We should utilise any celebration that points to Jesus to witness, distribute media and impart God's truths to a dying world but not participate in customs and traditions invented by men.
John 4:23: But the hour cometh, and now is, when the true worshippers shall worship the Father in spirit and in truth: for the Father seeketh such to worship him.
John 4:24: God is a Spirit: and they that worship Him must worship Him in spirit and in truth.
Romans 12:2: And be not conformed to this world: but be ye transformed by the renewing of your mind, that ye may prove what is that good, and acceptable, and perfect, will of God.
The Origins Of Christmas:
Christmas was not celebrated nor commemorated in any way by the apostles, nor was it celebrated in the apostolic church (nor for at least the first 300 years of church history)! Such celebration only came into the church with the “Christianization” of pagan rites as Catholicism was made the state religion by Constantine in the fourth century A.D, History reveals that by about 440 A.D, the Church at Jerusalem started celebrating Christmas, following the lead of Roman Catholicism. (See below).
Seemingly forgotten is the essential role religion played in the world of ancient Rome. But Constantine understood. A brilliant military commander, he also had the genius to recognize the need for a union between paganism and Christianity. Hence, the Babylonian mystery religions were introduced by Constantine in 313 A.D, as he tried to incorporate the pagans into the newly constituted “Holy” Roman Empire. The Constantine-led Roman Church was willing to adapt and adopt pagan practices in order to make Christianity palatable to the heathen.
Thus, pagan rituals and idols took on Christian names. For example, Jesus Christ was presented as the Sun of Righteousness (Malachi 4:2) replacing the sun god, Sol Invictus, Pagan holidays were reclassified as Christian holidays (holy-days). December 25th was the “Victory of the Sun God Festival in the pagan Babylonian world, and a celebration of the Festival of Saturn, Saturnalia or winter solstice, in the ancient Roman Empire. To all ancient pagan civilizations, this date was the birthday of the gods – the time of year when the days began to lengthen and man was pleased with a “regeneration” of nature.”
December 25th was particularly important in the cult of Mithras, a popular deity in the old Roman Empire. Robert Myers (a proponent for celebrating Christmas in his book, celebratius says;
“Prior to the celebration of Christmas, December 25th in the Roman world was the Natalis Solis Invicti, the Birthday of the Unconquerable Sun. This feast, which took place just after the winter solstice of the Julian calendar, was in honor of the Sun God. Mithras, originally a Persian deity whose cult penetrated the Roman world in the first century B.C. ... Besides the Mithraic influence, other pagan forces were at work. From the seventeenth of December until the twenty-third, Romans celebrated the ancient feast of the Saturnalia. ... It was commemorative of the Golden Age of Saturn, the god of sowing and husbandry.”
But, as mentioned earlier, Christianity had to be made palatable to the heathen. So the Roman church simply took the Festival of Saturnalia, adopted it into Christianity, and then eventually many of the associated pagan symbols, forms, customs, and traditions were reinterpreted (i.e., “Christianized”) in ways “acceptable” to Christian faith and practice.
Thus, by giving Christianity official status, Constantine brought internal peace to the Empire. The pagans flocked into the Catholic places of worship, because they were still able to worship their old gods, only now under different names. It mattered not to them whether they worshipped the goddess mother and her Child under the old names (Isis and Horus), or under the names of the “Virgin Mary” and the “Christ-child.” Either way, it was the same old idol-religion.
After the Reformation, godly Protestants in Europe were absolutely opposed to Christmas. It was despised by the Puritans and Non-conformists in England, in 1644, when the Puritans controlled the Parliament, it was declared that no observation of Christmas was to be had on December 25th, but, instead, it was to be observed as a normal market-day. It was called “the Profane Man’s Ranting Day.” At that time, troops would actually break up Christmas celebrations, tear down decorations, and arrest anyone holding a service on that day! Some who celebrated it in Europe were also thrown into prison.
America’s settlers (“Protestant America”) rightfully considered Christmas a “popish” holiday. In fact, it was only in the early 1800’s that several founding members of the New York Historical Society “invented” Christmas. Before then, it was illegal in colonial Massachusetts to even take December 25th off work. Christmas was forbidden as “unseemly to ye spiritual welfare of ye community.” (Christmas was banned in Massachusetts in 1659, and this law remained for about twenty years. In Boston, public schools stayed open in December 25th until as late as 1870!). It wasn’t until 1836 that any state declared Christmas a holiday (Alabama), and then there were no more state declarations until the Civil War. The so-called Christmas customs and traditions were later concocted more for commercial purposes than for religious.
