I was rather perplexed after reading the article “Does God Hate Christmas,” by Joseph Tkach, in the current edition of Odyssey. I’ve read and reread Amos 5:21: “I hate, I despise your religious feasts; I cannot stand your assemblies.” Could you please let me know what that means?
CO: We’re glad you asked. Amos 5:21 is referring to the attitude and conduct of the Israelites in observing the annual festivals God gave them. It does not condemn Christmas as a celebration of thanksgiving and worship toward Jesus Christ.
It might also be helpful to note that God never commanded the observance of Hanukkah, yet Jesus observed it. Similarly, God never commanded Purim, yet Jesus observed it, too. Regarding Purim, notice the language in Esther 9:26-28: “Because of everything written in this letter and because of what they had seen and what had happened to them, the Jews took it upon themselves to decide that they and their descendants and all who join them should without fail observe these two days every year, in the way prescribed and at the time appointed. These days should be remembered and observed in every generation by every family, and in every province and in every city. And these days of Purim should never cease to be celebrated by the Jews, nor should the memory of them die out among their descendants” (underline ours). These festivals, like Christmas, were established by humans to celebrate things God had done.
Thank you for your Dec. article, “Does God Hate Christmas?” In my own experience of spiritual transitioning from “not celebrating a holiday of pagan origins,” to “celebrating the holiday in Christ,” I have found it easiest to explain my change of heart with reference to his divine power to change.
My summary of faith is that Christ came to Earth fully human and fully God to make all things new, so first I reference how Christ’s humble life changes our understanding of life’s pure value. Then I share how Christ’s death on a pagan cross turned that offensive punishment into a pure symbol of his infallible grace. Finally, I celebrate that Christ’s resurrection proves his dominion over all forces, even reversing death.
Since Christ accomplished all these and more, then what a perfect and complete testimony that celebrating Jesus’ birth and death would also recreate pagan festivals into reminders of God’s warmth, light, life, love, and grace!
As a long-time member, I read with interest Mike Feazell’s article “Revelation: It’s No Mystery.” I believe he leaves much unexplained. He quotes Rev. 1:1, which states John’s purpose as simply: “...to show what must soon take place.” Yet in verse 19, Jesus says “write therefore, what you have seen, what is now and what will take place later.” It appears Revelation tells what will “soon take place” and what “will take place later.” To me John was writing not only about events of his day.
I agree with Mr. Feazell that God’s servants should avoid “prediction addiction.” We have seen where that can lead. However, I believe like many prophecies, there will be a time for us to understand them. I see no shame in saying I do not understand. I believe if we stay close to God and want to please him, he will reveal all in his time.
CO: We appreciate your positive comments and your desire to find meaning in the book of Revelation behind today’s national and geopolitical turbulence. The article was not intended to be exhaustive, but only a brief overview. Indeed, John writes about what he “has seen,” what “is now,” and “what will take place later” (Revelation 1:19). “What will take place later,” however, is not in addition to what “must soon take place” (Revelation 1:1) but is another way of referring to the same thing. The scope of the book is the fall of “Babylon,” the victory of Christ, and the vindication of the saints. Revelation isn’t referring to details of 21st-century politics.
I have noticed that you are often using the term “Trinitarian Theology” in this magazine and also in my local church. But don’t all orthodox churches have a “Trinitarian theology”? Is there some particular aspect of Trinitarian theology that you are emphasizing?
CO: Having a Christ-centered, or Trinitarian, theology does not simply mean believing in the doctrine of the Trinity. It means believing that this doctrine lies at the heart of all other doctrines. It means believing that the central Bible truth that Jesus Christ is God in the flesh and that he and the Father and the Spirit are one God, form the basis for how we understand everything we read in Scripture.
The Bible confronts us with a God who chooses to be God in Jesus, with Jesus and for Jesus, which means we cannot look outside of Jesus to understand who God is, or to define God.
In Jesus we meet God as God really is, the way God himself has revealed himself to be, as the God who is for us because he is for Jesus. In Jesus, we find that the Father loves us unconditionally, that he sent Jesus not out of anger and a need to punish someone, but out of his immeasurable love and his unbending commitment to human redemption.