Wednesday, December 16, 2020

A Time of Transition / Holydaze - The Origins of the Holiday Season Part 1

A Time of Transition

George’s 2014 Toyota RAV4

The past week has seen Oasis, the Christian coffee shop, closed here in Montezuma, Georgia. This is the place I go to daily to publish my blog. During the past week I have been led to make some changes, and so has George, my next door neighbor, and the man who has taken over my prison newsletter for the past several years due to my suffering a stroke. The prison newsletter is doing well, going out approximately every 2 weeks.

You will note that I have posted a picture of George’s new car at the top of this page. George paid cash for this car. He has had it approximately 2 months. I will spend a little time talking about it, for I am sure of the fact that it is a sign of him being called to the ministry that was first given to me. I too have a Toyota RAV4, a gift from some brother’s in Christ that I did not even know.

My 2003 Toyota RAV4 on the Day I Got It

My RAV4is still running fine, though it is now nearly 18 years old. George was forced to get a new car when a drunk driver ran his existing car off the road. That was approximately 3 months ago. It took George nearly 3 weeks to find a car he could afford in Georgia. He did not begin by looking for a RAV4. He was thoroughly convinced that he wanted another manufacturer’s car. After looking for 3 weeks he came across an article that showed some problems with the car he was looking for. Fortunately for him, every car that he had set his heart on sold quickly. At the end George was reminded of a RAV4 he had seen 3 weeks earlier around Atlanta. He called on the vehicle and to his surprise it had not had any interest shown in it. George went up to see it the next day and bought it.

The Lord has revealed to me many times how vehicles represent ministry. I knew Yahweh was testifying that George was called to take up my ministry when I should give it up. I do not think that I will give it up totally until I die, but a time of transition is now at hand for me to start giving George a wider focus for him to get his own writings heard. George has for the past nearly 5 years been known to me. He was recently saved at the time, and has been speaking with me since then. I know he has tried to write, but like me before I was called to the ministry, he has been unable to complete any books. That is years of book writing, and nothing to show for it. Now during this past week he has completed his first book, with two others on the road to completion.

After praying about it, I feel that Yahweh would have me to print some of George’s books along with mine. Because the first book Yahweh has given George is about Christmas and the Holidays, I am going to interrupt my current posting and post his.

George Young

hol·i·day  /ˈhäləˌdā/
Origin: Old English hāligdæg ‘holy day’

Why do we do the things we do?

In our search for truth, it is good to question every tradition we have come to accept as normal in our society, lest we fall short of the will of God and see the proverbial writing on the wall:

Mene mene tekel uparshin
(You have been weighed in the balance and found wanting)
Daniel 5:25

In this exposition we will examine the historical record to see what theologians and historians wrote about the holiday season. We will observe both ancient and more modern sources in order to rightly divide the truth regarding the origins of the holidays billions of people have come to know and love. Let us do this so that we may prove the perfect, acceptable will of God.

I beseech you therefore, brethren, by the mercies of God, that you present your bodies a living sacrifice, holy, acceptable to God, which is your reasonable service. And do not be conformed to this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind, that you may prove what is that good and acceptable and perfect will of God. Romans 12:1-2).

At the same time, we will examine some of the arguments people use to justify the celebration of the holiday season to see if they hold up to scrutiny. Let us test all things as Paul tells us to in 1 Thessalonians 5:21:

Test all things; hold fast what is good. Abstain from every form of evil.

For millennia, the winter solstice has repeatedly been associated with heavy drinking, obnoxious revelries and lewd behavior. This was in part due to pagan religious beliefs about that particular time of year. Lucian, a mid-2nd century writer writes as Saturn in the first person, saying to the Romans, “During My week the serious is barred; no business allowed. Drinking, noise and games and dice, appointing of kings and feasting of slaves, singing naked, clapping of frenzied hands, an occasional ducking of corked faces in icy water—such are the functions over which I preside.”

