Tuesday, December 29, 2009

January 1st is NOT the New Year for everyone!

He (Ezra) had arranged to leave Babylon on April 8, the first day of the new year, and he arrived at Jerusalem on August 4,for the gracious hand of his God was on him” (Ezra 7:9)

Ezra made plans to travel on the 1st day of the New Year; and notice the date “April 8th”. January 1st is NOT the New Year for everyone in the USA and other parts of the world. New Year’s is an important celebration for many religions and countries, including ours. There are many different New Year dates and many reasons to celebrate it.

The Jewish New Year
Rosh Hashanah is the Jewish New Year, celebrated on the 1st Day of Tishrei, the 7th month of the Hebrew calendar, and in 2009 it fell on sunset September 18th through sunset September 20th.

The Muslim New Year
Maal Hijra is the Islamic New Year; Islam has a lunar calendar with 354 days. Their New Year is celebrated on the 1st Day of Muharram and in 2009 it was on December 18th.

The Buddhist New Year
The Buddhist New Year depends on the country. Thailand, Burma, Sri Lanka, Cambodia and Laos, celebrate New Year on the first full moon in April. In Mahayana countries the New Year starts on the first full moon day in January. However, Chinese, Koreans and Vietnamese celebrate late January or early February and the Tibetans usually about one month later.

The Hindu New Year
Hindus celebrate the New Year on different dates. The Hindus of Nepal celebrate it beginning the third week of March. The Hindus of Kasmir on the second week of March. The Southern Indians States of Karnataka and Andhra Pradesh and the Maharashtrians in late March or early April.

The Christian New Year
The Christian or Gregorian New Year falls on January 1st. The Gregorian Calendar is accepted in several countries across the world. Those that follow this calendar will soon celebrate the New Year.

#1 Ending with the Old
I believe that most of us like to have a sense of closure: we eliminate clothing, furniture, electronic equipment, etc.; that is damaged, old or simply not up-to-date. We also need to leave behind memories of things that were difficult and hurtful. As we end 2009, I suggest we forgive anyone that has hurt us and, forgive ourselves for our errors, sins and underachievement. Let’s make December 31st as the day we leave behind the old and begin the new.

#2 Hope of the New
Hope is the expectation of something good and better than what we currently have. As we are at the brink of the New Year, let us hope for the best in 2010. It may be a good idea to write down a few things we hope for. They may be related, but not limited, to: family, career, work, health, relationships our country and our world. I would recommend that you write them as a prayer to God, He does answer prayers!

#3 Joy of Family & Friends
Another reason to celebrate is to be in the company of family and friends. How wonderful it is to enjoy good food, mouth watering deserts, refined spirits, great tea and coffee in an atmosphere full of music and fun with our loved ones. Go ahead and celebrate the New Year! Hold hands together and welcome the New Year with a united prayer for happiness and prosperity. I wish and pray that God will give you all the good desires of your heart. Happy New 2010!

*New Living Translation

Monday, December 21, 2009

Christmas Tree = abomination to God?

“This is what the LORD says…the customs of the peoples are worthless; they cut a tree out of the forest, and a craftsman shapes it with his chisel. They adorn it with silver and gold; they fasten it with hammer and nails so it will not totter” (Jeremiah 10:2-4)*

Are you aware that there are people that believe having a Christmas Tree is an abomination to God? Some people, out of a since heart, seeking to honor God and to follow His truth, hate Christmas Trees. They base their argument on Bible verses, like the one quoted above, and on history. They believe a Christmas Tree is a sign of paganism.

Christmas Tree = Ancient Symbol of Paganism?
According to history, ancient pagans, as the Druids, Romans, Egyptians and Chinese celebrated the Winter Solstice on December 21st (the day of the year that the sun begins its ascent, the beginning of the best time for planting in order to reap a bountiful harvest). The evergreen tree symbolized eternal life and hope during winter time. Apples and other fruits were used to decorate the tree and they symbolized the expected great harvest. The Romans also decorated trees to worship their god, Bacchus or the sun god.

A tree has no magical powers. I am glad the tree “symbolized” the hope of a good harvest, but symbols have no “magical power” nor do they perform miracles. Symbols, however, sometimes represent the hope for a blessing, a plentiful harvest.

Christmas Tree = Modern Symbol of Christmas?

According to historical writings, modern traditions of the Christmas Tree date back to Western Germany in the 16th century; they were called Paradise Trees. Trees were decorated to celebrate the Annual Feast of Adam and Eve on December 24th. Eventually, the German immigrants brought it to the USA. President Franklin Pierce was the first president to place one in the White House in the 19th century.

Today the Christmas Tree has become a tradition in countries from all five continents. Since a symbol can have practically any meaning, we are free to give the Christmas Tree a symbolic meaning that would honor Christmas. For example: The evergreen tree may represent the everlasting life God provides through Jesus, the pleasant aroma may represent the presence of God through His Son Jesus, the shape and tip of the tree may point us to God, the decorations may symbolize how God changes and adorns our life, the lights symbolic of Jesus as the Light of the world. You can make some of your own symbols for the Christmas Tree.

