“Thus saith the Lord, learn not the way of the heathen…for the customs of the people are vain.”
When I left off in part 2 of this series, I explained why I believe that Christ’s birth should not be honored on December 25th. Here is a recap:
Saturnalia was an ancient Roman festival honoring the deity of Saturn (which is…an idol) around the winter solstice. The holiday was celebrated with a sacrifice at the Temple of Saturn in the Roman Forum and a public banquet, followed by private gift-giving, continual partying, and a carnival atmosphere that overturned Roman social norms. The popularity of Saturnalia continued into the 3rd and 4th centuries AD, and as the until the Roman Empire came under Christian rule. Emperor Constantine desired for the Roman Empire to become Christianized, but the people still wanted their pagan holidays. The solution? Change the names and “meanings” of the festival to Christian themes, so everybody wins. For example:
Jesus Christ was presented as the Sun of Righteousness (Malachi 4:2) replacing the sun god, Sol Invictus.
- Prior to the celebration of Christmas, December 25th in the Roman world was the Natalis-Solis Invicti, the Birthday of the Unconquerable Sun, which in honor of the sun god Mithras. In 375 A.D., the Church of Rome merely announced that the birth date of Christ had been “discovered” to be December 25th, and the faithful would recognize it as such.
In Acts 15, the Apostles were wondering what to tell the Gentiles who had become Christians to abstain from. Verse 20 says, but that we write to them to abstain from things polluted by idols, from sexual immorality, from things strangled, and from blood. We are told to turn from idol worship, not “redeem or rename” it.
I would love to share a few things I’ve learned about Christmas symbols and their meaning.
The name “Christmas” (Christ’s Mass)
As a protestant, I do not believe that mass (especially the Roman Catholic mass, from which Christ’s Mass originated from), is biblical. “Catholics always believed that the Sacrifice of Calvary is renewed on the altar at the Holy Mass. By means of the sacrificing priest, the bread and wine is changed into the very Body and Blood of Our Lord at the moment of the Consecration. The words that the priest says at this moment constitute the Transubstantiation, a change of substance.” credit In Roman Catholicism, the pope is the “Vicar of Christ,” meaning, as the original notion a vicar is of “earthly representative of God or Christ” but also used in sense of “person acting as parish priest in place of a real parson” credit
As a protestant, I fully reject this teaching. Unfortunately, I have also fully accepted and embraced the term, “Christmas” for the past 33 years of my life! This quote is from Charles Spurgeon (prior to preaching a sermon about the birth of Christ…the birth of Christ can be and should be taught at anytime of the year. However, given the history of December 25th, I hope that more pastors would begin preaching this message at other times of the year as well.)
“We have no superstitious regard for times and seasons. Certainly we do not believe in the present ecclesiastical arrangement called Christmas: first, because we do not believe in the mass at all, but abhor it, whether it be said or sung in Latin or in English; and, secondly, because we find no Scriptural warrant whatever for observing any day as the birthday of the Savior; and, consequently, its observance is a superstition, because not of divine authority.”
-Charles Spurgeon, Sermon on Dec. 24, 1871
If we abhor the thought of our Lord and Savior’s very Body and Blood being partaken by a congregation, and for the Sacrifice of Calvary to be renewed time and time again as the Roman Catholic church sees to it, why do we delight in the word Christmas (Christ’s Mass)?
The concept of “Santa Clause” has evolved from many different cultures throughout time. The roots of Santa are not only grounded in Saint Nicholas as you might have heard in the past. I’m sharing a video below, and please watch it if you would like to get a better grasp on Santa Claus.
I would also like to touch on another one of Santa’s names, Kris Kringle. For example, Santa sings these words in the well-loved classic, Rudolph the Red-nosed Reindeer.
“Jingle, jingle, jingle. You can hear those sleigh bells ring. I am old Kris Kringle. I’m the king of jingling.”
The name Kris Kringle is derived from the word Christkind, who is Austrian and German gift-giver, and means “Christ Child.” I find this to be blasphemous to our Lord and Savior’s name. Kris Kringle is also the main character’s name in the film, Miracle on 34th Street.
The Christmas Tree
Evergreen trees have been used in pagan worship since the beginning of time. There is more information on this in the video below. I would like to add however, this verse from Isaiah:
The glory of Lebanon shall come to you, The cypress, the pine, and the box tree together, To beautify the place of My sanctuary; And I will make the place of My feet glorious.
In this verse, the Lord speaks of evergreen trees beautifying His sanctuary. From this we can take that trees in themselves are not bad, but rather what we do with them.