The Romans and the Greeks considered the time leading up to the winter solstice a holiday season and this season has persisted throughout the western world for millennia. The Puritans refused to celebrate Christmas and wanted nothing to do with it. This is not only because of the typically loose behavior that accompanied the winter celebrations, but because they saw no biblical or spiritual reason to participate in them. All throughout the late Roman Empire and Medieval Europe the holiday season was largely considered a pagan festival and was shunned by many churches. Yet, some still adopted them with the intention of Christianization. From the second century all the way to today there has never been a consensus that Christmas is even a Christian holiday. There were times when the Roman church tried to clean up the holidays and associate them with Christian themes, yet it didn’t really catch on at first. Centuries later, at the end of the Renaissance, the holiday season started seeing a resurgence of popularity, but it was not a Christian resurgence. It was secular and pagan in nature. It carried the same elements of drunkenness and pleasure-seeking that the Roman holidays did. In the 19th century there were considerable efforts made to clean up the bad reputation of the holidays and create an image, a feeling and a spirit that was more family/community oriented. This holiday season carried the added benefit of increased commerce at a time when people tended to spend less, though one might argue commercialism was the primary reason for the revival of the season.

There were many failed attempts to clean up these pagan winter festivals, known primarily in the Roman Empire by the names Saturnalia and Brumalia. These ancient days of Brumae eventually transformed into the modern Holiday Season which encompasses Thanksgiving, Christmas and New Year’s Day. Winter festivals have a written history as far back as the 7th century BC in the ancient near east (probably much further back in Egypt) to the Roman Empire in the 4th century AD, where Christ’s nativity was declared as being the true reason for the season. In spite of this declaration the pagan spirit persisted even through Justinian’s ban of the holidays in the 6th century. People insisted on celebrating these festivals the way they had been for centuries, regardless of what the church or emperor would say, all the way through to the 11th century, where the Eastern Byzantine Empire, known for its religious orthodoxy (especially Constantinople), held fast to these traditions. It is no surprise that Constantine’s prized city kept these customs alive, especially considering the corruptions that occurred in the church during his 4th century reign. Most Christians are taught that Constantine was a savior, a hero-type figure, who helped to make Christianity the official religion of the Roman Empire. What really occurred was a twisting of the Gospel truth, the rise of Dominion Theology, encouragement towards the syncretization of religions, a suppression of the nature and identity of Yahshua and the merging of the church with the State (might I dub it the ApoState?). Constantine and the Council of Nicea are subjects worthy of their own in-depth study. For now, though, let’s look at Christmas in its more modern form. From there we can trace it back to see what can be learned of its history. We will do this to answer the opening question of this book: “Why do we do the things we do?” In order to remain open to an answer you may not want to hear consider first the following verse before we move on:

Search me, O God, and know my heart: try me, and know my thoughts: And see if there be any wicked way in me, and lead me in the way everlasting. Psalms 139:23-24

The Modern Resurgence of Christmas

Let us begin our journey back through time with the words of a well-known, 19th century preacher, Charles Spurgeon.

We have no superstitious regard for times and seasons. Certainly, we do not believe in the present ecclesiastical arrangement called Christmas. First because we do not believe in any mass at all, but abhor it, whether it be sung in Latin or in English: Secondly, because we find no scriptural warrant whatever for observing any day as the birthday of the Savior; and consequently, its observance is a superstition, because not of divine authority. Superstition has fixed most positively the day of our Savior’s birth, although there is no possibility of discovering when it occurred... It was not till the middle of the third century that any part of the church celebrated the birth of our Lord; and it was not till long after the western Church had set the example, that the eastern adopted it. Because the day is not known... Probably the fact is that the “holy” days were arranged to fit in with the heathen festivals. We venture to assert that if there be any day in the year of which we may be pretty sure that it was not the day on which our Savior was born it is the 25th of December... I will neither justify nor condemn… Regarding not the day, let us give God thanks for the gift of His dear Son.” —C. H. Spurgeon Dec. 24, 1871 (Spurgeon, Metropolitan Tabernacle Pulpit)

Spurgeon simplified and condensed a lot of information in this statement. Clearly, he knew a good deal of the history behind the Holiday Season. His sermon pointed not only to the incarnation but to the death on the cross, for it was not the incarnation alone that saved us. The shed blood on the cross is the focus in the epistles of the apostles. Rarely was birth even mentioned. It was what Christ accomplished on the cross that completed and fulfilled the good news of the Gospel. In this sermon he didn’t condemn meditating on the incarnation of Christ, but he certainly criticized the typical traditions that people had come to depend on in order to enjoy Christmas. In an earlier sermon in 1856, he said, “…though I have no respect to the religious observance of the day, yet I love it as a family institution…” He was preaching at a time when Europe and North America were experiencing a massive resurgence of the Christmas holiday and I’m sure this is what prompted his exhortation as well as his obvious apprehension towards the “holiday.”