Going back to the Bible verse I quoted before; Jeremiah, as God’s spokesman, was not condemning trees, but what they were made into – idols. Notice what else Jeremiah said: “They adorn it with silver and gold; they fasten it with hammer and nails so it will not totter. Like a scarecrow in a melon patch, their idols cannot speak; they must be carried because they cannot walk…They are all senseless and foolish; they are taught by worthless wooden idols” (10:4, 5, and 8)* The idol was not the tree but the image made from the wood.

Whether or not you decide to have a Christmas Tree, remember that the Bible does not condemn trees: It condemns the worship of anything or anyone other than the Creator – God Himself. Once again during Christmas we have a decorated tree at home. We chose to enjoy the tree and what it means to us!

*New International Version

Thursday, December 10, 2009

Christmas, YES or NO?

“But the angel said, "Don't be afraid! I have good news for you, which will make everyone happy. This very day in King David's hometown a Savior was born for you. He is Christ the Lord” (Luke 2:10-11)*

Christmas is almost here and many people around the world will be celebrating it. However, there will be many other people that will not. Christmas is the celebration of the birth of Jesus, the Christ, God’s Son and Savior of humanity; as believed by Christianity. Do you know that some Christians do not celebrate the Christmas season? And what do some of the other religions do with the Christmas celebration?

1. Judaism
Judaism is a monotheistic religion based upon the teachings of the Hebrew Bible, the explanations of the Talmud and other texts. Judaism begins with the Covenant God made with Abraham. Judaism expects a Messiah, but they not believe Jesus is the Messiah. Christmas is not a Jewish holiday.

2. Islam
Islam is a monotheistic religion based on the teachings of the Koran and the Prophet Muhammad’s life and examples called the Sunnah. Muslims believe in the birth of Jesus, a prophet sent by God; and for this reason they are allowed to celebrate Christmas. Some Muslims do and others do not.

3. Buddhism
Buddhism is a religion and a philosophy that brings together various traditions, believes and practices; mostly based upon the teachings of Siddhartha Gautama, also know as Buddha. Buddhists celebrate the “spirit” of Christmas: sharing of gifts and the good virtues of humanity. Buddhists do not believe in Jesus and for this reason they do not celebrate Christmas.

4. Hinduism
Hinduism is predominantly a religion of the Indian subcontinent. Hindus follow various teachings and views: the Vedas, the Upanishads, Puranas, the Epics Mahabharat and Ramayana; the Bhagavad Gita and the treatise from the Mahabharata, spoken by Krishna. Hindus do not believe in Jesus and they do not celebrate Christmas.

5. Jehovah’s Witnesses
Jehovah’s Witnesses were founded by Charles Taze Russell and currently are directed by the Governing Body that exercises all authority in doctrinal matters. The Jehovah’s Witnesses believe that Christmas is a pagan holiday and, of course, they do not celebrate it.

6. Some Christians
You would assume that all Christians celebrate Christmas. All Christians believe in the birth of Jesus but not all join in the Christmas celebrations. Some Christians do not celebrate Christmas because it is commercialized, materialistic, the Bible does not command it, it is forbidden, the traditions are too pagan, they are unsure of the actual date of the birth of Jesus and, because Christmas is a word that comes from the Roman Catholic Church – Christ Mass.

Christmas is approaching and it is important to understand what people choose to celebrate. As a Catholic Christian living in the USA, I value freedom; the freedom of choice God has given every human: the freedom to believe in God or, not to believe in God, the freedom to worship any religion of choice, the same freedom given to us in this nation. Whether you celebrate Christmas or you do not; let our freedom be expressed in a spirit of love and acceptance of others. I will be celebrating Christmas with all the traditional decorations and, I wish everyone that believes in the birth of Jesus, God’s gift of salvation for everyone a very Merry Christmas!

*Contemporary English Version

Wednesday, December 2, 2009

OH NO!! The HOLIDAYS are here AGAIN!

“There is a time for everything, and a season for every activity under heaven…a time to laugh…and a time to dance” (Ecclesiastes 3:1, 4)*

The Holiday Season, December – January, is a special time of the year. The most recognized days of celebration: Hanukkah (Festival of Lights), December 11th; Al-Hijira (Islamic New Year), December 18th through January 15th; Christmas Eve, December 24th; Christmas Day, December 25th; New Year’s Eve, December 31st; New Year’s Day January 1st and Epiphany (Three Kings Day), January 6th.

Holidays are part of almost every culture; for many people, is it a time to celebrate and have fun with friends and family. For others, it is a time of stress, loneliness and sadness. Let me share four tips that will help you to enjoy the Holidays and life after the Holidays.

#1 Invitations, Invitations, Invitations!!!
Holidays are a time that are mostly enjoyed with the presence of family and friends. It is a time to remember old memories and to create new ones. But it can also be a time of sadness, as we miss loved ones no longer with us or far away. In addition, if you accept all the invitations received you will be very stressed-out. I suggest that you accept some invitations, have fun with family and friends and, possibly make new acquaintances.

