In regard to the celebration of Christmas…

In regard to the celebration of Christmas…

by Elder  Joseph Dodson

When I started this blog a few months ago, I did so for mainly one reason. That reason was so my children would always have in writing the things I hope to teach them. I won’t always be here, yet in the future they can go back and remember things I shared with them.

While growing up, we celebrated Christmas. I never gave much thought to it. That was just what we did. It was a tradition. It was the celebration of the birth of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ, right?

Toward the end of my college days, I began to have some questions regarding Christmas. I began to investigate the Scriptures as well as history to find the answers. After all my research was finished I was brought to the conviction that I should no longer celebrate the holiday of Christmas.

Years later, I got married and had a family. As a father I am the one responsible for what my family is taught…

Deuteronomy 6:6-7
6 And these words, which I command thee this day, shall be in thine heart:
7 And thou shalt teach them diligently unto thy children, and shalt talk of them when thou sittest in thine house, and when thou walkest by the way, and when thou liest down, and when thou risest up.

As the man of the house, I will give account unto the Lord for what I have and haven’t taught my family.

Romans 14:12 So then every one of us shall give account of himself to God.

The Word of God, the Holy Bible, is my final authority for all faith and practice. That means what I believe and what I observe to do must be approved by the Word of God. That being said, I will give account unto God and not to man for the holidays that my family celebrates or doesn’t celebrate. Should my family celebrate Christmas? Should Christians celebrate Christmas?

Romans 14:5-8
5 One man esteemeth one day above another: another esteemeth every day alike. Let every man be fully persuaded in his own mind.
6 He that regardeth the day, regardeth it unto the Lord; and he that regardeth not the day, to the Lord he doth not regard it. He that eateth, eateth to the Lord, for he giveth God thanks; and he that eateth not, to the Lord he eateth not, and giveth God thanks.
7 For none of us liveth to himself, and no man dieth to himself.
8 For whether we live, we live unto the Lord; and whether we die, we die unto the Lord: whether we live therefore, or die, we are the Lord’s.

Whether you celebrate Christmas or you don’t, you must be fully persuaded in your own mind.

As I said earlier, after much research on Christmas, I was fully persuaded that as for me and my family we would not celebrate it. If you are interested to know why we will not celebrate Christmas, then read on. However, I must warn you on the outset that what you read may be highly offensive. That being said, this is my conviction on the celebration of Christmas:

Every year beginning as early as October, as the Christmas music fills the department store I am shopping in, I am asked, “What are you going to do for Christmas?” or “Have you started getting your Christmas shopping done?” To answer that question, I will be doing the same thing for Christmas that I have done for the past 15 years…nothing. I do not observe Christmas. Is it because I am a skin flint and don’t want shell out the money to buy everyone gifts? No. Is it because I am a Scrooge and don’t like to have fun and don’t want people to have fun? Negative!

Peter writes in his first letter to the scattered believers (1 Peter 3:15), “But sanctify the Lord God in your hearts: and be ready always to give an answer to every man that asketh you a reason of the hope that is in you with meekness and fear:” Jesus Christ is the reason of the hope that is in me and in all meekness and reverence I want to share with you why I don’t celebrate Christmas.

As I said there was a time when I celebrated Christmas. Certain things about Christmas brought questions to my mind. If I was going to celebrate it, I should know why I am celebrating it and what everything stands for. I should never blindly celebrate a holiday simply because of tradition. The following are the questions I had and the answers I found:
What does the word Christmas mean?
Look in any dictionary or encyclopedia and the answer will be the same. The word CHRISTMAS is derived from the Old English word Christes Maesse which means Christ’s Mass. According to the Encyclopedia Americana 1998 edition, vol. 6, page 666, the current spelling of “Christmas” came into use about the 16th century (1500’s). That is roughly 1500 years after the birth of Christ.

Nowhere in the Holy, inspired, infallible, perfect Word of God is the observance of “Christmas” with all its customs mentioned. How could it be when the word wasn’t even invented until centuries after Christ?

Every reference book I looked in agreed on the meaning of the word “Christmas” and its origin. The word means the Mass of Christ, or Christ’s Mass. Mass is a Catholic observance. Without going into great detail, according to Catholic teachings, Christ instituted the mass when He instituted the Lord’s Supper shortly before His crucifixion. For the Catholic, they believe that the unleavened bread and wine are actually converted into the physical body of Christ and into the actual blood of Christ. This is called transubstantiation. They believe that they actually eat the flesh and drink the blood of Christ and Christ’s Mass is the holiest of all Mass celebrations.