With a fervent admonition from such a well-respected minister as Charles Spurgeon, should we not perform our due diligence by testing his claims about Christmas? Shouldn’t we use our Spirit-given discernment to determine if what he is saying is the truth? If we find the evidence is compelling, and even more, then we must face the decision to cease celebrating these “holy days.” The fact is there is nothing holy about them because they are not God-ordained, and they have nothing to do with the Gospel of Yahshua Christ except what man has assigned to them. It is a shame that most Christians have decided to ignore or reinterpret the parts of the Bible they don’t agree with and accept a half-hearted, watered-down version of the Gospel. Let us embrace it wholly, not shying from the cross of Christ, which is the focal point of His life on earth.

What scares the Dickens out of you?

In 1843, Charles Dickens published his famous novella, A Christmas Carol in Prose, Being a Ghost Story of Christmas, known in short as A Christmas Carol. It immediately became an overnight success. A critic named Margaret Oliphant wrote the faintest praise of all her contemporary critics, characterizing Dickens’s book as “the apotheosis of turkey and plum pudding,” and admitted that “it moved us all in those days as if it had been a new gospel.” (Wikipedia, WV Gazette-Mail, Lithub). Despite there being nothing Christian about the story it made its way into the hands and homes of many Christians, nonetheless. Although the purported inspiration of the story was Dickens’ disgust towards child labor and the brutality of the burgeoning Industrial Revolution, the real appeal was the surface morality of being jolly and generous during the Christmas season, as well as shunning those who oppose the Christmas spirit. In a way, Ebenezer Scrooge was not only a representative of the cold business class but a caricature of those pesky Puritan types who rained on everyone’s parade. Ironically, the very Industrial Revolution Dickens’ was railing against helped him to capitalize on his own work, making him rich and creating an opportunity for mass consumerism that never existed in such a wide-reaching capacity before.

If we are addressing the irony of Dickens then let us note that Ebenezer is a name from the Bible, seen in 1 Samuel 7:12. The Hebrew name means, “stone of help.” The Bible says that the Israelites came against the Philistines in battle near a city called Ebenezer. They were participating in idolatry at that time and thought that if they brought the Ark of the Covenant into the camp surely Yahweh would give them victory like He had done before. The Philistines defeated them, and Israel suffered great loss, including the ark, which was carried off by the enemy. After they realized they lost because of their idolatry they repented. The next time they went against the Philistines Yahweh gave them victory. You see, we cannot be idolaters and expect God to help us. We gain victory by remaining pure and holy. If we become complacent and undiscerning, falling into compromise and idolatry, we can’t expect God to stand up for us. The scariest thing about this account is that the Israelites didn’t even know they were sinning until they were defeated! How could this be possible? They knew what Yahweh commanded them. Surely, they would know if they were committing a grave sin. Evidently, they did not, and this was not the first time. They fell into idolatry over and over, which led God’s hand to teach them many hard lessons.

The takeaway for Christians is that we cannot put Christ in something that He was not in to begin with, just as the Israelites cannot attempt to bring the ark to a losing battle thinking God is in that ark. The ark is a symbol of a pure heart with God’s law written within, but they did not have pure hearts. The “stone” that helped them (being a foreshadowing of Christ) came after they repented of their idolatry.

At some point in his life Dickens became a Unitarian, a denomination that rejects the Trinity and the divine nature of Christ. Unitarians also reject the doctrine of Original Sin and instead adopt a Humanist approach to spirituality, placing an emphasis on using reason in order to understand the Bible. These tenants eventually led to their universal acceptance of all people, including liberal Christians, Buddhists, Jews and neo-pagans. Humanism is the basis of humanitarianism and the justification of works-based faith for many Christians. They think that charity of any kind is of Christ when it is the other way around. Christ will lead you to right charity.

