Christmas With ApologetiX
Tue., Dec. 11. 2001 3:20pm EST
J. Jackson, lead singer for ApologetiX (That Christian Parody Band) here.
Don't miss my big confession in the P.S. section at the bottom of this e-mail!
Merry Christmas! It's the most wonderful time ... of the year! Sparkle Season, right? That's what the City of Pittsburgh officially calls it. Makes me want to do something alluded to in our parodies "Jonah Jonah" and "All the Stalls Stink"!
Bah humbug to all these people watering down Christmas! I understand that you could call me a hypocrite for spelling "apologetics" with a big X at the end and then getting annoyed when people spell Christmas with a big X at the beginning. Well, actually, I guess that abbreviation isn't as bad as it seems. That all started because X is the Greek letter Chi, which is the first letter of Christ's name in Greek. But I suspect that most people who use the "X" these days do it just to save space or avoid the "Christ" part of Christmas; I doubt they're showing off their knowledge of Greek.
All that having been said, even with the commercialism, Christmas is a great time for us as Christians, especially in the year of 9-11-01, when an increasing number of our neighbors are looking to God for peace on earth. In an effort to keep this Christmas e-mail non-commercial, we've sent out separate e-mails this week about the ApologetiX $7 CD sale and the ApologetiX license plates. This e-mail is really one continuous stream of Christmas consciousness, but I broke it into six parts, so it wouldn't look insurmountable.
1.Deck the Halls? Not the Kindom Halls 2.It's Beginning to Look, Uh, Not Like Christmas
3.Have Yourself a Merry Little Christmas ... If You Want, When You Want
4.Not the Same Auld Lang Syne
5.Walking in a Witness Wonderland
6.I'm Dreaming of a Wise Witness
1. DECK THE HALLS? NOT THE KINGDOM HALLS
Want a quick cure for your commercialized Christmas blues? Talk to a Jehovah's Witness at this time of the year, and you'll realize just how good you have it and how much Christmas spirit you still have left. They're not permitted to celebrate Christmas, and they point to the pagan roots of the holiday and the fact that Jesus probably wasn't born on December 25 or even in December. If you get into deeper discussions with them, you'll discover that they don't believe that Jesus is/was God, that He died on a cross, that He rose from the dead in bodily form, that He can come to live inside of you or that you (or 99% of the Jehovah's Witnesses alive today, for that matter) are going to ever go to Heaven. And that's just scratching the surface. Talk about taking all the joy out of Christmas!
But back to their point about the pagan roots of Christmas. Yes, the holiday is extremely close to the Winter Solstice, and the early church used that fact to its advantage. I hope the pagans don't reclaim their holiday. When I was working in the public relations field in the early '90's, I was appalled when I received my first "Happy Winter Solstice" card from a particularly "progressive" ad agency. Thankfully, I haven't seen any of those since.
2. IT'S BEGINNING TO LOOK, UH, NOT LIKE CHRISTMAS
As you may already know, Christmas wasn't officially celebrated by the Christian church until the fourth century A.D., and the Orthodox church celebrates it January 6.
I asked Don Veinot, of the Illinois-based counter-cult ministry Midwest Christian Outreach, for some of his comments as to the origins of Christmas. He replied:
"Well, so far (various) scholars have placed the birth of Christ in every month of the year (depending on which scholar you talk to). It seems the general consensus is that He was probably born in the spring (shepherds wouldn't have their sheep grazing in the winter (smile) ... A number of cultures around the world had various pagan celebrations focusing on the solstice and the Church essentially embued it with new meaning -- a sort of born-again day if you will. It also coincides with Hanukkah."
He pointed us to some information on the following website:
"Ancient Roman observances of the Natalis solis invicti and the Saturnalia occurred in December and involved much feasting, singing, parades and other forms of celebrating. Not to be outdone, when the Church adopted Christmas it introduced a major Christian celebration and feasting became a part of the festivities. As the centuries wore on, depending upon the country, a Christmas goose, turkey or other animal was adopted as the main course in the Christmas feast."
"Telesphorus, the second Bishop of Rome (125-136 AD) declared that public church services should be held to celebrate ėThe Nativity of our Lord and Saviour.'
"In 320 AD, Pope Julius I and other religious leaders specified 25 December as the official date of the birth of Jesus Christ. 26 December was traditionally known as St Stephen's Day, but is more commonly known as Boxing Day. This expression came about because money was collected in alms-boxes placed in churches during the festive season. This money was then distributed during to the poor and needy after Christmas.
