Saturday, December 3, 2016
Should Christians Celebrate Christmas?
This post contains a selection of internet pieces written by different men to demonstrate why they have chosen to not celebrate Christmas. All of these men are professing believers, though they have approached this topic from a variety of perspectives. I hope to show you that it is possible to give up something for the sake of Christ that is idolatrous. May you be blessed with peace and understanding as you read.
Should Christians Celebrate Christmas
What a Christian Jew has to say about Christmas...
Should Christians Celebrate Christmas? Up until 25 years ago, I used to celebrate Christmas as much as - or even more than - any Gentile. You might think that is strange since I was born and raised in a Jewish home. But my family always had a Christmas tree every year because it was the popular thing to do. We had ornaments, mistletoe, holly wreaths, presents and everything else that goes along with the Christmas celebration.
You see, Jewish people celebrate Christmas today, not because of Christ's birthday, but because it is popular tradition and part of our present-day culture. It's as American as apple pie and hamburgers. And I observed Christmas for nearly 22 years of my life, until God opened my eyes to see the falseness of this pagan holiday.
It's not because I'm a Jew that I don't celebrate Christmas now. That has nothing to do with it. Let me tell you the real reasons why I no longer observe this pagan holiday.
Christmas Not a Bible Doctrine
In the first place, Christmas is not a Bible Doctrine. If our blessed Lord had wanted us to celebrate His birthday, He would have told us when to celebrate it and how to celebrate it. But Christ never told anyone to celebrate His birthday. Furthermore, we know from the Bible and from church history that the apostles and the early church never celebrated Christ's birthday.
The Bible is God's complete and final revelation to man, and it tells us everything we need to know for our spiritual lives (II Timothy 3:16). We don't have to go outside the Bible for anything. God's Word tells us how we're to worship, how we're to give money for the support of the Lord's work, how to evangelize the lost, how to observe the Lord's Supper and everything else pertaining to the Christian life. But not once in the Bible does God tell us to celebrate Christmas! We're told to remember the Lord's death, but nowhere are we told to celebrate His birth.
God's people are supposed to be Bible people. We are supposed to live by the teaching of the God's holy Word. So the very fact that Christmas is never mentioned in the Bible is sufficient reason for us not to have anything to do with it. But that's not all.
Christ Not born on December 25
The second reason I don't celebrate Christmas is that Christ was not born on December 25th. Notice:
"And there were in the same country shepherds abiding in the field, keeping watch over their flock by night." Luke 2:8
Don't miss the point: the shepherds WERE IN THE FIELDS taking care of their flocks on the night Jesus was born. As the shepherds were watching their sheep, the message came to them of the birth of Jesus.
It's a well known fact that December falls in the middle of the rainy season in Palestine, and the sheep were kept in the fold at that time of the year. The shepherds always corralled their flocks from October to April. They brought their sheep from the mountainsides and the fields no later than October 15th to protect them from the cold, rainy seasons that followed that date. So the birth of Christ could not have taken place at the end of December.
Secondly, Luke 2:1, 3 tells us that at the time of the birth of Jesus it was decreed that, "all the world would be taxed...And all went to be taxed, every one into his own city." This couldn't have taken place in the winter. Caesar Augustus, the ruler of Rome, would certainly not call for such a taxing in the depth of winter. Travel at this time of the year is extremely difficult; hence, it would be virtually impossible for everyone to comply with the decree if it had been given then. The Lord Himself testified to the rigors of traveling in winter, for He told the people to pray that their flight at the end of this age would not be in winter (Matthew 24:20).
No one knows the exact day when Jesus was born, but in all the probability He was born sometime during the first part of October. We can be reasonably sure of this because His earthly ministry lasted 3 1/2 years, and He was crucified on the 14th day of the month of Nisan, which corresponds to our April (John 19:31, Leviticus 23:5). If we go back 3 1/2 years to the time when Jesus was 30 years old - when He began His public ministry - we come to the month of October. This was probably the month when our blessed Lord was born into the world.
However, let's remember that it's not the date of Jesus' birth that's important. The important thing is that He was born and that He died for our sins. We're not worshipping a helpless infant lying in a manger. We are worshipping a risen and exalted Christ who has all power in heaven and in earth (Matthew 28:18).
Origin of Christmas
Where do you suppose Christmas originated? Certainly not with God! Christmas started with the sun worshipers in the time of Nimrod, the man who supervised the building of the tower of Babel. And that's another reason why I don't celebrate Christmas.
