Is Christmas still acceptable in spite of its pagan roots and origins? – Part 2
In the first part of this two-part series, we looked at the fact that many writers will agree that there are pagan connections to Christmas but conclude that it is still acceptable to keep the festival. We gave two examples and continue with further examples.
Here is another approach to try and justify Christmas celebrations:
“The Lord, through His sacrifice, has cleansed us of our sins. He sanctifies what he touches. When we came in contact with Him, it is we who were cleansed. It is not Him who is defiled. The woman with the issue of blood who touched Jesus (Mark 5:25-34) was made clean. It was not Jesus who was defiled. Likewise, Jesus touched the unclean lepers and cleansed them (Matthew 8:3). Jesus came in contact with many people, and it was never He who was defiled. It was they who were cleansed.
“I think this principle can be applied to Christmas. Yes, Christmas has pagan origins. Yes, it is a highly commercial time. Yes, many do not have their eyes on Jesus. But for the Christian, it is a time to reflect upon the birth of our Lord and to celebrate His coming into the world to die for our sins.”
This approach is exactly what the Bible condemns.
In our Update 122, dated December 19, 2003, we read the following in our Q&A, “Why don’t you celebrate Christmas?”
“The age-old question is, however, why is it so important to know that Christmas and its customs were a pagan invention? What is wrong with ‘Christianizing’ those pagan customs? We might not be able to bring Christ BACK into those customs (as He was never part of them in the first place), but why can’t we bring those customs to Christ and use them to worship Him in that way?
“Simply, because the Bible prohibits us to do so. The concept of adding pagan practices to godly worship, known as ‘syncretism,’ is condemned throughout Scripture. Again, we encourage our members, subscribers and friends to read or re-read our booklet, ‘Don’t Keep Christmas,’ for a more comprehensive analysis of this important question.
“In short, we read in Deuteronomy 12:29-32, that God commanded Israel that ‘you do not inquire after their [pagan] 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…”
“What could be clearer? God commands us NOT to worship Him in the way that the Gentiles did. Christmas was a pagan festival in honor of pagan gods. God FORBIDS us to worship Him in that way. We read in Matthew 15:7-9 that we worship Christ IN VAIN when we teach ‘as doctrines the commandments of men’ or pagans. The Ryrie Study Bible comments regarding the passage in Deuteronomy 12:30: ‘The Israelites were not even to inquire about the worship of the Canaanites, lest they be tempted to INCORPORATE ASPECTS OF IT INTO THEIR WORSHIP OF GOD.’
“That is, exactly, what the Roman Catholic Church did. That is exactly what God PROHIBITS His people from doing!”
Another writer gives us an insight into further antagonism towards those who say that Christmas is not a festival that true Christians should keep:
“Q. WHAT IS A PROPER CHRISTIAN RESPONSE TO PEOPLE WHO CLAIM CHRISTMAS AND OTHER CHRISTIAN CELEBRATIONS ARE PAGAN?
“A. First, if we are honest, we are forced to acknowledge that aspects of Christmas certainly are pagan: the revelry, drinking and overeating, commercialism, coveting, and immorality that are rife during the season. The holiday atmosphere as represented by these sins surely cannot be considered a part of true Christianity. Also, holly and mistletoe, Santa Claus, and the like are not found in Scripture either, though certain trappings of the season, like Christmas trees, candles, wreaths, and bells, are not necessarily wrong if they classify as decorations rather than gods. Anything can become a god if we lose perspective and don’t put God first. Further, enough eons have elapsed so that any pagan connections with items such as Christmas trees are now truly meaningless.
“I believe Christians must part company with those, such as certain cultists who advocate totally ignoring the celebration of Christ’s birth. We are unsure of the exact date on which our Savior was born. In fact, Dec. 25 is almost certain not to be the day. Does that matter? The precise day of the year should not deter us from designating a day to celebrate Jesus’ birthday. Further, there is nothing wrong with having family gatherings, exchanging gifts, sending greeting cards, singing, going to special services at church, and enjoying good food God has provided. We should use Christmas as a special time to witness to unsaved loved ones and acquaintances too. Many people have trusted Christ as Savior through the local church during the holiday season, the only time when some people enter a church.
