The Bible’s Viewpoint
Why Christmas Is Not for Christians
‘CHRISTMAS is outlawed! Anyone celebrating it or even staying home from work on Christmas Day will be subjected to penalties!’
Strange as it may seem, this actually became law back in the 17th century. The Puritans had the celebration banned in England. What caused such a firm stand against Christmas? And why are there millions today who feel that Christmas is not for Christians?
Where Did Christmas Really Come From?
You might be surprised to learn that Christmas was not instituted by Jesus Christ nor was it celebrated by him or his first-century disciples. In fact, there is no record of a Christmas celebration until 300 years after Christ died.
Many people living in those days worshiped the sun, as they felt a strong dependence on its yearly cycle. Elaborate ceremonies accompanied sun worship in Europe, Egypt, and Persia. The central theme in these festivals was the return of light. The sun, because of its seeming weakness during winter, was implored to return from ‘distant wanderings.’ Festivals included merrymaking, feasting, dancing, decorating homes with lights and ornaments, and gift-giving. Do these activities sound familiar?
Sun worshipers believed that the unburned wood of a yule log had magic powers, that bonfires could give the sun-god strength and bring him back to life, that houses decorated with evergreens would scare away demons, that holly was to be worshiped as a promise of the sun’s return, and that sprigs of mistletoe could bring good luck if worn as charms. What celebration are these items associated with today?
December was a major festival month in pagan Rome long before Christmas was introduced there. The week-long Saturnalia (dedicated to Saturn, the god of agriculture) and the Dies Natalis Solis Invicti (Birthday of the Unconquered Sun) took place at this time. Also, December 25 was regarded as the birthday of Mithras, the Persian god of light.
Christianizing the Pagans?
In an effort to convert these pagans, there was an unscriptural blending of Christian beliefs with pagan ones, and so the church chose a date for Christmas that coincided with the most important pagan festival. And what of Christmas customs? The Encyclopedia of Religion and Ethics admits that most Christmas customs “are not genuine Christian customs, but heathen customs which have been absorbed or tolerated by the Church.” It was apparently felt that simply giving these customs a Christian facade would Christianize those who took part in them.
However, instead of Christianizing paganism, these customs paganized Christianity. During the 1600’s, the Puritans became so disturbed over the obviously pagan nature of Christmas that the holiday was outlawed in England and in some of the American colonies. Penalties were exacted for celebrating Christmas or just staying home from work on Christmas Day. In New England (U.S.), it was not until 1856 that Christmas was legalized.
But there is one factor about Christmas that is more important than how the church, the pagans, or the Puritans viewed it in the past. Of primary concern to true Christians is . . .
How Does Jesus Christ View Christmas?
If a celebration was to be held in your honor, would not your approval of its nature be of importance? Therefore, we do well to ask: Does the Bible indicate how Jesus views traditions steeped in paganism?
Jesus condemned religious leaders who compromised pure worship to gain converts. He said to such leaders: “You [travel] sea and land to make a single convert, and then you make him twice as ripe for destruction as you are yourselves.”—Matthew 23:15, Phillips.
Conversion was not to be accomplished by blending pagan and Christian beliefs. Paul, an apostle of Jesus, wrote to Christians living in Corinth: “You cannot be drinking the cup of Jehovah and the cup of demons.” (1 Corinthians 10:21) And in his next letter to them, Paul added: “Don’t link up with unbelievers and try to work with them. . . . How can there be harmony between Christ and the devil?”—2 Corinthians 6:14, 15, Phillips.
If a conscientious mother saw her child pick up candy from a sewage-filled gutter, she would insist that he get rid of it immediately. The thought of his eating it—even touching it—repels her. Christmas, though sweet to many, has been picked up from unsavory places. Jesus’ sentiments match those of the prophet Isaiah, who urged true worshipers of his day: “Turn away, turn away, get out of there, touch nothing unclean.”—Isaiah 52:11.
Therefore, true Christians today do not celebrate Christmas. While their position may seem strange to others, they view traditions as did Jesus. When asked: “Why is it your disciples overstep the tradition of the men of former times?” he replied: “Why is it you also overstep the commandment of God because of your tradition?” And he added: “You have made the word of God invalid because of your tradition.”—Matthew 15:2, 3, 6.
True Christians today manifest unity with Jesus by practicing “the form of worship that is clean and undefiled,” untarnished by the pagan traditions of men.—James 1:27.
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“Why is it you also overstep the commandment of God because of your tradition?”—Matthew 15:3