Because of Dickens’ beliefs it is no wonder that Ebenezer, the stone that helps, takes on a form that merely looks like the author’s own conception of Christ in the story. You see, Scrooge became more “Christ-like” by being scared out of his wits by ghosts of his past. These ghosts persuaded him to become nice, generous and caring instead of greedy and grumbling. While these might be commendable traits this is a very watered-down summation of Christ’s teachings and an obvious attempt to use Christmas as a crutch for this message. Repentance is not enough to save you. It is making Christ Lord over your life that saves you. In this tale it is not God or Christ leading Scrooge to repentance. It is pagan ideas, myths and legends.

It is no wonder it is the iconic tale that defined Christmas, a holiday that was, from its Christianized inception, aimed to unite disparate groups of people in a common harmony. A Christmas Carol doesn’t really have Christ in it, but it does have other elements of spirituality, elements that are clearly pagan in nature. For example, it wasn’t Christ that inspired Scrooge to change. It was the ghosts of Christmas past, present and yet to come. The ghost of Christmas Present is a perfect depiction of the Germanic Holly King, complete with symbols of firelight, life and abundance in the midst of winter’s desolation (see illustration). Similarly, the Ghost of Christmas Present bore a striking, purposeful resemblance to the Grim Reaper, who is the personification of Death. The Grim Reaper has his origins in the same symbolism of Cronos/Saturn, who was an unpleasant, elderly man carrying a scythe and ruling over time. Father Time also shares in the same roots and is closely associated with the old year transitioning to the new year. It was the fear of death and leaving behind a legacy of selfishness that finally made Scrooge decide to be more selfless. That’s humanism, not Christianity. I think many Christians have a narrow view of paganism. Pagans have morals too. They don’t all go around conducting sexual rituals and child sacrifices. Many pagans would be considered very moral, humanitarian people. So, what then, separates Christian morality from pagan? Remember, Satan comes disguised as an angel of light (2 Corinthians 11:14). He is trying to look like Christ, who is the light and life of the world. He wants to deceive you into thinking you are behaving according God’s will when really, it is his will that you are doing.

Woe to those who call evil good and good evil, who put darkness for light and light for darkness, who put bitter for sweet and sweet for bitter. Isaiah 5:20

If Dickens understood the name Ebenzer then perhaps the “Stone of help,” who is Christ, would have a place in his story. If so, it would have been a much different story, but then again, it probably wouldn’t have inspired the following generations to adopt “morally acceptable” pagan traditions. I doubt he would have written the book at all if that were the case. The true Gospel is not a popular message.

It is interesting to note that Queen Victoria was a lover of Dickens’ writings. In 1848, an engraving was published in in the Illustrated London News of a Christmas tree in Windsor Castle surrounded by Queen Victoria, Prince Albert, their servants and several children (see illustration). This was a depiction of an event that actually occurred. Prince Albert brought an evergreen, called a Tannenbaum, into the castle as part of his German heritage. This cover story’s image, along with Dickens’ story, inspired people in both Europe and America to begin reviving and reinventing the image and spirit of Christmas, filtering out centuries of licentiousness, leaving the relics of things deemed good and worthy of practice by the judgment of men, not God. Within 10 years Christmas trees were a standard tradition in homes all across the western world.

It was not long before Christians started trying to make Christmas about Christ, but Spurgeon was arguing that it was not a Christian cause, that we should ignore the holiday and be separate from the world. His Puritan counterparts from the 16th century would wholeheartedly agree. Sure, the Puritans were often very legalistic, but at least they had a desire for purity and godliness. I feel the same way about such religious movements as the Anabaptists, Amish and Mennonites. Unfortunately, most people that decide to abandon the legalism of these denominations only wind up blanketly calling any form of religious confrontation legalism. It’s a shame because purity doesn’t have to be legalistic, and many times those who are being called pharisees are being called such by the pharisees of a “new-and-improved” version of Christianity.


The “spirit of Christmas,” which stories like A Christmas Carol promote, mean to suggest that through philanthropy one can gain a happy, fulfilling life. Donations to charity skyrocket at this time of year. It is easy for a Christian to justify “getting in the Christmas spirit” because it is supposedly Christ-like to give to those in need, but are you getting into the spirit of Christmas or is it getting into you? If the definition of being Christ-like is charity to everyone and if Christ was a humanitarian, why did He walk by the crippled man at the temple knowing He could heal Him? Surely, He saw this man, who was lame from birth and was brought to the temple daily to beg for alms. Why did He wait and let Peter heal him?

