Jehovah`s Witness/Christmas

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QUESTION: Hello Mr. Hepburn, I read your response to Henry regarding your feelings on "missing out" on the Christmas holiday. I have to say, your observation of people at that time, depressed even me, and I adore Christmas. For me, it truly is the most wonderful time of the year. I will agree, there are some miserable people out there who complain about everything, not just what annoys them about the holidays. From what you say, you found most of them. That is really a shame. Sorry you came across the scrooges of the world. Myself, I see happiness, excitement, people being kind and gracious, and a true feeling of joy from so many I come across. I guess people see what they want though, don't you agree? Its a time to relax, and enjoy family and friends that you do not get to see every day. I cherish that. With all that said, its really about Jesus and his birth, regardless of whether that was his actual date of birth or not. I understand his death is celebrated and why, but you cannot have one without the other. They are both equally important, otherwise why would God even bother to have his son born to Mary and Joseph at all? May someday you feel the joy in your heart of our dear saviors birth. Take Care. May you have a blessed New Year as well.

ANSWER: Hello Edward,

Thank you for your comments.

Perhaps it is the culture of Australia. The time leading up yo Christmas is called the "silly season" here. The people here do get very up tight at this time of the year.    It is the time of the year when road rage, car park rage, shopping trolley rage, loss of manners, suicides and family violence are at their peak.  In the seven weeks leading up to Christmas, your American culture makes a big deal out  Halloween. I believe that, for you folks in the USA, thanksgiving is a bigger event that Christmas.   That is something we do not have here in Australia. SO Christmas  is the BIG celebration of the year


As you said It is true that we can not have one with out the other (birth & death). It is true that the Bible never says that we can not remember the birth of Jesus and it does not say that to remember it is wrong either. So besides the fact that the only thing about the Christmas account that is taught in most churches and especially to children that is correct is that Jesus was born in Bethlehem, his parent were Mary and Joseph, some angels appeared and told some shepherds of his birth, the rest has nothing to do with his birth. All the customs stem from pagan traditions.  A breif explanation of all the christams traditions can be found at

http://www.simpletoremember.com/vitals/Christmas_TheRealStory.htm


We really do appreciate that Jesus was born because with out that birth his death and our release from sin would not be possible

Our aim is to have a balanced view of life, for example we are not against having a feast in moderation  (Ecclesiastes 3:11-13 ) "12 I have come to know that there is nothing better for them than to rejoice and to do good during one’s life; 13 and also that every man should eat and indeed drink and see good for all his hard work. It is the gift of God."  Nothing wrong with gift giving in its place (1 Timothy 6:18 ) "to work at good, to be rich in fine works, to be liberal, ready to share ,"


That raises the question  what Biblical reason do we not remember his birth   We firmly believe that everything that is in the Bible is there for a reason. (2 Tim. 3:16, 17 ) so we take note that God’s Word reports unfavorably about birthday celebrations.

We know from the Bible that Children are a blessing for God Psalm 127:3 "Lo, children are an heritage of the LORD: and the fruit of the womb is his reward." So the Hebrews viewed the birth of a child as a reward from God, now is it an oversight of all the Bible writers that no "birthdays celebrations" are recorded of any God fearing person?

The Law covenant required that a woman, after giving birth, present a sin offering to God. (Leviticus 12:1-8 sets out the law that God gave on childbirth) A poignant reminder that humans pass sin on to their children, this legal requirement helped the Israelites to have a balanced view of the birth of a child and may have discouraged them from adopting pagan birthday customs.—Psalm 51:5

Now the the ancient Greeks, for example, believed that each person had a protective spirit that attended the person’s birth and thereafter watched over him. Others customs used the day of birth in relation to astrology.  Birthday celebrations were also held in honor of pagan deities. For example, on May 24 the Romans celebrated the birthday of the goddess Diana. On the following day, they observed the birthday of their sun-god, Apollo. Hence, birthday celebrations were associated with paganism, not with Christianity.

The Jews regarded birthday celebrations as parts of idolatrous worship and this probably on account of the idolatrous rites with which they were observed in honor of those who were regarded as the patron gods of the day on which the party was born.  So 1st century Christians did not  adopt birthday celebrations either, not even of their Messiah, Jesus.  

A partial quote from one of our publications

Quote

We know that everything in the Bible is there for a reason. It tells about just two birthday parties. And at both of them, bad things were done as part of the celebration.....

