Magic's deeply ingrained place in the Christmas holiday.
Santa Claus in Japan. How does he fly around the world in one night? Magic!
Source: Wikimedia Commons/kodomo no tomo
What comes to mind when you hear the phrase “the magic of Christmas”? For most, it probably conjures any number of heartwarming Christmas stories. Or perhaps the idea that the Christmas season is a magical time of year that promises good fortune or even miracles. On that note, maybe we need to question why magic is so often associated with a holiday that is supposed to celebrate a biblical event. Once we look at all the evidence, it becomes pretty obvious that Christmas is displeasing to God. It matters how we worship Him.
Magic: the Christmas version vs. the Bible version
In our culture today, magic is often cast in a benign light and is not necessarily viewed as a bad thing. The Bible, however, doesn’t paint such a flattering view. The term “magic” in our society sounds more innocent than the terms “witchcraft” or “sorcery.” In fact, these are all the same thing, and the Bible is clear. God bluntly and succinctly stated, “You shall not permit a sorceress to live,” (Exodus 22:18) and, “There shall not be found among you anyone...who practices witchcraft, or a soothsayer, or one who interprets omens, or a sorcerer, or one who conjures spells...For all who do these things are an abomination to the Lord” (Deuteronomy 18:10-12). In the New Testament, Paul groups sorcery with the “works of the flesh,” and states that “those who practice such things will not inherit the kingdom of God” (Galatians 5:19-21). John affirms that those who unrepentantly practice sorcery will “have their part in the lake which burns with fire” (Revelation 21:8).
Many traditional Christmas stories involve magic. Santa Claus is an obviously magical figure. How does he know who’s been naughty or nice? Magic! How does he fly around the world in a single night? Magic, of course! After all, he rides in a sleigh pulled by flying reindeer that are held in the air by—you guessed it—magic! What about Frosty the Snowman? As the song goes, “There must have been some magic left in that old silk hat.” An untold number of Christmas stories rely on the “Christmas miracle” as a plot device, tacitly attributing it to the magic of the season. Christmas traditions don’t appear to be hindered by the biblical indictment of magic at all!
But it’s really about Jesus’ birthday!
If the original purpose of Christmas was to celebrate the birth of Jesus, why is it associated with all of these magical trappings in the first place?
None of God’s Feasts and Holy Days (found in Leviticus 23) occur during the winter months. Throughout history though, various pagan festivals have been celebrated at this time of year. You may already know that Jesus was not actually born on December 25 and that Christianity adopted this date in the fourth century to “Christianize” the existing pagan festivals . While the worship on these days was redirected towards God and Jesus, many traditions and stories came through virtually unchanged. This is how magic, which the Bible utterly rejects, came to be intertwined with the celebration of Jesus’ birth.
Examine for yourself the scores of television specials, movies, books and stories concerning Christmas. Do they acknowledge the power of God or the power of magic ? You’ll be hard pressed to find more than a couple that emphasize the biblical story of Jesus’ birth. But there are multitudes that are all about the magic.
Is it really so bad to mix a little magic in?
Many brush off Christmas magic as harmless fun for the sake of entertaining children. But what kind of spiritual impact does this make on both children and adults? As I grew up celebrating Christmas each year, I never once questioned the origin of the power that held Santa’s reindeer in the air or the power that put life into a snowman. As far as I know, no one ascribes this magical power to God, yet the magic that permeates Christmas is recognized as a good thing. As we’ve seen from the Bible, any power that comes from a source other than our Creator is an abomination! There is an obvious gap here that must be addressed: Is it right to celebrate magic alongside biblical truth? Paul answers the question of whether it’s okay to mix good with evil: “For what fellowship has righteousness with lawlessness? And what communion has light with darkness? And what accord has Christ with Belial?” (2 Corinthians 6:14-15).
Simply put: They don’t mix . Celebrating Santa Claus in the same holiday as Jesus is wrong, especially since children are taught that both are true when one of them is not. To do so is to taint our worship of God. Not only with lies, but also with something He explicitly tells us that He hates.
What if you take the magic out of Christmas?
What is the solution to this problem? Can we just separate out the magical nonsense and focus on Jesus?
As pointed out earlier, Christmas celebrations first began in the wake of pagan observances that were much more sinister than the innocent appearance of Christmas magic of today. The issue is larger than separating witchcraft from Christmas. In fact, many other seemingly harmless traditions originated from pagan festivals! For example, evergreen trees have long been a symbol of life in pagan cultures since most other things appear dead in the winter. People worshiped the trees, and the modern Christmas tree owes its roots to this worship. Exchanging gifts is a practice inherited from the Roman Saturnalia. Deuteronomy 12:2-4 warns very strongly against worshiping God according to unbiblical customs.
Let’s suppose then that we strip away every non-biblical aspect of the Christmas holiday. The narrative of Jesus’ miraculous entry into human life is a significant biblical event. But while this story is both good and true, God never said to celebrate it.You may not see a problem with that at first, but remember that God established His own Holy Days in Leviticus 23. Instead of following God’s instructions for what days to celebrate, most people follow holidays that God didn’t establish. The fundamental issue here is that it matters to God how we worship Him .