Now Peter and John went up together to the temple at the hour of prayer, the ninth hour. And a certain man lame from his mother’s womb was carried, whom they laid daily at the gate of the temple which is called Beautiful, to ask alms from those who entered the temple; who, seeing Peter and John about to go into the temple, asked for alms. And fixing his eyes on him, with John, Peter said, “Look at us.” So he gave them his attention, expecting to receive something from them. Then Peter said, “Silver and gold I do not have, but what I do have I give you: In the name of Yahshua Christ of Nazareth, rise up and walk.” Acts 3:1–6

Yahshua went to the temple often and surely would have seen this man. Why didn’t He heal him? Why, being full of the grace of God and wise beyond His years as a child, did He restrict His ministry to only three years when He could have been preaching the Gospel and healing everyone He came across His whole life? The answer is simple. Christ only ever did the will of the Father. If it was not God’s will that He heal, then He did not heal.

Now as Yahshua passed by, He saw a man who was blind from birth. And His disciples asked Him, saying, “Rabbi, who sinned, this man or his parents, that he was born blind?”

Yahshua answered, “Neither this man nor his parents sinned, but that the works of God should be revealed in him.” John 9:1–5

God appointed a time for this man to be healed, just as He did for the crippled man at the pool of Bethesda in John 5. This man went there often to get healed, but someone always beat him to it, because only the first person in the pool that day could get healed. Would you think it cruel of God to allow this man to constantly get out run by more capable men? Clearly, He had a plan for him, so who are we to rail against God? Would we, seeing this injustice and by the works of our own hands, try to heal this man not knowing God’s plan for him? That might not be pleasing to God because there was a greater glory revealed by this man being healed on that specific day. Yahshua explains why He healed Him when He did:

“My Father has been working until now, and I have been working… the Son can do nothing of Himself, but what He sees the Father do; for whatever He does, the Son also does in like manner… For as the Father raises the dead and gives life to them, even so the Son gives life to whom He will. For the Father judges no one, but has committed all judgment to the Son… For as the Father has life in Himself, so He has granted the Son to have life in Himself, and has given Him authority to execute judgment… I can of Myself do nothing. As I hear, I judge; and My judgment is righteous, because I do not seek My own will but the will of the Father who sent Me. John 5:19–30

This passage is rich in wisdom. The Son always seeks to do the will of the Father, and because of this the Father has granted the Son the ability to exercise His own judgement and will, because it is perfectly in line with the Father’s will. This is because the Father has taught His Son well and He is His perfect representative. The Son judged the right time to heal these men because He knew the will of the Father. Just as He could see that the blind man was not blind due to sin, He saw that there was a time and place for His Father’s glory to be shown in his healing.

So, in light of this reality, which is called Sabbath rest, are Christians always supposed to be charitable? Do you get a reward for giving regardless of when or to whom you are giving? I suppose the real question is, can we make charity into an idol? According to Tertullian, we can. His argument is nothing less than compelling. We can take anything good and turn it into an idol by the works of our own hands.

The Spirit of Babylon is the worship of humanity above God. Humanitarianism is an idea that people fall in love with because it fits their own view of morality. People forget that God’s morality is not their morality. When humanitarianism takes precedence over God, you have become an idolater. Remember, Yahshua reduced the 10 Commandments to 2, saying the first is, “Love the Lord your God with all your heart, mind, soul and strength…” and the second being, “Love your neighbor as yourself.” The second cannot become the first. When it does you can expect judgment to come sooner or later.

I will utter My judgments against them concerning all their wickedness,
Because they have forsaken Me, burned incense to other gods,
And worshiped the works of their own hands.
Jeremiah 1:16

If your charity and humanitarianism is the works of your own hands, it is worthless to God. However, if your charity is the work of God, then it is commendable in His sight. Knowing the difference is knowing when God is speaking to you and when you are following the dictates of the world, which often try to imitate God.

(To Be Continued...)

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