by Philip L. Powell
And with great power the apostles gave witness to the resurrection of the Lord Jesus. And great grace was upon them all - Acts 4:33.
Do we make too much of the pagan and false religious links to words in respect of both Christmas and Easter? After all is said and done what do the historic derivations and definitions effectively contribute to the discussion? Surely in the final analysis it's the current meaning and perception that carry the day.
The English “Easter” may indeed derive from “Estre” (“Eostre” a.k.a. “Eastre”), an Anglo-Saxon goddess of spring, but even if that is the case, which is by no means certain, does it automatically follow that Easter and/or the use of the term is “pagan” or that it turns us into pagans?
Following my editorial in CETF #50 (December 2009) about Christmas I received a spate of correspondence from the “Jewish” lobby, some of which was curt and rude to say the least. (See Letters to the Editor pp. 26,27 for a sample). The main objection seemed to be that the word Christmas had direct Roman Catholic connotations and definite pagan links. But, even if that is so, do these things really matter? We can't change history! “What's done cannot be undone”! We don't stop referring to “Thursday” the fifth day of week based on its pagan origin. (Thunor and Thor are derived from the Proto-Germanic god Thunaraz, god of thunder. In Romance languages, the day is named after the Roman god, Jupiter who was the god of sky and thunder: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Thursday#Origins_of_the_name)
In view of the fact that I have stirred up a hornet's nest of sorts I have decided to extend the debate by publishing “Celebrate Hanukkah: the Hanukkah ~ Christmas Connection” (see pp 5) in the hope that the Jewish extremists will carefully consider the view taken by conservative Jewish scholars such as Arnold Fructenbaum and Jacob Prasch on these matters. In saying that I am not inferring that either of the two named do in fact agree with all that we have published on the issue. They do however acknowledge the legitimacy of gentile Christian festivals just as we at CWM agree that Jewish festivals are legitimate for Israelis, so long as neither imposes an obligation on the other.
My point has always been that we should use any and every opportunity to witness to our Christian faith. That's what the early Christians did in adopting and adapting pagan feasts and holidays. I think there are no better seasons to do that than Christmas (Hanukkah) and Easter (Passover).
Having said that I will always strongly resist any attempt to Judaize the Church by rules and regulations, ceremonies, feast keeping or basic challenges and changes, to the Old and New Testament scriptures as they have come to us in the original languages i.e. OT Hebrew and NT Greek. (Please see Letters to Editor pp 27 for more on this.)
The one topic common to all 13 sermons recorded in the book of Acts is the resurrection of Christ. Paul declares it to be one of the essentials of THE Gospel:
Moreover, brethren, I declare to you the gospel which I preached to you, which also you received and in which you stand, by which also you are saved, if you hold fast that word which I preached to you—unless you believed in vain. For I delivered to you first of all that which I also received: that Christ died for our sins according to the Scriptures, and that He was buried, and that He rose again the third day according to the Scriptures, and that He was seen … - 1 Corinthians 15: 1-5.
What an opportunity in the midst of all the commercialism and false ideas about Easter to witness to the fact that it is a festival when Christians celebrate the Resurrection of the Lord Jesus Christ and to thus share the Gospel with non-Christians.
As Christians we rightly criticise Jehovah Witnesses (JWs) for their works based activity (see next CETF #52 about Witnessing to Jehovah Witnesses).
Salvation for them is to be earned, at least in part, by their going from door to door to share their false message. But can we learn something from them—their zeal, their works, persistency and constancy in good weather and bad? One man said: “The best way to keep your salvation is to give it away.” How true and how often do we fail right here by not “working out” what God has worked into us cf. Philippians 2:12-13: Therefore, my beloved, as you have always obeyed, not as in my presence only, but now much more in my absence, work out your own salvation with fear and trembling; for it is God who works in you both to will and to do for His good pleasure.Note that this “working out” is implicitly linked to witnessing – verses 9-11:
Therefore God also has highly exalted Him and given Him the name which is above every name, that at the name of Jesus every knee should bow, of those in heaven, and of those on earth, and of those under the earth, and that every tongue should confess that Jesus Christ is Lord, to the glory of God the Father.
As I write this editorial, God willing my wife Kathleen and I are just eight days away from starting our Mission to Asia. What a joy it will be to share worship with various nationalities—Chinese, Malays, Indians, Bengalis and the many ethnic groups who call Singapore home. By the time you receive this issue of CETF the tour will be over. God willing CETF #52 will feature various reports about our visit from the countries where we have ministered. Please watch for it. It should be an exciting issue.
As with Christmas so with Easter – Jesus is the Reason for the Season!
Christ is Risen
Low in the grave He lay,
Jesus my Saviour,
Waiting the coming day,
Jesus my Lord!
Up from the grave He arose,
With a mighty triumph o'er His foes,
He arose a Victor from the dark domain,
And He lives forever,
with His saints to reign.
He arose! He arose!
Hallelujah! Christ arose!
Vainly they watch His bed,
Jesus my Saviour;
Vainly they seal the dead,
Jesus my Lord!
Death cannot keep its Prey,
Jesus my Saviour;
He tore the bars away,
Jesus my Lord!
RefrainHe is Risen indeed!!
Happy reading – God bless you – Philip