Tag Archives: tradition

The Twelve Days of Christmas

On the first day of Christmas, my true love gave to me…a song I can’t get out of my head.

On the internet today is a chain mail article saying the song, “The Twelve Days of Christmas,” is a coded song meant to represent twelve concepts from scripture and the early church. Snopes.com got this one right when they debunked this association. Sure, there are twelve ideas we can identify in Christianity with varying numbers associated, and Christians have God hanging on a tree, but this is not what this song is about.

So what’s the big deal about the twelve days of Christmas?

The song itself came out in the 1700s, and there have been many variations of its verses. Some think it was a song meant to be a game of memory where recitation got you prizes and a lapse in memory could have you paying a kiss to your neighbor or some other predetermined consequence. But the gifts mentioned in the song don’t really have anything to do with the Twelve Days of Christmas.

The story goes like this:

Jesus was born on Christmas Day (whatever day of the year it was, it was Christmas). He was born in a stable, wrapped in swaddling cloths (like a newborn Passover lamb), and placed in a feed trough. The manger scenes we see today have Mary and Joseph and Jesus (with a halo) and an angel (with wings) and the shepherds from the fields outside Bethlehem. But this is where the quasi-historically accurate depiction ends.

Most manger scenes I’ve seen come with a set of wise men visiting the newborn King in the manger, but that’s not what the Bible records.

Matthew 2:11

On coming to the house, they saw the child with his mother Mary, and they bowed down and worshiped him. Then they opened their treasures and presented him with gifts of gold and of incense and of myrrh.

Did you notice where they went to visit the Messiah? A house!!

The twelve days of Christmas begin at Christmas Day with the birth of Jesus and end on January 6 with the visit of the wise men. It is said that the star appeared when Jesus was born, and it took the Magi 12 days to arrive in Bethlehem.

The night before the 6th is considered the “Twelfth Night”, which was made famous by Shakespeare. On that night, some cultures hold a great feast complete with a king cake iced with yellow, purple and green icing to represent the gifts of the wise men. This cake is more commonly used in Madrid Gras in the US.

Some cultures begin with one present on Christmas Day and give one present each day until the 6th of January, celebrating the whole Christmas season encompassed in the stories within Matthew and Luke.

In our culture, we usually focus more on the days leading up to Christmas than the days after Christmas. By the day after Christmas, we’re exhausted.

BUT…

For those of you who feel guilty every year because you don’t take down your Christmas decorations until after New Year’s Day, leave them up until January 6 and remember the coming of the wise men. If you have a Nativity Scene, maybe leave the wise men out and add them on January 6th for a week or so.

There are many ways we can have fun with all the stories and traditions surrounding Christmas. But what is most important is that we don’t forget to celebrate the Joy that comes because God became flesh and made his dwelling among us. Merry Christmas, and may your True Love (Jehovah) bring you hope through Jesus this season.

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Hats Off Please!

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I recently shaved my head…again. I’ve been bald several times over the last few years, and I like it. It is wonderful to not have to worry about bed head or the wind messing up my hair. I like to wear hats, so no hat hair, but I do have to watch the rings on my head after wearing hats.

It’s easy to maintain. There are no barber fees just the cost of shaving cream and razors. It’s almost therapeutic to shave each day. But I DO have to worry about sunburn.

I don’t like to wear sunscreen. There’s something about that lotion that makes my skin feeling oily, and I’ve never liked the feeling. The ones that don’t leave my skin oily leave it feeling silky smooth. I don’t like that either – I’ve always associated skin like that with women. Plus, I tan normally and don’t burn, so it’s ok, right? I know I should wear sunscreen, and now that I’m bald I am very careful about how I take care of my exposed scalp. When I’m not wearing sunscreen I make sure I’m wearing a hat.

There is one time, though that wearing a hat is a bit confusing. It is when I pray. Do I take it off or not? Why do people take their hats off during prayer? Where does this idea come from?

I’m pretty sure it comes from 1 Corinthians 11:4

Every man who prays or prophesies with his head covered dishonors his head.

On the outset it looks like this is exactly speaking of wearing hats during prayer or not. However, verse three gives a bit of context that is necessary for understanding verse four.

Now I want you to realize that the head of every man is Christ, and the head of the woman is man, and the head of Christ is God.