"The placement of Hanukkah is tied to both the lunar and solar calendars. It begins on the 25th of Kislev, three days before the new moon closest to the Winter Solstice. It commemorates an historic event -- the Maccabees' victory over the Greeks and the rededication of the temple at Jerusalem. But the form of this celebration, a Festival of Lights (with candles at the heart of the ritual), makes Hanukkah wonderfully compatible with other celebrations at this time of year. As a symbolic celebration of growing light and as a commemoration of spiritual rebirth, it also seems closely related to other observances."
3. HAVE YOURSELF A MERRY LITTLE CHRISTMAS IF YOU WANT, WHEN YOU WANT
Don's point about Christmas being a "born again" day is clever. After all, before we become believers in Christ, we are all essentially pagans, whether we call ourselves atheists or not. When God changes us, we still occupy the same time and space as before, but we become new creations (2 Corinthians 5:17). In ApologetiX, we use that same argument when explaining why we feel it's O.K. to use secular music to make our Biblical parodies. Why can't December 25 be the same way?
Thankfully, the Bible allows us the liberty to celebrate or not celebrate as we see fit. Here are my two favorite scripture verses on the matter:
"One man considers one day more sacred than another; another man considers every day alike. Each one should be fully convinced in his own mind. He who regards one day as special, does so to the Lord."
"Therefore do not let anyone judge you by what you eat or drink, or with regard to a religious festival, a New Moon celebration or Sabbath day. These are a shadow of the things that were to come; the reality, however, is found in Christ."
4. NOT THE SAME AULD LANG SYNE
So what if Jesus wasn't born in December? At the most, you're going to be 364 days off the mark. When we celebrate New Year's Day, we're several YEARS off! Did you know that scholars believe that Jesus was born somewhere between 4-6 B.C.! How can that be possible, you ask?
I asked Don to explain it:
"The system of numbering years A.D. (for "Anno Domini") was instituted in about the year 527 A.D. by the Roman abbot Dionysius Exiguus, who reckoned that the Incarnation had occurred on March 25 in the year 754 a.u.c., with the birth of Jesus occurring nine months later. Thus the year 754 a.u.c. was designated by him as the year 1 A.D. It is generally thought that his estimate of the time of this event was off by a few years (and there is even uncertainty as to whether he identified 1 A.D. with 754 a.u.c. or 753 a.u.c.).
The question has been raised (by Sean Oberle) as to whether the first Christian millennium should be counted from 1 A.D. or from the year preceding it. According to Dionysius the Incarnation occurred on March 25th of the year preceding 1 A.D. (with the birth of Jesus occurring nine months later on December 25th), so it is reasonable to regard that year, rather than 1 A.D. as the first year of the Christian Era. In that case 1 A.D. is the second year, and 999 A.D. is the 1000th year, of the first Christian millennium, implying that 1999 A.D. is the final year of the second Christian millennium and 2000 A.D. the first year of the third."
We threw all of the topics into a parody, which we recently recorded (and still hope to get to you at least in the form of MP3 files) called "Late December 5 or 6 B.C. (Oh Holy Night)," a spoof of the Four Seasons "December 1963 (Oh What a Night)."
5. WALKING IN A WITNESS WONDERLAND
Speaking of Jehovah's Witnesses, which started this giant snowball, we just got an e-mail from Stephen Rose, and ApologetiX fan, who writes:
"I want to thank you for "The Ballad of Jesus and Yahweh". A friend of mine & I were out & about today, when two Jehovah's Witnesses approached us. I hadn't committed the whole ballad to memory yet, but it gave me something to draw on. ( I am working on the whole song to memory now.) I came home late tonight & looked up Isaiah 43:11 & highlighted it (Titus 2:13 also) ... I love you guys & your ministry. You have touched my life & the lives of many of my friends through your music."
You know, folks, this world really is a witness wonderland; there are all kinds of opportunities for us to witness to our faith in Christ and to share the Gospel with Jehovah's Witnesses, many of whom never encounter a Christian who really knows his stuff AND really cares about them as people and not just potential converts.
6. I'M DREAMING OF A WISE WITNESS
That story from Stephen really touched my heart, and it reminded me of a story that I would like to share with you. I've done quite a bit of witnessing to Jehovah's Witnesses. I have a very special place in my heart for them, because I used to work with (and was friends with) a young woman who was a Jehovah's Witness, and, when I was in college, I was dating a girl who was studying with the Jehovah's Witnesses. Her name was Kelly. At that time, I didn't know that they are a non-Christian cult that denies most of the foundational doctrines of Christianity. I wasn't a born-again Christian at the time, and I just thought they were some fundamentalist branch of Christianity.
