Christmas carol singing at Speaker’s Corner

Christmas carol singing at Speaker’s Corner

Details of each piece can be found at the following links: Joy to the World https://hymnary.org/text/joy_to_the_w… https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Joy_to_… Angels from the Realms of Glory https://hymnary.org/text/angels_from_… https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Angels_… O Come All Ye Faithful https://hymnary.org/text/angels_from_… https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/O_Come,… O Little Town of Bethlehem https://hymnary.org/text/o_little_tow… https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/O_Littl… Hark! The Herald Angels Sing https://hymnary.org/text/hark_the_her… https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Hark!_T…

All of the songs we sang are pre-twentieth century and are out of copyright.

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Is Christmas fake news?

 

Star decoration

This advent has been filled with evangelistic events, carol services, pub carolling etc, all trying to wrench Christmas back from the fat red man and bring our attention back to the baby in the manger. Because only the baby in the manger lived the perfect life, died and rose again and promises eternal life to all who believe in Him (John 3:16, John 5:24.) What hope! All while the fat red man – the one invented by Coca Cola I mean-only gets us fatter and sadder and lonelier after we have eaten or played with or passed on his offerings to the charity shop.

Each year I try and invite my Muslim friends to Carol services (or whatever), and every year I get a response like this one, this time from a good friend:

WhatsApp message

This was followed, as has happened before, with a link to a dawah video about Jesus Was Never Born on 25th December and  How Christmas Is Actually a Pagan Festival. In the video I watched, I learnt that gingerbread men are haram, because they are symbolic of pagan massacres. And yet the same dawah people, who warn of the evils of children’s biscuits, are very shy when it comes to making videos on why some Muslims literally massacre people at Christmas markets. (This guy has no videos on violence in Islamic teaching at all.)

The evidence for whether Jesus was actually born on 25th December is a bit sketchy.  It has some patristic support: according to this article, Hyppolytus (ca. 170-236) claimed that Jesus was born on December 25, as did John Chrystostom (ca.349-407) and  Cyril of Jerusalem (ca. 348-386). Other Church Fathers, such as Iraeneus, (c140-202) said Jesus was born in the 41st year of the reign of Augustus, who began his reign autumn 43 BC, making Jesus’ birth ‘the autumn’ of 2BC. Eusebius’ dating is similar. Others argue the dating is based on Rabbinic tradition, which held that you die on the day of conception; and nine months on from April 25th, the date given  for Jesus’ crucifixion, is December 25th. Either way, there are no Scripture references nor enough historical evidence, to be exactly sure.

But exact dating is a side issue. The main point of course is not the date of his birth but the significance of it. Jesus Christ was not just a human baby, but God in the flesh (John 1:1, Isaiah 7:14, Isaiah 9:6.)  Christian doctrines – incarnation, atonement, resurrection – are inextricably bound up with the belief that God was born, not the date of his birth.

And if Muslims are going to continue to make this objection, they need to be consistent. Last week a Muslim brought the “25th December” objection to me on his way to Mawlid – Muhammad’s birthday party. Only no-one knows exactly when Muhammad was born either. In fact the historical Muhammad is far more obscure than the historical Jesus. But celebrating  the birthday of an influential figure seems perfectly reasonable, whether it’s on the exact day or not. Quibbling over Muhammad’s birthday doesn’t prove Islam true or false, same with Jesus.  (Interestingly, celebrating Mawlid was condemned in a fatwa by Ibn Taimiyya (d.1328) – one of the forefathers of Wahabbism – as an innovation.)

And was Christmas derived from a pagan festival?  The celebration of the nativity may have been concurrent with pagan festivals, but there is not much evidence to suggest it was pagan in origin.  The Romans used to celebrate the feast of Saturnalia, which involved feasting , gifts and candles until 23rd December. But it was disapproved of by the early church. Gregory Nazianzen, Bishop of Constantinople c. 379 compared it unfavourably with celebrations of the Nativity.

‘…let us not strive to outdo each other in intemperance… Let us leave all these to … the …festivals of the Greeks… But we, the Object of whose adoration is the Word… seek it [‘luxury’]…in the Divine Law …’

The early church celebrated Jesus’ birth with fasting, perhaps as a reaction to the dissipation around them. It’s a challenging thought.

