There are many American Christians today who are going around saying that “Jesus is the reason for the season,” or that we need to “Keep Christ in Christmas,” but when we look at what the Christmas celebration encourages both in the lives of Christians and non-Christians alike, would it honor God by conforming people to the teachings of the Bible? Does it conform to the character and nature of God? Would He give this holiday a “thumbs up” or would He give it a “thumbs down”?
“DOES GOD ENCOURAGE MATERIALISM?”
Materialism is an intricate part of the Christmas season: trees, lights, ornaments, and all kinds of things that are bought as gifts, extravagant parties, etc. As soon as Thanksgiving hits, sometimes even before that, the focus of people’s minds and hearts are on things. Things that they can buy, things that they can receive, bigger and better things. Although there may be a manger scene here or there, or someone singing a Christmas carol, they are usually lost in the hustle and bustle for things. In the Sermon on the Mount, Jesus specifically said that we “cannot serve both God and mammon” (Matthew 6:24). “Mammon” is an old Early Modern English word for “money and material wealth.” In this verse, Jesus says,
No man can serve two masters: for either he will hate the one, and love the other; or else he will hold to the one, and despise the other. You CANNOT serve God and mammon (“money and material wealth”).
But doesn’t the Christian view of Christmas teach the exact opposite: you can have both? After all, we’re allegedly celebrating Christ’s birth while pursuing our materialistic desires and wants. Aren’t we, in actuality, pursuing both in His name, while at the same time, violating His own teaching?
DOES GOD ENCOURAGE COVETING?
Growing up as a child, I remember going through the Christmas catalogues that use to come in the mail, and my sister and I would construct our “Christmas toys” that we wanted. Then we would sit around wishing and hoping for that toy, that game, or whatever it was that we’ve placed on our list. In the Ten Commandments, the last commandment is “not to covet” (Exodus 20:17).
Even though the examples in the commandment speak about coveting things that belong to one’s neighbor, it basically is teaching us to be content with what we have, instead of going around desiring what everyone else has. This is stated more explicitly in the New Testament:
Let your character be free from the love of money, BEING CONTENT WITH WHAT YOU HAVE; for He Himself has said, “I will never leave you, nor will I ever forsake you.” (Hebrews 13:5; Emphasis Mine; see also Philippians 4:11)
“DOES GOD ENCOURAGE GREED?”
It used to be on “Black Friday” that the Christmas season would officially begin, but it’s now got pushed back to “Black Thursday.” A day when people get up extremely early in the morning, like 3 or 4 am, to stand in line to be sure to be the first ones in, so they can grab that “great deal.” Sometimes, people will spend the night on the streets just to insure that they’re the first in line.
But then, once those doors are open, there’s a stampede of people crushing into the stores, even running over people in the process. There’s been numerous people who have been badly hurt by people pushing them or stepping on them, trying to be the first one to get that special “Christmas gift.” And then once inside, how many times have we seen people fight one another over one of these “gifts”? People pushing, shoving, screaming, fighting, and even punching one another for these material things. God defines this as “greed.”
“DOES GOD ENCOURAGE LYING?”
In addition to materialism, coveting, and greed, Christmas also encourages people to lie. For example, parents lie to their children and tell them that Santa Claus and his reindeer are real. They “guilt” their children into being good by telling them, if they aren’t good, then Santa won’t be giving them a gift this year. After all, we lie again, and tell them that Santa knows when they are awake or asleep, or if they’ve been good or not; the same qualities which belong to God.
Then in telling the story of the Nativity, there are lies told there as well. We tell people that “Three Kings” came to the manger when Jesus was born; however, the Bible teaches they came “into the house” and “saw the young child,” not “an infant in the manger” (Matthew 2:10-12).
There are other biblical proofs that the Wise men did not see Jesus at the time of His birth but when He was a toddler (1 1/2 – 2 years old) are the following:
Herod’s Inquiry & Killing of the Infants
Based upon his discussion with the wise men, Herod angrily sent out his troops to kill every child that was two years old or under when the wise men did not report back to him to let him know the identity of the child. (Matthew 2:7, 16) We can infer from this that the wise men had told Herod that they had been traveling about 1 1/2 to 2 years, and therefore, the reasoning for Herod specifying the age of “two years and under.”
