Should Christians Celebrate Christmas?
There is no Biblical warrant, precedent, nor precept for remembrance of the
day of Christ's birth as a day of special religious celebration. This is not to say
that we shouldn't remember Christ's birth and its significance, but for religious
commemorations or celebrations, we must have Biblical command or precedent.
The fact of the matter is this - the early church did not celebrate Christ's
birth, but such celebration only came into the church with the Christianization
of pagan rites, as Catholicism was made the state religion by Constantine in the
fourth century A.D. Since the Word of God does not support the tradition
of Christmas, a Christian's conscience should not and must not be bound.
Christmas customs are an evolution from times long before the Christian
period - a descent from seasonal, pagan, religious, and national practices,
hedged about with legend and tradition. Their seasonal connections with
the pagan feasts of the winter solstice relate them to ancient times,
when many of the earth's inhabitants were sun worshipers.
As the superstitious pagans observed the sun gradually moving south in the
heavens and the days growing shorter, they believed the sun was departing
never to return. To encourage the sun's return north (to give the winter
sun god strength and to bring him back to life again), the sun gods were
worshipped with elaborate rituals and ceremonies, including the building of
great bonfires, decorating with great evergreen plants such as holly, ivy, and
mistletoe, and making representations of summer birds as house decorations.
The winter solstice, then, was the shortest day of the year, when the sun
seemingly stood still in the southern sky. Observing the slowdown in the
sun's southward movement, and its stop, the heathen believed that their
petitions to it had been successful. A time of unrestrained rejoicing broke
out, with revelry, drinking, and gluttonous feasts. Then, when the pagans
observed the sun moving again northward, and a week later were able to
determine that the days were growing longer, a new year was proclaimed.
Christmas was not among the earliest festivals of the Church. It was not
celebrated, commemorated, or observed, neither by the apostles nor in the
apostolic church - not for at least the first 300 years of church history.
History reveals that about 440 A.D., the Church at Jerusalem commenced
the celebration of Christmas, following the lead of Roman Catholicism.
It was sufficient for the early Christians that Jesus, their Lord and
Saviour, had been born. They praised God that Jesus Christ had, indeed,
come in the flesh. The day and the time of His birth had no relevance to
them because Jesus was no longer physically on earth - He had returned
to heaven. And it was the risen, exalted Christ to whom they looked, and
that by faith - not a babe laid in a manger. Jesus Christ is no longer a
baby; no longer the "Christ-child," but the exalted Lord of all. And He
does not somehow return to earth as a baby every year at Christmas-time,
though this impression is given in certain hymns sung in Protestant services.
Seemingly forgotten is the essential role religion played in the world of
ancient Rome. But the Emperor Constantine understood that by giving
official status to Christianity, he brought internal peace to the Empire.
A brilliant military commander, he also had the genius to recognize
that after declaring Christianity the "state" religion, and forcing
all the pagans to be baptized into the Roman church, there was
a need for true union between paganism and Christianity.
The corrupt Roman Church was now full of pagans masquerading as
Christians, which had to be pacified, and what better way to Christianize
their pagan idolatries - thus, the Babylonian mystery religions were
introduced by Constantine beginning in 313 A.D., and established
a foothold with the holding of the Council of Nicaea in 325 A.D.
The Constantine-led Roman Church was more than willing to
adapt and adopt pagan practices in order to make Christianity
palatable to the heathen. Constantine used religion as
a political tool, totally devoid of any true spirituality:
Pagan rituals and idols took on Christian names - Jesus Christ
was presented as the Sun of Righteousness (Malachi 4:2)
replacing the sun god, Sol Invictus. Pagan holidays were
reclassified as Christian holidays (holy-days).
December 25th was the "Victory of the Sun-God" Festival
in the pagan Babylonian world. In the ancient Roman Empire, the
celebration can be traced back to the Roman festival Saturnalia,
which honored Saturn, the harvest god, and Mithras, the god of
light; both were celebrated during or shortly after the winter
solstice (between the 17th and 23rd of December).
To all ancient pagan civilizations, December 25th was the
birthday of the gods - the time of year when the days began
to lengthen and man was blessed with a "regeneration of nature."
Moreover, all of December 25th's Babylonian and Roman
festivals were characterized by 5-7 day celebration periods
of unrestrained or orgiastic revelry and licentiousness.