It is true that at such parties today, people do not chop off someone’s head. But the whole idea of celebrating birthdays started with people who did not worship the true God. The Catholic Encyclopedia says about the birthday celebrations mentioned in the Bible: “Only sinners . . . make great rejoicings over the day on which they were born.” Do we want to be like them?

What about the Great Teacher? Did he celebrate his birthday?— No, the Bible does not say anything about a birthday party for Jesus. In fact, Jesus’ early followers did not celebrate his birthday. Do you know why people later chose to celebrate Jesus’ birthday on December 25?—
That date was chosen because, as The World Book Encyclopedia says, “the people of Rome already observed it as the Feast of Saturn, celebrating the birthday of the sun.” So people chose to celebrate Jesus’ birthday on a date when pagans already had a holiday!


Many people know that Christmas is not the birthday of Jesus. They even know that on that day pagans had a celebration that was not pleasing to God. But many celebrate Christmas anyway. They are more concerned with having a party than with finding out what God really thinks about it.

end quote

Our concern is about doing what our God wants us to do and is pleased with.

Ecclesiastes 7:1 "A good name is better than precious ointment; and the day of death than the day of one’s birth . 2  It is better to go to the house of mourning, than to go to the house of feasting: for that is the end of all men; and the living will lay it to his heart.
3  Sorrow is better than laughter: for by the sadness of the countenance the heart is made better. 4  The heart of the wise is in the house of mourning; but the heart of fools is in the house of mirth."


---------- FOLLOW-UP ----------

QUESTION: Hello. Thank you for replying. I did not know that folks in Australia do not have Thanksgiving. Christmas is still the "bigger" holiday here in the U.S. I am sure  there are some crazed people  here in the U.S. As wel, where  the true meaning of Christmas is lost on them, For the most part, though, it does not promote or encourage anything but goodwill.. The bible does not  condemn or prohibit birthdays or Christmas. Sure, there is info written that can be misinterpreted as such. It's all about interpretation wouldn't you say? As far as pagan traditions, many people practice many today (including witnesses) that they are not even aware of at all. In fact, I would venture to guess that the majority of folks do not even know what "pagan" is or why it was once considered evil. So, no concious intent lessens the offense, if any. Not everything celebrated or practiced today has Biblical reason. A high school graduation is just one example. Jw celebrate this non Biblical occasion with the same festivities of those practiced for any birthday or holiday. Take care. A blessed new year to you and your family.

ANSWER: Greetings Edward,

thank you for the follow up.

I truly understand why it seems strange that JWs do not celebrate many of the things that others do.
 
Yes you are correct there are many things that have some sort of pagan connections to them. Our objection is when the pagan rituals have been adopted into a "christian" event when there is nothing christian about the event and then to teach that it is a christian.  

If a pagan practice has lost all religious significance and is not used in any way in a religious ceremony of any kind - so that there is absolutely no connection with a pagan god, then there is no objection.   It has to be religiously dead so to speak.

Customs (celebrations) also has to have to have nothing to do with supporting ANY country  (or government)as we remain politically neutral in all lands

Here in Australia high school graduation is not a big deal.  From watching TV am I correct that even at high school graduation students wear gowns and those caps? That is not done here.  It is done at College (university) here either.


If you look at the board you should see a question I posted to Derrick for the benefit of all readers. The title is "A hypothetical question "  The idea of that question is to show (illustrate) the sort of thing that happened in the past starting in the second century.

Have a read of the question that I posed.  I am in the middle of preparing another question in the way of a reply to Derricks response that possibly want show up for a couple of days.  I have to finish putting it together and then Derrick has to respond before it shows up. Hopefully that response will answer more questions.

I go into a some more detail as the scriptural principles that guide our decision.

I will call the question  "A hypothetical question part 2"

I am doing it as a separate response and not a follow up because follow ups do not always show up on the board.

There is a brief discussion the JW web site

http://www.jw.org/en/bible-teachings/questions/bible-about-christmas/

http://www.jw.org/en/jehovahs-witnesses/faq/why-not-celebrate-christmas/

Thank you for you polite manner



---------- FOLLOW-UP ----------

QUESTION: Hello, and I thank you for your quick reply. All I can say, in response to your answers, it seems that you and your fellow Witnesses interpret the Bible differently than most. Can any one human being really know the true meaning of the scriptures with 100% accuracy? Of course not. So how do you know with certainty that your views are correct? You don't. Thats why its called faith. If God was so against a celebration of a birth why would he not make that clear, possibly by way of a commandment? Jw seem to frown upon many things that simply are not in the Bible. Surely, God did not want to confuse his people with riddle like scriptures that did not bring accurate light to his expectations of us, would he? I think not. Why would billions and billions of people all over the world think the complete opposite than the Witnesses? Are the Witnesses smarter than these billion and billions of people? Hmmm, probably not. So, my friend, you know it comes down to interpretation, as I said before. Its just almost unimaginable that God would only allow(less than 1% of the world pop) into his kingdom based on what you consider his moral compass. Take Care.