Here in verse 3 the writer, Paul, defines who/what the head is. The head of man is Christ. Then he talks about covering the head. If verse three was written elsewhere then verse 4 could be easily explained as speaking of physical head coverings. But Paul gave a definition then used the terminology he just defined in the next verses. Verse 4 could read that “every man who prays or prophesies with Christ covered dishonors Christ.”

So, are we to pray without our hats or not? 1 Thessalonians 5:17 tells us we should “pray without ceasing”. Seems to me that prayer time is not determined by our physical circumstances. God lives in us and not a temple. Therefore physical environments such as removing a hat cannot keep our prayers from reaching the Father.

Even though it may not be a problem to take off our hats during prayer time, there is still a large part of Christian culture that believes this should be done. Many people are taught in military and in other cultural circumstances that there are times to take off your hat to show respect. Even though taking your hat off during prayer is probably not what 1 Corinthians 11 is talking about, when with a group it is best to do it out of respect for those around you.

We have freedom in Christ. God is everywhere – especially in our hearts. Hats don’t stop that, but in all things respect for those around you shows love for them.

1 Corinthians 10:23
“Everything is permissible”–but not everything is beneficial. “Everything is permissible”–but not everything is constructive.


It is for Freedom Christ has set us Free

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We live in the greatest free country on the planet…well, almost. We do live in the greatest country on the planet, but it’s not necessarily free, and more people are taking notice every day.

One of the hottest discussion points around the country these days is the new verdict about what is referred to as “Obamacare”. The Supreme Court ruled that is was perfectly fine for them to impose this regulation on the general public. I don’t want to get into my preferences about this policy, but I do want to note that if this goes through it will be another example of the government taking away one of our freedoms.

We already have regulations wherever we turn. We have regulations on how we drive. We have regulations on how we raise our children. We have regulations on how we provide food for our family. We have regulations on how and what we teach our children.

We aren’t allowed to make any money without paying some of it to the government. Some of your money goes to helping poor people whether you like it or not. And now, if nothing changes, you will be forced to have health insurance whether you can afford it or not.

Some of these things frustrate me, and some of these things are great in order for us to have an orderly way of living. Granted, if certain rules weren’t in place there would be mass chaos. We need laws to maintain order in the country. However, this is not necessarily a “free” country.

Churches often have the same kinds of laws. Some churches dictate how you dress. Some churches dictate where you sit. You are instructed when to sit and when to stand. You are told what to believe about certain things, and in many churches you are ostracized if you believe differently than the masses. All of this makes me think of a verse in Galatians 5.

“It is for freedom that Christ has set us free. Stand firm, then, and do not let yourselves be burdened again by a yoke of slavery.”

Are you free? You may say so, but then again you may be bound by traditions and regulations. Apparently we are called to be free.

What does this mean, then? Do we throw out everything for the sake of freedom? Not just yet.

This freedom comes in a certain way of perceiving the world around us. When you come to Christ, and you devote your life to him, then you are called to have the mind of Christ. The mind of Christ is in total love with God, and it follows the will of God wherever it goes.

Does that mean it is a slave to God? Not really. What are the laws of God? Love God and love your neighbor. That’s it – just two. Every other command we read in scripture is merely a commentary on how to do those two laws.

When you get to the point that you love God, then it is a result of that love that you begin loving your neighbor. When your mind comes into alignment with the mind of Christ, then what you want IS to obey those two laws. You are totally free, and you can quit whenever you want, but the more you love God and others the more you find that you really like this way of living. It is so much more fulfilling than a life of selfishness.

The laws (written and unwritten) within churches aren’t necessarily bad, but if they are given without being couched in the context of the two laws of God, then they are merely man made rules that do not serve the church well at all.

The best thing about being free in Christ is the concept of grace. We are free to do what we want. What we want is hopefully to fulfill the two laws of God in our lives. When we mess up we have grace. We may deserve to be punished for our transgression of the law of love, but because He loves us, He forgives us over and over again through the blood of Christ.

Most of the “laws” in churches are traditions. When we truly grasp the freedom in loving God and loving our neighbor, then we will be free to extend grace ourselves when others don’t match up to or behave in the way of our expectations.

This week is Independence week. Let us throw off the shackles of slavery to sin. Let us be truly free in Christ to live in the mind of Christ. Let us love unendingly, and let us extend the grace of God to others daily. This, truly, is much more fulfilling than the alternative.