The name “Christmas” shows itself to be of Catholic origin. Was Jesus Christ Catholic? Did he observe a mass? Did Jesus Christ start the Catholic Church? No! No! No! The Catholic Church wasn’t started until some 350 years after the resurrection of Christ. For the first 350 years of Christianity, there was no observance of “Christmas.”

When did the celebration of Christmas originate?
I couldn’t find and exact date as to when the celebration of Christmas originated, but I did find the following statement in the New Catholic Encyclopedia 1967 edition, vol. 3, page 656. “The oldest Christmas sermon was given by Optatus of Mileve in Numidia around 383.” It was published by A. Wilmart and entitled “Un sermon de s. Optat pour la fete de Noel.”

Something else I found concerning the origin of Christmas was the first mention of December 25 as the birth date of Jesus occurred in A.D. 336 in an early Roman Calendar. In the Word of God, is there any reference to or mention of the first churches ever celebrating Christmas? No! The first mention of the celebration of Christmas was around 330 years after Christ ascended to the Father.

Was Jesus Christ born on December 25th?
First, I believe a diligent search of Luke chapters 1 and 2 will reveal that Christ was born on the first day of the Feast of Tabernacles, the 15th of Tishri on the Jewish calendar, which falls around the end of September/first of October on our calendar. However, according to the New Catholic Encyclopedia 1967 ed., vol. 3, page 656 it says “Inexplicable though it seems, the date of Christ’s birth is not known.” The very ones who created “Christ’s Mass” established December 25th as the date and yet state the date is unknown. The World Book Encyclopedia 1999 edition, vol. 3, page 528 states, “No one knows the exact date of Christ’s birth, but most Christians observe Christmas on December 25th.”

Why is that? Why do most Christians observe the birth of Christ on December 25th? The Encyclopedia Britanica, 9th Edition, Vol. 5, page 611 states the following… “There is however difficulty accepting this (December 25th), as the date of the Nativity, December being the height of the rainy season when neither flocks nor shepherds could have been at night in the fields of Bethlehem. By the fifth century, however, whether from influence of some tradition or from the desire to supplant heathen festivals of the period of the year such as Satrunalia, the 25th of December had been generally agreed upon.” After reading this another question came to mind…
Why was December 25th chosen by the Catholic Church as the date of Christ’s birth?
To answer this, I will quote a few passages from different reference books. The New Catholic Encyclopedia 1967 ed., vol. 3, page 656 states:

“According to the hypothesis suggested by H. Usener, developed by B. Botte (Les Origines), 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 n 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 December 25, 274, Aurelian had proclaimed the sun-god principle patron of the empire and dedicated the temple to him in the Campus Maritus. Christmas originated at a time when the cult of the sun was particularly strong at Rome. This theory finds support in some of the church fathers contrasting the birth of Christ and the winter solstice; indeed from the beginning of the 3rd century “Sun of Justice” appears as a title of Christ (Botte, Les Origines 63).” They later go on to state that this remains the most plausible explanation for the dating of Christmas.

The Encyclopedia Americana 1998 ed., vol.6, page 666 says of the origin of Christmas:

“The reason for establishing December 25 as Christmas is somewhat obscure, but it is usually held that the day was chosen to correspond to pagan festivals that took place around the time of the winter solstice, when the days begin to lengthen, to celebrate the ‘rebirth of the sun.’ Northern European tribes celebrated their chief festival of Yule at the winter solstice to commemorate the rebirth of the sun as the giver of light and warmth. The Roman Saturnalia (a festival dedicated to Saturn, the god of agriculture, and to the renewed power of the sun) also took place at this time, and some Christmas customs are thought to be rooted in this ancient pagan celebration. It is held by some scholars that the birth of Christ as the ‘Light of the World’ was made analogous to the rebirth of the sun in order to make Christianity more meaningful to pagan converts.”

Collier’s Encyclopedia 1989 ed., vol. 6, page 403 has this to say of the origination of Christmas being celebrated on December 25th.

“After the triumph of Constantine, the Church at Rome assigned December 25 as the date for the celebration of the feast, possibly about A.D. 320 or 353. By the end of the fourth century the whole Christian world was celebrating Christmas on that day, with the exception of the Eastern churches, where it was celebrated on January 6. The choice of December 25 was probably influenced by the fact that on this day the Romans celebrated the Mithriac feast of the sun-god (natalis solis invict), and that the Saturnalia also came at this time. The indications are that the Church in this way grasped the opportunity to turn the people from pagan observances of the winter solstice to a day of adoration of Christ. Both Cyprian and St. John Chrysostom allude to this in their writings.”

