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Merry, Mary and Marry

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Don’t you love our English language and all those homonyms, homophones, homographs and heteronyms? Do merry, Mary and marry have anything in common? What do all three have to do with Christmas, if anything?

 Merry

Merry Christmas!”  You’ve probably heard that greeting several times so far this month.  Why is Christmas supposed to be merry?

Our Christmas celebration today comes from several different pagan origins. (Christmas actually has nothing to do with Christ!) The idea of a merry holiday started with the Roman Saturnalia feast celebrated from Dec. 17-24. It basically was a wild time. Schools were closed, no punishment was given, social ranks were forgotten, gambling with dice was permitted (it was illegal the rest of the year) and everyone gave gifts. When the Saturnalia morphed into Christmas, the merriment came with it.

 Mary

Mary was the virgin mother of Christ. God sent the angel Gabriel to tell Mary that she was going to give birth to Jesus.

The angel said to her [Mary], ‘Rejoice, highly favored one, the Lord is with you; blessed are you among women…Do not be afraid, Mary, for you have found favor with God. And behold, you will conceive in your womb and bring forth a Son, and shall call His name Jesus. He will be great, and will be called the son of the Highest; and the Lord God will give Him the throne of His father David. And He will reign over the house of Jacob forever, and of His kingdom there will be no end’” (Luke 1:28-33 Luke 1:28-33 28 And the angel came in to her, and said, Hail, you that are highly favored, the Lord is with you: blessed are you among women. 29 And when she saw him, she was troubled at his saying, and cast in her mind what manner of salutation this should be. 30 And the angel said to her, Fear not, Mary: for you have found favor with God. 31 And, behold, you shall conceive in your womb, and bring forth a son, and shall call his name JESUS. 32 He shall be great, and shall be called the Son of the Highest: and the Lord God shall give to him the throne of his father David: 33 And he shall reign over the house of Jacob for ever; and of his kingdom there shall be no end.
American King James Version×
).

How incredible to read that. Can you imagine what was going on in her mind? I can't imagine how I would feel if an angel appeared to me and said, “You are going to give birth to the Son of God!” But Mary didn't question God, she trusted Him.

Evidence points to the fact that Christ most likely was not born in winter . But no matter when His birth was, what would Mary think of the merry celebrations? I don't think she would appreciate the birth of her Child, the Son of God, being associated with wild pagan celebrations.

 Marry

Jesus Christ is going to return and marry His Bride. The Church, God’s people, are to be His Bride.

And I [the apostle John] heard, as it were, the voice of a great multitude, as the sound of many waters and as the sound of mighty thunderings, saying, ‘Alleluia! For the Lord God Omnipotent reigns! Let us be glad and rejoice and give Him  glory, for the marriage of the Lamb has come, and His wife has made herself ready.’ And to her it was granted to be arrayed in fine linen, clean and bright, for the fine linen is the righteous acts of the saints.”

  

This should be our focus, on Christ, His coming Kingdom, and whether or not we are ready to be His Bride. Notice that it said, “His wife has made herself ready.” We need to become the Bride that Christ will be seeking at His return. How do we do that? For starters we need to keep God’s commandments and Holy Days , not the days of man that go against God (like Christmas). We need to understand what it will mean to be in the God family , and that understanding starts with our earthly marriages and family. We need to “love the Lord your God with all your heart, with all your soul, with all your strength, and with all your mind,' and 'your neighbor as yourself” (Luke 10:27 Luke 10:27And he answering said, You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart, and with all your soul, and with all your strength, and with all your mind; and your neighbor as yourself.
American King James Version×
). We need to continually be preparing ourselves for Christ’s return.

What should we be thinking on this time of year, or, really, all year long? Answer: the Kingdom of God, the time when we will be Christ’s Bride. We need to throw away the traditions of men (see what God says in Deuteronomy 12:32 Deuteronomy 12:32What thing soever I command you, observe to do it: you shall not add thereto, nor diminish from it.
American King James Version×
) and start preparing for the Kingdom of God .

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    Comments

  • jldouglas

    Hello Darlene and thanks for sharing this blog. I realize that Christmas does have pagan roots and someone was explaining to me that birthdays have pagan roots as well, which is another reason why Christians ought not to celebrate Christmas (or birthdays, for that matter). The arguments about celebrating traditions of men resonate well with me, because of what Christ says in places like Mark 7 and Matthew 15.