Thousands of years before Jesus was born, heathens in every country observed December 25th as the birthday of a god who was called the sun-god. Semiramis, the widow of Nimrod, was his mother. She claimed to be the queen of heaven. And she had a son who was supposed to have been born on December 25th; his name was Tammuz.
According to all the heathen religions of that time, Tammuz had a miraculous birth; and for centuries his birthday was celebrated with feasts, revelry and drunken orgies. The heathen celebrated Tammuz' birthday according to the very example he set for them. He was the world's greatest lover of women, strong drink, dirty jokes and other sensual fun. It is said that he loved everybody and that everybody loved him. And it was on December 25th that all the pagan religions celebrated the birthday of Tammuz, the son-god.
This is all clearly brought out in Alexander Hislop's great book, "The Two Babylon's." Any reputable encyclopedia will also verify these facts.
It's plain to see, isn't it, that Christmas is a pagan holiday that came out of old pagan Babylon. As born-again believers, let's have nothing to do with it.
Christmas: A Catholic Holiday
The fourth reason I don't celebrate Christmas is because Christmas is a Catholic holiday. Why should I steal Christmas from the Catholics? They got it from the pagans, and I'm happy to let them keep it.
Notice what Encyclopedia Americana has to say about Christmas and Catholicism.
"Christmas – it was according to many authorities NOT celebrated in the first centuries of the Christian churches as the Christian usage in general was to celebrate the death of remarkable persons rather than their birth. A feast was established in memory of the birth of the Saviour in the FOURTH CENTURY. In the Fifth Century the Western Church (Roman Catholic) ordered it to be celebrated forever on the day of the old Roman feast of the birth of Sol. The holly, mistletoe, the yule log and the wassail bowl are of pre-Christian times. The Christmas tree has been traced back to the Romans. It went from Germany to Great Britain."
Encyclopedia Britannica has this to say about Christmas:
"Christmas (i.e., the Mass of Christ) was not among the earliest festivals of the church."
After Constantine became the Emperor of Rome, he forced all the pagans of his empire to be baptized into the Christian Church. Thus pagans far outnumbered true Christians.
Since the church worshiped the Lord Jesus as the Son of God, when the 25th of December rolled around and the pagans wanted to worship Tammuz, their sun-god, Constantine knew that he would have to do something. So he had the church combine the worship of Tammuz with the birthday of Christ, and a special mass was declared to keep everyone happy. Thus pagan worship was brought into the Christian church and called "Christ-mass."
Every time we say "Merry Christmas," we're actually mixing the precious and holy name of Christ with paganism. This is not right. God says in Ezekiel 20:39, "Pollute ye my holy name no more."
The World and Christmas
That brings me to the next reason why I don't celebrate Christmas. Christmas is of the world, and we're commanded, "Love not the world, neither the things that are in the world. If any man love the world, the love of the Father is not in him." I John 2:15 The very fact that the world which hates Christ and His blood atonement for sin makes more fuss about Christmas than any other holiday proves to me that Christmas is not of God. If December 25th were truly the birthday of the blessed Son of God, the world would have nothing to do with it!
You don't have to be a Christian to celebrate Christmas. Even in non-Christian countries like Japan, Czeckoslovakia, Poland and Russia the people celebrate Christmas.
People throughout the world, who for the most part have no awareness of the Bible or Jesus Christ, eat up the Christmas celebration. To take Christmas from the world would be harder than taking candy from a child.
Let's face it, the world is married to the idol of Christmas. In fact, more people get drunk at Christmas than any other time of the year. There are more big parties and more selfish spending than any other season. Doesn't that prove that it's not of God?
The world loves Christmas, but it hates Christ.
Another reason why I don't celebrate Christmas is that it's filled with unscriptural tradition. The exchanging of gifts, the Christmas tree, the singing of carols and Santa Claus are all pagan origin. These all crept into the church during or after the Fourth Century.
There are many unscriptural traditions that have cluttered up the story of the birth of our wonderful Saviour. For instance, many people believe that the wise men of East and the shepherds were together in Bethlehem at the time our Lord was born. But nothing could be further from the truth. The shepherds came to Bethlehem to see Jesus at His birth. The wise men came to Nazareth to see Jesus when He was almost two years old (Matthew 2:16).
Furthermore, the Bible says nothing about three wise men, nor does it say that they were kings. The fact is the Bible does not give their number at all but merely states that they were wise men.
