Is Christmas a Sacrament? You Decide
It is true that people visit houses of worship during special occasions. The most popular visit is by friends who come to say goodbye to the dead. In this case the individual who invites the friends, is silent. Those who attend the ceremony present the occasion as related to the deceased, when in actual fact they are doing it for themselves; to relieve off themselves the guilt of their having ignored their family member, friend, colleague during their lifetime. Funeral ceremony then wins the category for the most popular religious ceremonies! This however is not a Sacrament.
The need for being religious is an innate part of human development. Religious philosophy as an intellectual pursuit has been there since time immemorial. Even outside the biblical narrative, religious thought is present even among the most uncivilized of societies. Within the modern tradition, especially western civilization, religion rises from the Greek philosophy and mythology. In fact, the New Testament concept of the Logos was more a Greco-Roman development than an Old Testament concept. St John speaks of Christ as the Logos (The Word). “In the beginning was the Word…” John 1:1. The WORD (Logos) had nothing to do with the Old Testament Covenant, rather, it was a Greek formulation whose purpose was to explain the mystery of creation and the beginning of all things.
St Paul’s letters are mainly dealing with the Greek culture and philosophy. In Acts chapter 17:18, “… Then certain philosophers of the Epicureans, and the Stoics encountered him. . . And they took him, and brought him, unto Areopagus, saying, may we know what this new doctrine, of which you speak of.” It was the same group whose opposition to the resurrection of the dead prompted him to make an argument for Christ’s resurrection in 1 Corinthians 15.
You see therefore, even the development of the Christian tradition and theology is outside of the Biblical tradition (except of course the Messiah). Thus, the argument for religious concept as an innate state of the human development, whether it is African Traditional religion and culture, or the Eastern spiritual development, is paramount to human existence. The German philosopher, Friedrich Schleiermacher argued that religion is made necessary by weakness. His psychology of religion presented god as necessitated by the human need for comfort and protection: Man recognizes their inability to deal with phenomenon and chaos. This prompts them to seek a higher power to protect them: trust in God.
Whether it is psychology, faith, or revelation, the fact of Divine human relationship is actual! It is for this reason people worship God. Believers and non-believers celebrate Christmas, Easter, Thanksgiving, Baptism, and funerals. There is a desire by man to be part of the OTHER (God)! This Other cannot be ignored or brushed away by any philosophy or thought.
Within organized Christianity, tradition has created ceremonies, which are seen as more important than others. The New Testament establishes ceremonies that are mandated by Christ. These are, Baptism (signifying Christ’s death and resurrection), The Holy Communion (represents the sacrifice on the Cross).
Can these be put in the same category as Divine imperatives? Emil Brunner in his book “Divine imperatives. Lutterworth Press 2003, presents the best case for God’s absolutes. “Be fruitful and multiply” is the first of the imperatives. The second resulted from the fall: “You shall surely die.” In these cases, the Divine I am made provision for the actuation of these imperatives. Thus the union of the man and woman produces creatures whose existence is guaranteed by principles and forces separate from the parents. And death is absolute: Who can stop death, or capture the force during its work?
The Sacraments though related to imperatives are presented as bestowment of blessings upon individuals. However they do not stand by themselves: They relate to faith. The Catholics list them as: Baptism, Confirmation Eucharist, Penance, Anointing of the sick, Marriage and Order.
Protestants are devoid of Sacraments apart from Baptism and Holy Communion.
Teddy Njoroge Kamau (PhD) & Anne Njeri Kanina. HTBluff Associates. An EMG Consortium #HTBLUFF.