Do You Care?
DURING the Christmas holidays many persons show that they care for their friends and loved ones. They may send them a card or give them gifts. Hundreds of millions of dollars are spent on gifts every Christmas season.
Thus, many persons expect to receive something from friends at Christmastime. And if nothing is received, they feel hurt.
To avoid offending them, many sincere people make an effort to show that they care by sending gifts. But how much thought do these same persons give to God? Do they care about offending him?
Have they considered what God thinks about Christmas? If you want to please God, it is vital to consider what he thinks. To help in this regard, think for a moment about some of the things that you have read about Christmas.
In recent years you may have read in newspapers or in magazine articles that December 25 is not really the date on which Jesus was born. This is widely known. The New York Times of December 24, 1967, for example, observed: “There is no record of the actual time of Jesus’ birth—only a hint in the story of the shepherds in the fields keeping watch over their flocks by night, that it was in a warm season. In winter, sheep were gathered into folds.”—Luke 2:8-12.
In a similar vein, last December 20 the Toronto Star said regarding Christmas: “Let us not, however, go on pretending that it has anything specifically to do with Jesus’ birth. . . . It is high time Christians reminded themselves that the Church got along for its first 380 years without observing the birth of Jesus at all.”
The Origin of Christmas
Nevertheless, the date for Christmas, as well as other Christmas customs, had a definite origin. Newspapers, magazines and encyclopedias have commented freely on this. You yourself have no doubt read some of these articles. The facts are well known in both secular and religious circles. For instance, the New Catholic Encyclopedia observes under “Christmas”:
“The birth of Christ was assigned the date of the winter solstice (December 25 in the Julian calendar, January 6 in the Egyptian), because on this day, as the sun began its return to northern skies, the pagan devotees of Mithra celebrated the dies natalis Solis Invicti (birthday of the invincible sun).”
Yes, Christmas has its roots in ancient pagan festivals. The New York Times explains: “Pope Liberius [in the fourth century] decided to absorb pagan observances by declaring Dec. 25 the official birthday of Jesus. The change of name made little change in form.”
And what was that “form”? The ancient Saturnalia was a time when gross immorality was practiced under the guise of festivities. Says the book Curiosities of Popular Customs by W. S. Walsh:
“In spite of the condemnation of the wise and the sane, Christmas in the early days frequently reproduced all the worst orgies, the debaucheries and the indecencies, of the Bacchanalia and the Saturnalia. The clergy themselves were whirled into the vortex. . . .
“If even among the clergy heathen traditions so strenuously survived, what better could be expected from the laity? The wild revels, indeed, of the Christmas period in olden times almost stagger belief. Obscenity, drunkenness, blasphemy,—nothing came amiss. License was carried to the fullest extent of licentiousness.”—Pages 228, 229.
The change of name, as the New York Times said, indeed “made little change of form.” Is it different today? Certainly not everyone indulges in such conduct. But is it not true that many celebrators tend to throw off moral restraints at Christmas office parties? Perhaps you have been at such a party, and later wished that you had stayed home that day.
God hates such debauchery, and tells Christians, “neither fornicators, nor idolaters, nor adulterers, . . . nor greedy persons, nor drunkards . . . will inherit God’s kingdom.” (1 Cor. 6:9, 10) Is God’s view important to you?
Clergy Do Not Care
The clergy are well aware of the pagan origins of Christmas, yet they encourage the celebration. For example, according to the Vancouver Sun, Anglican Church minister R. Desmond Kimmitt “says it is well-known that Christ was not born in mid-December. The early Christians, he says, found they could not do away with the pagan [Saturnalia] festival and so adopted it.” Yet Kimmitt said: “I would hate to see Christmas as we know it go.”
Also Louis H. Valbracht, as pastor of St. John’s Lutheran Church, Des Moines, Iowa, wrote: “For those who say that Christmas is becoming just a pagan celebration, it should be remembered that Christmas was a pagan celebration.”
But the clergy do not care. Said Lutheran minister Valbracht: “As for me and for my house and for my parish, I say, let’s make Christmas bigger . . . more bustling than it has ever been.”—Successful Farming, December 1965.
So, though the clergy know that Christmas is simply a pagan festival that has been dressed up with some Christian names, it does not bother them. But it should not really surprise us that they do not care, because they have drifted far from the Bible. In recent years newspapers have commented freely on this, as many clergymen openly endorse the “new morality,” which is no morality. So if you find that you cannot share the view of the clergy, if there are things about Christmas that disturb you, you are to be commended.
Does It Really Matter?
Some may feel that if Christmas is celebrated in a decent way, it is all right. ‘Does it really matter that Christmas is tied to pagan festivals?’ they may ask.
God’s Word instructs Christians: “Do not become unevenly yoked with unbelievers. For what fellowship do righteousness and lawlessness have? Or what sharing does light have with darkness? Further, what harmony is there between Christ and Belial? . . . ‘“Therefore get out from among them, and separate yourselves,” says Jehovah, “and quit touching the unclean thing.”’”—2 Cor. 6:14-17.
Since many features of Christmas are rooted in unclean pagan festivals, can there be any harmony between it and Christ? The facts speak for themselves.
Remember, too, what Jesus said about worship of Almighty God: “Those worshiping him must worship with spirit and truth.” Thus, if our worship is to be acceptable to God, it must be based on truth.—John 4:24.
