

Sea Promenade - Michael Ancher - Public Domain


Dear Ladies,

Are you having a fascinating day?  I hope so!

I have an important announcement to make about my Fascinating Womanhood classes.  To meet everyone's needs better, I have expanded my Advanced and Basic Fascinating Womanhood Classes--and changed their names!  The Advanced Fascinating Womanhood Class is now Marriage Enrichment Advanced, and the Basic Fascinating Womanhood Class is now Marriage Enrichment Basic.  I have expanded the number of lessons to twenty-one, and I added my two homemaking classes to the Marriage Enrichment Advanced.  

All of my classes are open enrollment, so you can start nearly any time.

I hope to add a third Marriage Enrichment class focusing on Christian Marriage early next year.

Please keep praying for us regarding our housing situation.  I pray for you all every day.

Hugs and love!

Agape always,
Cynthia




25 November 2014

Mrs. B's Little "Woman-to-Woman" Thanksgiving Hints

Courtesy of Microsoft.


Things were going better for a few days, but Monday night and tonight, the smell from our neighbor's apartment returned.  We are now living, essentially, in a one-bedroom/one-bath apartment while paying for a two-bedroom/two-bath apartment. 

Still, I don't intend to let that spoil our family's celebration of God's blessing and bounty.  We are going to enjoy our usual feast of roast turkey, homemade cranberry sauce, butter flake biscuits, cornbread dressing, green bean casserole, and pumpkin pie.  We enjoy most of these foods only on Thanksgiving, and I am not going to let all this change our routine any more than absolutely necessary.

I have a few hints that have helped me over the years.  Your results may vary.

1.  When I bring home the turkey from the store, I place it breast-side down in a pan in the refrigerator.  That way, the moisture from the fatty back meat drains toward the breast meat.

2.  I use a Reynolds roasting bag, carefully following instructions, to roast the turkey. 

2a. I also tear off some of the fat around the cavity and place it under the skin of the breast.  I make sure to wash my hands thoroughly before and after.

3.  To "dress up" a boxed stuffing, I use three-quarters cup orange juice, one-quarter cup lemon juice, and one-half cup of the drippings from the roasted turkey to substitute for the liquid.  Because of the fat from the roasted turkey drippings, I eliminate the butter or margarine called for on the bag.  I also stir in half a pound of cooked sausage.

4.  I always have at least one craft for the youngsters.  Many times Thanksgiving Day equals inclement weather, and I feel that asking youngsters to sit around for hours with not much to do makes for an unhappy day.

5.  Since I prefer a non-soggy pie crust, I partially cook the pumpkin pie filling before pouring it into the prepared pie crust, taking care not to burn myself with the hot filling.  Then, I finish the pie in the oven at 350 degrees Fahrenheit for half an hour.

6.  I put together my biscuit mix and my gravy thickener and seasonings before Thursday.  In those last few minutes before serving, I find it easier to prepare those foods that really cannot be made ahead.

I hope that my little "woman-to-woman" ideas have helped.  Please keep us in your prayers as we keep you in ours.

Agape always,
Cynthia


24 November 2014

"There's No Place Like Home!"

Courtesy of Microsoft.

These shoes were the closest I could find to Dorothy's red slippers! The noxious odor has been identified and my home smells like a home again.  Family members and I are feeling better. Belongings are being dealt with carefully.

I beg you to continue your prayers as we are not yet out of the woods.  I have decided to go ahead with our Thanksgiving dinner and may invite another neighbor who has been helpful.  I continue to pray for you all each day.  

Agape always,
Cynthia

15 November 2014

Homemaking in Challenging Circumstances

Courtesy of Microsoft.

Dear Ladies,

Thanks for reading my last post and for all the kind e-mails and comments.

Due to the smell emanating from my neighbors' home,  I have become, involuntarily, a homemaker in somewhat challenging circumstances.  The family members who were sleeping in the room that shares a wall with the neighboring home are sleeping in my room on air mattresses donated by a friend.  To sleep in my room is a treat for them; after prayers and bedtime routine, we tell stories and sing until I am the only one left awake.  The situation is not ideal.  They could sleep in the living room, but that room tends to be quite drafty and cold from October through February.  Their clothing and bedding has been given a sanitizing wash at the local laundromat and is now being stored in my room, too. I don't know what I am going to do with the furniture in that room: time and more research will tell.

