Thank you for sharing your comments concerning our recent article about Christmas. Questions often arise regarding how Christians should view religious holidays whose origins are not from the Bible. The perspective of The Good News is always to address the issue from the viewpoint, “What does the Bible say?”
As pointed out in the Good News article, Deuteronomy 12:30-32 Deuteronomy 12:30-32 30 Take heed to yourself that you be not snared by following them, after that they be destroyed from before you; and that you inquire not after their gods, saying, How did these nations serve their gods? even so will I do likewise.
31 You shall not do so to the LORD your God: for every abomination to the LORD, which he hates, have they done to their gods; for even their sons and their daughters they have burnt in the fire to their gods.
32 What thing soever I command you, observe to do it: you shall not add thereto, nor diminish from it.
American King James Version×explicitly commands that God’s people are not to use pagan religious customs to worship Him. Christmas employs pagan customs such as decorated evergreen trees to honor Jesus Christ. And its date wasn’t chosen at random or by research, but specifically because it was already the time of the pagan Romans’ most popular celebration.
We don’t expect our readers to simply take our word for it. But you should see for yourself what the Bible and the record of history have to say!
You might notice, for example, the origins of Christmas and its customs as explained in an editorial in the Dec. 11, 2006, issue of USA Today: “For Christmas is, in its origins and its symbolism, perhaps the most pagan-inspired of all Christian holidays. Its dating derives from the ancient Roman festival of Saturnalia, which was determined by the winter solstice, that astronomical point in the year after which the periods of sunlight on Earth lengthen.
“And that’s not all that contemporary Christians have in common with neo-pagans. Most of the popular symbols surrounding Christmas—evergreen trees and other greenery, mistletoe and holly, the Yule log, candles and bonfires and holiday lights, mystical spirits with the ability to fly and to enter and leave a house through its chimney, tricksters who treat or taunt little children, not to mention those elves—all derive from older, pre-Christian Europe” (Mary Zeiss Stange, “Christmas, Pagans and Religious Divergence”).
The Bible states that we must not adapt pagan customs in our worship. It is impossible to honor God through disobeying Him. That is the bottom line.
The line of reasoning that since we don’t know the date of Christ’s birth we can just pick one to celebrate is an interesting one. Consider, though, that you have not just picked one. You have instead embraced one that early Catholic theologians chose for you when they decided to relabel an idolatrous pagan celebration as “Christian” specifically to swell the ranks of the church.
The noted Scottish historian and scholar Sir James Frazer (1854-1941) explains in his classic work The Golden Bough: “Accordingly when the doctors of the [Catholic] Church perceived that the [formerly pagan] Christians had a leaning to this festival [the nativity of the Sun, Dec. 25], they took counsel and resolved that the true Nativity should be solemnized on that day … The heathen origin of Christmas is plainly hinted at, if not tacitly admitted, by Augustine when he exhorts his Christian brethren not to celebrate that solemn day like the heathen on account of the sun, but on account of him who made the sun. In like manner [Pope] Leo the Great rebuked the pestilent belief that Christmas was solemnized because of the birth of the new sun, as it was called, and not because of the nativity of Christ.
“Thus it appears that the [Catholic] Church chose to celebrate the birthday of its Founder on the twenty-fifth of December in order to transfer the devotion of the heathen from the Sun to him who was called the Sun of Righteousness” (1993, pp. 358-359).
The truth about the origins of Christmas is simple: One of the ancient world’s most popular celebrations—a festival that originated in sun worship and honoring pagan gods—was renamed and reborn as traditional Christianity’s most popular celebration. But as noted above, the Bible condemns such “Christianizing” of pagan worship customs. So those misguided church leaders were acting contrary to the Bible in what they did. And if we persist in the practice, then we are in the wrong as well.
Some think we can conquer pagan holidays for Christ. Did God allow the Israelites to conquer pagan temples and use them to worship Him? No. God told them to eradicate all vestiges of pagan worship from their midst (Deuteronomy 12:1-4 Deuteronomy 12:1-4 1 These are the statutes and judgments, which you shall observe to do in the land, which the LORD God of your fathers gives you to possess it, all the days that you live on the earth.
2 You shall utterly destroy all the places, wherein the nations which you shall possess served their gods, on the high mountains, and on the hills, and under every green tree:
3 And you shall overthrow their altars, and break their pillars, and burn their groves with fire; and you shall hew down the graven images of their gods, and destroy the names of them out of that place.
4 You shall not do so to the LORD your God.
American King James Version×). In the same way, God will not accept Christmas trees, holly wreaths, mistletoe and the hallowing of Dec. 25 in His honor—no matter how sincere we may be in wanting to glorify Him through these customs.
The fact that some misuse Thanksgiving Day is not cogent to the issue of Christmas observance. Unlike Christmas, Thanksgiving is acceptable because it was instituted for an honorable purpose and did not originate in pagan worship.
Thanksgiving was originally celebrated in 1621 to give thanks to God for His watchful hand in helping those early pilgrims survive the rigors of the weather and other severe difficulties. Later, American president Abraham Lincoln made it a national holiday. Since its original purpose was to give thanks to our great God, Christians are free to celebrate Thanksgiving to not only give thanks, but to also rejoice with family and friends. This does glorify God.
It is a shame that some misuse Thanksgiving, but this error of others does not mean we should reject it ourselves. As for Christmas, however, the principal problem is not that some misuse it today contrary to its proper use. Rather, the problem is that it has no proper use. It should never have been instituted as a Christian holiday in the first place, as scriptural instruction and history make clear.
You closed with the thought that teaching people to reject Christmas is neglecting to teach them about Jesus. That is simply untrue. In The Good News we have very much to say about Jesus Christ, the Savior of humanity—the story of His birth, yes, but also the good news He preached, the way of life He taught and exemplified, His saving work in dying for our sins and living within us today, and the fact that He is coming again as King of Kings and Lord of Lords.
In fact, we teach about the true biblical worship days that point to Christ and that He personally observed. Consider that the work of Jesus in saving humanity is portrayed through the biblical festivals laid out in Leviticus 23. Rather than asking why we wouldn’t celebrate Christ’s birth, a better question might be: Why wouldn’t we celebrate the Holy Days that God actually commands us to in His Word—the ones Jesus and His apostles observed that reveal His saving work according to God’s plan?
Interested readers should read our free booklets God’s Holy Day Plan: The Promise of Hope for All Mankind and Holidays or Holy Days: Does It Really Matter Which Days We Keep? The former shows that each one of God’s Holy Days teaches us important knowledge about God’s plan and purpose for all humanity, step by step and in purposeful, chronological order—which all pagan holidays fail to do. The latter comprehensively analyzes and deals with both Christmas and Thanksgiving from a biblical viewpoint.
And for more on what we proclaim and teach about Jesus, we welcome all readers to request our free booklet Jesus Christ: The Real Story . Those who do will likely discover a great deal about our Savior they’ve never heard before, all backed up from the pages of the Bible. Request or download any of our booklets free of charge at www.gnmagazine.org/booklets.