I don’t know about you, but this time of year is very disappointing for me. I dread leaving the house, and I avoid listening to the radio and watching TV. I can’t help but feel trampled by hundreds of reindeer as I overhear the mind-numbing songs of the season. We are going to be exposed, again, to the image of a plump man, dressed in red, who supposedly slides down chimneys to leave gifts under an evergreen.
Have you ever thought about where all of this silliness begin? And what measures can you take to ensure that you do not follow in similar practices?
What is the history behind Christmas?
The traditions associated with Jesus’ birthday actually came from the ancient Persians. The Persian god of light, Mithra, was born out of a rock on Dec. 25. The Romans were not shy in worshipping strange gods and quickly jumped on board. Rome recognized this day as the “Day of the Invincible Sun.” Christ and Mithra were both attributed to possessing traits of solar deities, and the 25th was soon taken over by Christians as Christ’s birthday.
God does not take it lightly when we fail to recognize Him and His sovereignty. Paul wrote letters to the Colossians to warn against following false teachers, as they did not previously believe that Jesus was God. Paul warned, “Don’t let anyone capture you with empty philosophies and high-sounding nonsense that come from human thinking and from the spiritual powers of this world, rather than from Christ” (Colossians 2:8, New Living Translation).
Who is Santa?
Santa is characterized as the successor to Saint Nicholas. The origin of Santa is based on mythology, which changes from one country to the next. Within most mythologies, Saint Nicholas was given the title of patron saint of children after two specific acts of kindness. One tale involves him giving money to three young girls—saving them from a life of prostitution. The second was a story of him resurrecting three young boys shortly after an innkeeper took their lives.
After the Protestant Reformation, Saint Nicholas fell out of favor, and there was no one to bring gifts to children—this job was left to “baby Jesus.” Since his carrying capability was limited, he needed helpers to deliver the gifts. Within such fables developed the concept of Santa Claus as one of Christ’s helpers. During Christ’s ministry, He warned of wolves dressed in sheep’s clothing (Matthew 7:15). Among non-Christmas-keepers, Santa is described as “the Great Imposter.” In the light of God’s Word, it’s not hard to see that “the Great Imposter” is really working for “the Great Deceiver”—Satan the Devil.
Santa is considered to be a saint among children. In this fictional story, he ascends into heaven on his sled and is worshiped as Mithra (the god of light) above the stars of God. He resides in the farthest sides of the North Pole and is often pictured soaring above the clouds.
This has parallels to what Satan did as “the Great Deceiver.” Notice that he actually did ascend into the heavens to the farthest side of the north: “How you are fallen from heaven, O Lucifer, son of the morning! How you are cut down to the ground, You who weakened the nations! For you have said in your heart: ‘I will ascend into heaven, I will exalt my throne above the stars of God; I will also sit on the mount of the congregation On the farthest sides of the north; I will ascend above the heights of the clouds, I will be like the Most High’” (Isaiah 14:12-14).
Why shouldn’t we celebrate Christ’s birth?
There is no commandment in the Bible that tells us to celebrate the birth of the Son of God, Jesus Christ. Although some will argue, God simply does not want us to honor Him this way. Note Deuteronomy 18:9-12. In verse 9 God instructs us not to follow in the way of the world around us: “When you come into the land which the Lord your God is giving you, you shall not learn to follow the abominations of those nations.”
Some of us may be familiar with the traditional nativity scene that incorrectly depicts Jesus Christ receiving gifts from the wise men at His birth. The truth is the wise men did not arrive until some time after Christ’s birth, since Joseph’s family was residing in a house (Matthew 2:11: “And when they were come into the house, they saw the young child with Mary his mother, and fell down, and worshipped him: and when they had opened their treasures, they presented to him gifts; gold, and frankincense and myrrh.”).
The history of this scene began with the Romans holding a festival from Dec. 17-23 known as Saturnalia, where they decorated their houses in greenery and lights while they gave gifts to the children and the poor. This was combined with the worship of Mithra and later moved to Dec. 25. Since the date of Jesus’ birth was unknown, early Christians decided to counter these pagan festivals with celebrations of His birth. The origin is based around the worship of the sun rather than the worship of Jesus Christ.
When was Jesus born?
The story of Christmas is depicted as being observed in the middle of winter. Many Christians dream of having a white Christmas and hearing sleigh bells in the snow, as they welcome the Winter Solstice, also known as Yuletide, which symbolizes the turning of the sun. This day is the longest night of the year as the earth makes its revolution around the sun. It’s no surprise that during the longest night of the year, one of the biggest perversions in Christianity comes to light. “For everyone practicing evil hates the light and does not come to the light, lest his deeds should be exposed” (John 3:20).
The truth of Jesus’ birth couldn’t be further from this deceit. The Bible offers limited clues, but God is not the author of confusion. If He wanted us to know the date, He would have made it clear. The best reference we have is that the shepherds were watching over their flocks (Luke 2:8). This clearly indicates a warmer time of year. Shepherds would not be in the fields in the middle of winter. If we study Luke 1 along with some history of the time, we will see that the most likely time for His birth would have been in the fall of the year.
Where is God in Christmas?
As I ask questions, a lot of my friends say that they know Christmas is a dishonest fabrication, but they keep it so that they can enjoy the good spirits that the holidays bring and join in love with their families. But God is not honored by lies. Notice John 4:23-24: “But the hour is coming, and now is, when the true worshipers will worship the Father in spirit and truth; for the Father is seeking such to worship Him. God is Spirit, and those who worship Him must worship in spirit and truth.”
When Jesus was a young child, gifts were given to Him to glorify God and were symbolic of His future role as a sacrifice for all mankind (Matthew 2:11). Satan perverted this event with his selfishness and inspired mankind to demand gifts from each other instead of recognizing the importance of Christ’s sacrifice in our lives.
The importance of His sacrifice cannot be overlooked. “For Christ was offered once to bear the sins of many. To those who eagerly wait for Him, He will appear a second time, without sin, for salvation” (Hebrews 9:28).
These 5 “W”s of Christmas should inspire us to carefully evaluate what we do at this time of year.
(Additional reading material: www.ucg.org/bible-study-tools/booklets/holidays-or-holy-days-does-it-matter-which-days-we-observe and www.ucg.org/the-good-news/the-top-10-reasons-why-i-dont-celebrate-christmas.)