Answer
Greetings Edward,

Thank again for sharing your thoughts, and I appreciate your sentiments and in what you understand.

You know, you are correct when you said  ”Can any one human being really know the true meaning of the scriptures with 100% accuracy? Of course not.   We are imperfect and we are told that us humans have only partial knowledge (1 Corinthians 13:9, 10 ) " For we have partial knowledge and we prophesy partially; 10 but when that which is complete arrives, that which is partial will be done away with.”   It will be a long time before complete knowledge of God is understood by us mere humans

You make the connection with not knowing all about God to having faith.  The Bibles definition of faith is most interesting.  The KJV gives this definition “Now faith is the substance of things hoped for, the evidence of things not seen.” The Revised Standard Version says “Now faith is the assurance of things hoped for, the conviction of things not seen.” The 1984 NWT says “Faith is the assured expectation of things hoped for, the evident demonstration of realities though not beheld.”  (Hebrews 11:1 )

Biblical faith is not blind.  It is built on a knowledge of things that have already happened.  Having confidence in the precedents set in the past, to know that what God says will happen in the future, will occur.  We many not know every minor detail about God, but we certainly can get a very good picture of what he will tolerate or not tolerate.

That is why we take the words of  2 Timothy 3:16, 17 seriously “ 16 .All Scripture is inspired of God and beneficial for teaching, for reproving, for setting things straight, for disciplining in righteousness, 17 that the man of God may be fully competent, completely equipped for every good work.”

By looking at what God approved of, and disapproved of, in his dealings with people in the past, sheds light on what he would approve of and disapprove of  now.

In the days when the Bible was written there was no “Christmas”  or “Easter” (and many other things) as we know them today, (however there were pagan versions of such celebrations in lands away from where the Bible was written)  so the Bible is silent on them.   God did not speak out on every single practice that existed.  He simply told the Israelites to keep away from the practices of the nations around them. A blanket command.  When we read the of Bible we try to develop a sense of what God was thinking.  Are there any examples in the Bible of the way God reacted to his people mixing any pagan ideologies with the standard of worship he wants???

The answer is Yes.

It is up to us as individuals to decide if we accept those warnings of past actions.  Now, JWs are not going to go around and condemn people if they they want to celebrate Christmas.  That is up to you.  But as a group of people we have decided, that based on past actions as recorded in the Bible, the mixing of pagan religious rites with “pure worship” is not acceptable.  That is our conscience.  We do, though. see the need to tell people that are unaware of the pagan connection that, such so called Christian celebrations, have been adulterated with pagan rituals.  It is then up to the individual to decide if such an adulteration is acceptable to God.  Our understanding from the records of the Bible is that God does not approve.

You ask Are the Witnesses smarter than these billion and billions of people? Hmmm, probably not.  You are correct, we are not any smarter that any one else, the thing that we do do is listen to to the words of God and obey them We “become doers of the word, and not hearers only” (James 1:22 )

You  next make the statement   “ Its just almost unimaginable that God would only allow(less than 1% of the world pop) into his kingdom based on what you consider his moral compass It is not that God would only allow less than 1% into his kingdom, it is he allows only those that want to obey him In the reply I am preparing for Derrick I make this pint   “(Hebrews 5:9 “eternal salvation unto all them that obey him;” JKV)   Our worship is all in vain if we allow the ideas of men to influence us ( Matt 15:9 “But in vain they do worship me, teaching for doctrines the commandments of men.” KJV)  So yes we do try to determine what Gods moral compass is because it is so very important. We do not want to be the only ones “saved”. Like our God, we want ALL (as many that are willing to obey him) to come to know God and be “saved”

Peter  said  that God “does not desire any to be destroyed but desires all to attain to repentance(2 Peter 3:9 ).   It is clear, then, that Gods desire is for ALL mankind to have salvation.  Unfortunately that will not happen.  But he has set a set time to bring this system to a close (just as he did in the days of Noah)  Even though God has a set time table, the first part of that text tells us that God is patient and is giving mankind time. We are told God  “is not slow respecting his promise, as some people consider slowness, but he is patient with YOU because he does not desire any to be destroyed...”