Mary’s Temple Sacrifices
Another proof that the wise men did not see Jesus at his birth is the animal sacrifice that Mary offered at the Temple. According to Luke 2, she offered “a pair of turtledoves” upon the completion of “her purification” (Luke 2:22-24). According to Leviticus 12:4, the time period of her purification was 33 days, and then the offering of “two turtledoves” or “two young pigeons” was the offering that poor woman was to bring for her burnt offering and her sin offering who could not afford a lamb (Leviticus 12:6-8).
So if the wise men had, in fact, arrived during the time of Christ’s birth and given Him the gifts of gold, frankincense, and myrrh, then she would have had plenty of money to present a lamb for her sacrifice, as opposed to the sacrifice of a poor woman who could not afford it.
As Christian parents, we need to be very careful what we tell our children. If we tell them that Santa Claus, the Easter Bunny, and the Tooth Fairy are all real, and at the same time that God and Jesus are real, then obviously, when they discover that there is no Santa Claus, no Easter Bunny, and no Tooth Fairy, then it’s only logical for them to conclude that there is no God or Jesus either. And telling someone that something is true, when it is not, is a lie.
“DOES GOD ENCOURAGE GLUTTONY OR DRUNKENNESS?”
Another aspect of Christmas is people going out to party and committing gluttony or getting drunk, or sometimes do both. Both of this occur during the Christmas season, and both of them are spoken against within the Scriptures. In both cases, there’s something missing in that person’s life or an emptiness they are trying to fill, either with food or with alcohol. I’ve often found it interesting that many people who commit gluttony will point their finger and condemn the alcoholic, even though what they are going is no less a sin.
As we’ll see in next item, partying, gluttony, drunkenness and revelry were all a part of the original Roman Saturnalia and Sol Invictus feasts that were “Christianized” and brought into the Church. Although these pagan celebrations were “Christianized” and renamed “Christmas,” these aspects of the feast have not changed. However, the Bible teaches us against all such behavior (Deuteronomy 21:19-20; Proverbs 23:20-21; Ephesians 5:18; I Corinthians 5:11; I Corinthians 6:19-20).
“DOES GOD ENCOURAGE US TO USE PAGAN TRADITIONS?”
Originally, what we call the “Christmas Season” was known as two Roman pagan idolatrous feasts: the “Roman Saturnalia” and “Sol Invictus.” There are many credible sources that demonstrate that the origin and roots of Christmas are derived from the Roman Saturnalia, such as the decorating of the tree, the exchanging of gifts, singing songs from house to house, eating baked goods [such as cookies] shaped like people, feasting, merrymaking, partying, and getting drunk.
Examples of sources to consult about the pagan origins and connections of Christmas are many. For example, one could read the article “Saturnalia” at History.com, or the article “Is Christmas related to Saturnalia” at the Christian website, gotquestions.org, or even an older Christian source, Ralph Woodrow’s Babylon Mystery Religion: Ancient and Modern (1966) in his chapter on “The Winter Festival.” And these are just a few of the sources that are out there. In fact, according to the Christian source on gotquestions.com, during the time of the Roman empire, “the word Saturnalia became synonymous with immorality and carousing” (“Is Christmas related”).
The Christmas holiday also finds its roots in the Roman celebration of Sol Invictus (“Invincible Sun”) that celebrated the renewing of the Sun King [i.e., the sun god], Mithra, on December 25, and was linked to the winter solstice (“Is Christmas related”).
PAGAN FEASTS IN THE CHURCH?