But what about Christmas? Is it a religious holiday that is based upon truth? You know that at Christmas church services it is generally said that Jesus was born on December 25. Yet December 25 is, in fact, the “birthday” of an ancient pagan sun-god, not that of Jesus. Thus celebrating a religious holiday that perpetuates such a lie simply cannot be worshiping God in truth. Do you care about the truth?
And what about the supposed magical gift-bringers at Christmas, such as Santa Claus, St. Nicholas or Father Christmas? You know that it is not true that they bring gifts. So when children are led to believe that gifts are received from them, is this not actually lying to the children? Do you care enough about truth to shun a holiday that features such lies?
If you really care about God, you will obey his command to quit participating in that which is religiously unclean. To please God you must worship him with truth, untainted by pagan religious practices. What will you personally do?
It should not surprise us that Easter, a religious holiday closely associated with Christmas, is also rooted in pagan practices. For, as with Christmas, Easter’s pagan origins are often mentioned in newspapers. For example, this past March 29 the Newark Sunday News carried the heading “Easter Festival Tied to Pagans.” Giving some background to its paganism, the book Easter and Its Customs by Christina Hole observes:
“It was in spring, in the season of new life and revival when, from time immemorial, the pagan peoples of Europe and Asia held their Spring Festivals, re-enacting ancient regeneration myths and performing magical and religious ceremonies to make the crops grow and prosper. Vernal Mysteries, like those of Tammuz [Babylonian god condemned in the Bible] and Osiris [Egyptian god] and Adonis [Greek god], flourished in the Mediterranean world when Our Lord lived and moved in it, and farther north and east there were others, less well-known but no less vividly alive. Inevitably, some of their cherished rites and symbols were carried forward into the Easter customs.”—Page 9; compare Ezekiel 8:13, 14.
Did you know that those ceremonies often featured obscene fertility rites? As for the rabbit symbol and Easter eggs, a modern authority says: “This is not mere child’s play, but the vestige of a fertility rite, the eggs and the rabbit both symbolizing fertility.”* Even The Catholic Encyclopedia says: “The rabbit is a pagan symbol and has always been an emblem of fertility.” Certainly, rabbits and eggs have no connection with the resurrection of Christ, do they?
Do you care that Easter perpetuates memories of those immoral fertility rites of pagans? Do you want to participate in a holiday that features adaptations of ancient fertility symbols, such as the “Easter bunny” and “Easter eggs”? Do you believe that Almighty God would approve your doing so?—Deut. 7:5, 6.
Think seriously: Is God pleased when people try to mix his worship with pagan practices? The answer is obvious. The question is, Do you care?
Blessings Received by Those Who Care
‘But doesn’t that mean missing out on a lot of enjoyment?’ someone may ask.
To the contrary, if you continue in pagan practices there is much that you will miss out on—the approval of God and the opportunity of gaining eternal life in his righteous new system.
And even now, no genuine pleasure is lost by those who heed God’s Word. In fact, real blessings are received. Families can get together at any time of the year to enjoy themselves by eating and drinking in moderation and having pleasant fellowship. These happy times are not lost when Christmas is no longer celebrated. And persons can give presents to their friends and loved ones on these and other occasions if they wish. Spontaneous, uncompelled giving brings great happiness both to the giver and to the receiver.—Acts 20:35.
At the same time, think of the blessing of being free from the pagan custom of gift exchanging, an obligation that is encouraged by the business world, not to honor God, but to make money. Is it not true that this pagan custom frustrates, causes financial burdens and robs persons of joy?
‘But others will expect gifts,’ you may say. ‘They will think I have forgotten them. What shall I do?’
Why not make a list of everyone with whom you have exchanged presents in recent years? Then, instead of sending Christmas cards, write a note informing them that you are discontinuing Christmas gift giving. Do this before they buy the gifts. Explain your reasons, perhaps using some of the points in this article. You may even wish to send them a copy of this magazine.
If you really care about God and what he thinks, there is no reason to fear the reaction of others to your note. (Prov. 29:25) In fact, they may well be delighted. For they, too, may feel caught in a trap, and be happy to breathe a sigh of relief in this time of economic pressure. What you do for them in this regard may be more precious than any other gift you could give them, for it might start them on the way to life eternal, if they, too, really want to please God.
And as for Easter, is your enjoyment of spring going to be any less because you do not share in a religious celebration that has pagan roots? Do you have to tell your children that rabbits and eggs are connected with the resurrection of Jesus, when it is obvious that there is no such connection? Do you not think that your enjoyment of spring would be much greater if you truly gave honor to the Creator of all things? Spring is a beautiful time of year, so why mar it with a celebration that has its roots in immoral pagan rites?
Abandoning the pagan festivals of Christmas and Easter is courageous action that one who really cares about God is obligated to take. Such action, properly motivated, will result in rich blessings from God. For soon now he is going to destroy this wicked system of things, but he will preserve alive forever those who prove that they really care about the doing of his will.—1 John 2:17.
Funk & Wagnalls Standard Dictionary of Folklore, Mythology and Legend (1949), Vol. 1, p. 335.
[Picture on page 4]
Parents who care tell their children the truth. Do you?
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Do rabbits and eggs have any connection with the resurrection of Christ?