Perhaps the worst part of the Christmas celebration is thousands of parents will teach their children the falsehood of Santa Claus. Children are taught that Santa Claus makes his home at the North Pole, and once each year he fills his sled with toys for the boys and girls who have been good throughout the year. If they are good, he brings them toys on Christmas Eve, and if they are bad, he passes them by.
Is it any wonder that many times when children grow up and learn the truth, they question whether Christ is also a myth?
The Bible says in Colossians 3:9, "Lie not one to another,". We are commanded in Ephesians 4:25 to put "away lying," and to "speak every truth with his neighbor."
Now I know that some of you loving mothers are saying, "Don't you think we should give the children a good time? They don't understand all the paganism behind Christmas."
Let me ask you a question, mother. Is it necessary to drag the holy name of our blessed Lord down to the low level of fleshly gratification and drunkenness to show the kiddies a good time? A thousand times, no! Let's teach our children the truth about Christmas. God's Word says that we should bring up children up in the nurture and admonition of the Lord (Ephesians 6:4). Why should we dishonor the name of Christ in such a manner under the pretense of showing the children a good time? There are 364 more days in the year during which we can give gifts to our children.
Merrymaking and Exchanging Gifts
Without question, the most important part of Christmas for most people is buying and exchanging gifts. I don't celebrate Christmas because exchanging gifts has nothing to do with Christ's birthday.
Perhaps some of you are asking, "Didn't the wise men give gifts to Jesus?" They certainly did, but they didn't give them to one another. And their gifts were not birthday gifts because the wise men did not come to visit Jesus until He was nearly two years old (Matthew 2:16). The shepherds came to visit Jesus as His birth, but the wise men came to see Him nearly two years later.
Did you know that giving gifts to a king was common custom in the Far East? That's the reason why the wise men brought gifts to Jesus – because He was born to be King of the Jews. But they were not birthday gifts. So there is no connection between Christmas and the birthday of Jesus in this respect.
One final word before leaving the matter of exchanging gifts. Let me point out that even this is a part of Satan's antichrist program. The greatest Christmas celebration yet to come will be during the awful days of the tribulation. During the antichrist's reign all hell will be loose. The two witnesses who God shall send to the people of the earth will be killed when God is finished with them. Can you guess who will kill them? The antichrist will put them to death. Listen to God's Word:
"And when they shall have finished their testimony, the beast that ascendeth out of the bottomless pit shall make war against them, and shall overcome them, and kill them." Revelation 11:7
It is under antichrist's reign that the last and greatest Christmas celebration shall take place. As a result of the death of these prophets of God, the world will be so delighted and thrilled that they will exchange gifts with one another. Here is what the Bible says,
"And they of the people and kindreds and tongues and nations shall see their dead bodies three days and a half, and shall not suffer their dead bodies to be put in the graves. And they that dwell upon the earth shall rejoice over them, and make merry, and shall send gifts one to another; because these two prophets tormented them that dwell on the earth." Revelation 11:9-10
What further proof do we need that Christmas celebration is not of God? Truly the Lord's people should not celebrate Christmas. It is anti-God, anti-Christ, Satanic, and unscriptural. The call of God is, "Come out from among them, and be ye separate...and touch not the unclean thing." II Corinthians 6:17. God's command to all His people is, "Have no fellowship with the unfruitful works of darkness, but rather reprove them." Ephesians 5:11
Christmas Condemned by the Puritans
The pagan history of Christmas has been well known throughout history. In fact, at one time the celebration of this pagan custom was forbidden by law in England. In 1644, Parliament declared Christmas to be unlawful; and, consequently, it was abolished. The English Puritans looked upon the celebration of Christmas as the work of Satan
At one time in early American history, the observance of Christmas was illegal. A law was adopted in the general court of Massachusetts about 1650, which required that those who celebrated Christmas were to be punished. The statue read, "Whosoever shall be found observing any such day as Christmas, or in any other way...shall be subject to fine of 5 shillings." The law's preamble explained its purpose was "for preventing disorders...(by) observing such festivals as were superstitiously kept in other countries to the great dishonor of God and the offense of others." After the Mayflower pilgrims landed in 1620, the first December 25th was spent in labor and cutting down trees "in order to avoid any frivolity on the day sometimes called Christmas."
Opposition to the observance of Christmas continued just past the second half of the Nineteenth Century. An article in the December 26, 1855 edition of the New York Daily Times stated,
"The churches of the Presbyterians, Baptists and Methodists were not open on December 25 except where some mission schools had a celebration. They do not accept the day as a holy one, but the Episcopalian, Catholic and German churches were all open. Inside they were decked with evergreens."