December 25th was particularly important in the cult of
Mithras, a popular deity in the Old Roman Empire. Robert Myers
(a proponent for celebrating Christmas) in his book Celebrations, says:
"Prior to the celebration of Christmas, December 25th in the Roman
world was the Natalis Solis Invicti, the Birthday of the Unconquerable
Sun. This feast, which took place just after the winter solstice of
the Julian calendar, was in honor of the Sun God, Mithras, originally
a Persian deity whose cult penetrated the Roman world in the first
century B.C. Besides the Mithraic influence, other pagan forces
were at work. From the 17th of December until the 23rd, Romans
celebrated the ancient feast of the Saturnalia. It was commemorative
of the Golden Age of Saturn, the god of sowing and husbandry."
In order to make Christianity palatable to the heathen, the Roman
Church simply took Saturnalia, adopted it into Christianity, and
then eventually many of the associated pagan symbols, forms,
customs, and traditions were reinterpreted ("Christianized")
in ways "acceptable" to Christian faith and practice.
In fact, in 375 A.D., the Church of Rome under Pope Julius I,
merely announced that the birth date of Christ had been
"discovered" to be December 25th, and was accepted as such
by the "faithful." The festival of Saturnalia and the birthday
of Mithras could now be celebrated as the birthday of Christ!
The pagans flocked into the Catholic places of worship, because they
were still able to worship their old gods, but merely under different
names. It mattered not to them whether they worshiped the Egyptian
goddess mother and her child under the old names (Isis and Horus),
or under the names of the "Virgin Mary" and the "Christ-child."
Either way, it was the same old idol-religion. Paul tells us in
1 Thessalonians 1:8-10, 1 Thessalonians 5:22, to turn from idols, not
rename them and Christianize them. Roman Catholicism's Christmas
Day is nothing but "baptized" paganism, having come along much too
late to be part of "the faith once delivered unto the saints." Jude 1:3
It was left to the Puritans to denounce everything. For them, Christmas
was rightfully part popish, part pagan, and was forbidden to be kept as a
holiday or feast day. The attack began in 1644 when the Puritans controlled
the Parliament; December 25th was changed to a Fast Day. By 1647, even
the Fast Day was abolished as a relic of superstition, synonymous with the
Church of Rome. No observation on December 25th was any longer
permitted, but the day was to be observed as a normal market-day.
Christmas was accurately depicted by such names as the Profane Man's
Ranting Day, the Superstitious Man's Idol Day, the Papist's Massing Day,
the Old Heathen's Feasting Day, the Multitude's Idle Day, and Satan - that
Adversary's - Working Day. In those days, any Christmas celebrations would
be broken up by troops, who would tear down decorations and arrest anyone
holding a service. Some who celebrated it in Europe were also thrown into
prison. Because of the riots that broke out following the banning of
Christmas, the celebrations and revelry were restored in 1660 by King
Charles II, a Roman Catholic (Sulgrave Manor, "A Tudor Christmas," p. 3)
America's settlers (the "founding fathers" of so-called "Protestant
America") rightfully considered Christmas a "popish" holiday. In fact,
it was only in the early 1800s that several founding members of the
New York Historical Society "invented" Christmas. Before then, it
was illegal in colonial Massachusetts to even take December 25th
off work. Christmas was forbidden as "unseemly to ye spiritual
welfare of ye community." (It was banned in Massachusetts in
1659, and this law remained on the books for 22 years. In Boston,
public schools stayed open on December 25th until as late as 1870!)
It wasn't until 1836 that any state declared Christmas a holiday
(Alabama), and then there were no more state declarations until
the Civil War. It was not until 1885 that all federal workers were
given Christmas Day off. The so-called Xmas customs and traditions
were later concocted more for commercial purposes than for religious.
Quoting from a 12/23/83 USA TODAY article about Christmas:
"A broad element of English Christianity still considered Christmas
celebration a pagan blasphemy. The Puritans, Baptists, Quakers,
Presbyterians, Calvinists and other denominations brought this
opposition to early New England and strong opposition to the
holiday lasted in America until the middle of the 18th century."