Quoting from a 25/Dec/83 USA TODAY article about Christmas: “A broad element of English Christianity still considered Christmas celebration a pagan blasphemy. The Puritans, Baptists, Quakers, Presbyterians, Clavinists and other denominations brought this opposition to early New England and strong opposition to the holiday lasted in America until the middle of the 18th century.” Henry Ward Beecher, a Congregationalist, wrote in 1874 of his New England boyhood: “To me Christmas was a foreign day, and I shall die so. When I was a boy I wondered what Christmas was. I knew there was such a time, because we had an Episcopal church in our town, and I saw them dressing it with evergreens, and wondered what they were taking the woods in the church for; but I got no satisfactory explanation. A little later I understood it was a Romish institution, kept by the Romish Church.”
Today, the very popularity of Christmas should cause the Christian to be at least a little bit suspicious of it. Anyone and everyone can celebrate Christmas without question – outright pagans, nominal Christmas, and even Buddhists and Hindus. If, in reality, December 25th was a date set by God to remember the birth of Jesus, you could be sure that the world would have nothing to do with it. After all, God has commanded one day in seven – the Lord’s Day – to worship Him. Does the world observe it? Of course not. It shuns anything pertaining to true religion. But as expected, the world loves Christmas, all the while hating the Lord Jesus Christ (Jn. 15:18,23-25).
Notwithstanding all of the above, in the end it all boils down to this – nowhere in Scripture are we commanded to commemorate the birth of our Lord. God the Father evidently deemed it unwise to make the date known. Hence, it will always remain unknown and is not to be remembered and celebrated. In fact, God has warned us about getting entangled with any special days (Gal. 4:10). Notice though, that we are commanded to remember Him in His death, but no special day was specified for this either – “Take, eat; this is my body which is broken for you; this DO in remembrance of Me” (Luke 22:18,19; I Cor. 11:23-26).
To commemorate His death is Scriptural. Any day of the year will do. To commemorate His birth is non-Scriptural, even extra-Scriptural (Deut. 12:32; Rev.22:19), whether one chooses December 25th or any other day. The apostle Paul says: “God forbid that I should glory in anything except in the cross [not the birth] of our Lord Jesus Christ” (Gal. 6:14). We find no salvation in the birth of our Lord, for salvation was only made possible through His death. (Key thought): Our faith should be in the cross, not in the cradle.
Perhaps we should contemplate the words of the late Charles Haddon Spurgeon, delivered in a Lord’s Day sermon on December 24, 1871:
“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 the mass at all, but abhor it, whether it be said or sung in Latin or in English; and secondly, because we find no Scriptural warrant whatever for observing any day as the birthday of the Saviour; and consequently, its observance is a superstition, because not of divine authority. Superstition has fixed most positively the day of our Saviour’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 nativity of our Lord; and it was not ‘till very long after the Western Church had set the example, that the Eastern adopted it. Because the day is not known, therefore superstition has fixed it. ... where is the method in the madness of the superstitious? Probably the fact is that the “holy” days were arranged to fit in with the heathen festivals. We venture to assert that if there by any day in the year of which we may be pretty sure that is was not the day on which the Saviour was born, it is the 25th of December. ... Regarding not the day, let us, nevertheless, give God thanks for the gift of His dear Son.”
And from Alexander Hislop’s The Two Babylons: Or The Papal Worship:
“That Christmas is a pagan festival is beyond all doubt. The time of the year, and the ceremonies, with which it is celebrated, prove its origin. Those who follow the custom of observing Christmas, follow not the Bible but pagan ceremonies.”
Since Christmas is not a Biblical concept, why do you suppose that when it is exposed for what it really is, people are angered? It angers Protestant people! There is a good reason why it does so. When the pagan celebration of Christmas is rooted up, and rejected, then what has become a Protestant tradition is, in effect, being rejected! And that is why people become angry. It began as a Roman Catholic holy day, and then it became a Protestant holy day. And if anyone dares show it up for what it really is, they face the wrath of the Protestant religious machine. And these days, that can by very ugly.
There is no Biblical warrant, precedent, nor precept for remembrance of the day of Christ’s birth as a day of special religious celebration. This is not to say that we shouldn’t remember Christ’s birth and its significance, but for religious commemorations or celebrations, we must have Biblical command or precedent. Important to remember is the early church that did not celebrate Christ’s birth, but such celebration only came into the church with the “Christianization” of pagan rites as Catholicism was made the state religion by Constantine in the fourth century A.D, Since the Word of God does not support the tradition of Christmas, a Christian’s conscience ought not – and must not – be bound.