The Puritans knew the truth about Christmas and regarded it as a pagan holiday. It would be good if all believers followed their example.
What About the Christmas Tree?
Another reason why I don't observe Christmas is because the Christmas tree is condemned by the Bible. Notice: "Learn not the way of the heathen...For the customs of the people are vain: for one cutteth a tree out of the forest, the work of the hands of the workman, with the axe. They deck it with silver and with gold; they fasten it with nails and with hammers, that it may not move. But they are altogether brutish and foolish: the stock is a doctrine of vanities." Jeremiah 10:2-4, 9
Here you have a perfect description of the Christmas tree, called by God "the way of the heathen." We are commanded not to learn that way or follow it! The Christmas tree is also viewed in this passage as idolatry. The fifth verse says that these tress cannot speak-cannot walk-must be carried. Some people misread this to make it say that there is no harm in having a Christmas tree, but that is not what it says at all. Rather, the Prophet Jeremiah tells us that it is vanity and foolishness and says, "Learn not the way of the heathen."
Some people will be up all night to work on an old dead tree. They'll trim it all up and stand off a little ways and admire their handiwork. Then many of them will sit up all night and look at that old Christmas tree.
I hope some of you preachers will get up in the middle of the night and throw out that old tree out of your house and out of your church right at Satan's head. I realize that some of you will just gnash your teeth and call me "narrow minded." Well, you can call me anything you want, but I'm just giving you the Word of God.
Did you know that the green tree is mentioned 14 times in the Bible, and in every instance it is likened with idolatry? There isn't one place in the Bible where God commends the use of the "green tree" in connection with true worship.
Perhaps you're wondering why people have a Christmas tree during the Christmas celebration. You can search the Bible through and through, but you won't find a reason for it there. The first decorating of any evergreen tree began with the heathen Greeks and their worship of their god Adonis, who allegedly was brought back to life by the serpent Aesculapius after having been slain. And each Christmas multitudes of people will secure an evergreen tree and dress it up with bright glitter, lights and tinsel, not realizing that they are following the tradition of a pagan festival in honor of a false god!
No doubt there are many sincere Christians who think that they are honoring Christ by having their Christmas tree when, in reality, they are dishonoring Him by having anything to do with a heathen festival that God hates.
As you read these lines perhaps you say, "I have my Christmas tree but I don't worship it, and consequently, I see nothing wrong with it." Let me remind you, however, that you don't determine what is right and what is wrong. God determines what's right and wrong. If the Christmas tree is not an idol to you, why are you so reluctant to give it up? What are you doing down on your knees when you place your gifts under it?
Observing Days Forbidden
Finally I don't celebrate Christmas because God's Word forbids the observance of any holy days in this dispensation of grace. Listen:
"Ye observe days, and month, and times, and years. I am afraid of you, lest I have bestowed upon you labour in vain." Galations 4:10-11
This tells us that the observance of days is a sign of weakness, childishness and lack of development. There are no special holy days for members of the body of Christ. The Lord wants us to worship Him the same 365 days a year.
We're not worshiping a dead Christ or a helpless infant lying in a manger, but we're worshiping a real living Christ who lives all year round.
Sometimes well-meaning people will make the statement, "Let's put the Christ back into Christmas." This sounds very good on the surface...but beloved, how can you put Christ back into something when He was never there?
Charles Haddon Spurgeon, the famous English preacher of the last century, said,
"We have no superstitious regard for times and seasons. Certainly we do not believe in the present ecclesiastical arrangement called Christmas...we find no scriptural word whatever for observing any day as the birthday of the Saviour; and consequently, it's observance is a superstition, because (it's) not of divine authority...probably the fact is that the 'holy days' (were) arranged to fit in with the heathen festivals...how absurd to think we could do it in the spirit of the world, with a Jack Frost clown, a deceptive worldly Santa Claus, and a mixed program of sacred truth with fun, deception, and faction."
While the world celebrates Christmas with its gift swapping and wild parties, what should be our attitude? God's Word makes it plain that we should have nothing to do with this pagan holiday. Let's not associate the birth of the holy Son of God with the pagan traditions of men. Let us heed God's command; "Be ye separate, O my people." II Corinthians 6:17
The Curious Origins of a Popular Holiday
Already the decorations are going up, the parties are being planned, the presents are being bought. Soon people around the world will again be celebrating Christmas.