#2 How Much $$$?
Many of these Holidays will demand that we spend additional money in food, clothing, gifts and travel time; just to mention a few. The joy of giving and receiving is a wonderful yet costly activity. Be careful not to overspend and get into financial trouble. “We live by the Golden Rule. Those who have the gold make the rules.” (Buzzie Bavasi). If you want to be ruled by credit agencies, then become their servant! If not, spend only what you can afford.

#3 Calories?#%!
Let’s be honest: good food, fine wine and spirits are delicious! One of the things I enjoy the most during Holidays are those mouth-watering desserts. As you probably know, food and drinks contain calories. Watch the calories! Alcohol also contains calories and changes your metabolism. Be selective, enjoy the food and drinks but avoid overeating and overdrinking. If you can, include some cardiovascular exercises in your schedule.

#4 Can’t Move Another Inch!
Finally, there is a close connection between our body and our spirit. If you are tired you will feel down, moody, and even depressed. If you are resting enough, you will feel happier and more energetic. Go ahead and enjoy the parties, special events and late night celebrations. But, find the time to rest; even if that means taking a 15 minute nap.

I hope you will take the time to enjoy the Holiday Season, open your heart and allow your family, friends and co-workers the opportunity to spend time with you. May this Holiday Season be special, may God answer your deepest desires and His blessings descend on you!

*New International Version

¡OH NO, Llegaron los Días Festivos!

“En este mundo todo tiene su hora; hay un momento para todo cuanto ocurre… un momento para reír…y un momento para estar de fiesta” (Eclesiastés 3:1, 4)*

Los Días Feriados de Diciembre a Enero, es una época especial del año. Los días más reconocidos y celebrados son: Hanukkah (Festival de las Luces), 11 de diciembre; Al-Hijira (Año Nuevo Islámico), 18 de diciembre al 15 de enero; Noche Buena, 24 de diciembre; Día de Navidad, 25 de diciembre; Año Nuevo, 1º de enero; Epifanía (Tres Reyes Magos), 6 de enero.

Los Días Feriados son parte de casi toda cultura, para muchas personas es un tiempo de celebración y para divertirse con los amigos y la familia. Para otras personas es un tiempo de tensión, soledad y de tristeza. Le voy a compartir 4 secretos que le ayudaran a disfrutar los Días Feriados y más allá de los Días Feriados.

#1 ¡¡¡ Invitaciones, Invitaciones, Invitaciones!!!
Los Días Feriados es una época que mayormente se disfrutan en presencia de familiares y de amistades. Es una época para recordar las memorias del pasado y para crear nuevas memorias. Pero también puede ser una época de tristeza porque extrañamos a las personas que han fallecido o que viven distantes. En adición, si aceptaras todas las invitaciones recibidas, se va a estresar. Le sugiero que acepte algunas invitaciones, que se divierta con sus familiares y amigos y, quizás haga nuevas conexiones.

#2 ¿Cuánto $$$?
Muchos de los Días Feriados demandan que gastemos dinero adicional en comida, ropa, regalos y viaje; entre otras cosas. El gozo de dar y recibir es maravilloso; pero pudiera ser costoso. Tenga cuidado en no sobre gastar y meterse en problemas financieros. “Vivimos por la Regla de Oro. Aquellos que tienen el oro ponen las reglas” (Buzzie Bavasi). Si usted desea ser regido por las agencias de crédito, ¡conviértase en su siervo! Si no desea esto, ¡gaste solamente lo que está dentro de su presupuesto!

#3 ¡Calorías?#%!
Seamos honestos: ¡la buena comida, los vinos finos y las bebidas son deliciosas! Una de las cosas que yo disfruto más de los Días Feriados son los dulces que me hacen la boca agua. Seguro que usted ya sabe, la comida y la bebida contienen calorías. ¡Cuide sus calorías! El alcohol, además de contener colarías; cambia su metabolismo. Sea selectivo, disfrute la comida y la bebida pero evite comer y beber demasiado. Si puede hacer un poco de ejercicio cardiovascular, hágalo.

#4 ¡No Puedo Dar un Paso Más!
Finalmente, existe una conexión entre el cuerpo y el espíritu. Si usted está cansado, se sentirá desanimado, malhumorado y aún deprimido. Si ha descansando lo suficiente, se sentirá más feliz y más energético. Adelante y disfrute de las fiestas, los eventos especiales y las celebraciones nocturnas. Pero busque el tiempo para descansar; aunque tenga que tomarse una siesta de 15 minutos.

Ojalá tome el tiempo para disfrutar los Días Feriados, que abra su corazón y permita que sus familiares, amigos y compañeros tengan la oportunidad de pasar tiempo con usted. ¡Qué estos Días Feriados sean especial, qué Dios responda sus deseos más profundos y que Sus bendiciones desciendan sobre usted!

*Dios Habla Hoy