The fact is that it was the Roman Catholic Church who originated the celebration of Christmas. They also established December 25th as the day of Christ’s birth. The Roman Empire was steeped in pagan worship and the only way to unite the entire empire was to incorporate each captive nation’s pagan gods and celebrations into one celebration. In essence what they did was take the pagan celebration of Saturnalia and give it the name “Christmas”, and the name Saturn (their sun-god) and rename it Christ so they could unite pagans and Christians unto one common religious celebration.

I found this to be very interesting. In order for Rome to unite its empire it had to bring together the nations they conquered. By giving the pagan gods and celebrations “Christian” names, everyone had something in common and could come together. Though “Christian” names were given to their gods and celebrations, the pagans could still worship their own gods and Christians could have something to celebrate as well.

What does the Christmas tree have to do with Christ or His birth?
This question is the one that started me on my quest to know the more about Christmas. Every year we would put up a Christmas tree…but why? Have you ever thought about that, or do you just put on up every year because it’s a tradition? What does the Bible say about the traditions of men?

Colossians 2:8 Beware lest any man spoil you through philosophy and vain deceit, after the tradition of men, after the rudiments of the world, and not after Christ.

Jesus Christ, himself, said, “Making the word of God of none effect through your tradition, which ye have delivered: and many such things do ye.” Mark 7:13

And then there is Mark 7:9 which says, “And he said unto them, Full well ye reject the commandment of God, that ye may keep your own tradition.”

Beware of the traditions of men. Beware of traditions whose origins you are unaware. What do I mean by that? Consider the Christmas tree…study to see where the idea of the Christmas tree originated. Some say it was begun by Martin Luther in Germany as stated by the Encyclopedia Americana 1998 ed., vol. 6, page 666.

According to Collier’s Encyclopedia 1989 ed., vol. 6, page 405, “The custom of trimming and lighting a Christmas tree probably had its origin in the medieval German mystery plays, when a tree, the Paradeisbaum (tree of paradise) was used to symbolize the Garden of Eden. After the suppression of the plays, the tree was used in the home, and gradually there evolved the custom of decorating it with cookies, fruit, and eventually candles.”

The New Catholic Encyclopedia, 1967 ed., vol. 3, page 659, has this to say concerning the Christmas tree… “The Christmas tree is derived, not from pagan Yule tree, but from the Paradise tree adorned with apples on December 24 in honor of Adam and Eve. The Christmas tree is found first at Strasbourg in 1605.”

Whether or not it was started in Germany in the 1600s I don’t know. However, I came across a verse in the book of Jeremiah that caught my attention. Keep in mind the book of Jeremiah was written between 627 B.C. and 586 B.C. That is close to 600 years before Jesus Christ was born. With that in mind…

Jeremiah 10:1-5
1 Hear ye the word of which the Lord speaketh unto you, O house of Israel:
2 Thus saith the Lord, Learn not the way of the heathen, and be not dismayed at the signs of heaven; for the heathen are dismayed at them.
3 For the customs of the people are vain: for one cutteth a tree out of the forest, the work of the hands of the workman, with the axe.
4 They deck it with silver and gold; they fasten it with nails and hammers, that it move not.
5 They are upright as the palm tree, but speak not: they must needs be borne, because they cannot go. Be not afraid of them; for they cannot do evil, neither also is it in them to do good.

Some 600+ years before Jesus Christ came to this earth, to be born of a virgin, pagans were worshipping “Christmas” trees. They would go into the forest, cut down a tree (usually an evergreen), hammer it to a stand so it would stand upright, decorate it with silver and gold and worship it. The Lord told Israel not to fear these idols because they could do no evil, nor could they do any good. This form of pagan idol worship carried on down through the centuries until it found its way into the celebration of Christmas. The Christmas tree has nothing to do with Christ or His birth.

Where did the customs of Christmas originate?
Collier’s Encyclopedia, 1989 ed., vol. 6, page 403, says this… “In northern Europe, too, the Teutonic tribes celebrated the winter solstice and had developed many customs and traditions that became part of the feast of Christmas when they were ‘converted’ to Christianity. Thus during the Middle Ages the festival became the most popular one of the year, celebrated in church and in the home with a blend of pagan usages and Christian devotion.”

…a blend of pagan usages and Christian devotion?! !