The practice of exchanging presents was a part of the Saturnalia. There is nothing wrong in giving presents of course the Israelites – even celebrations that were observed because of mere custom. (Esther 9:22). But some have sought to link Christmas gifts with those presented to Jesus by the wise men. This cannot by correct. By the time the wise men arrived, Jesus was no longer “lying in a manger” as when the shepherds came but was in a house (Matt. 2:9-11).
This could have been quite a while after his birthday. Also, they presented their gifts to Jesus, not to each other.
The Christmas tree, as we know it, only dates back a few centuries, though ideas about sacred trees are very ancient.
An old Babylonish fable told of an evergreen tree, which sprang out of a dead tree stump. The old stump symbolized the dead Nimrod, the new evergreen tree symbolized that Nimrod had come to life again in Tammuz! Among the Druids, the oak was sacred, among the Egyptians, it was the palm, and in Rome it was the fir, which was decorated with red berries during the Saturnalia.
In at least ten Biblical references, the green tree is associated with idolatry and false worship (1 Kings 14:23 etc.).
“For they also built them high places, and images and groves on every high hill and under every green tree.
The meaning of groves is a group of trees, a small wood.
And if you turn to Judges 3:7, we read the following:
“And the children of Israel did evil in the sight of the Lord, and forgot the Lord their God, and served Baalim and the groves.”
The Bible commentary on the groves is this:
The groves were the detestable sacred trees or poles used in Canaanite worship centres as symbols of life and fertility.
These were sacred to worship of the Canaanite fertility goddess Asherali.
The Christmas tree... recapitulates the idea of tree worship.... gilded nuts and balls symbolize the sun.... all of the festivities of the winter solstice have been absorbed into Christmas day.... the use of holly and mistletoe from the Drudic ceremonies, the Christmas tree from the honours paid to Odin’s sacred fir.
*Key Thought* The only tree of Life to us is Jesus Christ. Christ is the source of our life, the source of immortality.
He is the tree of life, and to all who come to Him, He gives spiritual life.
Briefly, let’s look at the origin of Easter:
The great church historian Mosheim tells us “Easter began in the second century (Mosheim’s Institutes of Eccl. History, pg. 73). The council of Nicea, 325 A.D, ruled that Easter was to be universally celebrated on the same Sunday. Easter is Judaistic and paganistic in its origin. Some maintain “Easter” is derived from Eostre or ostara, the Anglo-Saxon goddess of spring. Acts 12:4 (KJV) is an unfortunate translation. The word is Passover, not Easter (Easter, as such, was unknown in the first century).
Beloved Paul warned against observing “days and months, and times, and years” (Gal 4:10). There were religious events unauthorized by God. The Scriptures say nothing of Christmas and Easter. They are post-apostolic, hence, unauthorized by God’s word (see Gal. 1:6-9; Rev. 22:18,19). Christmas and Easter owe their beginning to man, not God.
It was adopted as the time of the birth of Christ by the Roman Church. Some of our present-day Christmas customs were influenced by the Roman Saturnalia. “It is common knowledge”, says one writer, “that much of our association with the Christmas season – the holidays, the giving of presents and the general feeling of geniality – is but the inheritance from the Roman winter festival of the Saturnalia.....survivals of paganism.”
The evidence becomes overwhelming identifying Christmas festival is of the Roman and Babylonian systems. There is not a word in the Scriptures about the precise day of His birth, or the time of the year when He was born.
At the time that the angel announced His birth to the shepherds of Bethlehem, they were feeding their flocks by night in the open fields. Now, no doubt, the climate of Palestine is not so severe that time of the year.
It was not the custom for the shepherds of Judea to watch their flocks in the open fields later than about the end of October. It is in the last degree incredible, then, that the birth of Christ could have taken place of the end of December.
Therefore, Christ could not be born in the depth of winter. And if any shall think the winter wind was not so extreme in these parts, let us remember the words of Christ in the gospel, “Pray that your flight by not in the winter.”
If the winter was so bad a time to flee in, it seems no fit time for shepherds to lie in the fields in, and women and children to travel in. The day of our Lord’s birth cannot be determined and that within the Christian Church, no such festival as Christmas was ever heard of till the third century.
The customs of Christmas are the efforts made by Satan counterfeiting the truth to all the ends of the earth, through the mysteries that were affiliated with the great central system in Babylon. This festival was added on to Christianity.
Revelation 22:18 says: - For I testify to everyone who hears the words of the prophecy of this book; if anyone adds to these things, God will add to him the plagues that are written in this book.
Christmas originates from honouring the birth of Jesus, but interestingly, there is no historic evidence existing to indicate when this actually occurred.
