Monday, December 18, 2017

Should Christians celebrate Christmas?



That may seem like an odd question since most Christians celebrate the birth of Christ at Christmas, right?  But the problem is, most Christians do not know the origin of Christmas. Before you read on, please know that this is not a post of condemnation. In fact, my hope is that it will not only inform, but bless you. So let's continue.

From early Christian writings and the New Testament, it would appear that the early Christians did not celebrate the birth of Christ at all.  The first known "Christmas" celebration happened after Emperor Constantine took Christianity off the "punishable by death religion list" and made it, not only legitimate, but the religion of the Roman Empire.

We could argue forever whether Constantine was ever a Christian as he claimed to be, but in my mind, despite legalizing Christianity, he caused the most harm to the Christian church as anyone before or after him ever did. You see, he had an empire to appease and for centuries the Romans had worshiped various pagan gods in temples with certain ceremonies and holidays of their own. If Constantine got rid of all that, the people would have revolted. So, what did he do? He combined Christianity with the pagan temples, priests, and rituals, and hence the Holy Roman Empire was born.

For example, for centuries Romans had celebrated the pagan feast of Saturnalia, a tribute to the god, Saturn, toward the end of December. The rituals involved a sacrifice to the god, gift-giving, banquets and various parties which included gambling and much "public dissipation".  In addition, Saturnalia had absorbed other pagan practices from Babylon and Turkey such as yule logs, mistletoe, hot cross buns, and evergreen trees.  When Constantine legitimized Christianity, rather than do away with this popular festival, he merely combined it with Christian ideas and named it the birthday of Christ.

For centuries, Christians refused to celebrate Christmas because they knew of its pagan origins. But time has a way of numbing the memory and roughly 600 years later, Christians started celebrating Christmas along with all the pagan rituals that went with it. 

When was Jesus really born? Many scholars have done excellent work on this question, using Scripture to prove that Jesus was most likely born sometime in our September. This is based on when John the Baptist was first conceived and then how long after that Jesus was conceived.  If that is true, (and it seems highly likely from Scripture that it is) then Jesus was most likely conceived in Mary's womb (by the Holy Spirit) sometime in December.  In fact, it's quite possible that the Holy Spirit placed Jesus inside Mary's womb during the Jewish Hanukkah celebration.

Okay, so what is Hanukkah about?  Back in 168 BC, Israel was under the domination of a cruel Syrian dictator named Antiochus Epiphanes (a precursor of the antichrist). He had desecrated the Temple in Jerusalem by sacrificing a pig on the altar and erecting a statue of Zeus in the Holy Place.  Judah Maccabee and his brothers led a revolt and recaptured their desecrated Temple and began a cleansing process to make it fit for worship again. But they didn't have enough Holy Oil to complete the required 8-day purification ritual. They prayed and God made the small amount of oil they had last the full 8 days. Every year in December, the Jews celebrate this miracle. It was originally called the Festival of Lights

Would it be awesome to think that Jesus (the light of the world) was conceived during the Festival of Lights?  Now, we know that life begins at conception. Scripture is quite clear.

“Before I formed you in the womb I knew you;Before you were born I sanctified you; Jeremiah 1:5
 
For You formed my inward parts;You covered me in my mother’s womb.  Psalm 139:13

So, Jesus's actual entrance onto planet earth was at His conception, not His birth, right?  Hence, perhaps we really are celebrating His coming to earth to save us during the right month!!  Read Here for more detailed information on this topic

All that to say, me and my family still celebrate Christmas. We still put up a tree and have stockings and yule log cakes (yum). And we exchange gifts and have parties, etc...  However, the focus of our celebrations is Jesus. We explain to the young ones the reason we are celebrating, we read the story of Jesus's birth, we tell them it is Jesus's birthday and He is God's best gift to us. We do not focus at all on Saturn or Santa.  Are we still celebrating a pagan holiday? Some may still say so. It's really a matter of the heart.