More than any other religious holiday, Christmas is associated with the name of Christ. The word Christmas is short for “Christ’s mass,” instituted by the Catholic Church and continued by many Protestant churches.
Yet, curiously, the Bible records nothing about the apostles or early Church observing Christmas. History shows that it wasn’t celebrated until hundreds of years after Jesus Christ lived on earth, and long after the apostles had passed from the scene.
Even more curious are the surprising circumstances under which Christmas came to be observed, and the many aspects of today’s Christmas celebrations—including the date, Dec. 25—that have nothing to do with Jesus’ birth, but do have a lot to do with ancient pre-Christian religions.
What does history show us about the origins of the world’s most popular holiday? It’s quite an eye-opening story!
New Catholic Encyclopedia on Christmas
The New Catholic Encyclopedia, in discussing the unlikelihood of a Dec. 25 date for Jesus Christ’s birth and how that particular date was chosen, gives some insight into the holiday’s origins:
“Why, then, were December 25 and January 6 chosen for the celebration of the Lord’s birth? Several theories are offered in explanation. Some actually believed December 25 was the birthday of Christ and tried to prove it by arguing from the conception of St. John the Baptist. Assuming, gratuitously, that Zachary was high priest and that the Day of Atonement fell on September 24, John would have been born on June 24 and Christ 6 months later, on December 25. This theory is now considered completely untenable.”
Continuing in the same source: “L. Duchesne suggested that the date of Christmas was determined from March 25, the traditional date of the Crucifixion. If He died on March 25, He must also have been conceived on this date and thus have been born 9 months later on December 25. More recently H. Engberding has tried, unsuccessfully, to defend a comparable position.
“According to the hypothesis suggested by H. Usener, developed by B. Botte, and accepted by most scholars today, the birth of Christ was assigned the date of the winter solstice, because on this day, as the sun began its return to the northern skies, the pagan devotees of Mithra celebrated the birthday of the invincible sun.
“Christmas originated at a time when the cult of the sun was particularly strong at Rome. This theory finds support in some of the Church Fathers’ contrasting the birth of Christ and the winter solstice. Though the substitution of Christmas for the pagan festival cannot be proved with certainty, it remains the most plausible explanation for the dating of Christmas” (1967, Vol. 3, p. 656, emphasis added throughout).
This encyclopedia admits that arguments for a Dec. 25 birth of Jesus Christ simply aren’t credible (see “Biblical Evidence Shows Jesus Christ Wasn’t Born on Dec. 25 ,” ). It acknowledges that this date was chosen because of popular existing festivities honoring the ancient sun god Mithra and celebrating the winter solstice.
Ancient origins of Christmas
Man, Myth & Magic is an illustrated encyclopedia of mythology and religion. In its article on Christmas, we uncover a treasure trove of research material on this holiday’s origins and history.
“Christmas has its origin in two ancient pagan festivals, the great Yule-feast of the Norsemen and the Roman Saturnalia. Extending from Advent, which begins on 30 November or the Sunday nearest to it, to Candlemas Day on 2 February, it was close enough to the winter solstice to acquire many of the associations of the Norse ceremony: the Yule-log, the evergreen decorations in houses and churches, even the Christmas feast itself. These elements were combined with the Saturnalia of the Romans to provide the basis for the early Christian festival.
“During the Saturnalia, gifts were made by the wealthy to the poor in honour of the golden age of liberty when Saturn ruled the known world, and slaves were allowed to change places and clothing with their masters. They even elected their own mock king who, for the period of the festival, ruled as a despot. The Saturnalia involved the wildest debauchery, and was a festival worthy of Pan himself.
“Naturally it came under heavy censure from the early Church and despite the fact that Jesus Christ and the saints gradually replaced the pagan deities it was long considered completely out of character with the Christian ideal. However, the festival was far too strongly entrenched in popular favour to be abolished, and the [Catholic] Church finally granted the necessary recognition, believing that if Christmas could not be suppressed it should be preserved in honour of the Christian God” (1995, Vol. 3, p. 418).
Do you grasp what this is telling us? We saw earlier that the Dec. 25 date for Christmas came from ancient pre-Christian festivals. Here we see that the same ancient pagan celebrations honoring other gods were continued, with the Catholic Church simply relabeling the festivities and customs as Christian!
