Friday, December 23, 2005

Take that, Pagans!
I'm glad that we celebrate Christmas on Dec 25. It as a direct result of the early battles when Christians were asserting their Power in the Spirit over the ruling Pagan Powers. The Christians didn't just set up their shop next door to the Pagans, feebly saying, "Our God is more powerful than their god." They went in, razed the Pagans' shop, and set their own shop up right where theirs used to be. (David Hart wrote an article about this concept in First Things titled, "Christ and Nothing.")

I suspect that no Jew or Muslim looks at the Mosque on the Temple Mount and thinks, "Gosh, those Muslims really are such accomodationists by building on the site of the Jewish Temple." Um, nope. I suspect that the Muslims rejoice that their real estate choice shows their superiority over the Jews. And I think that the reasons the Mosque irks many Jews (and many Christians) is that we think, "But, our God is greater than yours! It stinks that we're not the victorious ones!"

I asked Kellsey to marry me on October 1st. A year before on October 1st I broke up with her. My choosing Oct 1 for our date of engagement was deliberate and calculated: I wanted to redeem the day, to say, "From now on, October 1st will be a good day". Granted, by bringing attention to that date, we will always remember the "bad" Oct 1. But the memory of that date will now forever be in the context of, "But we didn't stay broken up!" We might remember the bad day, but always with the sweetness of the victory over that day in light of the following October 1.

I assert that the early church behaved the same way in picking their "Let's Celebrate Jesus' Birth!" Day. The early Christians were neither ignorant, stupid nor underhanded in their choosing the 25th as a date. They knew it was a big Pagan day: They'd been Pagans! i.e. Nobody said, "Oh, dang! I was carrying the wrong calendar when we set that date! Why didn't you remind me that it was Saturnalia?"

They knew that their choosing the date would send a meaningful message to themselves and their world. The message, like mine in choosing Oct 1, and the Muslims in topping the Temple Mount was, "Our new celebration trumps the old one. We now take this date as our own as a sign of the superiority of our celebration." i.e. Nobody said, "What does the date matter? Just pick something convenient. Any date is as good as another. Nobody cares when it is."

And it's not something they were just going to sneak into the cultural calendar, somehow capitalizing on the Pagan Festival's momentum to jump start they're their own parties. I can see it now . . . the early church planning committee meeting:
Chair - "How are we going to get folks to our Jesus party?"
Member A - "Well, everyone's already partying on Dec 25th. Can we capitalize on that?"
Member B - "What if we all go to John's Pagan Party, then just start praising Jesus in the middle of it? We'll just turn their party into ours! They'll never know!"
Treasurer - "Yeah, and that way, we'll save costs by not having to buy our own party food!"
Member C - "And if we praise Jesus loudly enough, the Pagans might do it too, even though they'd think they were still partying Pagan Style!"
Member A - "Man, this is going to make evangelism so easy!"
Chair - "Excellent! Next week we'll take on the question: How should we incorporate a bunny into Eastertide? Meeting adjourned!"

So bring on the Dec 25 date! Take that, pagans. Our Church Fathers & Mothers kicked your forefathers & mothers collective [redacted]!

Edited to show that I really do understand how contractions work.

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