A quick scan of the Internet will reveal passionate discussions both for the observance and for the non-observance of Christmas. Some people point out that it is a Catholic mass of the birth of Jesus that was deliberately created to take place on the day of most of the pagan deities birthdays. They point out that the ancient druids worshipped trees (especially the oak), and how that the decorating of the tree had pagan roots. They point to the roots of Saint Nicholas, the giving of presents, and the mistletoe to have Catholic and pagan origins. And all of these points may be true. So, should we, then, as Christians, refuse to observe this day?
1) The incarnation of Christ has been observed on December 25th since the third century. At that time, the most popular of all gods, including those of Rome, was the sun god. The worship of this god began hundreds of years before in Babylon with the deification of Nimrod, and it spread across much of the world until almost every culture worshipped the sun god. It is believed that early Christians began celebrating the birth of Jesus on December 25th as a statement to the pagans that the god they blindly served was, in fact, Jesus.
The early Christians were opportunistic. They used every opportunity to promote Jesus. Consider the following thoughts:
Acts 17:22-23 (KJV)
22 Then Paul stood in the midst of Mars' hill, and said, Ye men of Athens, I perceive that in all things ye are too superstitious.
23 For as I passed by, and beheld your devotions, I found an altar with this inscription, TO THE UNKNOWN GOD. Whom therefore ye ignorantly worship, him declare I unto you.
Paul here uses an established pagan shrine to demonstrate the true worship of God.
2) John 1:1-2 (KJV)
1 In the beginning was the Word [logos], and the Word [logos] was with God, and the Word [logos] was God.
2 The same was in the beginning with God.
The Greek word Logos (translated Word in John 1) is used in the scripture to signify Jesus Christ. Most people know this. What most people do not know is that the manner in which John used the word Logos was not a new concept to the Greek philosophy or to the society of his day. It is clear in the writings of these ancient philosophers that they used Logos to describe the manner in which an infinite and invisible God could communicate with and affect this visible world. This was a very popular view during the times both before and during Johns life. It is no wonder that the early Christians saw this as being Jesus.
Once again we find the early Christians being opportunistic. John uses an established Greek philosophy of the mediator between God and mankind (Logos) to demonstrate that Jesus is this mediator, the Logos. How is this so different from what the early Christians did by celebrating the birth of Christ on the day of the [re]birth of the sun god, the most famous of pagan gods?
Like the Apostles Paul and John, the early Christians celebrated the birth of Christ on December 25th to demonstrate the real God. Down through the centuries, there are many examples of Christians who use pagan sacred events to promote Christ. Christmas is only one example.
3) What if I were to tell you that the ancient druids believed that evil spirits would lose their power if they were seen, so they put holes or windows in their doors to allow them so see out. The idea here was that if the evil spirit could be seen, it would stay away from the house. Would we then be required to remove all windows from our doors because this druid ritual was the original reason for them?
4) Since Logos has at its root Greek philosophy and metaphysics, should it also be rejected? If we begin to reject every word that has Greek philosophical, metaphysical, or mythological roots we would need to exclude a large portion of the New Testament (not to mention our own English language).
5) Consider the etiology of responding with Bless you when someone sneezes. It is accepted that this comes from an ancient belief that when someone sneezed, a demon departed, and therefore they were blessed. Does saying Bless you mean that we are partaking in some form of exorcism? Of course not. Why? Because we know that is not our intention.
6) Consider the days of our week and the months of our year. It is not necessary to go into the historical roots of the names for these days and months. Let it be enough to understand that they are rooted in Catholic and pagan cultures. Do the people who condemn the observance of holidays themselves observe weekdays and months? Clearly, there is just no end to the logic behind this.
7) Consider the Spring Equinox and Winter Solstice. Farmers use these occurrences to determine when to plant and when to harvest. However, pagans have used the solstice and equinox in their forms of worship for millennia. Are farmers partaking in pagan worship if they use these times of year? Of course not.
Its not the Word, the Door, or the Day!