Christmas banned for its paganism
The Man, Myth & Magic encyclopedia reveals more of the strange story of Christmas as it continued after the ancient celebrations were adopted by the Catholic Church:
“Once given a Christian basis the festival became fully established in Europe with many of its pagan elements undisturbed. It was only in the 4th century that 25 December was officially decreed to be the birthday of Christ, and it was another 500 years before the term Midwinter Feast was abandoned in favour of the word Christmas.
“Even then on the Continent the festival continued to show many features inherited from the Saturnalia. In particular, the Feast of Fools was a wild debauch reminiscent of the pagan past. The Normans when they invaded England in 1066, introduced a Master of Ceremonies into the English Christmas. Known as the Lord of Misrule, his counterpart in Scotland was called the Abbot of Unreason.
“… The undisguised pagan element in Christmas had often provoked criticism from extreme Protestants but the festival was not really affected by their beliefs until the Puritans came to power in the 17th century. Christmas was attacked as ‘the old heathens’ feasting day to Saturn their God’ and carols were forbidden. Finally, 25 December was proclaimed a fast day in 1644. The new rule was enforced by the army, which spent much of its time pulling down the greenery that festive ‘pagans’ had attached to their doors.
“In Scotland the prohibition was enforced with great rigour. This anti-Christmas attitude spread to Puritan territories in America. The Church established special services for Christmas in Boston during the 1690s, but many civil authorities strongly opposed this move. And it was not until some 150 years later that Christmas first became a legal holiday in the United States, in Alabama in 1836” (pp. 418-419).
Of course, Christmas has long been accepted throughout much of the world. Now it’s so popular—not to mention commercially important—that it’s almost inconceivable to realize that at one time it was outlawed for its pagan associations and practices!
An ancient nativity celebration reborn
The noted British anthropologist and scholar Sir James Frazer wrote a classic work on ancient myths and religious practices titled The Golden Bough. His findings on the ancient origins of our Christmas practices and customs are revealing:
“… There can be no doubt that the Mithraic religion [the worship of Mithra, the Persian sun god, popular in the Roman Empire] proved a formidable rival to Christianity, combining as it did a solemn ritual with aspirations after moral purity and a hope of immortality. Indeed the issue of the conflict between the two faiths appears for a time to have hung in the balance. An instructive relic of the long struggle is preserved in our festival of Christmas, which the [Catholic] Church seems to have borrowed directly from its heathen rival.
“In the Julian calendar the twenty-fifth of December was reckoned the winter solstice, and it was regarded as the Nativity of the Sun, because the day begins to lengthen and the power of the sun to increase from that turning-point of the year. The ritual of the nativity, as it appears to have been celebrated in Syria and Egypt, was remarkable. The celebrants retired into certain inner shrines, from which at midnight they issued with a loud cry, ‘The Virgin has brought forth! The light is waxing!’
“The Egyptians even represented the new-born sun by the image of an infant which on his birthday, the winter solstice, they brought forth and exhibited to his worshippers. No doubt the Virgin who thus conceived and bore a son on the twenty-fifth of December was the great Oriental [i.e., Middle Eastern] goddess whom the Semites called the Heavenly Virgin or simply the Heavenly Goddess; in Semitic lands she was a form of Astarte [also known as Easter].
“Now Mithra was regularly identified by his worshippers with the Sun, the Unconquered Sun, as they called him; hence his nativity also fell on the twenty-fifth of December. The Gospels say nothing as to the day of Christ’s birth, and accordingly the early Church did not celebrate it.
“In time, however, the Christians of Egypt came to regard the sixth of January as the date of the Nativity, and the custom of commemorating the birth of the Savior on that day gradually spread until by the fourth century it was universally established in the East.
“But at the end of the third or the beginning of the fourth century the Western [Catholic] Church, which had never recognized the sixth of January as the day of the Nativity, adopted the twenty-fifth of December as the true date, and in time its decision was accepted also by the Eastern Church. At Antioch the change was not introduced till about the year 375 A.D.” (1993, p. 358).
Sir James Frazer studied the thread of Christmas customs and practices through ancient times and reached an inescapable conclusion: Christmas is but a relic of the worship of the pagan god known by the Persians and Romans as Mithra or Mithras, relabeled with a Christian name.
A pagan festival relabeled
Why did the early Catholic Church adopt and relabel this ancient pagan celebration? Frazer explains:
“What considerations led the ecclesiastical authorities to institute the festival of Christmas? The motives for the innovation are stated with great frankness by a Syrian writer, himself a Christian. ‘The reason,’ he tells us, ‘why the fathers transferred the celebration of the sixth of January to the twenty-fifth of December was this. It was a custom of the heathen to celebrate on the same twenty-fifth of December the birthday of the Sun, at which they kindled lights in token of festivity.