During the time of the 4th century, A.D., there were large groups of people leaving the church to celebrate these pagan festivals to these other gods and goddesses. In response, the Roman Catholic Church decided the best way to keep these people in the church was to create a “Christian alternative,” a mass for Christ – “Christ-mass” or “Christmas” – to these pagan festivals, much like modern churches are doing with Halloween. In fact, the earliest mention of December 25 commemorating the birth of Christ is 354 A.D. Obviously, then, “Christmas” did not originate with Christ or with the writings of His early disciples, and in contrast to Christian belief, Jesus is NOT “The Reason for the Season.” Instead, He was artificially imposed into the whole thing.
The leaders of the Roman Catholic Church did eliminate some of the practices of the Saturnalia before bringing it into the church, such as people getting drunk, chasing women, going around naked as they sung songs from house to house, etc. In addition, they changed December 25 from the renewing or birthday of the sun-god to the birthday of the Son of God, and then “Christianized” the reasoning for the other pagan-related activities, such as connecting the giving of gifts to the gifts given by the wise men. This is likewise confirmed by the Christian site, gotquestions.com:
The early motive for celebrating Jesus’ birth on December 25 was the same that inspires modern churches to hold “Fall Festivals” or “Bible Costume Pasties” on October 31. That is, to provide a spiritually positive alternative to what they perceive as a pagan celebration. (“Is Christmas Related”)
Although this conservative Christian website readily acknowledges the pagan roots and connections of Christmas, it goes on to say,
So, Christians readily and comfortably acknowledge that the date, traditions, and long-term history of Christmas are connected to the pagan holidays of Saturnalia and Sol Invictus. Yet, like a family celebrating a Bible Costume Party on October 31, it’s the people celebrating who decide what the celebration means. (“Is Christmas related”)
Every pastor that I have personally spoken with about the pagan roots and connections of Christmas (as well as Lent, Easter, and obviously Halloween) have taken the same position: The origins of the holiday does not matter; all that matters is what is in the heart of the individual.
THE BIBLE IS NOT THE STANDARD OF WHAT WE DO?
Of course, this raises an important question: What is the basis and standard for what we do? Is it the Bible, or is the secular world right and Truth is only relative and subjective, so that there isn’t any absolute standard of right and wrong. It seems when it is convenient for Christians, they will say that the Bible is their only standard of faith and conduct, but when that same Bible contradicts and challenges what they are going, then it’s up to the individual.
CHRISTMAS – A VIOLATION OF SCRIPTURE?
But I question their position for a number of reasons. First of all, I question it because the creation of “Christian alternatives” to pagan feasts is, in fact, a violation of Scripture. In Deuteronomy 12, God says,
When the LORD your God shall cut off the nations from before you, wherever you go to possess them, and you succeed them, and dwell in their land; take heed to yourself that you be not snared [trapped] by following them, after that they be destroyed from before you; and that you enquire not after their gods, saying, HOW DID THESE NATIONS SERVE THEIR GODS? EVEN SO WILL I DO LIKEWISE. YOU SHALL NOT DO SO UNTO THE LORD YOUR GOD: for every abomination to the LORD, which He hates, have they done unto their gods; for even their sons and their daughters they have burnt in the fire to their gods. What thing so ever I command you, observe to do it: you shall not add thereto, nor diminish from it. (Deuteronomy 12: 29-32; Emphasis Mine)
This is not merely a passage forbidding child sacrifice; instead, the sacrifice of children is one example of pagan practices that He is addressing. There are two basic principles here that we are being taught within this passage:
- Do NOT use the customs, traditions, practices, forms of worship, etc., that other nations use with their pagan gods, and use them with the LORD; and
- Whatever God has commanded in His Word, that is what we are to do. We are not to add to it, nor are we to subtract from it.
However, most churches get around this prohibition by teaching that the Law of God ended at the cross; therefore, this prohibition, they say, is no longer valid or relevant to them. The other possible common response to get around this prohibition is their teaching that the Law of God is only for Israel, and it does not apply to the church, even though the Bible teaches that God’s laws were given to both Jews and non-Jews.
“DOES THE END JUSTIFY THE MEANS?”