If there is anything I can do for you, feel free to contact me at jddobbs@verizon.net or at the office at 245-1611. You can also join the conversation about this as well as my other articles at http://www.mrdobbs.org. God bless you as you live I the freedom found in Christ.

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Shoe Tying Gone Wrong

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Are you familiar with TED? It is a nonprofit organization whose motto is “Ideas Worth Spreading”. You can find information from them at http://www.TED.com.

What TED does is bring some of the brightest minds around the planet to talk about a wide variety of topics. People speak on such things as solving water crisis problems and helping world hunger. They talk about why our universe is fit for our type of life and how to fix a broken economy.

Many of the speakers do an excellent job and are fascinating. I’ll admit that most are a bit out of my league or just don’t pique my interest. However, I ran across one of their videos that surprised me. You can go to TED.com or YouTube and search for “Terry Moore: How to tie your shoes”.

In this 3 minute video Terry Moore discusses how to tie shoes the correct way. I’ve been tying my shoes for most of my life and hadn’t realized that there was actually a right and wrong way to tie shoes. It turns out that there is a best way to do this, and most people are close to getting it right but one wrong move has them tying a knot that is weak at best. This is a major cause of shoes randomly becoming untied throughout the day.

How do you tie your shoes? The right way or the wrong way? Did you even know there was such a distinction?

We tie our shoes day after day, and we teach our kids to tie their shoes the way we tie them so that generation after generation grows up tying their shoes the way it has always been done. Just because it’s always been done that way by your family, however, doesn’t mean it’s the best or right way to do it.

The apostle Paul understood this later in life. He had spent his entire life extremely dedicated to the Pharisaical sect of Judaism. He knew the letter of the law and was a “Hebrew of Hebrews”. He did everything right (or so he thought). Not only did he do everything right, but he was evangelistic in trying to get others to change their ways and condemning those who taught the way of Christ.

It was on his way to Damascus to righteously persecute more of these heretics in the name of Jehovah when Jesus appeared to Paul (then known as Saul). During that encounter, Paul realized that though he had been convinced that was he was doing was right, and even though he had great zeal for his way of life, he was dead wrong and needed to change.

Fortunately for everyone who reads the bible he wasn’t resistant to the vision, and he changed his way of thinking with the help of the Spirit. He went on to write most of the New Testament as we know it and became one of the greatest evangelists for Christ of all time.

We wrestle with this same kind of thinking today. So many things are done day and week and year after year because we have always done them that way. We accept things as being scriptural because someone said it is scriptural. We, like sheep, blindly follow the sheep that went before us.

Fortunately, for us, there is forgiveness from God. We surely do not have everything right.

Look at the way we do things in our churches. Why do we do them that way? Why do our churches today look so unlike the churches in the first century when the apostles were spreading the message for the first time?

Don’t get me wrong; I am not against tradition. I do, however, think that traditions need to be continually questioned. Is this tradition useful today? What was the purpose for this tradition when it was implemented? Is it right or wrong to participate in this tradition?

Then think about what you have been taught. Do I believe that because it is the logical argument passed down through generations, or do I believe it because the scripture actually makes this argument? Is this belief what was handed to me, or is this truth from the word of God?

Some things we believe to be scriptural truths aren’t even in the scriptures.

According to Deuteronomy 4:2 and Revelation 20:18-19 (symbolic bookends of the scriptures) we are not to hold anyone hostage over anything we have tried to add to the scriptures. We cannot add some tradition then claim it to be heresy if someone doesn’t follow that tradition. We also cannot take the scriptures and cut away the things we don’t believe in. There are at least six different places throughout the scriptures where this warning is given.

I encourage you to question things. You were given a mind that has great capacity for logic and reasoning – use it. You fulfill your purpose as you use the talents God has given you, and you were given the ability to think. Don’t simply let someone else do the thinking for you.

Just a warning: if you do this, you may come up with conclusions that are different than what your other church members or leadership believes. Be patient. Love and peace and unity are much grander philosophies in the scripture than getting everything right. Romans 15:1 warns us to bear with the failings of the weak. Therefore, it is good to question things and work toward change, but we must be patient with others. God doesn’t just give grace to those whom have all the doctrine right…he gives it to those who haven’t gotten things figured out the way you do too.