There existed a controversy in Pauls day over the eating of meat offered to idols. This controversy is comparable to how some people feel about Christmas today. Some people believed that a person who ate meat offered to idols was partaking in the pagan rite of worshipping idols. Similarly, some today feel that by observing any form of the Christmas holiday, one is partaking in a Catholic mass or in the ancient druid rite of worshipping trees. The Apostle Pauls position on this subject was clear: meat commendeth us not to God: for neither, if we eat, are we the better; neither, if we eat not, are we the worse (1 Corinthians 8:8 KJV). Paul understood that meat did not have the capacity to make us holy or unholy.
So what should be our position on this today?
1 Timothy 4:1-5 (KJV)
1 Now the Spirit speaketh expressly, that in the latter times some shall depart from the faith, giving heed to seducing spirits, and doctrines of devils;
2 Speaking lies in hypocrisy; having their conscience seared with a hot iron;
3 Forbidding to marry, and commanding to abstain from meats, which God hath created to be received with thanksgiving of them which believe and know the truth.
4 For every creature of God is good, and nothing to be refused, if it be received with thanksgiving:
5 For it is sanctified by the word of God and prayer.
There is no end to what we as Christians should put out of our lives once we begin to exclude things simply because of their roots. Everything has roots, and just as a spider web fans out wider and wider, so does every word we use and every custom/tradition we observe. Everything has roots that span back over many centuries and even millennia into many different cultures, religions, mythologies, and philosophies. Consequently, it is impossible for us to fully know the complete etiology behind everything we do, every word we speak, every truth we hold, every day we keep, etc.
The roots of our customs and holidays dont make us inherently good or evil. This is the folly that the Apostle Paul faced from every side. His letters are filled with admonishments instructing believers on how things like meat offered to idols cannot make us unholy, just as being circumcised, keeping the Law, or observing the Sabbath cannot make us holy.
We find that words and days do not have power to give us godliness or ungodliness. Whether were godly or ungodly, holy or unholy, righteous or unrighteous: these can only come about through the relationship (or lack thereof) we have with God.
All men have a desire to be like God. The way to become like God is not natural to us. Men attempt to become godlike by acting like God. Therefore, many of our actions are based upon our own concept of God. But God-likeness cannot be attained through our efforts, because only that which is already spirit can produce spirit. Remember the question Paul asked in Galatians 3, Are ye so foolish? having begun in the Spirit, are ye now made perfect by the flesh (verse 3)?
What about the Sabbath? If you dogmatically observe the Sabbath, and, because of it, require meeting on the seventh day (Saturday), you have missed what God intended for New Testament believers. As New Testament believers, we keep the Sabbath by entering into the rest of God (Hebrews 4). In doing so, we keep the Sabbath forever. Every day is our Sabbath day.
So what of Catholic masses like Christmas? If you celebrate Christmas as a mass, you are probably doing so as part of a religious rite. In this sense Christmas is a holyday instead of a holiday, and is celebrated to satisfy religious demands. Observing Christmas with this intent is out of a religious requirement and therefore can be motivated by self-righteousness to add to ones spiritual net worth. In contrast, the observance of Christmas as a social or holiday festivity has little to no religious connection. In this sense there is no consideration of increasing ones spiritual state or status. Observing holydays are incorrect, while the observance of holidays are inconsequential. Observing Christmas as a family event and the celebration of the birth of Christ (whether true or not) is inconsequential and does not add to ones spiritual prosperity. There is a difference between a holiday and a holy day.
By celebrating Christmas are you are partaking in paganism? Not unless you actually take part in the pagan worship. It comes down to motive, your reasons for participating. Is this a day you set aside to have fun with your family, or is it to you a religious mass or pagan rite? Remember, there is a difference between a holiday and a holy day.
What about the Christmas trees? Didnt the druids use them as part of their cult? Yes, but they also believed in a triune God, a creation account, a moral code similar to our ten commandments, an immortal soul, an afterlife, meditation, and they highly respected nature very similarly to our modern views of ecology. Additionally, All Souls Eve, Groundhog Day, May Day, as well as our Spring and Fall are derivatives of their religion. They even believed in a concept similar to our Holy Spirit.