2 Corinthians 6:14-18
14 Be ye not unequally yoked together with unbelievers: for what fellowship hath righteousness with unrighteousness? And what communion hath light with darkness?
15 And what concord hath Christ with Belial? Or what part hath he that believeth with an infidel?
16 And what agreement hath the temple of God with idols? For ye are the temple of the living God; and God hath said, I will dwell in them, and walk in them; and I will be their God, and they shall be my people.
17 Wherefore come out from among them and be ye separate, saith the Lord, and touch not the unclean thing; and I will receive you.
18 And will be a Father unto you, and ye shall be my sons and daughters, saith the Lord Almighthy.”

Collier’s Encyclopedia, 1989 ed., vol. 6, page 404 states this… “The use of evergreens to decorate homes at Christmas time has an unmistakable pre-Christian origin. During celebration of the Roman Saturnalis, laurel and other greens and flowers were used extensively for processions and house decorations. In northern Europe, evergreens, because they did not die in the winter time, became symbolic of eternal life and were almost objects of worship. Mistletoe was sacred among the British Druids and was believed to have many miraculous powers.”

Many churches today hold a “hanging of the greens” service in which they use different types of evergreens to decorate the auditorium for Christmas. Do they not realize that this practice was begun by idol worshipping pagans? Jeremiah 10: 2 tells us, “Thus saith the Lord, Learn not the ways of the heathen…”

I’ll not take time to go into Santa Claus and the exchanging of gifts. The history of these parts of the celebration of Christmas will prove that they as well have nothing to do with the birth of Christ. I did want to briefly cover the beloved Nativity Scene often found under Christmas trees or on the laws of many churches. I know after reading this many will say that I am just nit-picking. However, if this is something that I am considering observing, It has to be as scripturally accurate as possible.

The first Nativity Scene was started in Italy in 1223. It is usually a miniature replica of the stable where Christ was born. It contains statues of Mary, Joseph, the shepherds, the wise men from the East, some animals and at least one angel all gathered around a manger where lies the infant Jesus.

There are a few glaring things that I find unscriptural with the Nativity Scene. Read Matthew 1:18 through the end of Chapter 2. This account clearly shows in chapter 2 and verse 11 that the wise men were not in Bethlehem at the manger when Christ was born.

Matthew 2:10-11
10 When they saw the star they rejoiced with exceeding great joy.
11 And when they were come into the house, they saw the young child with Mary his mother, and fell down, and worshipped him: and when they had opened their treasures, they presented unto him gifts; gold, frankincense, and myrrh.

Notice…they entered a house, not a stable. They saw a young child, not an infant in a manger. Something else I find interesting. Every mention in the Word of God concerning angels refers to them in the masculine gender. Yet, every Nativity Scene I have seen has a female angel, not to mention it is always girls or women who play the role of the angels in the Christmas pageants put on by most churches.

The one thing that disturbs me most about the Nativity Scene is the blatant disregard for the Word of God. What do I mean?

Exodus 20:4 Thou shalt not make unto thee any graven image, or any likeness of anything that is in heaven above, or that is in the earth beneath, or that is in the water under the earth.

What is the focal point of every single Nativity Scene? A graven image of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ is its focal point. From the Word of God, we can clearly see that the Nativity Scene which was started by a Catholic in Italy in 1223 is unscriptural.

For most of us, these insights into Christmas are some things we have never heard of. Often times we don’t stop and question why we do things. We just do them because it is what we were raised to do. It has been tradition. Sometimes in observing our traditions we are blinded to even obvious inconsistencies.
Let me give a few examples…

Consider secular musical entertainers. During the course of the year they write and sing songs about ungodly acts, immoral acts, and yet come Christmas time, they sing about our Lord and Savior’s birth. Consider those who do not profess Christ as their Savior and even those who don’t believe in God or Christ, yet they still celebrate Christmas…why?

Matthew 15:8-9
8 This people draweth nigh unto me with their mouth, and honoreth me with their lips; but their heart is far from me.
9 But in vain they do worship me, teaching for doctrines the commandments of men.

Every year they sing their “praises” of God, yet their hearts are far from Him. How about those company Christmas parties which are ever so popular? Never once is Christ mentioned, yet Santa is there along with all the alcohol they can drink.

Then there are those who will tell you they are saved, yet only attend church once or twice a year (usually Christmas and Easter). They draw near to God with their mouths and honor Him with their lips, but their hearts are far from Him. Consider another verse, this time found in Luke.

Luke 16:15 And he said unto them, Ye are they which justify yourselves before men; but God knoweth your hearts: for that which is highly esteemed among men is abomination in the sight of God.
That which is highly esteemed among men is abomination in the sight of God. Tell me what single day of the year is the most highly esteemed among men? Is it not December 25th? Stores and businesses will stay open every Sunday, which is the Lord’s Day, but will close on December 25th in observance of their cherished holiday. People in our country who claim to be atheist will celebrate Christmas which is supposed to be the birthday of God’s own Son. Lost men who know not God celebrate Christmas. People in other countries who to this day still serve strange gods celebrate December 25th.