“In these solemnities and festivities the Christians also took part. Accordingly when the doctors of the [Catholic] Church perceived that the Christians had a leaning to this festival, they took counsel and resolved that the true Nativity should be solemnized on that day and the festival of the Epiphany on the sixth of January. Accordingly, along with this custom, the practice has prevailed of kindling fires till the sixth.’
“The heathen origin of Christmas is plainly hinted at, if not tacitly admitted, by Augustine when he exhorts his Christian brethren not to celebrate that solemn day like the heathen on account of the sun, but on account of him who made the sun. In like manner [Pope] Leo the Great rebuked the pestilent belief that Christmas was solemnized because of the birth of the new sun, as it was called, and not because of the nativity of Christ.
“Thus it appears that the Christian [Catholic] Church chose to celebrate the birthday of its Founder on the twenty-fifth of December in order to transfer the devotion of the heathen from the Sun to him who was called the Sun of Righteousness” (1993, pp. 358-359).
The truth about Christmas’s origins is simple: One of the ancient world’s most popular celebrations—a festival that originated in sun worship and honoring pagan gods—was renamed and reborn as traditional Christianity’s most popular celebration.
What would Jesus say?
Today, would Jesus Christ recognize the religion that professes to follow Him?
Think about it: If you lived in the Holy Land in the time of Jesus and you observed Christmas, you would be alone, for no true Christian ever kept Christmas during Jesus’ life on earth. Further, if you saw Jesus or the apostles walking through the narrow passageways of Old Jerusalem or the dusty roads of Judea and you invited them to join in your Christmas celebration, what would they say?
Since Jesus Christ is the same yesterday, today and forever (Hebrews 13:8), and all Scripture is inspired by God (2 Timothy 3:16), they might remind you of what God’s Word says about incorporating pagan customs into your worship:
“… Do not inquire after their gods, saying, ‘How did these nations serve their gods? I also will do likewise.’ You shall not worship the Lord your God in that way; for every abomination to the Lord which He hates they have done to their gods … Whatever I command you, be careful to observe it; you shall not add to it nor take away from it” (Deuteronomy 12:30-32).
Jesus Himself might repeat to you what He said to the Pharisees, who considered their traditions and customs more important than obeying God’s Word: “These people draw near to Me with their mouth, and honor Me with their lips, but their heart is far from Me. And in vain they worship Me, teaching as doctrines the commandments of men” (Matthew 15:8-9). Christmas, mentioned nowhere in the Bible, is a “commandment” of men.
The apostle Paul might remind you of the words he wrote to Church members in Corinth, a city steeped in pagan religious practices: “… What fellowship has righteousness with lawlessness? And what communion has light with darkness? And what accord has Christ with Belial? Or what part has a believer with an unbeliever?
“And what agreement has the temple of God with idols? For you are the temple of the living God … Therefore ‘Come out from among them and be separate, says the Lord. Do not touch what is unclean, and I will receive you.’ … Therefore, having these promises, beloved, let us cleanse ourselves from all filthiness of the flesh and spirit, perfecting holiness in the fear of God” (2 Corinthians 6:14-17;7:1).
Does it really matter?
Sadly, for the bulk of modern Christianity these scriptures—which help define what true Christianity is and is not—mean very little. Most of the 2 billion professing Christians on earth today observe Christmas and other extrabiblical holidays without ever giving them a second thought.
Most will never take the time to look into their beliefs to learn their true origins, though information such as that found in this article can be found in virtually any modern library or on the Internet. Though the basic facts about the origins of Christmas are spelled out in almost any reputable encyclopedia, most people will not look long and hard at their traditions and customs to see if they square with the Bible.
It’s especially ironic to see the articles that appear in many newspapers each year —often written by well-intentioned but misguided clergymen—who recite the pagan origins of Christmas and its trappings but conclude that it doesn’t matter because it’s now celebrated for a good cause. We have to wonder how they can reconcile that view with the clear scriptures quoted above.
What about your beliefs? Jesus Christ says that those who worship God “must worship [Him] in spirit and truth” (John 4:24). Are your beliefs and worship firmly grounded in biblical truth, or in ancient fables?
