It’s that time of year again. The time when you hear vastly different viewpoints from Christians about whether or not Christmas should be celebrated. Some claim that Christmas is a pagan holiday, and if you put up a tree you are perpetuating heathen celebrations. Others claim that every little detail of our modern Christmas tradition has a Scriptural precedent, e.g. the lights on the trees are proof that Jesus is the Light of the World. Others claim that Santa is an anagram for Satan (i personally really enjoy this one). And still others love the food, the snacks, the gifts, the decorations, the weather, the family gatherings, and really everything that goes along with this season.
I will admit that my wife and i have already watched two Christmas romances since my break from work started (Friday = 12/18; drafted this post Sunday 12/20).
In our text this morning, i want to take a few moments to draw a few unexpected parallels between a passage of Scripture (not explicitly Christmas-themed) and some modern Christmas traditions. Let’s go to Esther 9.
The king’s command and law went into effect on the thirteenth day of the twelfth month, the month Adar. On the day when the Jews’ enemies had hoped to overpower them, just the opposite happened. The Jews overpowered those who hated them. In each of King Ahasuerus’s provinces the Jews assembled in their cities to attack those who intended to harm them. Not a single person could withstand them; terror of them fell on every nationality. . . . The rest of the Jews in the royal provinces assembled, defended themselves, and got rid of their enemies. They killed 75,000 of those who hated them, but they did not seize a any plunder. They fought on the thirteenth day of the month of Adar and rested on the fourteenth, and it became a day of feasting and rejoicing.
But the Jews in Susa had assembled on the thirteenth and the fourteenth days of the month. They rested on the fifteenth day of the month, and it became a day of feasting and rejoicing. This explains why the rural Jews who live in villages observe the fourteenth day of the month of Adar as a time of rejoicing and feasting. It is a holiday when they send gifts to one another.
Mordecai recorded these events and sent letters to all the Jews in all of King Ahasuerus’s provinces, both near and far. He ordered them to celebrate the fourteenth and fifteenth days of the month Adar every year because during those days the Jews got rid of their enemies. That was the month when their sorrow was turned into rejoicing and their mourning into a holiday. They were to be days of feasting, rejoicing, and of sending gifts to one another and the poor.Esther 9:1-2, 16-22
In case you’re unfamiliar with the story, the book of Esther tells of Esther, a young Jewish girl who was raised by her cousin Mordecai, who was taken from her people to the Persian King Ahasuerus’s harem. This occurred, because earlier–in a fit of rage–he had disowned his previous wife (Vashti, chapter 1). (For the history buffs out there, it is likely that Ahasuerus went and defeated Leonidas and the Greeks between Vashti and Esther.) But, to make a long story short, Mordecai would not bow to the whims of Ahasuerus’ man–Haman–and so Haman devised a plot to not only kill Mordecai, but to wipe out all of the Jews. The day on which the Jews were to be exterminated was the thirteenth day of the twelfth month (3:13), all throughout the Persian Empire. However, Esther had become queen–“for such a time as this” (4:14)–and when she informed King Ahasuerus of Haman’s plot, the plan was reversed: He died, and all who wanted to harm the Jews. Which is what we read in our text.
With that in mind, let’s first look at three similarities–and then two differences–between Esther 9 and our modern Christmas celebrations.
It was the “twelfth month”
Granted, the Jewish calendar is not the same as our modern calendar. (Purim is celebrated in mid-March; Passover, which starts the Jewish year [cf. Exodus 12:1ff.] is celebrated about three weeks later.) But when we hear the “twelfth month,” we instinctively think December, so it adds to the similarity with our Christmas tradition.
They “sent gifts to one another”
There is nothing that screams, “Christmas!” more than gift exchanges. The Jewish people rejoiced in their escape from extermination by giving gifts to one another. What is more, why did Jesus come to earth? He came to “save His people from their sins” (Matthew 1:21), He came so that “everyone who believes in Him will not perish, but have everlasting life” (John 3:16). We should rejoice in our escape from death by blessing our loved ones with gifts.
They helped “the poor”
The 26th of December is known in some parts of the world as Boxing Day. No, this isn’t a day to beat up people. Originally, it was “a holiday to give gifts to the poor,” and it is traditionally “a day off for servants, when they received a special Christmas box from their masters.” I share this because it paints an important picture. You and yours are not the only ones who exist on Christmas. There are others. There are others who are less well off than you. There are people who couldn’t go home to their families this year (for whatever reason). There are people who have lost loved ones this year. There are people who lost their jobs this year. Remember them. Find some way to bless at least one family less well off than you this Christmas. The Jewish people during Purim don’t only bless one another.
It was the “fourteenth and fifteenth days”
The day of the month was clearly different. This primarily goes to show that as Christians we shouldn’t steal this Jewish holiday for our own purposes. Purim is celebrated in March. Christmas is celebrated in December. I am not trying to convolute the two. But there are some intriguing parallels.
They “killed 75,000 of those who hated them”
This is the biggest difference between Purim and Christmas.
However, with that said, this is where i want to land this post today. We celebrate Christmas, not because December 25th was Jesus’ birthday (it wasn’t), but because we want to commemorate the fact that Jesus was born of a virgin, lived a human life for thirty-three years, died on a cross, rose from the dead, ascended to heaven, and He will return again one day. His first coming was to save the world from sin. His second coming will be to remove sin from the world.
We look back to Jesus’ first coming at Christmas, in anticipation of His second coming. We want to be released from sin (Romans 7:24-25). We want to be in close fellowship with Him. We don’t want to fear violence done against us any longer. We don’t want to worry about their not being enough money in the accounts anymore. These things will only be realized when Christ returns.
But the problem is that Christ’s second coming is only a blessing if you belong to Him. If you don’t belong to Him, if you haven’t believed in Him, if you haven’t repented of your sins, then you will be made like the enemies of the Jews when Christ returns.
Purim is not an excuse for the Jews to kill their enemies anymore. Christmas is not an excuse for Christians to kill their enemies. Christmas is a reminder to the world that when Christ comes the second time it won’t be as a meek, helpless baby. It will be as a conquering King!
Place your faith in Him today!
It is righteous for God to repay with affliction those who afflict you and to reward with rest you who are afflicted, along with us. This will take place at the revelation of the Lord Jesus from heaven with His powerful angels, taking vengeance with flaming fire on those who don’t know God and on those who don’t obey the gospel of our Lord Jesus. These will pay the penalty of eternal destruction from the Lord’s presence and from His glorious strength.2 Thessalonians 1:6-9
In this with you.
Soli Deo Gloria
Thanks for reading.