In the past, festivals were held to honour the occasion on various dates and in different seasons throughout the year.
This was until 350 A.D, when Pope Julius 1 designated the 25th of December.
He chose this date to counteract a popular festival held in the northern hemisphere to honour the god Saturn.
Many of the traditional customs observed at Christmas were actually adopted from early pagan practises and then Christianised by the church. One such example is the giving of Christmas presents.
This can be traced to an ancient Roman custom practised at the same time of the year.
When this pagan tradition was Christianized, it was said to relate to the gifts of gold, frankincense and myrrh that the Magi or wise men had given.
The Bulletin: December 10, 2002
In speaking of Jesus, ‘humanity’, we often forget the specifics of His human life.
Jesus was a first-century Jew, living in Roman – occupied Palestine. He was born like all of us, from a mother’s womb. He was nurtured at her breast, was brought up under the piety of Biblical Law, and lived out His life, by and large, as an observant Jew (Luke 2:7; 11:27).
The Bible does not mention of His birth date. Jesus ate, slept, got tired, wept, showed emotion, prayed, confessed ignorance and matured like any other mortal.
Jesus’ background was extremely humble. Mary and Joseph were peasant farmers with a carpentry shop to supplement their income. Ref: The Essential Jesus.
He had been the Commander of Heaven, and angels had delighted to fulfil His word; now He was a willing servant, a loving, obedient Son.
In the simple clothing of a common labourer, He walked the streets of the little town, going to and returning from His humble work.
His own example He taught is that it is our duty to be industrious, that our work should be performed with exactness and thoroughness and that such labour is honourable.
Throughout His life on earth, Jesus was an earnest and constant worker. He expected much; therefore He attempted much.
After He had entered on His ministry, He said, “I must work the works of Him that sent Me, (John 9:4).
Jesus did not avoid care and responsibility, as do many who profess to be His followers.
When we become absorbed in worldly things so that we have no thought for Him in whom our hope of eternal life is centered, we separate ourselves from Jesus and from the heavenly angels.
Jesus was the healer of the as well as of the soul. He was interested in every phase of suffering that came under His notice, and to every sufferer He brought relief, His kind words having a soothing balm. – The healing power of love went out from Him to the Sick and distressed.
He carried the awful weight of responsibility for the salvation of men. He knew that unless there was a decided change in the principles and purposes of the human race, all would be lost. This was the burden of His Soul, and none could appreciate the weight that rested upon Him.
Filled with intense purpose, He carried out the design of His life, that He Himself, should be the light of men. Jesus set an example for us.
Those who are true to their calling as messengers for God will not seek honour for themselves.
Love for self will be swallowed up in love for Christ. They will recognize that it is their work to proclaim as did John the Baptist, “Behold the Lamb of God, which taketh away the sins of the world!” (John 1:29)
They will lift up Jesus, and with Him humanity will be lifted up.
Though Christ guides His church, through the Holy Spirit, the Word of God is the sole standard by which the church operates.
All its members are to obey that Word because it is law in the absolute sense.
All human traditions, customs, and cultural practices are subject to the authority of the Scripture.
Beware lest anyone spoil you through philosophy and empty deceit, according to the tradition of men, according to the basic principles of the world, and not according to Christ. (Col. 2:8)
Jesus said – “If anyone thirsts, let him come to Me and drink, he who believes in Me, as the Scripture has said, out of his heart will flow rivers of living water.”
If you abide in My word, you are my disciples indeed – you are my children, Most assuredly I say to you, if anyone keeps My Word, he shall never see death. (John 8:51).
If anyone loves Me, he will keep My Word and My Father will love him, and We will come to him and make Our home with him (John 14:24).
Scripture is given by inspiration of God and is profitable for doctrine, for reproof, for correction, for instruction in righteousness (2 Tim. 3:16). Please open your Bible to Philippians chapter 4 verse 9.
“The things which you learned and received and heard and saw in Me these do, and the God of peace will be with you. What this text is saying dear brethren is that we, the reader must occupy their minds with the right things and busy themselves with the right activities.
Heaven and earth will pass away, but My words will never pass away (Matt. 24:35).
Jesus Christ is the focus of Scripture. Learn of Me, follow Me.
The Bible’s authority for faith and practice rises from its origin. God breathed truth into men’s minds. They in turn expressed it in the words found in the Scripture. Inspiration, therefore, is the process through which God communicates His eternal truth.
An accurate understanding leads to eternal life, Paul says: “For everything that was written in the past was written to teach us, so that through endurance and encouragement of the Scriptures, we might have hope.”
