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Is Christmas still acceptable in spite of its pagan roots and origins? (Part 1)

It is interesting when reviewing this question that many writers will agree that there are pagan connections to Christmas but conclude that it is still acceptable to keep the festival.

There was a special report on the BBC News website some years ago entitled “Whose Christmas is it anyway?,” which stated the following:

“Apparently, the season of good cheer did not start out as exclusively a Christian festival. According to Pagans, the early Christian church hijacked December 25 to celebrate the birth of Jesus because they saw that everyone was already having a good time and decided to take advantage of it.

“Historical debate has been raging for a long time over the exact date of the birth of Jesus Christ, with estimates ranging from sometime in September to much later in February.

“But the most important date in the festive season for Pagans is the winter solstice which always takes place around December 21. Called Yule, it is one of the traditional Celtic fire festivals and marks the return of the light after the longest night of the year.

“The Pagan Federation, an umbrella group for Pagan organisations, describes Paganism as a spiritual nature-venerating belief system rooted in the ancient nature religions of the world.”

In spite of so many understanding the roots of this worldly festival, there are still those, who with limpet-like qualities, cling tenaciously to the fact that “we know all of this, but it is fine to keep this end-of-year celebration”.

Let us look at several examples, although we could quote many more.  Because we believe that the examples shown are in gross error we have, for once, deliberately not put the source for the examples shown. Although they have been taken from websites that have published this information, the reasons they give are fairly generic, and to publish specific names when others have the same kind of reasoning could be seen as a personal attack on their set of beliefs.

EXAMPLE 1:

One commentator wrote on 25th December 2020, the following in a long article, amongst many other similar assertions:

“This year of all years — with a clarity denied us in happier times — it is possible to recognise in Christmas its fundamentally Christian character. The light shining in the darkness proclaimed by the festival is a very theological light, one that promises redemption from the miseries of a fallen world. In a time of pandemic, when the festive season is haunted by the shadows of sickness and bereavement, of loneliness and disappointment, of poverty and dread, the power of this theology, one that has fuelled the celebration of Christmas for century after century, becomes easier, perhaps, to recognise than in a time of prosperity. The similarities shared by the feast day of Christ’s birth with other celebrations that, over the course of history, have been held in the dead of winter should not delude us into denying a truth so evident as to verge on the tautologous: Christmas is a thoroughly Christian festival.”

You have to wonder about the depth of deception that has been foisted on a deceived world by authors who can cleverly use words to show exactly the opposite of what is meant in the Word of God.

In his book “4000 Years of Christmas,” Earl W. Count writes: “‘The [Roman Catholic] Church finally succeeded in taking the merriment, the greenery, the lights, and the gifts from Saturn [a Roman sun god patterned after the Persian sun god Mithras] and giving them to the Babe of Bethlehem.’”  Mr Count is one of many authors who write extensively about the pagan roots of this end-of-year festival.

When considering the relevant Scriptures and some external sources, we can, indeed, find out the approximate time of Christ’s birth, but it is impossible to find out the exact date. It is all to do with King David who had divided the priests into several “courses” or divisions — that is, each group or “course” of priests was to serve God for a specific period of time. Luke 1:5-9 shows that Zacharias, the father of John the Baptist, was of the course of Abijah (which courses are listed in 1 Chronicles 24) and that he executed the priest’s office before God in the order of his course or division. Each course lasted eight days — from Sabbath to Sabbath.  By studying this, it becomes clear that John was born in the spring and Jesus was born six months later – around late September or early October. It is clear that Jesus was born in the autumn — not on December 25.   For a full exposition of this important matter, please study this Q&A:

Therefore, to associate the light shining in the darkness—Jesus Christ—with Christmas is absolutely ridiculous. Christ was not born anywhere near Christmas. If we want to associate a “light” with Christmas, it would be Satan, who pretends to be an angel of light (2 Corinthians 11:14), and whom Christ saw fall from heaven like lightning (Luke 10:18).

EXAMPLE 2:

After questioning all of the trappings of this festive season, another writer asks a number of questions and then comes up with a conclusion.   To start with, the question is asked: “So can Christians have Christmas things?” and states the following:

“Since the pagan origins of Christmas have long passed and Christians no longer have any association with paganism and certain Christmas decorations, my personal view is that some decorations may or may not be harmless.

“Others, however, perhaps should be avoided. Is your tree the centerpiece of your house and does it distract from worship of God? Do you spend too much time decorating the tree instead of praying and having a Bible study with your family all while playing ‘O Christmas Tree’ pagan tree-worship songs? In this case, I believe you should not have the tree.

“The problem with avoiding holidays entirely could be you are the oddball. But if that’s what God wants, then it’s ok to be the oddball. After all, Halloween should definitely be avoided by Christians. But Christmas? I don’t know. At least, I’m not prepared myself to get rid of Christmas just yet. Maybe this will change, but for now I don’t feel convicted to eliminate and avoid Christmas entirely; just to avoid some things like mistletoe and ungodly things and ungodly songs.

“But you should pray and decide for yourself whether Christmas decorations are good for you and your family. Ask God to impress on your heart what He wants you to do, and surely God will show you.

