Christmas biblical? For the first time this year I asked myself that question. I did a google search and I was shocked by what I found. Christmas traditions are rooted in pagan practices. Rulers and missionaries took people’s pagan festivals and changed them to Christian ones.
First, early Christians did not celebrate Christ’s birth. The Encyclopedia Americana, 1956 edition, adds, “Christmas…was not observed in the first centuries of the Christian church, since the Christian usage in general was to celebrate the death of remarkable persons rather than their birth…a feast was established in memory of this event [Christ’s birth] in the fourth century. The first recorded celebration of Christ’s birth was in 336 A.D. during the reign of Roman Emperor Constantine. Rather, the celebration of December 25th as a feast day can be traced back to the paganism of Babylon (Jeremiah 52:31), to elements of Egyptian worship, and to the idolatrous worship of Saturn in Roman times. “Far and wide in the realms of paganism was this birth day observed”, Rev. A. Hislop, “The Two Babylons”.
Scholars know that Jesus wasn’t born in December from the text telling of his birth. Shepherds would not be out in the fields in December near Bethlehem, it is too cold. Also calculating Elizabeth’s conception from when Zechariah would have been ministering in the temple and Mary’s conception 6 months later, would make Christ’s birth in the spring.
What else is rooted in paganism? Christmas trees for one. Many cultures considered the evergreen tree as a symbol of life. Northern Europeans put evergreen trees in their homes and the Romans put evergreen branches inside in the winter as reminder that spring was coming. According to an article in Christianity Today, “many early Christians were hostile to such practices. The second-century theologian Tertullian condemned those Christians who celebrated the winter festivals, or decorated their houses with laurel boughs in honor of the emperor.” However, during the middle ages the use of the evergreen trees as part of Christmas was accepted. Christian missionaries were taking what was part of idol worship and claiming they could convert it to Christianity because of Christ’s supremacy over all.
What I am supposed to do with these new revelations? In my search, I certainly found those who believe we are sinning and displeasing God by participating in the Christmas celebration. They even quoted scripture to back up their claims.
Is there anything biblical about Christmas that can justify my participation in the season? For one, at Christmas we tend to be more generous to those in need. Proverbs 22:9 (NASB), “He who is generous will be blessed, for he gives some of his food to the poor.” We know that God commends us for giving to the poor. If I look at Christmas as a time for giving, not just to my family, but to those around the world who are in desperate need, then I believe God would be pleased.
Is there anything wrong with celebrating the birth of Christ? Even though it was unbelievers who commemorated the day of their birth, remembering the miraculous birth of our Savior is beneficial. God did not command that we make Christ’s birth a feast. But to worship Jesus by remembering the details around his birth is encouraging to our faith. Having a special service at church to remember God’s fulfillment of his prophecies concerning Jesus’ birth is appropriate.
Is it wrong to get involved in all the other things of Christmas, like decorations, presents, cookie baking, Christmas work parties, Santa Claus, etc.? Only the individual Christian can make that call. For me, I will trust that God is more interested in my heart attitude toward Christmas than what I do. I think I can enjoy time with family and friends making memories around Christmas traditions. I will know that Christmas is not something that God has ordained. But, I don’t think God necessarily hates Christmas either, if celebrated with the right attitude and understanding.
I will use this time as a reminder of all that God has done by sending his son as a baby. I will worship him by giving to those less fortunate than myself. I will be grateful and extend his grace and kindness to others during this crazy busy time of the year when patience is at an all-time low. And I will try not to get caught up in the frenzy. What will you do about Christmas?