The birth of Jesus:
It remains now to formulate an answer to the most important question of all, “Why was Jesus born?” and what was the purpose of the incarnation?
A careful reading of the biblical accounts in Matthew and Luke leads to what is apparently a twofold answer. We shall see, however, that it is in reality one answer, demonstrating the single-minded purpose of God in the incarnation of Himself in human form and flesh.
Matthew articulates the first answer in the announcement to Joseph regarding Mary’s impending pregnancy. After reiterating the role of the Holy Spirit in the conception of Jesus, he states, “She will give birth to a Son, and you are to give Him the name Jesus, because He will save His people from their sins” (1:21).
The name Jesus is the Greek form of the Hebrew Joshua, meaning “The Lord saves.” The name Immanuel, “God with us” (v.23), has the same implication. Jesus’ mission is declared in theological terms. It specifically recalls the Davidic assertion of the Lord’s unfailing love and intention to redeem His people “from all their sins” (Ps. 130:7,8).
The Hebrew word here is not the usual Old Testament word for sin. It indicates not so much an act or series of acts as a prevailing condition. It was the root of all problems. Sin was the cause of the incarnation, human sin – universal, deadly, and otherwise ineradicable. Jesus came to deal with it.
Luke reiterates the same theme. “Today in the town of David a Saviour has been born” (2:11). And the aged Simeon, “righteous and devout,” “waiting for the consolation of Israel” (v. 25), holding the infant Jesus in his arms, declares that he is now ready to depart, “for my eyes have seen your salvation” (v.30). The affirmations in verse 11 and verse 26, proceeding in the first instance from the angelic announcement and in the second from the Holy Spirit, were that the infant Jesus was the Christ. The name is the Greek equivalent of the Hebrew “Messiah”, the long-awaited Saviour, and the Lord’s Anointed One. This babe was special indeed. There had never been, nor would there ever be, another like Him.
First and foremost, Jesus came to be the Saviour of His people, Jew and Gentile alike. It is a theme repeated throughout the Bible on countless occasions. It is the scarlet thread that runs throughout the New Testament. Luke himself expresses it again in Acts 4:12, “Salvation is found in no one else, for there is no other name.... given to men by which we must be saved.
“Jesus was born to die”, for it was on the cross, that His redemptive work was fully and finally accomplished. The Christmas story is much, much more than tinsel and baubles, lights and laughter, family and friends. It concerns alienation and redemption, sin and salvation. It was the beginning, in time, of a process that extends into eternity.
It is Luke who also articulates most clearly the second answer. He records the angelic affirmation of Mary and the momentous privilege and responsibility laid upon her to be the mother of “the Son of God” (1:35): “He will be great and will be called the Son of the Most High. The Lord God will give him the throne of His father David, and He will reign over the house of Jacob forever; His kingdom will never end” (vs. 32,33). It would take volumes to explain all the implications and nuances of these fundamental words. They expose the heart of Jesus’ mission from another perspective altogether.
Here, Jesus is prefigured in regal terms as the King whose kingdom will endure forever. Jesus was born, not only to die, but also to rule.
Jesus was in truth the babe born to be King. The context indicates that the worship of Jesus by the wise men (vs. 2,11) was the homage paid to royalty rather than to divinity, although the distinction may be tenuous since the reader already “knows that this child has been conceived by God’s Holy Spirit and is God’s Son.” Be that as it may, Jesus’ mission is presented in regal and redemptive terms. His is both Saviour and King, Redeemer and Ruler, although at the time, everything must still be taken on trust since it is impossible to see how this tiny, innocent, newborn babe can be either. Only the future will reveal how these divine assurances can be translated into reality.
That, indeed, is one of the enigmas of Jesus’ coming into the world. How can He be both Saviour and King? How can He die in humility, deserted, even by His closest followers, and reign in glory, attended by a very great number of angels? (Rev. 5:11, 12). How can the despised, the rejected, the forsaken ever become the focus of joyful and unending adoration?
The answer is contained in that understanding of Jesus’ mission that sees His birth, not only as the beginning of His life on earth, but also as the beginning of something much greater, something that extends into the eternal future, even as His own existence extended back into the eternal past. It is the view that sees the incarnation as part of a greater whole, an event which took place only “when the time had fully come” (Gal. 4:4).
From that perspective, some in more recent times have come to speak of the “Christ-event.” They have seen the individual events that flowed from Christ’s incarnation – His birth, death, resurrection, high-priestly ministry, and second coming – as, in reality, one over-arching event, the “Christ-event.” The “Christ-event.”