I will let God be my judge in the end. 

Have a very Merry Christmas, everyone!


11 comments:

  1. Wikipedia: "Also, Ancient Romans had a series of pagan festivals near the end of the year, and Christmas may have been scheduled at this time to appropriate, or compete with, one or more of these festivals. Some scholars disagree with this latter interpretation and state that the Roman Emperor Aurelian placed a pagan celebration on December 25 in order to compete with the growing rate of the Christian Church, which had already been celebrating Christmas on that date." It doesn't matter if Christians had it first or not. Christmas is what you make it. It can be full of meaning, or have no special meaning at all. It doesn't matter what day you celebrate (here in Ukraine it is in January and removed from the commercialism and hype.) What matters is what you make it. Celebrate God with us, God come as man. Be intentional, keep Christ in the middle, make it His birthday whatever day you choose.

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    1. Agreed, Molly. Keep Christ in the middle!

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  2. If you search on the Internet for "diagrams of pagan festivals" there are graphics of where "Christmas" or Yule fits in. The other choice could be the Feasts of Leviticus 23. It requires quite an amount of dedicated research to be able to discern what happened before and after Constantine who in his masterful military and political uniting strategy "married" the Remnant from Congregation of Acts to the Mithraism/ Tammuz sun-worshipping approaches coming in from Nimrod, Babel, Babylon and eventually to Rome and onwards to this day. Western Christianity hence is a bit of a religious mixture which few care to discern, and it is easier to follow the crowd and to frown at "the Grich that stole Christmas". But ... didn't the Blood of Jesus wash everything clean? How does God see it? Does He say anything in Scripture about doing things the pagans do it?

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    1. Of course we are not supposed to follow pagan practices and worship pagan gods, I agree. This is strictly forbidden. I suppose it's a matter for each of us to ask the Lord about privately. If we believe it to be sin to celebrate Christmas, then we shouldn't do it. But if not, and the Lord knows our heart is to worship Him, then I leave it up to Him to let me know what I should do. :-)

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  3. Thank you for this history lesson. I had a Sunday School teacher mention years ago that we were most likely celebrating Jesus conception instead of his actual birth but I believe that celebrating the coming of Jesus is okay, so long as we stay focused on the reason for the season and don't get caught up in the hype.
    I have a brother who feels just the opposite and tells me I am wrong.
    I, too, will let God judge me in the end.
    Merry Christmas, MaryLu.

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    1. Merry Christmas Evelyn.. I'm still praying for God's comfort for you, especially during the holiday season.

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  4. Thank you so much for this. I have felt like little Cindy Lu Who as I watch the newest traditions and not see anything Christlike in them. It has robbed me of the joy this time should hold. That and the constant stress I see on my husbands face this time of year just leaves me wanting to forget it all. My head knows that this should be about Christ, but heart is not gettinng the message. We still celebrate it, I just wish I could feel it.
    There was a CHrismas song put out by Hosanah or Integraty Music YEARS ago that my dad would sing. The course goes “Lord, Come this Christmas. Come bring new life...” That is my hearts cry this year. Show me things through your eyes, Father, because what I am seeing isn’t good.

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    1. Melissa, I can relate so much to what you're saying. As much as we try to keep Jesus at the center of Christmas, the world around us is absorbed with gifts and money and stress is everywhere. I admit that I get caught up in in too.. making sure I get gifts for everyone I love and cards and no one feels left out.. then the parties, the cooking, baking. Oh, how Satan has stolen our joy! Let's pray that the Lord helps us refocus on Him.... mainly for me I do that by time alone with Him in worship... where I can thank Him for all He's done and for coming to earth to save us. He's my knight in shining armor... He's the reason I can buy gifts at all. Let us not let Satan steal the joy of Jesus from us... My heart is crying along with yours.

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    2. I pray that at least by Sunday I can enjoy it. I will admit, buying gifts to bless others has put a smile in my heart. Seeing God use my funds blesses me.

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