Again, there are many different theories about the origin of stockings. One such story, is that there was a widower who had three daughters. They were poor, and the father was in despair because his daughter’s could not marry without dowries. One night after the daughters hung their stockings over the fireplace to dry, St. Nicholas stopped by and threw gold into their stockings so they could marry. *One a side note, I’ve found a few stories that state that the daughter’s were to go into prostitution without a dowry. I’m not sure if this is the accurate tale or not.
“In Northern Europe, Winter festivities were once considered to be a Feast of the Dead, complete with ceremonies full of spirits, devils, and the haunting presence of the Norse god, Odin, and his night riders. One particularly durable Solstice festival was “Jol” (also known as “Jule” and pronounced “Yule”), a feast celebrated throughout Northern Europe and particularly in Scandinavia to honor Jolnir, another name for Odin. Since Odin was the god of intoxicating drink and ecstasy, as well as the god of death, Yule customs varied greatly from region to region. Odin’s sacrificial beer became the specially blessed Christmas ale mentioned in medieval lore, and fresh food and drink were left on tables after Christmas feasts to feed the roaming Yuletide ghosts. Even the bonfires of former ancient times survived in the tradition of the Yule Log, perhaps the most universal of all Christmas symbols.
The origins of the Yule Log can be traced back to the Midwinter festivals in which the Norsemen indulged…nights filled with feasting, “drinking Yule” and watching the fire leap around the log burning in the home hearth. The ceremonies and beliefs associated with the Yule Log’s sacred origins are closely linked to representations of health, fruitfulness and productivity. In England, the Yule was cut and dragged home by oxen or horses as the people walked alongside and sang merry songs. It was often decorated with evergreens and sometimes sprinkled with grain or cider before it was finally set alight.” source
This makes you think twice before saying “Yuletide Greetings!“, doesn’t it?
“From the earliest times mistletoe has been one of the most magical, mysterious, and sacred plants of European folklore. It was considered to bestow life and fertility; a protection against poison; and an aphrodisiac. The mistletoe of the sacred oak was especially sacred to the ancient Celtic Druids. On the sixth night of the moon white-robed Druid priests would cut the oak mistletoe with a golden sickle. Two white bulls would be sacrificed amid prayers that the recipients of the mistletoe would prosper. Later, the ritual of cutting the mistletoe from the oak came to symbolize the emasculation of the old King by his successor. Mistletoe was long regarded as both a sexual symbol and the “soul” of the oak. It was gathered at both mid-summer and winter solstices, and the custom of using mistletoe to decorate houses at Christmas is a survival of the Druid and other pre-Christian traditions.” source
As Christians, we oftentimes believe that the tradition of gift giving on Christmas is in remembrance of God’s gift to us, or the gifts the Wise Men gave to Christ. In actuality, the tradition dates back to the Roman festival Saturnalia, where revelry and debauchery took place to honor their sun god.
Please be mindful of Christmas Carols that do not teach the truth of our Savior’s birth. For example in The First Noel, it is stated that shepherds were keeping their sheep, “on a cold winter’s night that was so deep.” Is this scriptural? No. What about the songs that talks about three wise men? Scripture talks about three gifts, but never mentions how many magi gave them.
Friends, this is how human tradition gets entangled with scriptural truth.
Please find below a 30 minute video that a commenter graciously shared on my last post below, titled, “Why Was Christmas Banned in America until 1820?” (Yes, even the Puritans despised this holiday, and made it illegal in Massachusetts.) If you have further questions about this topic, please take the time to watch this video.
Finally, I know that you might be asking yourself this question…What is wrong with celebrating Christmas, if I am doing so to celebrate Christ’s birth only, and with the purest of intentions?
In Deuteronomy 12, the Lord is warning His people about false gods.
…take heed to yourself that you are not ensnared to follow them, after they are destroyed from before you, and that you do not inquire after their gods, saying, ‘How did these nations serve their gods? I also will do likewise.’ You shall not worship the LORD your God in that way; for every abomination to the LORD which He hates they have done to their gods…
Friends, no matter what our intentions, the Lord very clearly states that He does not want to be worshipped in the same manner as pagans have worshipped their gods. When we celebrate Christmas as a holiday (holy day) for Him, what are we doing?
I would also like to share this brochure titled XMAS by A.W. Pink. It is a good read. Pink was an English Christian evangelist and theologian who known for his reformed teachings in an era dominated by opposing theological traditions.