Monday, November 20, 2006

Shocking non-Christian stuff


In church, even



Yesterday, at the Church of Open Arms, we observed one of my favorite days of the year. The day borrows from the Hebrew Feast of Tabernacles, the celebration of the harvest.

A sukkah, a crude temporary shelter with a palm-fronded roof, provides the shelter, just as tents and crude structures provided the only shelter to the people who spent 40 years in the wilderness, searching for the Promised Land. They had to depend on God to cover them with His protection.

They kinda had nada.

A sukkah covered the altar yesterday, adding a touch of leafy green and rough 2-by-four.

After communion, the congregation brought canned goods (representing the fruits of our harvests) to go to the needy, and stored it under the sukkah.

And the needy are really needy -- Central Florida is filling not only with the well-to-do who have winter homes here; it's filling, as it does every winter, with the poor who want to escape the cold, and hope to find work and a new life in Central Florida.

Often, all they find is a hard time and nights colder than they expected.

So this combination of ancient and modern celebration serves a practical purpose. And it's just fun. Prayers and music have a spirited, Messianic flavor on this day, and there's even dancing.

Our Christian roots are in these ancient celebrations. Christianity didn't spring up from nowhere -- Jesus didn't float down to Earth on a cloud. He was born into a human, Jewish family. That was the appointed place and time for him to pitch his frail tent of a human body among us, and fulfill the prophecies.

Lucky for us, we are heirs of Abraham through adoption.

Let's sing, dance, clap our hands and make a joyous noise to the Lord.

****

Father J brought in a bedraggled little two-foot Christmas tree and sat it on the altar rail. Another "heathenish" custom, the Christmas tree.

As I looked at this Charlie Brown creation, I thought, "It's kind of like me."

I was raised in a nominally Christian household, but just nominally, in name only.

Like the pagan Christmas tree, and like so many of the first Christians, I've been brought into the church -- converted -- to serve Christ.

Another adoption.

The Christmas tree, a pagan symbol of the regeneration of life and the promise of spring to come, has become the evergreen symbol of life eternal: Jesus' birth, death and resurrection.

That little tree wasn't much to look at, but it was full of promise. Through Christ, it becomes beautiful.


Mazel tov, y'all!

2 comments:

Adam J. Bernay, The Radical Rabbi of the Right said...

There is a problem with taking God's Appointed Feasts and juxtaposing them with pagan festivals and traditions. God tells us quite clearly in the Torah not to adopt the pagan customs of the peoples around us. That alone should make Christmas a no-no. But in the Prophets, specifically in Jeremiah, we are commanded NOT to partake in Christmas trees, which were then known by their original names (Asheroth Poles).

Saint Pat said...

There are many Christians who would agree with you.

To me, the Christmas tree has always been a Christmas tree, and holds none of the meanings for me you talk about.

The evergreen tree is God's creation, and a symbol of life, God's gift.

We all draw our lines in the sand, I suppose. I stay away from astrologers, fortune-tellers, magicians, divinators and the like -- people who make a claim to arcane means of knowledge.

I plan to enjoy the hanging of the greens and Christmas trees!

Peace.