Christmas—Is It Part of True Worship?
JESUS CHRIST said: “The truth will set you free.” (John 8:32) Is Christmas based on truth? If so, we can gain good from its celebration. But if not, it will work hardship on us. In your own case, does the Christmas season bring you a feeling of freedom, or do you give a sigh of relief when it is over?
Some people, going by the axiom that a tree is known by its fruit, are suspicious about the holiness of Christmas. They make strong complaints about the commercialization of that season. As to this “intrusion of the secular into the sacred,” Stevan Davies, of Temple University’s religion department, said: “We should remember that the ‘commercialization’ of Christmas is equally the sacralization of business. . . . The Santa Claus legend will be protected and preserved.” He added that Santa Claus “will be retained because he is indispensable to merchants as a sales incentive during the holiday season.”
Does the ‘sacralizing’ of business sound like true religion to you? A writer for the U.S. Catholic magazine, Daphne Ponchin Mould, apparently does not think so. “Every religious trace has been done away with,” she wrote in the magazine’s December 1976 issue. “Christmas has not merely shed its Christian significance, but even its older pagan one,” she said.
You doubtless have your own private feelings toward the oncoming Christmas season. Undoubtedly the gift-exchange custom puts uncomfortable pressure on many persons. And the gifts they receive under this compulsory atmosphere do not really move them to the thankfulness and appreciation that the season is supposed to promote.
FOUNDATION OF CHRISTMAS
But aside from the commercialism that has been injected into it, is the religious aspect of Christmas founded on truth? To know this is very important in order that we may render acceptable worship to God “with spirit and truth.”—John 4:23, 24.
Likely your children have been brought up to believe in Santa Claus. But if you have told them the truth, you will never have to make the grim choice that many parents face at Christmas season—either to break their children’s hearts or push the family over the financial brink. And, if you want your children’s gratitude and love, how much better it is to tell them the truth, and give them gifts spontaneously at times when you are able. Then, it is no legendary Santa Claus, but you, their parent, whom they thank and on whom they know that they can rely for truthful communication. Furthermore, they will be spared the disillusionment and resulting cynicism that many children develop when the Santa Claus myth is exploded for them.
Today, scholars generally acknowledge that the date December 25 is NOT Jesus Christ’s birth date. Not until the fourth century C.E. was any record made of the observation of a Christmas festival. By that time the church had gained great secular power under Emperor Constantine. Sun worship was particularly strong then in Rome. The worshipers of the Persian sun-god Mithra celebrated December 25 as the “birthday of the invincible sun.” The Roman church’s adoption of that date as Christmas day was not to advance worship “with spirit and truth,” but was to introduce a so-called Christian festival that would be readily adopted by the population. Actually it was the absorbing of a pagan ritual into a celebration in pretended honor of God and Christ.
THE CHRISTMAS STAR AND GIFT-GIVING
Someone may call attention to the giving of gifts to the “young child” Jesus. (Matt. 2:11, NW; Authorized Version) ‘Did not the “wise men” do this? And did they not follow a star that led them to where Jesus was?’ However, when the Bible is examined, we find that the “wise men” represented, not Christianity, but paganism. Also, we discover that they were unwitting performers in a plot of Satan the Devil to kill Jesus.
Consider the Bible account: Just prior to Jesus’ birth, his parents had arrived in Bethlehem to register for taxation. All the inns in the town were full. When Mary gave birth to Jesus, she laid him, bound in cloth, in a manger. On that very night God, by means of an angelic host, and not by a star, directed humble Jewish shepherds, worshipers of God, to the infant. The announcement was made to them that a child had been born to be a Savior, Christ (Messiah) the Lord.—Luke 2:1-17.
Were the so-called “wise men” worshipers of the true God? No. The original Greek language of the Christian Scriptures calls them magoi—Magians, Zoroastrian priests (the term is related to the English word “magician”). They were astrologers from Mesopotamia, far to the east. They did not look upon Jesus as their Savior or Messiah, but as “king of the Jews.”—Matt. 2:1, 2.
Note other evidence that the Bible provides. It was actually months after Jesus’ birth that these astrologers went to King Herod, saying that they had followed a star that they saw ‘when they were in the east,’ and wanted to do homage to the infant “king of the Jews.” And the “star” that led them was not a real star, nor a conjunction of planets, for only the astrologers reported seeing it. Herod then went to the Jewish religious leaders and inquired as to where the Messiah was to be born. They quoted to him the prophecy in Micah 5:2, designating his birthplace as Bethlehem.—Matt. 2:3-6.
Herod now secretly summoned the astrologers and sent them to Bethlehem under command to report back to him. But the Bible says: “Because they were given divine warning in a dream not to return to Herod, they withdrew to their country by another way.”—Matt. 2:7, 8, 12.
Herod was enraged. To be sure that he got Jesus, he had all the boys in the area of Bethlehem killed, “from two years of age and under, according to the time that he had carefully ascertained from the astrologers.” (Matt. 2:16) But Jesus escaped, because he had been taken by his foster-father Joseph to Egypt at God’s warning, thus thwarting the plot to kill the child at that time.—Matt. 2:13, 14.
So Jesus was no newborn infant at the time of the astrologers’ visit, but was approaching two years of age. These “wise men” had seen the “star” first when they were in Mesopotamia, many months’ travel away from Bethlehem, and by the time that they found Jesus he was no longer in a manger, but in a house. (Matt. 2:11) Clearly, then, their gifts had no connection with the date of Jesus’ birth.
Accordingly, is it not evident that the Christmas shopping spree and the exchanging of gifts, the astrologers’ “star,” the December 25 date and other features of Christmas, are not from God? And giving honor to the infant Jesus today is misleading, for Jesus Christ is no longer an infant, nor is he to be worshiped as such. For now, being a mighty spirit person at the right hand of God in heaven, the resurrected Jesus Christ is the chief advocate of the worship of God “with spirit and truth,” which does not include Christmas and the Santa Claus myth.—John 4:24; Acts 2:33; Rev. 3:21; Matt. 28:18.