The other contention, according to this article, is that Christmas was initiated by Roman Emperor Aurelian. Aurelian did initiate games to the Sun deity,  Sol, held in October, but also celebrated the Winter Solstice as the ‘birthday’ of the sun, around December 25th. However this was a celebration of the sun the astronomical body, not the deity – an important distinction.  Christians didn’t mind the celebration of the Nativity co-inciding with a naturally -occuring event like the Solstice, and even drew parallels with Christ  the ‘Sun of Righteousness’ (Malachi 4:2). In fact what we know about early Christians is how they actively shunned any association with other gods and refused to sacrifice to them, even if it led to their violent deaths. How likely is it really that saints like Perpetua, who chose Christ and the lions rather than offer a pinch of incense to a foreign god, would have indulged in a remotely pagan festival? If anything, the evidence points to early Christians consciously setting themselves apart from pagan traditions.

As Christmas developed down the centuries, it undoubtedly picked up traditions from other origins – some of them probably pagan, like the ringing of bells (to warn off evil spirits.)  Instead of being shunned – though some Christians do still – these were infused with new meaning, in this case, making a joyful noise to the Lord. The same is true of candles, a borrowing from Hannukah, symbolising Christ the light or the world, evergreen trees Jesus’ indestructible life etc. But why not take something bad and make it something new and beautiful? Isn’t that what Jesus does with us when we are born again?

It’s worrying that the Christian symbolism behind our traditions is getting  lost as Christmas became more secular and commercial. I know of more Christians now who don’t celebrate Christmas because it  seems so far-removed from the Nativity story. But whether you do Christmas stockings or plum pudding or not, the point is to keep the main thing, the main thing: Christ the Saviour is born! And when Muslims – or Christians – attack Christmas for being pagan, it’s not attacking the main thing, but a straw man.

“Joseph, son of David, do not be afraid to take to you Mary your wife, for that which is [g]conceived in her is of the Holy Spirit. 21 And she will bring forth a Son, and you shall call His name [h]Jesus, for He will save His people from their sins.”

22 So all this was done that it might be fulfilled which was spoken by the Lord through the prophet, saying: 23 “Behold, the virgin shall be with child, and bear a Son, and they shall call His name Immanuel,” which is translated, “God with us.” (Matthew 1:2-23)

Happy Christmas everyone!

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Dawah team gives Christmas presents at Speaker’s Corner!

Dawah team gives Christmas presents at Speaker’s Corner!

Can Muslim celebrate Christmas? Should they be giving presents to Christians?

“O People of the Scripture! Do not exaggerate in your religion nor utter aught concerning Allah save the truth. The Messiah, Jesus son of Mary, was only a messenger of Allah, and His word which He conveyed unto Mary, and a spirit from Him. So believe in Allah and His messengers, and say not “Three” – Cease! (it is) better for you! – Allah is only One Allah. Far is it removed from His Transcendent Majesty that He should have a son. His is all that is in the heavens and all that is in the earth. And Allah is sufficient as Defender.” Sura 4:171

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Son of God conceived through sex?

Was the Son of God conceived through sex?

Hatun challenges Muslims’ false belief that the Bible teaches Jesus was conceived through sexual relations. But the Qur’an does teach something like that…

And [We have propounded yet another parable of God-consciousness in the story of] Mary, the daughter of Imran, [24] who guarded her chastity, whereupon We breathed of Our spirit into that [which was in her womb], [25] and who accepted the truth of her Sustainer’s words – and [thus,] of His revelations [26] – and was one of the truly devout. – Sura 66:12

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How did Mary get pregnant in Islam?

How did Mary get pregnant in Islam?

Hatun discusses with a Muslim how the Qur’an misunderstands the Divine Sonship of Jesus, how John 10 clearly points to Jesus’ Divine Sonship, and how the spirit (ruh) of Allah gets Mary pregnant yet according to the Qur’an Jesus is not divine!

“If Allah had intended to take a son, He could have chosen from what He creates whatever He willed. Exalted is He; He is Allah, the One, the Prevailing.” Sura 39:4 25

Jesus answered, “I did tell you, but you do not believe. The works I do in my Father’s name testify about me, 26 but you do not believe because you are not my sheep. 27 My sheep listen to my voice; I know them, and they follow me. 28 I give them eternal life, and they shall never perish; no one will snatch them out of my hand. 29 My Father, who has given them to me, is greater than all[c]; no one can snatch them out of my Father’s hand. 30 I and the Father are one.” 31 Again his Jewish opponents picked up stones to stone him, 32 but Jesus said to them, “I have shown you many good works from the Father. For which of these do you stone me?” 33 “We are not stoning you for any good work,” they replied, “but for blasphemy, because you, a mere man, claim to be God.” John 10:25-33

“And Mary the daughter of ‘Imran, who guarded her chastity; and We breathed into (her body) of Our spirit; and she testified to the truth of the words of her Lord and of His Revelations, and was one of the devout (servants)” Sura 66:12 (Y. Ali)

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