The Bible’s Viewpoint
What You Should Know About Christmas
MILLIONS worldwide are getting ready to enjoy the 2002 Christmas season. Perhaps you are among them. On the other hand, it may not be your custom to share in the religious aspects of this popular celebration. Either way, you are not likely to escape the influence of Christmas. It permeates the worlds of commerce and entertainment, even in non-Christian lands.
What do you know about Christmas? Is the celebration of Christ’s birth supported in the Bible? What is behind this popular celebration held every December 25th?
If you take a few moments to research this subject, you will find that Christmas has no roots in true Christianity. Many Bible scholars of various religious denominations acknowledge this. With that in mind, it should not surprise you that in England, Cromwell’s Parliament decreed in 1647 that Christmas be a day of penance and then banned it outright in 1652. Parliament purposely met on December 25 every year from 1644 to 1656. According to historian Penne L. Restad, “ministers who preached on the Nativity risked imprisonment. Churchwardens faced fines for decorating their churches. By law, shops stayed open on Christmas as if it were any regular business day.” Why such drastic measures? Puritan reformers believed that the church should not create traditions that did not exist in the Scriptures. They actively preached and distributed literature denouncing Christmas celebrations.
Similar attitudes were evident in North America. Between the years 1659 and 1681, Christmas was banned in the Massachusetts Bay Colony.* According to the law enacted then, Christmas was not to be observed in any form or fashion. Violators were subject to a fine. Not only were Puritans in New England uncomfortable with celebrating Christmas but some groups in the middle colonies were also. Pennsylvania Quakers were as adamant as the Puritans in their view of the celebration. One source says that “shortly after Americans had won their independence, Elizabeth Drinker, a Quaker herself, divided Philadelphians into three categories. There were Quakers, who ‘make no more account of it [Christmas] than another day,’ those who were religious, and the rest who ‘spend it in riot and dissipation.’”
Henry Ward Beecher, a renowned American preacher who was raised in an orthodox Calvinist household, knew little about Christmas until he was 30 years old. “To me Christmas was a foreign day,” wrote Beecher in 1874.
The early Baptist and Congregationalist churches also found no Scriptural grounds for celebrating Christ’s birth. One source notes that it was not until December 25, 1772, that the Baptist Church of Newport [Rhode Island] observed Christmas for the first time. This was approximately 130 years after the founding of the first Baptist church in New England.
The Origin of Christmas
The New Catholic Encyclopedia acknowledges: “The date of Christ’s birth is not known. The gospels indicate neither the day nor the month . . . According to the hypothesis suggested by H. Usener . . . and accepted by most scholars today, 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). On Dec. 25, 274, Aurelian had proclaimed the sun-god principal patron of the empire and dedicated a temple to him in the Campus Martius. Christmas originated at a time when the cult of the sun was particularly strong at Rome.”
M’Clintock and Strong’s Cyclopœdia says: “The observance of Christmas is not of divine appointment, nor is it of N[ew] T[estament] origin. The day of Christ’s birth cannot be ascertained from the N[ew] T[estament], or, indeed, from any other source.”
An “Empty Deception”
In view of the above, should genuine Christians share in Christmas traditions? Is it pleasing to God to fuse his worship with the religious beliefs and practices of those who do not worship him? The apostle Paul warned at Colossians 2:8: “Look out: perhaps there may be someone who will carry you off as his prey through the philosophy and empty deception according to the tradition of men, according to the elementary things of the world and not according to Christ.”
The apostle also wrote: “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 [Satan]? Or what portion does a faithful person have with an unbeliever?”
In view of the irrefutable evidence at hand, Jehovah’s Witnesses refrain from sharing in Christmas celebrations. In harmony with the Scriptures, they strive to practice “the form of worship that is clean and undefiled from the standpoint of our God,” by keeping themselves “without spot from the world.”
Established in 1628 by English Puritans, Massachusetts Bay Colony was the largest and most successful early settlement in New England.
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England’s Parliament banned Christmas in 1652
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“To me Christmas was a foreign day”
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Pagan devotees of Mithras and the sun-god (shown in bas-relief) celebrated December 25
Musée du Louvre, Paris