The real meaning of Christmas

Years ago I was watching television while wrapping Christmas gifts. There was a television show about the ‘true meaning of Christmas.’ They promoted the popular idea of giving gifts because the wise men brought gifts to the baby Jesus. I knew they were wrong, but truthfully, I did not know the true meaning of Christmas.

It would be many years before I learned the true meaning of Christmas, and it would happen at the last place you would expect to learn about Christ. I learned the true meaning of Christmas after attending a mosque.

The Missions Division of the Baptist General Convention of Texas took us on a trip to a mosque in Richardson, Texas, near Dallas. The imam met us, asked us to remove our shoes, and then he showed us the shelf where we were to place our shoes. We were led past the wash room where Muslim men wash their hands, elbows, feet, face and nostrils before going into the main worship room.

We women had the option of wearing a headscarf and I did like the rest. We sat on the floor while the imam told us about their worship. He pointed to the upper room where he said the women chose to worship. He said they could worship with the men, but they chose to climb the stairs and privately worship there. The women also had to perform ritual washing of their body parts, separately from the men, of course.

The main worship area was a long rectangular room. The imam pointed out that the room was long so that it made the front row longer and, therefore, more men could be on the front row. He said they all wanted to be on the front row because it showed their devotion to Allah. He made his arms into wings, and he laughed as he showed us how they would nudge the other men out of the way with their elbow, and make their way to the front.

On the wall was the 99 attributes of Allah. My supervisor, who is a Christian Arab, said that none of the attributes said that Allah is love.

After it was over, we thanked the imam and put our shoes back on, we women took off our scarves, and we all climbed onto the bus to go back to our offices. One supervisor who was also a preacher (as they all were) threw his hand up high in the air and said:

“Thank God for Jesus!”

That is when I learned the true meaning of Christmas.

The Jewish people looked for a Messiah like King David. A powerful leader who would take down their enemies, make Jerusalem Jewish again, and who would die a mortal death, as all humans do. The scriptures promised them a savior and they anticipated his arrival.

What they got was not what they expected. Instead of a physical warrior who would defeat the Romans, they got a spiritual warrior who, instead of turning his eyes upon their enemies, turned his eyes upon their relationship to God. In particular, the laws they had expanded to make life miserable, and then the artful and deceitful ways they had of getting around those laws. Read Matthew 23 to see what Jesus had to say about their spiritual condition.

Jesus came to free us from the rigmarole that man had bound God with. All those laws didn’t mean anything (Matthew 23, Amos 5:21-24) because men had found ways to get around them. Jesus told them to love God with all their heart, and to love their fellow man. When love is the motivator, our worship of God, and helping our fellowman, will take on a different meaning. We will feed the hungry, help the poor, heal the sick, treat others as we want to be treated, and give the Good News to everyone.

Instead of being like Jesus, we still desire to make laws for Christians, especially laws about what women can and cannot do, and I wonder if Jesus would have turned his eyes upon us.

The true meaning of Christmas is the freedom that Jesus gave us. No more rigmarole such as the way to wash your hands before eating, and not working on the Sabbath – things that had absolutely no spiritual significance in them. In doing away with these things, Jesus said: “My yoke is easy and my load is light.” Matthew 11:30.

Thank God for Jesus!

(republished)

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About bwebaptistwomenforequality

Shirley Taylor writes with humor and common sense, challenging the church body to reclaim equality for Christian women.
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7 Responses to The real meaning of Christmas

  1. krwordgazer says:

    The men all want to be on the front row, but they think their wives really “choose” to worship from a separate room in the back? I wonder what they’d actually do if a woman decided she really did have a right to choose, and elbowed her way to the front row with the men! Somehow I doubt if that would go well…
    Thank God for Jesus indeed! Now if we can just get Christian men to stop expecting us to “choose” to let them do all the leading in the services!

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    • You hit the nail on the head. I would like to see what happens, too, if a woman decides to get in the front row, elbowing her way in. Well, maybe I wouldn’t like to see what happens. It struck me as very odd as I sat on the floor there with all the men and women. We women were in front of the men, and we had to sit with our legs stretched out, barefoot, with a headscarf. And there were our bare feet right in front of the imam. Crazy, isn’t it? Surely it would have been better for our feet to have been covered instead of our heads.

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  2. pnissila says:

    Shirley, once again, this post has touched me, and with a heart of gratitude I once again, like your supervisor, “Thank God for Jesus!”

    And Kristen: agreed! The women “choose” to be in a separate place far from the action and far from the “best front row seats”? Really? Not!