    What I’m wondering is simply, just because something does have pagan origins, should we refrain from them on those grounds? Notice, a lot of cultures have their own music traditions (I’m partial to the Scots and Irish, myself) which goes back to the days these nations were indeed, “pagan.” Birthdays as mentioned earlier should be avoided, but what about anniversary dates, etc.? Mother’s Day? Father’s Day? Do you know of any great resources I can use to find answers to questions such as these?

    Just curious, as I am seeking to return back to God! Thanks again! :)

    Sincerely,
    Jack D.

  • Skip

    Hi Jack,
    I guess that if we tried to avoid everything that has pagan roots we would almost have to leave this world. That being said, what we absolutely do not want to do is compromise with those aspects that God shows us in His Word with which we should not compromise. For example Judges 2:1-3 gives us an instructive principle: If we compromise with “the inhabitants of the land … they shall be thorns in your side, and their gods shall be a snare to you.”

    I was explaining to our son that that does not mean we tear down our neighbor’s xmas ornaments but it does mean we should not go to xmas parties. It does take a little investigating & wise decision making.

  • Ivan Veller

    Hi Jack,

    Welcome! :)

    As Paul encourages: “Show family affection to one another with brotherly love. Outdo one another in showing honor…Rejoice with those who rejoice” (Romans 12:10, 15a, HCSB 2010)! This can be translated as “preferring one another” (KJV) or, in modern language, to “honor others more than you do yourself” (CEV), and special days (so long as they do not have a pagan origin) are ways to express that love. For instance, one of my former Ambassador Bible Center instructors has celebrated, for almost 40 years, a special day he and his wife set aside to honor their children: http://www.ucg.org/video/marriage-and-family/childrens-day/

    Let me quote an Ambassador Bible Center student Lena VanAusdle: “We don’t celebrate Jesus’ birth because God doesn’t tell us to, and He’s always very specific about how and when to worship Him. It’s a matter of obedience and remaining free of pagan rituals and practices. There are some Christians that choose not to celebrate their own birthday, however, for those that do, they do so because celebrating a birthday isn’t substituting something pagan for something Holy. They aren’t doing so to worship God…[it’s] like an anniversary.”

    The Bible is all for loving and cherishing one’s spouse in ways that honor her magnificently –which anniversaries are all about. I love Peterson’s rendering of Proverbs 31:31, in which a husband lavishly treats his wife in ways that celebrate, all the time, everything he loves about her! “Give her everything she deserves! Festoon her life with praises!” (MSG)

  • Ivan Veller

    Hi again Mr. Douglas,

    In Scripture, “[w]e see a distinct difference between the use of music and dance for proper praise and thanksgiving to God and that used in worshipping pagan gods. Under the Levitical system Israel was given very specific guidance to worship God properly and not as the world worshipped its gods (Deut. 12:31-32)” (Music and the Bible study paper). Analogously, we are not to worship Christ by celebrating the pagan holiday of Christmas.

    God, however, created the human voice. Christ Himself “will rejoice over [us] with singing” on his wedding day, when he returns to marry his bride (Zeph. 3:17, NIV 2011)! The fact that some pagans sang songs long ago to celebrate the solstice doesn’t prohibit us from singing love songs back to God the Father and Christ each week at services.

    Likewise, God himself gave us life and breath (Acts 17:25)–and it is not wrong to celebrate his mercy, guidance, and blessings on a “birthday, graduation, or other special occasion” (Virtual Christian Magazine 2010): “You crown the year with Your goodness…the hills are robed with joy” (Ps. 65:11-12, NIV 2011). “http://www.ucg.org/files/issues/pdf/vcmv12i07.pdf

    Similarly, although the 12-string harp and lyre was used “in godless revelry (Isaiah 5:12), pagan worship (Isaiah 14:11)and the diluted worship which Amos condemned (Amos 5:23)[,] [i]t was played by the bands of prophets (1 Samuel 10:5) and David used it for worship (2 Samuel 6:5). Solomon provided harps for temple worship (1 Kings 10:12)” (Music in the Bible study paper). (String instrumentalists in our congregation continue this tradition.)

