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Archive for Saturday, December 3, 2011

Faith Forum: Do you feel faith is highlighted more in December than any other month?

December 3, 2011

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The Rev. Mitch Todd, associate pastor, First United Methodist Church, 946 Vt.:

This is a trick(y) question. It occurs to me that faith shows up on a consistent basis throughout the year in most churches I know of. Faith is both the question and the answer that drives most Christian practice.

You could almost say faith takes a slight back seat to Love and Joy this time of year, as we celebrate the reality and promise of Emmanuel (God with us). To be sure, faith is there in the mix, but perhaps not to the degree of, say, Good Friday, when God becomes, for a moment, absent. Now that’s a day when you want a strong Faith.

The answer to the young girl’s famous question was not: “Yes, Virginia, there is a God.” It was a faith question about Santa Claus! Perhaps that’s what people secretly struggle to believe this time of year — that there is someone out there who is watching over them and will reward their good behavior. I suppose that’s a sort of secular faith.

I happen to be a big fan of Santa — he’s a great role model for generosity and jolliness — but the highlight of the season for me, when I think about it, is a handful of verses from the prologue to the Gospel of John, including my favorite verse, “The light shines in the darkness, and the darkness did not overcome it.”

To me, the faith “highlight” of December is that notion of Jesus as the light of the world. There does seem to a pause in the worry and conflict of our darkened lives this time of year. Just a brief recognition that there is a reason for hope. As we say, “Jesus is the reason for the season,” a belief that truly does draw on the faith of Christians around the world.

— Send e-mail to Mitch Todd at mitch@fumclawrence.org.

The Rev. Verdell Taylor, pastor, St. Luke A.M.E. Church, 900 N.Y.:

Yes, I believe that there is more emphasis on faith in December than in other months.

Our faith is our belief and in most cases this would be our religious belief. Religious faith can be a difficult concept to grasp. It is rooted in hope and trust. Hebrews 11:1 (NIV) states, “Now faith is being sure of what we hope for and certain of what we do not see.”

There are many reasons why faith is highlighted more in December than in any other month. The most important reason is because the Christian world celebrates the birth of Jesus on Dec. 25. Although there are many controversies about the actual month of Jesus’ birth, for centuries, it has been celebrated on Dec. 25.

Many members of the faith community also celebrate Advent Season, which occurs mostly in December. For the church and the world, December becomes the month that we clean up unfinished business. We often volunteer more, help someone in need and are more generous in our giving. We tend to be more kind to each other in December than in other months. We celebrate by giving Christmas parties and buying and exchanging gifts. Our motives can often be challenged. Are we giving gifts to receive gifts? Are we giving more to the church or other charities in December, for tax deductions? Do we even think about Jesus as being the reason for the celebrations? These are questions that can only be answered individually.

The truth about December and our faith can be very personal but it is a special month for us to stand and share our faith with others and respect others, when we believe differently.

In every month, not just December, we should strive for peace on earth and goodwill toward others.

— Send email to Verdell Taylor at Pastort77@aol.com.

Comments

Ron Holzwarth 3 years ago

My opinion is that the commercialism of especially Christmas but also to some extent Hanukkah (also transliterated as Chanukkah) has removed a lot from its meanings for many younger people. I know it certainly was for me, all I could think about was the Christmas tree and the presents that I was going to get. Plus, I had a vacation from school, and I certainly loved that!

For older people it may be much more important, in that it is a time for reflection.

Clipped from: http://www.christianitytoday.com/ch/news/2000/dec08.html

The eventual choice of December 25, made perhaps as early as 273, reflects a convergence of Origen's concern about pagan gods and the church's identification of God's son with the celestial sun. December 25 already hosted two other related festivals: natalis solis invicti (the Roman "birth of the unconquered sun"), and the birthday of Mithras, the Iranian "Sun of Righteousness" whose worship was popular with Roman soldiers. The winter solstice, another celebration of the sun, fell just a few days earlier. Seeing that pagans were already exalting deities with some parallels to the true deity, church leaders decided to commandeer the date and introduce a new festival.


Hanukkah is not nearly as commercialized as Christmas and there are very clear cut and serious rituals that celebrate the holiday, unlike Christmas where it seems to me to be mostly decorations and gifts.

Mostly clipped from: http://www.jewfaq.org/holiday7.htm

One thing that is lost on many people is that Hanukkah is certainly not a very important religious holiday for Jewish people. Gift giving is not a traditional part of the holiday, but has been added in places where Jews have a lot of contact with Christians, as a way of dealing with the children's jealousy of their Christian friends. It is extremely unusual for Jews to give Hanukkah gifts to anyone other than their own young children. The only traditional gift of the holiday is "gelt," small amounts of money.


Of course it will be different for everyone, depending upon how they feel about how important their religion is in their daily lives. Many people only go through the motions of celebrating the holidays, without thinking about their significance at all.

canyon_wren 3 years ago

I really appreciate and agree with both Reverend Taylor's and Reverend Todd's responses to the question. I think their perspectives are so right! I also thank Ron Holzwarth for his information--it is very useful! Nice column this week.

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