    This reminds me of the Quiverful daughters (and I think of one famous family) whom, we are told, “cheerfully choose” (indeed, they must present “cheerful” lest they “dishonor” Daddy) to raise their many younger siblings and stay home in this service until Daddy approves a prospective husband for them, and decline post-homeschool education unless its something in the field of education (classes received online or by correspondence) or mid-wifery. I suppose a few courses in cooking, baking, and housewifery are probably allowed, too…

    (Not to disparage those valuable occupations in the least, if truly freely chosen. Just as, if freely chosen, not to disparage the place a woman decides on her own to sit in a Church or any other religious building…)

    Nevertheless, the gifts and callings of God, as “gifted severally” as the Holy Spirit wills, not men, are often truncated or denied women in such cults or cult-like organizations, no matter the religion or denomination.

    I had an exchange with a blogger yesterday who does not want the topic of egalitarianism to cloud his vision of his blog unless he introduces it. Then, commenters may discuss it. I understand that. I will respect his wishes. The topic does tend to cause mayhem as people want to express anger and grief over the injustice and non-biblical applications of verses often cherry-picked to serve one-half of the Body of Christ and to suppress the other…intended or not…

    It can get messy.

    I think Jesus caused a lot of anger and “messed” with religious leaders, too, when He honored women, spoke up for them, invited them (in the person of one, Mary) to take “the front row seat” at his very feet while the pressure was on for her to get in the kitchen where she “belonged”…

    Once again, “Thank God for Jesus!”

    And a blessed Christmas to you, Shirley, and others who do so much work in this area!

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    • Thank you so very much. A very Merry Christmas to you also. There is not a day that goes by that I am not working for women’s equality. I will be speaking via Skype to the Christians for Biblical Equality Denver Chapter on Saturday, loosely using my new Bible Study “Reclaiming Equality. 5-week plan for reclaiming our newbirth right.” I will make this study available to my readers in January sometime. My friend Jocelyn Andersen and I are working on a new website and plan that will also be online in January. I appreciate you so much, and your encouragement, and the work that you do. We are truly in this endeavor together, bringing our gifts and God-given talents. This particular blogpost I have used over and over because it, too, means so much to me. Churches and pastors do a poor job of explaining the true meaning of Christmas. I may not have the whole story, but I think this is an invaluable piece of it. Again, I thank you.

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  3. pnissila says:

    I love this expression: “newbirth right.” And I am very much looking forward to the new website and your study.:)

    Perhaps one of our biggest hurdles is the mindset of some men in the church who still instantly equate those following Jesus and honoring women as co-heirs with a sort of combined persona that might be described like this: “abortionistswitcheslesbians.” I mean, as a knee-jerk reaction, lacking another way to describe this phenomenon.

    I will never forget the last time I sat in a Bible study in the company of educated men and women whom I highly respect who, when the topic of male headship came up (to my shock and surprise, I mean, truly, in this group) espoused this: “Men have the duty to interpret the Scriptures for women.”

    Say, what?

    After the shock wore off, I questioned this notion, and offered other Scriptures and biblical themes to refute it (oh….the irony….) and, to the side, I could hear one young man muttering, to no one in particular, variations on the above mentioned persona. I decided to ignore his remarks, having not once seen him on pro-life picket lines being threatened (once, setting fires to our banners) by pro-abortionists and self-described witches “cursing” those of us who stood up for the unborn, having not once seen him preparing materials on the dark side of Halloween for a youth bible study, and so on and so on.

    But this is the scariest part of that fateful day (my last at that church, having “done all”): the wives, young and old, who sat next to their husbands in that group of about a dozen people, said nothing.

    Absolutely and profoundly nothing.

    I noticed one or two sideways-glancing at their husbands with a bit of fear on their faces as I stood my ground as respectfully as I could.

    Not to mention being mocked by the “eldest elder” of that church who was also part of the study.

    He kept leaning his chair back more and more as he looked at me with obvious disdain and disapproval and then he caught himself when his chair nearly slid out from beneath him. This made quite a sound. I caught the snarky undertone as he “apoligized”: “Oh, sorry. I didn’t mean to interupt your passionate little speech, there” he said, to a few chuckles.

    I ignored this, too, and carried on.

    But when I heard the word, “feminist,” hurled my direction once more, in an equally snarky tone, I did stop and admit, “Well I am a feminist, insofar as Jesus Christ, Himself, was a feminist.”

    I am pretty sure they’re glad I left, too.

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    • It is really hard to understand how they can claim that men are ‘little Christs.’ With the women being the church, which is in fact, the Body. Their reasoning is so convoluted that I wonder how they can say it with a straight face. Thanks for the post. I wish you a very Merry Christmas!

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