While most Christians embrace Christmas, a few recall a more complex history
Posted on Thursday, Dec 13th, 2007
Some Christians won’t be celebrating Christmas
As Christmas draws near, the Rev. John Foster of Charleston, W.Va., won’t be decorating a tree, shopping for last-minute gifts or working on a holiday sermon for his flock. After all, it’s been 50 years since Christmas was anything more than a day of the week to him.
He’s one of very few American Christians who follow what used to be the norm in many Protestant denominations — rejecting the celebration of Christmas on religious grounds.
“People don’t think of it this way, but it’s really a secular holiday,” said Foster, a Princeton-based pastor in the United Church of God. He last celebrated Christmas when he was 8.
His church’s objection to Christmas is rare among U.S. Christians. Gallup polls from 1994 to 2005 consistently show that more than 90 percent of adults say they celebrate Christmas, including 84 percent of non-Christians.
That’s a huge change from an earlier era, when many Protestants ignored or actively opposed the holiday. But as it gradually became popular as a family celebration, churches followed their members in making peace with Christmas.
The change didn’t happen overnight. Through much of the 19th century, schools and businesses remained open, Congress met in session and some churches closed their doors, lest errant worshippers try to furtively commemorate the day.
“The whole culture didn’t stop for Christmas,” said Bruce Forbes, a religious studies professor at Morningside College in Sioux City, Iowa. “Government went on as usual, business went on as usual, school went on as usual.”
In researching his book, “Christmas: A Candid History,” Forbes discovered that major American denominations — Presbyterians, Baptists, Quakers, Methodists and Congregationalists — either ignored the holiday or actively discouraged it until the late 19th century.
That rejection was rooted in the lack of biblical sanction for Dec. 25 as the date of Jesus’ birth, as well as suspicion toward traditions that developed after the earliest days of Christianity. In colonial New England, this disapproval extended to actually making the holiday illegal, with celebration punishable by a fine.
“Some somehow observe the day,” wrote Boston Puritan Samuel Sewall on Christmas Day 1685, “but are vexed, I believe, that the body of people profane it, and blessed be God no authority yet compels them to keep it.”
Some 322 years later, Sewall might be surprised to see his congregation — today known as Old South Church — proudly displaying a decorated Christmas tree outside the church.
“We think it’s cheerful and seasonal,” said Nancy Taylor, senior minister of Old South, one of America’s most venerable congregations, counting among its past worshippers not only Sewall but Benjamin Franklin and Samuel Adams.
Now part of the United Church of Christ, Old South not only has a Christmas tree, but encourages its 650 or so members to exchange Christmas presents — although the focus is on charitable donations and service, rather than shopping.
“We are the descendants of the Puritans and Pilgrims, but we have loosened up a lot since then,” Taylor said. “We have changed and adapted and I think that’s part of why we haven’t died out.”
Like Sewall’s successors, the mainline Protestant churches have learned to accommodate Christmas. But the change came from the pews rather than the pulpit.
Christmas benefited from a 19th century “domestication of religion,” said University of Texas history professor Penne Restad, in which faith and family were intertwined in a complementary set of values and beliefs.
Christmas became acceptable as a family-centered holiday, Restad said, once it lost its overtly religious significance.
At the same time, aspects of the holiday like decorated trees and gift-giving became status symbols for an aspirant middle class. When Christmas began its march toward dominance among holidays, it was because of a change in the culture, not theology.
“In America, the saying is that the minister follows the people, the people don’t follow the minister,” Restad said. “This was more of a sociological change than a religious one. The home and the marketplace had more sway than the church.”
That’s partly why Christians like the United Church of God reject the holiday: They say divine instruction, rather than culture and society, should determine whether the holiday is appropriate.
“It’s common knowledge that Christmas and its customs have nothing to do with the Bible,” said Clyde Kilough, president of the United Church of God, which has branches all over the world. “The theological question is quite simple: Is it acceptable to God for humans to choose to worship him by adopting paganism’s most popular celebrations and calling them Christian?”
There is still lingering unease with the holiday in denominations that once rejected it. This can be glimpsed in worries about commercialization and in individual Christians like Phillip Ross.
Ross is an elder at Covenant Presbyterian Church in Vienna, near Parkersburg. Well-versed in the history of Christianity, Christmas and Presbyterianism, Ross knows his church historically objected to Christmas.
On the other hand, Ross is also a father of two, and while he made up his mind to reject Christmas as a teenager, his children’s early years included gifts, decorations and a tree.
“I have a love-hate relationship with Christmas,” he said. “It seems obvious to me that there’s nothing scriptural about it, but that’s a hard sell with children.”
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