When Noah was commissioned to build the ark, he was given another commission.  2 Peter 2:5 tells us what that commission was, for Noah was  “ a preacher of righteousness”.  The passage shows that God want people to repent and turn around. The text reads

“he [God] did not hold back from punishing an ancient world, but kept Noah, a preacher of righteousness , safe with seven others when he brought a deluge upon a world of ungodly people; 6 and by reducing the cities Sodom and Gomorrah to ashes he condemned them, </b>setting a pattern for ungodly persons of things to come</b>; 7 and he delivered righteous Lot, who was greatly distressed by the indulgence of the law-defying people in loose conduct— 8 for that righteous man by what he saw and heard while dwelling among them from day to day was tormenting his righteous soul by reason of their lawless deeds— 9 Jehovah knows how to deliver people of godly devotion out of trial, but to reserve unrighteous people for the day of judgment to be cut off, 10 especially, however, those who go on after flesh with the desire to defile [it] and who look down on lordship. “ 2 Peter 2:5-10

We are told only 8 people survived the deluge.  But God wanted others to survive as well. That is why Noah was a preacher. The people who died at the time of the flood did so because they did not heed the warning (Hebrews 12:25 ) “they did not escape who begged off from him who was giving divine warning upon earth”  When ever a judgement was made on a people God ALWAYS warned them, so that they could repent.  He does not take delight in the death of people (Ezekiel 18:32 “‘For I do not take any delight in the death of someone dying,’ is the utterance of the Sovereign Lord Jehovah. ‘So cause a turning back and keep living, O YOU people.’”) but wants people to listen to him


When Jesus was being tempted by Satan he  tells us that it is ”God you must worship, and it is to him alone you must render sacred service” (Matthew 4:10 ) That is what the First century Christians followed. So, how would they have reacted when someone suggested ...“lets adopt some of the pagan ideas as our own and change the name of the gods that they belong to and tell the people we are trying to convert that it is OK to keep their pagan rites as long as we now say that instead of to god XYX we do it to our God?” …. There is more about that, in what I am preparing for Derrick.

The bottom line is, if people really want to  be a  whole souled, heartfelt, footstep  follower of the Christ, they need to consider for themselves  what would Jesus do about the introduction of pagan ideas as way of life  in his name?  Would he have accepted any sort of pagan ritual as part of the service rendered to his God?.  Each individual has to answer that for him/her self and live with their decision.


Ephesians 6:6 “not by way of eye-service as men pleasers, but as Christ’s slaves, doing the will of God whole-souled.”

Colossians 3:23 “Whatever YOU are doing, work at it as to Jehovah, and not to men.”

All I want to do is point out that it deserves  serious consideration. W  

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Brenton Hepburn

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I AM one of Jehovah’s Witnesses, and I am always learning. I am NOT an expert in the full sense of the word but I can answer questions on the reliability of the NWT - the so called mind control problems-so called prophecies - how being a JW affects the individual and relatives and general practices and history of Jehovah’s Witnesses. >>WARNING<< Please be aware that there are people here who ARE NOT practicing JWs. By all means ask these ones questions. Depending on the question you will get an honest answer, but, generally the answer you get, will mislead you as to what we believe, often because, they do not give ALL the relevant details. These ones will, have an agenda against JWs., and will at times give answers that are not correct in regard to JW teachings and practices. If you are after a answer from one of Jehovah’s Witnesses, please read some of the answers that the various experts have published before choosing someone. If you want to ask one of the NON JWs a question, that is fine, BUT if you want a balancing view after asking one of the NON JWs, ask a JW the same question. PLEASE ALSO NOTE: There(have been)and are, some "experts" here who are NOT always the most courteous and polite, at times are actually quite rude, that applies to both JW's and non JW's and their answers may offend, especially when they get personal and attack the character of the person and not the message. Unfortunately some here that have done that. So it IS IMPORTANT to chose an "expert" that YOU feel will best suit YOU by reading some of their past answers . . . . .

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I have been a publisher since 1964. When I first went on the internet I found a lot of negative information dealing with Jehovah’s Witnesses covering prophecy, mind control and what many said was a very bad translation of the Bible known as the NWT. It shook my faith. After may hours researching these topics I could see why some felt that way, but, I was also able to explain why there were these misleading views. I can now set matters straight for anyone that has negative information about Jehovah’s Witness to show them that such information is at best misleading and at worst dangerous lies.

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I have been a student of the Bible for many years, am trying to teach myself Biblical Greek. Was a public tax accountant for many years untill SEP 2009 when I gave it up due to health problems.

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