Another explanation offered for churches participating in these “Christian alternatives” is that by the church offering these alternatives, unsaved people come to church who normally would not and, therefore, have the opportunity to hear the gospel and get saved. This sounds feasible and good, until you realize that “in the name of salvation,” Christians are disobeying God and His Word. Consequently, then, Christians endorse the idea that “the end justifies the means.”
CHRISTMAS – A PROFANING OF GOD’S HOLINESS?
Even after reading this, some may argue that this is all just my opinion on the matter since no one actually knows what God really feels about these “alternatives” that Christianity has brought into the church. However, that is not so. God has spoken to my wife, Karen, and He has also spoken to me in different ways reconfirming the fact that God is not only deeply offended by these pagan celebrations being brought into the church, but He also says that they profane His holiness. The following is what God has spoken about this “holidays” by His Spirit:
I do not want My people dabbling in the things which I have said were unclean and unholy. How can I, a holy God, be among the things that are unholy? My people, you are profaning My name and causing Me to want to take you and remove you from My Holy Presence. I cannot, and will not, I say, keep dwelling among a people who do not covet the same holy things that I covet.
Yes, I have in My commandments which I gave to Moses on Mt. Sinai, which says to not covet what is not yours, says God Almighty. These wicked holidays that you are claiming to be yours are detestable in My eyes, says God Almighty. How can you not see this in the Word of God that I have given you as a manual to understand the very heart of Me, says God. I do not wish for any one of My children to have anything to do with the things of this world. I will go farther than this, I can’t continue in a relationship with you because you are grieving the Holy Spirit that has come to be your Helper and to be your Guide.
Don’t profane My name and say you are trying to take something bad and turn it into something good for the sake of the church. This is not true, says God. You are doing it because you don’t care about hurting Me, says God. If you cared about Me, you would see that I detest all the things you’re trying to push Me into. I do not accept what you have done, and I don’t want anything more to be involved or put My name to that which is unholy and unacceptable to what My Word teaches. (“God Says: ‘My People Are Profaning My Name'”)
WHY DO WE CELEBRATE PAGAN FEASTS AND NOT GOD’S FEASTS?
It seems clear that God does NOT endorse these “Christian alternatives” of pagan feasts and practices. They offend Him to the point where He feels like spitting His people out in disgust. The church needs to repent and to stop celebrating these pagan feasts. I believe the question must be asked, “Why are we celebrating these ‘Christian alternatives’ to these pagan feasts and practices — Christmas, Lent, Easter, and more recently, Halloween – when God Himself has designed and given to us 7 feasts (and I personally would add Purim and Hanukkah) for us to enjoy and celebrate?
If we were to not do “Christmas, Lent and Easter,” and celebrate the 9 feasts that God has given in His word, we would have THREE TIMES the amount of holidays to celebrate and to invite people to church to enjoy them with us. In addition, we could bring the Bible to life in ways that we are not even coming close to doing presently. So with at least those two benefits and there are more, it doesn’t make sense why we insist on setting aside what God Himself has given to us to celebrate feasts and practices whose origins and roots are pagan. We need to repent, turn away from our sins, and begin walking in holiness and obedience to God and to His Word.
“Is Christmas related to Saturnalia?” gotquestions.org. Got Questions Ministries. 2017. Web. <http://www.gotquestions.org/Christmas-Saturnalia.html>
Nuwer, Rachel. “The First Nativity Scene Was Created in 1223.” Smithsonian.com. Dec. 14, 2012. Web. <http://www.smithsonianmag.com/smart-news/the-first-nativity-scene-was-created-in-1223-161485505>
“Saturnalia.” History.com. n.d. Web. <http://www.history.com/topics/Saurnalia>
Verschage, Karen. “God Says: ‘My People Are Profaning My Name.” Karensshofar. wordpress.com. June 19, 2016. Web. <http://karensshofar.wordpress.com/2016/06/19/god-says-my-people-are-profaning-my-name>
Woodrow, Ralph. Babylon Mystery Religion: Ancient and Modern. Riverside, CA.: Ralph Woodrow Evangelistic Association, Inc., 1978. Print.