“‘Christmas is for children’ is quite true. Many of us remember our early childhoods as the time when the account of the Christ Child was especially enthralling. Therefore, we adults can make Christmas a time of unselfish giving toward children (not just material things, by the way), creating great experiences that they will remember all their lives. It is an important part of bringing them up in the training and admonition of the Lord (Ephesians 6:4). Many of us remember events surrounding our early Christmases better than any other times during our entire childhoods.
“These are responses that I believe honor the Lord. Christmas is not going to go away and critics will always be around. If some Christians cannot in good conscience observe Christmas, or any other Christian celebration, they have the privilege of leaving it alone.”
That is quite a statement but is hardly a proper response to people who claim Christmas and other Christmas celebrations are pagan! Here’s why:
It is incorrect to say that any pagan connections with items such as Christmas trees are now truly meaningless. God, who doesn’t change (see Malachi 3:6), said quite categorically that His people should not follow the customs of worship who serve false gods (compare again Deuteronomy 12:29-32). That was true in the times of the ancient Israelites and still applies to God’s people today.
As often happens, those who disagree with the practice of keeping Christmas are labelled as cultists with opponents trying to denigrate and falsely accuse them so as to undermine their standing.
The assertion is made that “Dec. 25 is almost certain not to be the day” but that “it doesn’t matter.” Is it not strange that the celebration of His birthday which they say is not on December 25th is a wrong date and yet they keep it?
What can be said about the argument that “we should use Christmas as a special time to witness to unsaved loved ones and acquaintances too”? So, they use a time that is not the date of the Savior’s birth, pretend it is, and to try and teach others that this is quite alright? What sort of example is that?
Regarding the training of children, they say that “It is an important part of bringing them up in the training and admonition of the Lord (Ephesians 6:4).” To teach children God’s Word is indeed the responsibility of parents, but that must be based on the sure foundation of the truth. Teaching them lies about a pagan festival with a cloak of so-called Christianity draped over it is not in line with what God expects of us.
It is stated that “Christmas Is not going to go away” which may well be true but that does not mean that true Christians have to be involved in it. It is highly unlikely that Halloween is not going to go away but we should never have anything to do with that demonic celebration, either.
The Church of the Eternal God and its corporate affiliates have consistently taught that we must never be involved with Christmas celebrations.
One of our Q&As has the following headline: “You teach that Christians should not keep man’s holidays, such as Christmas, but rather, they need to observe God’s annual Holy Days. Why can’t we do both? And what, exactly, are those annual Holy Days, and how are they different from days such as Christmas?” We address in that Q&A the fact that the world’s holidays of which Christmas is just one, should not be kept, and it goes into the biblical Holy Days that God’s people are commanded to keep. You can access this Q&A at: https://www.globalchurchofgod.co.uk/q-a-8343/
Of course, becoming lax in this area couldn’t happen to us, could it? Not all that long ago a photograph appeared of a former evangelist in the Church of God who had taught the truth about Christmas, until the mid-1990’s, when he was standing in front of a Christmas tree obviously enjoying the experience. His new-found “freedom” seemed to have allowed this action that he preached vehemently against in his ministry in the Church of God. Quite a turnaround!
“Whether to celebrate Christmas or not, is man’s choice. However, to decree whether it is right or wrong to do so, is God’s prerogative.”(See our weekly Update 122, dated December 19, 2003).
In Mark 7:6-7, we read Jesus’ words, quoting Isaiah, when speaking to the Pharisees and scribes: “He answered and said to them, ‘Well did Isaiah prophesy of you hypocrites, as it is written: “This people honors Me with their lips, But their heart is far from Me. And in vain they worship Me, Teaching as doctrines the commandments of men.”’” It is obvious for those with eyes to see that this applies to modern mainstream Christianity as they have discarded the Holy Days of God and replaced them with man-made holidays of which Christmas is just one of them. We must never forget that “Jesus Christ is the same yesterday, today, and forever.”
Also, as mentioned repeatedly in this series, a reading (or a re-reading) of our booklet “Don’t Keep Christmas” could prove to be very well worthwhile, as we approach this time of the year once again.
Lead Writer: Brian Gale (United Kingdom)