What I learned from the 2016 “Christmas Wars”

In December of 2016, several essays were posted here at KNI on the subject of Christmas, including some by leading ministry leaders here in Israel and some in the US with close ties to Israel’s Believer community.

All of this positive commentary on Christmas and admonitions to avoid condemning people who celebrate it generated a fair amount of feedback, with most of it being positive (i.e. “thank you for standing up to the bullies who use cherry-picked passages from the Bible as a club to beat people over the head with about Christmas”) but of course some was not. It also included several people expressing their shock, outrage and “disappointment” that Israeli Messianic Jewish leaders would refuse to confirm the narrative that Christmas is an abomination.

In the course of engaging with some of this feedback, something dawned on me.

The people who were most adamant in their denunciations of Christmas and anyone who has anything good to say about it are really not against Christmas. That’s just a symptom of a much deeper pathology.

What they’re really against is not Christmas but rather the “traditional Church” which celebrates Christmas. Christmas is just a convenient occasion for them to air out their opposition to the Church, while their real reason for opposing it is that it’s not “Torah Observant” by their standards (which they will claim are not “their” subjective standards but rather God’s standards which they’re merely being faithful to, unlike all those pseudo-Christian “pagans” with their Christmas trees, Easter eggs, etc.)

This raises a plethora of other issues which I’m not gonna get into here. I’ll just give you some simple advice, based on my 15 years of living in Israel and seeing the spiritual ebbs and flows here.

If you meet someone who claims to be following the Lord but they have nothing good to say about the Church and/or never stop talking about the importance/necessity of “Torah Observance” (a metaphor for keeping the Old Testament Laws regarding kosher food, etc.) in order to be right with God, than that person is almost certainly a false prophet like the ones Jesus warned about in Matthew 7:15.

A large percentage of the New Testament is dedicated to telling the story of how the early Church fought off attacks from the exact same false teachings about “Torah observance” that are being propagated in segments of the Hebrew Roots/Messianic/Christian Zionist movements today. It is astounding, and also tragic, that so many people ignore and/or obfuscate the New Testament narrative and instead try (with a great deal of success) to teach the flock what amounts to a “different Gospel” like what the Apostle Paul was warning about in II Corinthians chapter 11.

MANY sheep are being led astray by these false teachers. That’s the bad news.

The good news is, they’re easy to identify, especially around the Christmas season and also at Easter, when they have a tendency to go berserk on the subject of why Christmas and Easter are horrible, terrible, sinful, etc.

If you encounter someone who is teaching this nonsense, my advice is to not even try to argue with them. To paraphrase the parable of Jesus recorded in Luke chapter 16 of the rich man and Lazarus, these people have the Apostle Paul and, for that matter, the words and example of Jesus Himself, most specifically in Mark 2:27 when He said “The Sabbath (and, it can be inferred, the entire Law) was made for Man, not Man for the Sabbath.”

If they don’t heed that and insist on declaring the necessity for Believers to be “Torah Observant” while declaring their scorn and contempt for Christmas, Easter and pretty much everything else the Church does or fails to do which doesn’t correspond to their ideas about what that means, then there’s nothing you can say which will persuade them of the error of their ways.

Just make your pastor and elders aware that this individual is making problems in your congregation, or ministry, or website, or whatever, and then lift them up in prayer and turn them over to the Lord. That is all you can or need to do.

But if you’re a pastor and you have someone like that in your congregation, you MUST confront them!

Call them in for a private counseling session, rebuke them in love, and if they don’t receive it, put them out of the congregation and make a public announcement as soon as possible explaining to everyone why you did it.

And SHARE what happened with other pastors and elders in churches and ministries in your network of contacts, so that they will know there’s a wolf in sheep’s clothing on the prowl.

Don’t just say, “Well, as long as they’re not causing any trouble we’ll just leave them alone.”

They ARE causing trouble, and plenty of it! Some of them are more polite than others, but nevertheless, they’re wolves trying to prey on the sheep Jesus has entrusted to your care, and that’s how you need to treat them.

You pastors and elders will be held responsible before the Lord if you fail to protect the sheep He has entrusted to you from these “ravenous wolves” who spread these false teachings.

Our brother Daniel Juster wrote a piece about this issue and I recommend it to everyone.

May the Lord give us all the wisdom and discernment to carry out our God-given roles as we move through this climactic season of Prophetic history.