Christmas is a thoroughly pagan holiday - in its origin, in its trappings,
and in all its traditions. We should contemplate the words of -
Charles Haddon Spurgeon, A Lord's Day sermon on December 24, 1871:
"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
Saviour; and consequently, its observance is a superstition, because it's not
of divine authority. Superstition has fixed most positively the day of our
Saviour's birth, although there is no possibility of discovering when it occurred.
"It was not till the middle of the third century that any part of the church
celebrated the nativity of our Lord; and it was not till very long after the
Western church had set the example, that the Eastern adopted it. Because the
day is not known, therefore superstition has fixed it; ...Where is the method
in the madness of the superstitious? Probably the fact is that the holy days
were arranged to fit in with the heathen festivals. ...We venture to assert that
if there be any day in the year of which we may be pretty sure that it was not
the day on which the Saviour was born, it is the 25th of December. ...regarding
not the day, let us nevertheless, give God thanks for the gift of His dear Son."
And from Dr. H.A. Ironside's Lectures on the Book of Revelation (1920: p. 301):
"It is a lamentable fact that Babylon's principles and practices are rapidly
but surely pervading the churches that escaped from Rome at the time of
the Reformation. We may see evidences of it in the wide use of high-sounding
ecclesiastical titles, once unknown in the reformed churches, in the revival of
holy days and church feasts such as Lent, Good Friday, Easter, and Christ's
Mass, or, as it is generally written, Christmas. ...some of these festivals
...when they are turned into church festivals, they certainly come under the
condemnation of Galatians 4:9-11, where the Holy Spirit warns against the
observance of days and months and times and seasons. All of them, and many
more that might be added, are Babylonish in their origin, and were at one time
linked with the Ashtoreth and Tammuz mystery-worship. It is through Rome that
they have come down to us; and we do well to remember that Babylon is a mother,
with daughters who are likely to partake of their mother's characteristics ..."
Alexander Hislop's 1916 classic, The Two Babylons: Or the Papal Worship:
"Upright men strove to stem the tide, but in spite of all their efforts,
the apostasy went on, till the Church, with the exception of a small
remnant, was submerged under Pagan superstition. That Christmas
is a Pagan festival is beyond all doubt. The time of the year and
the ceremonies with which it is still celebrated, prove its origin."
We can summarize by saying that nowhere in Scripture are we
commanded to commemorate the birth of our Lord, and God the
Father evidently deemed it unwise to make the date known.
Hence, it will always remain unknown and is not to be ceremoniously
remembered and celebrated. In fact, as pointed out in the Ironside
quote above, God has warned us about getting entangled with any
special days. Galatians 4:10 Notice though, that we are commanded
to remember Him in His death (but no special day was specified
for this either): "Take, eat; this is My body which is broken for you;
this DO in remembrance of Me." Luke 22:18,19, 1 Corinthians 11:23-26
To commemorate His death is Scriptural. Any day of the year will do.
To commemorate His birth is non-Scriptural, even extra-Scriptural,
Deuteronomy 4:2; 12:32, Proverbs 30:6, Revelation 22:19
whether one chooses December 25th or any other day.
If God had desired us to remember the day of Christ's birth, He could
have left us the precise date. But if He had, He would have vindicated
every astrologer in the past 2,000 years. In occult circles, the anniversary
of a person's birth is the most important metaphysical day of the year.
The Bible recognizes no such significance. It is intriguing that there
are only two birthday celebrations recorded in the entire Bible and they
were both those of ungodly kings - and both resulted in an execution.
Genesis 40:16-22, Matthew 14:6-10, Mark 6:21-27
The Apostle Paul says: "But God forbid that I should glory, save in
the cross (not the manger) of our Lord Jesus Christ, by whom the
world is crucified unto me, and I unto the world." Galatians 6:14
By itself, we find no salvation in the birth of the Lord Jesus, for salvation
was only made possible through His death (His shed blood) and resurrection.
Our focus should be on His Death and our ascended Savior, not in a cradle.
Those who love Jesus should certainly rejoice that He was born and
lived amongst us as a man. But if we truly want to glorify Him and bear
testimony of who He is, we must stop marrying that blessed gift with
the debauchery of paganism. If we want to honor His birth, let it
be done as He would have done it: year-round unselfishly serving our
fellow man as an unending act of love for our God. Let us put away all
of the mixture of pagan customs and take up His mantle and His pure
worship, and show the confused world that there is a difference.