“All that said, have a merry Christmas and a happy holiday full of joy and the love of Christ! And be sure to use this time as an opportunity to show the love of Christ to others one way or another!”

That seems to be fairly typical of the approach of many where accepting wrong practices is questioned but still going ahead with the celebrations.   In fact, this writer wishes everyone “a merry Christmas and a happy holiday,” even though he also says: “After all, Halloween should definitely be avoided by Christians. But Christmas? I don’t know. At least, I’m not prepared myself to get rid of Christmas just yet.”   There is no conviction in his argument, and Romans 14:23 states: “But he who doubts is condemned if he eats, because he does not eat from faith; for whatever is not from faith is sin.”

The argument, as expressed above, that the pagan origins of Christmas have long passed and that Christians who keep Christmas have no association with paganism is blatantly false. In our booklet “Don’t Keep Christmas,” we read on pages 19-20 these observations under the heading “Counter Arguments of the Carnal Mind”:

“Some may respond by saying, ‘So what? Why not keep Christmas anyway? Even though Christmas is a pagan festival and its customs are pagan in origin, I do it to honor Christ. And even though the Bible doesn’t command us to keep it, doesn’t God give us the freedom to celebrate the birthday of His Son whenever we want? And further, if we don’t like the “paganism” associated with Christmas, why not just keep Christmas solely to honor Christ, while leaving all the pagan customs behind?’

“Yes, we humans can come up with all kinds of reasons to hang on to our traditions and beliefs.  We somehow want to justify our actions rather than coming to terms with the truth of the matter, and it quickly becomes evident how strongly our beliefs entrench our customs.  We don’t give up easily, even when shown to be wrong.

“For example, we know that Christmas has become totally commercialized, and it is being kept alive by commercialism. As U.S. News & World Report points out in its December 23, 1996 article, on page 64: ‘To turn Christmas into a purely religious celebration now might cheer those who want to “take back Christmas.”… But such an observance “would lack the cultural resonance and impact of a holiday deeply rooted in the marketplace.” If Christmas came to that… “we probably wouldn’t keep it as a society.”’

“And, while Christmas is widely touted as a time of ‘peace on earth and good will toward men,’ it is a well-known fact that Christmas is the time of year in the Western world when more crimes are committed than at any other time.  It is a time when alcoholism runs rampant.  It is a time when commerce reaches its peak of illogical and irresponsible conduct and behavior, and people incur credit card debts that they can never repay, only to fulfill their ‘obligation’ to give gifts to others.  Parents lie to their children, telling them that Santa Claus will come through the chimney to bring Christmas presents, and that if they don’t behave, Santa Claus won’t bring them presents at all.”

We know what the world says about Christmas, but what does God have to say about this celebration? Although the word “Christmas” is never used in the Bible, are there guidelines and principles on how to look at this issue?

One author explained the pagan origin of Christmas and its ongoing pagan “relevance,” as follows:

“It may sound silly to some people but not everyone believes Christmas is a Christian holiday. After all, we hear ‘Keep Christ in Christmas’ every year. It’s said to be all about the birth of Jesus. But not everyone believes this.

“Why? Because the Christmas tree, the toys given to children, Santa Clause, and his 8 tiny reindeer… had nothing to do with Jesus originally. Neither does the Easter bunny, for that matter. No, Christmas was originally a pagan celebration…

“Romans had a holiday known as Saturnalia, it was a time of lawlessness between December 17-25. During this holiday no one would be punished or brought to court for anything they did. This meant you could pretty much do anything you wanted.

“During this time each community would select a sacrifice. A person that they would force to indulge in every kind of pleasure they could and then on December 25th they would kill them. This was thought to be a method of destroying evil…

“If you have ever been to New Orleans LA. or Mobile AL. then you know about something called Mardi Gras. It’s a time of Parades where people dress in costumes and throw beads, toys, and Moon-pies. It’s called a family event in Mobile. But this is actually about as pagan as it gets.

“The holiday is actually all about gods and goddesses, parties of excessive drinking, and sexual pleasures. I know because I lived in Mobile, AL. most of my life.

“So what do the churches in the area do about this? Wait for it…THEY GO OUT AND THROW BEADS!!! What?! Why would they be celebrating such a thing?

“It’s because they want to be ‘relevant’ to the culture and use it as a method of ‘evangelism.’ While they are throwing beads and Moon-pies to people they are also trying to preach the gospel. So what you get is a mix of pagan and Christian influences.

“This is EXACTLY how Saturnalia became Christmas. People of the time tried to ‘evangelize’ the pagans by telling them they could still celebrate this holiday. The only problem is it didn’t have anything to do with Christ. So they began to say December 25th was the birthday of Jesus. And Christmas was born. A mix of pagan and Christian influences.”

In the next instalment, we will continue to address the fact that Christmas is pagan to the core, and that we are NOT to mix pagan customs with the worship of God, which further hammers home that the keeping of this festival should not be kept by those who are followers of Christ.

(To be continued)

Lead Writer: Brian Gale (United Kingdom)