    What David did not do, though, is to “adapt pagan customs [and incorporate them] in[to]…worship.” http://www.ucg.org/bible-faq/dec-25-date-who-cares-about-date-we-dont-know-exactly-when-jesus-was-born-anyway-no-bible-

    Likewise, God created at least one of the cherubim with “pipes” (KJV, one possible rendering of a mysteriously obscure word in Ezekiel 28:13–and although that cherub, now the devil, would go on to misuse whatever talents he has, that doesn’t prevent God’s people from “sing[ing] as on the night you celebrate a holy festival; your hearts will rejoice as when people playing pipes go up” to worship (Isaiah 30:29, NIV 2011). As a Scotsman, I have played the bagpipes for several such festivals!

  • Paul Sr

    I hate Christmas because it’s the biggest lie ever accepted next to Easter. Santa Claus has nothing to do with Jesus. Jesus told us not to lie or cause children to do so. “Sit on this stranger’s lap and tell him what you want. If you are a good child he’ll use magic and give you whatever you want.” Am I the only one who sees the horribleness of this so called holy day? How do you know that guy isn’t a pedophile? That’s just how I feel about Christmas and I discover in my Bible God hates it too. I love the truth and that means seeking God’s way. Birthdays, anniversaries, Valentines, and many celebrations have pagan roots, it’s our job to seek the truth of such things.

  • Deanne

    Thank you Darlene for writing an article such as this on a big topic of interest that affects the whole world. Jack you are right about the scriptural references you give. Man cannot get it right if left to his own rationale and thinking (Jeremiah 17:9) That is why God has given us His manual for life.

    Keep searching the scriptures daily for your answers to each and every thing we do to ascertain whether it is approved of by God or not. I find myself asking ‘Can I imagine Jesus Christ watching this TV show or visiting His Mother on Mother’s Day like people do? Usually the answer is no. That may sound harsh but it is always the meaning or intent behind the things that we do that is in question. So I look and find that Daniel determined in his heart (Daniel 1:8) not to defile himself by giving in to the ways of the world. This inspires me to make a determination in my heart and plan not to fail the next time I am challenged or faced with a worldly issue such as a birthday or christening etc. If I cannot find an example of Jesus doing something then I kneel down and implore God our Father to reveal to me in prayer what I should do. This never fails and I find myself thinking ‘now why didn’t I think of that’? with a big smile on my face! He always helps me if I am sincere and want to know the right way, His perfect way!

    Likewise there is no reference to a Mother’s Day in the bible so Jesus did not make a big deal out of honouring her on one particular day. So what did Jesus do? He honoured His Mother each and every day by His actions towards her. (Exodus 20:12) So no flowers once a year as that is contrived, it is doing something because of the pressures of what everyone else is doing. Ask yourself ‘Am I a good son all year round? Do I visit her/call her regularly/help her when she needs it/bring her flowers or cook her dinner or do something nice because I actually want to do it’?

    Humans tend to make a day for this or that and feel that their duty or obligation is met. That is selfish and meaningless in the scheme of things. Plan to rise above what man does and keep the 10 Commandments. That way you will be pleasing God and not man.

    If you get on the ucg.org website and tap in any topic you will likely find a sermon, a publication, or a BT daily, or a Beyond Today programme on what it is you need to know.

    How wonderful that a prodigal son returns.

  • Darlene Lausted

    Thank you for the comment Jack. I don’t think you have to refrain from something just because it has pagan origins. Listening to Irish music is fine. I would have a problem with it if the lyrics where talking of some kind of pagan worship or celebration, of course.

    My friend Mitch Moss wrote a blog post here on UCG.org recently about why he still chooses to shop at Starbucks even though they support Planned Parenthood (a organization that provides abortions). His main reason was nobody is faultless, we all sin. And he brought up a good point in the story of meat offered to idols in 1 Corinthians 8. (Here is the blog post: http://www.ucg.org/blog/why-i-dont-boycott-starbucks-supporting-planned-parenthood/)

    As far as I know, there are no pagan origins in the celebrations of Mother’s or Father’s Day. And it doesn’t seem to me that God would have a problem with you celebrating marriages. God has a problem when we take pagan things and try to make them Christian, like Christmas. And we don’t keep the Holy Days He has outlined in the Bible.

    You asked for a great resource to help in answering your questions. I don’t have one resource to direct you to, except UCG.org. There is lots and lots of valuable information on this website. Or go to the Contact page and submit your questions and someone a lot more knowledgeable than me will answer you!

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