How is it that Christians and unsaved alike, celebrate Christmas? People work all year to pay off the debt they incurred from the previous Christmas, only to go into debt once more during the current Christmas shopping season. Fights break out in the toy aisle over the last of the most popular toys for the year. It just doesn’t make sense to me.

Think about this…Christmas is the most celebrated day of the year regardless of religion or location on the earth. Jesus Christ once said…

John 15:18 If the world hate you, ye know that it hated me before it hated you.

If Jesus Christ, Himself, said that the world hated Him then we know it’s true. We believe the Scripture is God breathed. If the world hates Christ, why does it celebrate the day of His birth? If December 25th really was the day of the birth of Christ, the world would hate it with the same passion it hates Him. Is it possible the reason the world loves Christmas so much is because it really has nothing to do with Christ at all?

I recently read an article in a major metropolitan newspaper concerning Christmas. It mainly had to do with what parents could tell their children this year when they didn’t get what they asked for due to the poor economy. Not once was the birth of Christ mentioned. What was mentioned was Santa, giving gifts, good will, helping the less fortunate, etc. They put the focus on everything but Christ, for whom this day is supposed to be celebrated.

Something I hear every year at this time, and is said by many sincere and God fearing believers, is “Let’s put Christ back in Christmas!” or “He’s the reason for the season!” Christ was never in Christmas. He was born centuries before the celebration was adopted from pagans and renamed by the Catholic Church. He is not the reason for the season either. This season began with the worship of false gods by pagan people and the only things that have changed are the names.

What did Christ command his Disciples to observe in remembrance of Him? Was it his birth or his death, burial and resurrection?

Luke 22:19-20
19 And he took bread, and gave thanks, and brake it, and gave unto them, saying, This is my body which is given for you: this do in remembrance of me.
20 Likewise also the cup after supper, saying, This cup is the new testament in my blood, which is shed for you.

Jesus commanded us to remember His death for our sins. At no time did He command His church to celebrate His birth. The birth of our Savior is definitely important and a key to our faith. Had Christ not been born of a virgin, then He would have had Adam’s sin nature passed on to Him. To the glory of God, Jesus Christ was conceived of the Holy Spirit, born of a virgin. Jesus Christ is all God and all man. He had no sin nature. If He had sin, then we would have no salvation. As important as His birth was, He never commanded us to celebrate it. Not one time in the Word of God was the celebration of His birth mentioned as we know it today. I believe the date of Christ’s birth was revealed in the Word of God as being the Feast of Tabernacles. God also revealed the date of our Lord’s crucifixion, death, burial and resurrection. He told us to remember that by observing the Lord’s Supper until He comes again. Listen to the God-inspired words of Solomon in the book of Ecclesiastes.

Ecclesiastes 7:1 A good name is better than precious ointment, and the day of death than the day of one’s birth.

Why do I not observe or celebrate Christmas? It is my conviction that Christmas is a pagan, Catholic celebration. Jesus Christ commanded me to observe His death until He comes again, not His birth. As the spiritual leader of my home, I must take that God given responsibility to lead my family in the ways righteousness as best as I know to do. As best as I understand Scripture and history itself, I cannot in good conscience celebrate or allow my family to participate in Christmas celebrations.

If a person or family chooses to celebrate Christmas then they must do so unto the Lord. I regard not the day…to the Lord I do not regard it. Remember some of our opening verses?

Romans 14:5-8
5 One man esteemeth one day above another: another esteemeth every day alike. Let every man be fully persuaded in his own mind.
6 He that regardeth the day, regardeth it unto the Lord; and he that regardeth not the day, to the Lord he doth not regard it. He that eateth, eateth to the Lord, for he giveth God thanks; and he that eateth not, to the Lord he eateth not, and giveth God thanks.
7 For none of us liveth to himself, and no man dieth to himself.
8 For whether we live, we live unto the Lord; and whether we die, we die unto the Lord: whether we live therefore, or die, we are the Lord’s.

We do not look down on or condemn Christians who choose to celebrate Christmas. We have many Christian friends and family who do. At the same time I expect the same kindness shown in return to us. Why do so many think it strange that a Christian would not celebrate Christmas? Maybe its because they have never looked into its history. After reading this post maybe they will come away with a little more understanding. Concerning whether or not to celebrate Christmas, I am fully persuaded in my own mind…are you?