The hallway bathroom that shares a wall with the neighbors' home has been decontaminated as much as I am able to do, and except for my going in there to run the plumbing and wipe down the counters a couple of times a week, the bathroom will remain unused until the situation is positively resolved.  I am grateful (even more than usual) for the blessing of two bathrooms.

To encourage all of us who are homemaking in challenging circumstances, here follows a lady's homemaking in extreme circumstances experience, as excerpted from my book A Fascinating Companion:

"Let me give you an example of a woman who was a Domestic Goddess in extreme circumstances. I knew a woman whose family was without a permanent address for several months. They were homeless because of a mistake that the husband had innocently made. The family home became their car and three small tents at a campground, and yet, this woman made sure that the tents were clean and as comfortable and attractive as possible and that the family's meals were nutritious and tasty although they were prepared on a small cook stove and the barbecues that the campground had set up.  The family ate at a picnic table, but that table was clean and rendered attractive through the use of a tablecloth and a centerpiece. 

"She shopped for food each day because they lacked reliable refrigeration. She laundered their clothing at a laundromat once a week. She did everything in her power to bolster her family's spirits during this trying time, and...her husband and children remembered their time of homelessness as being a time that she held the family together. This lady was truly a Domestic Goddess. 

"To truly enjoy being a homemaker, we need to give our domestic duties a place of importance in our lives. Homemaking duties are not more important than the people in the home, their health and happiness. At the same time, to serve the people in the home and to help them to be healthy and happy, we need to do our work will joy and vigor, going the extra mile to do our jobs well."


Hugs and love!   Please keep the prayers going.

Agape always,
Cynthia

10 November 2014

Tender Mercies

Young Mother Sewing - Mary Cassatt - Public Domain



Dear Ladies,

For the last several weeks, we have been unwell: not actively ill but a lingering feeling of malaise.  We came to find out that one of my neighbors has been doing something, and his actions have negatively impacted our health. That's all that I can reveal publicly. 

My vocation and my jobs have been attended to, but anything extra (such as my love of connecting with other homemakers via this blog) has fallen by the wayside.  Since we have discovered the cause, we have been able to work around the cause, and I expect that we will feel better sooner rather than later. 

I trust that you all pray for us regularly, and I dare to ask that you include a specific request for our protection.  The next months--until the neighbor is evicted or decides to leave on his own--could be very dangerous for us. If I had the money to leave and to move to someplace better, I would do so; perhaps pray for that, too?  God is always good, even when our lives don't take the route we thought they would.

Much love to you and yours!    

"Let Thy tender mercies come unto me, and I shall live: for Thy law is my meditation" (Psalm 118: 77).  I have certainly appreciated all of God's care these past few weeks.  We did not know what was going on, but God did and does. 

Agape always,
Cynthia

PS: In this time of relative quiet, I have thought of a way that I might be able to consider remarriage, all as God wills, of course.

16 October 2014

Want to Feel Happier? Walk this Way...

Leighton - Sunday Morning - 1891 - Public Domain

(The Leighton kick continues but nears its end [I believe].)

As I have been wont to write over the years, sometimes changes occur from the inside out, but sometimes changes occur from the outside to the inside.  A study by the Canadian Institute for Advanced Research (published by the Journal of Behavior Therapy and Experimental Psychiatry) suggests that changing our walks may contribute to changing our moods.

How interesting, I perceive, that the original Fascinating Womanhood pamphlets recommended something similar nearly a century ago: 

"Now there is walking that consists merely in getting somewhere and there is walking that is an inspiration and a joy in itself. Yours is to be the latter. Walk briskly, throw your shoulders back, hold your abdomen in, and stretch your spine until you feel as erect and tall as you can be. Don’t slouch. Imagine, if you wish, that you are a motion picture actress, and that every step you take is being registered by the camera. You can, if you try, make your walk a thing of grace and beauty, attractive in itself" (The Original Fascinating Womanhood Pamphlets, page 73).

We cannot do everything on our own, but we can do a great deal to help ourselves. Perhaps changing one little something could commence a number of other positive changes?

As always, I hope that my little "woman-to-woman" ideas have helped.

Agape always,
Cynthia
 
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