At one point in our relationship, Kelly said, "Prove to me they're wrong, J. I don't want them to be right, but they're the only people that have ever been able to give me answers to my questions about God." At the time, I thought, "Man, I know they're wrong about some of this stuff, but I'd have to read the whole Bible to prove them wrong, and I'll never be able to do that (That's pretty funny looking back on it now, because I've read the Bible cover to cover many times, usually about once or twice a year for the past 13 years!)
So, Kelly and I eventually broke up. Once I became a born again Christian and realized there were books exposing the false doctrines of the Jehovah's Witnesses, I couldn't read enough of them. God just placed them on my heart. To make it more interesting, I ended up working and eventually living on Pittsburgh's North Side (formerly Allegheny, Pa.), which is where the Jehovah's Witnesses got started in the late 1800's, before they moved to Brooklyn, NY.
Anyway, I was witnessing to a lot Witnesses, sometimes on street corners, sometimes in one-on-one or two-on-two sessions at the kitchen table ... and it was a very frustrating experience. They weren't convincing me of any truth to their doctrines (Once you see how faulty their logic and research is and how their organization has twisted the truth over the years, it's pretty hard to fall for their lies -- but Satan has really blinded their eyes.)
One night, I was feeling very frustrated, and I did the old "Bible roulette" thing where you open up the Bible and read wherever your finger lands. Yeah, I know that's not a good thing to do, but what can I say? I was young. Anyway it opened to Psalm 126 and to that passage I quoted for you:
"Those who sow in tears will reap with songs of joy. He who goes out weeping, carrying seed to sow, will return with songs of joy, carrying sheaves with him."
Well, you know what sowing seed is about in the New Testament sense. It's sharing the word of God. And I was sowing my seed with tears, because it looked like there would never be a crop. But this verse said there would be, and it's probably where the old hymn "Bringing in the Sheaves" comes from.
Anyway, the cool part is next. I decided that I'd read a book to get my mind off things. I'd only been a born again Christian for about two years, and I had a whole bookshelf full of Christian books I'd accumulated but had never had time to read. On a whim (or so I thought), I decided I'd start reading one, "The Cross and the Switchblade" by David Wilkerson. I'd never read it before, although I'd heard of it as a kid, but knew nothing about it.
Well, in the very first chapter of this autobiography, David Wilkerson (and I don't agree with everything the man says today, so don't take this as my official stamp of endorsement of everything David Wilkerson does) explains how he felt led as a young preacher to go to another state and witness to a young criminal who was being tried for attempted murder.
David made the long journey with a friend, and the trip turned out to be a seeming waste of time -- and David wondered how he could have been so wrong about doing what he felt God had called him to do. This is just the first chapter of the book. On the drive home, he told his friend (I'm paraphrasing here) "I'm going to ask you to do something I ordinarily don't do. I want you to open up the Bible and whatever verse your finger lands on, I want you to read it to me."
Well, his friend's finger landed on that exact same verse in Psalm 126! This is all in the first chapter of that book -- and I'd only started reading it about an hour or less after I'd had the SAME experience with my finger landing on that same verse in Psalm 126! Now, what are the odds of me picking out a book out of all the books on my shelf that I still hadn't read -- and almost surely the only book in the world that tells of an experience identical to the one I'd just had an hour or less before!
Ready for the happy ending? Remember Kelly? Well, a lot happened to her after that (her next boyfriend committed suicide the day after she broke up with him, her dad died, and her sister was struck by a car). But we stayed in touch somewhat, and I tried to share my faith with her numerous times. And I sowed with a LOT of tears ... she was VERY resistant ... partially because of all the terrible things that had happened to her but even more so because of all the indoctrination she had received while studying with the Jehovah's Witnesses.
Finally, a couple years later, Kelly did ask Christ into her life and renounce the Witnesses. Still, there was much sadness in her life, because of all the tragedies she had gone through. A couple of years after that, however, she called and left me a phone message thanking me (and another close friend who had shared the Gospel with her) for all the efforts we had made to reach out to her. She sounded extremely happy with her life and her relationship with Christ. And that's the happiest ending anybody could ask for, right? Merry CHRISTmas!
-- J. Jackson Lead Singer/Lyricist ApologetiX (That Christian Parody Band) www.apologetix.com firstname.lastname@example.org
For to us a child is born, to us a son is given, and the government will be on his shoulders, and he will be called Wonderful Counselor, Mighty God, Everlasting Father, Prince of Peace.
O.K., here's my big confession: When I used to watch Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer, which is still Keith's (our bass player) all-time favorite movie, I was so scared of the Bumble (that Abominable Snowman-type guy), that I would have to turn the channel when that part came on. I'm OK with it now, though, as long as somebody is in the room with me and the lights on are on!