So, may you learn to tie your shoes properly. May you seek the truth in your beliefs and traditions, but above all, may you seek love and peace and unity among the brotherhood as you work to bring light into error.

God bless you, and if there is anything I can help you with in your walk with Christ, please feel free to call me at 245-1611 or email me at jddobbs@verizon.net. If you’d like to see the video I spoke of earlier, you can find the link on my blog at http://www.mrdobbs.org. God bless you, and have a great week!

Here’s the link:

Terry Moore: How to tie your shoes


This IS My Sunday Best

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Do you like traditions? Some traditions are good and useful, but I enjoy finding those traditions that have need for change and addressing them.

I see some traditions like the daughter who always cut the ends off her roast before putting it in the oven. One day she finally wondered why she was doing it. So asked her mother, but her mother simply said, “that’s the way my mother always did it.” So they went to the grandmother. The grandmother chuckled and said, “my oven wasn’t big enough for the entire roast, so I had to cut the ends off to get it to fit.”

The daughter had been a part of a tradition that was no longer useful nor was it relevant.

Do we have traditions in our churches such as this today? Yes we do. In fact, new obsolete traditions pop up every year as cultures change. The trick is making sure we understand what is a tradition and what is scripture. Many people raise the traditions to the level of scripture and err in doing so.

If you are handy with Google search, you can find out what happened about 150 years ago. Before the industrial revolution there were basically two classes: the haves and the have nots. The haves were able to afford the nicer clothing due to the fact that everything was being made by hand to that point. The have nots had to settle with usually two outfits per person. One they wore to work and the other they wore to town. There was little difference in the style of these articles of clothing. One was simply cleaner than the other.

The haves would wear their nice clothes especially in public to make sure that there was a difference between them and the have nots. It was a status issue. This practice crept into the churches and there was still much division within the family of God as the two classes were still being encouraged through dress and action within the walls of the churches.

Then came the industrial revolution and the rise of the middle class.

With the invention of the Spinning Jenny, clothes manufacturing became less tedious and therefore more affordable to this middle class. More and more people had access to nicer clothes. The upper class began to push the lower classes to conform to their practice of wearing their nicer clothes to the Sunday assemblies. This idea was resisted for several years.

Finally, around 1850, the last of the denominations began to accept and practice this idea of coming to the assembly dressed to the hilt. The term “Sunday best” was coined shortly thereafter, and the rest is history.

Today we still have many people in churches as well as many church leaders who think that dressing your best on Sunday is the only proper way to attend. In this culture, however, people are dressing up less and less. Even business men and women are dressing more casually. The days of dressing to the nines are gone. It was merely a tradition, and a relatively recent one at that.

In the church what this does is continue the mindset of the haves and the have nots. I have known several people who do not attend worship anywhere for fear that the “don’t have anything nice to wear”. What a shame!

In 1 Corinthians there was an issue of the haves not treating the have nots as equal, and it came to a head concerning the Lord’s Supper in chapter 11. The haves could get to the assembly quicker because of horses and the like, but the poor had to come from the edges of the area and on foot. The rich would go ahead and feast at the supper, but when the poor got there no food was left.

If we continue this idea of “Sunday best” in our churches we harbor that same attitude distinguishing between the classes. Church is supposed to be a collective of unity. God does not show favoritism. God was fine with David dancing in his underwear before God. Where was his Sunday best? God didn’t seem to care.

In Joel 2:13, God says, “Rend your heart and not your garments.” God is more interested in your heart and attitude than he is in how you dress. If you have nice clothes, then church is for you. If you don’t have nice clothes then church is for you too. In fact, how awesome would it be if those that are haves dressed down a bit just so they could show their desire to commune with those that have less.

I know of churches that do just that. They minister to homeless and other poor, and the leaders dress down to keep from flaunting their wealth before the poor. It’s an attitude of acceptance and unity.

Remember, as long was your heart is totally dedicated to God, then no matter what you wear, you are in your Sunday best.

May we be a people who promote unity in our churches as we love each other no matter what they wear. May we humble ourselves a bit – remembering that Jesus, the King of kings, humbled himself and became a man…just like us.

If you have any questions or comments regarding this, please feel free to contact me at jddobbs@verizon.net or at the office at 245-1611. God bless you!


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