Some of their rituals included the ringing of bells, the eating of pork, and the practice of baptism (rooted from other religions before the advent of Christ). Must we keep away from these things because there is some resemblance to Christian artifacts? We must not forget that it was the oak tree, not the pine tree that was sacred. They used oak in the construction of their shrines, sanctuaries, and even coffins. And yet few Christian homes and churches do NOT contain oak furnishings.
The word for oak, dur eventually became the word door. The oak was believed to be inhabited by spirits that could open doors to the other worlds. It was therefore used to construct doors, and it is still used today. Should Christians also ban the use of oak from their doors and coffins? Of course not. That would be silly. So why do we seek Gods favor by the banning of Christmas trees?
Crosses, shrines, and Bibles have no inherent ability to bring goodness or to make us good. Some people carry a lucky rabbits foot, old coins, and some crucifixes, believing them to hold some sort of luck or good fortune. But they dont. Similar to wishing on a falling star to make wishes come true or not walking under a ladder because it is bad luck, these are just superstitions. How many people blow out the candles of a birthday cake, place a tooth under their pillow, knock on wood, or say bless you when someone sneezes? These all have roots into paganism or Catholicism. So how are they any different? Most of us have come to see that they cannot add or subtract from our spiritual net worth. They hold no inherent power to bring about goodness or evil.
Do we need to carefully investigate the roots of everything we do? The etiology of something does not make it inherently evil. It comes down to how you participate in it and where your heart is. Many of our traditions are deceptively subtle. We must remember that customs and traditions as well as days, holydays, and holidays are neither inherently good nor evil. They do not have the power to add, change, or transform our lives. Only God is good, and only He has the power to make us good. As for evil, that is already present with us. It is as close as our hearts (when absent the transforming nature of God). It is not found in the food we eat or the days we keep. Consequently, there is no one to blame for our condition but us.
Perfection comes about through the operation of the Spirit of God, not from or because of our will or our works. The Bible tells us that everything produces after its kind. Mankind is natural and cannot of his own accord become spiritual. It requires the work of the Spirit of God in our lives to produce spiritual results.
What I find both interesting and hypocritical is that if Christmas is so wrong, why then do some people (who feel its wrong) emulate Christmas at their family gathering during Thanksgiving. They secretly pass out gifts to one another, but in disguise by not have the Christmas décor. This hacked Christmas is nothing short of self-righteousness. Theyd be better off to quit sneaking around and just have Christmas. Everyone but them can easily see that this is nothing short of hypocrisy.
Finally, Gods Word offers the best conclusion to this matter. God addressed His people who were more focused on days and sacrifices rather than on the Creator of them. Whether or not we observe a day does not add or take away from us spiritually.
Isaiah 1:11-18 (KJV)
11 To what purpose is the multitude of your sacrifices unto me? saith the LORD: I am full of the burnt offerings of rams, and the fat of fed beasts; and I delight not in the blood of bullocks, or of lambs, or of he goats.
12 When ye come to appear before me, who hath required this at your hand, to tread my courts?
13 Bring no more vain oblations; incense is an abomination unto me; the new moons and Sabbaths, the calling of assemblies, I cannot away with; it is iniquity, even the solemn meeting.
14 Your new moons and your appointed feasts my soul hateth: they are a trouble unto me; I am weary to bear them.
15 And when ye spread forth your hands, I will hide mine eyes from you: yea, when ye make many prayers, I will not hear: your hands are full of blood.
16 Wash you, make you clean; put away the evil of your doings from before mine eyes; cease to do evil;
17 Learn to do well; seek judgment, relieve the oppressed, judge the fatherless, plead for the widow.
18 Come now, and let us reason together, saith the LORD: though your sins be as scarlet, they shall be as white as snow; though they be red like crimson, they shall be as wool.