Pastor's Corner - December 24th, 2021
Tomorrow is December 25th.
The world around us will be celebrating the culmination of the days which have been building since before Thanksgiving with the biggest shopping period of the year, into the advent calendars and festivities leading up to the day, and now finally Christmas Eve this evening, with its dinners and gatherings before the big opening of gifts under the tree tomorrow morning for Christmas proper.
For the vast majority, Christmas has a notable religious origin, in that even non-believers can recite the nativity story. In reality - the holiday has become significantly more secular in practice over the years, with less and less focus on the religious side of things - and more focus on gift giving, and family, and festivities. The phrase, "Jesus is the reason for the season" is invoked by many as the reason for the existence of the holiday - while many will readily admit its pagan origins.
While God is largely silent on Christmas specifically, there are concepts from scripture that we can draw to gain an idea of what His feelings are on the Holiday.
Deuteronomy 12:1-4, and 29-32, Almighty God inspires the following to be recorded by Moses in reference to the land in which Israel was about to enter.
"These are the statutes and judgments which you shall be careful to observe in the land which the LORD God of your fathers is giving you to possess, all the days that you live on the earth. You shall utterly destroy all the places where the nations which you shall dispossess served their gods, on the high mountains and on the hills and under every green tree. And you shall destroy their altars, break their sacred pillars, and burn their wooden images with fire; you shall cut down the carved images of their gods and destroy their names from that place. You shall not worship the LORD your God with such things." (Deuteronomy 12:1-4, NKJV)
He goes on to describe the things which Israel should do, before once again giving them a warning in verse 29.
"When the LORD your God cuts off from before you the nations which you go to dispossess, and you displace them and dwell in their land, take heed to yourself that you are not ensnared to follow them, after they are destroyed from before you, and that you do not inquire after their gods, saying, 'How did these nations serve their gods? I also will do likewise.' You shall not worship the LORD your God in that way; for every abomination to the LORD which He hates they have done to their gods; for they burn even their sons and daughters in the fire to their gods. Whatever I command you, be careful to observe it; you shall not add to it nor take away from it." (Deuteronomy 12:29-32)
Based on these passages and many more, God does not approve of mixing pagan practices into the worship of Him, or by extension replacing pagan practices in ancient festivals with Him in order to make those pagan practices more practical.
Even a cursory study of the history of Christmas yields many sources that describe the pagan origins of the Holiday. These sources are plentiful and easily accessible, and they all show its origins to be recycled paganism.
However, even beyond the pagan origins there are three additional reasons why Christmas just doesn't make the cut.
1) Jesus was not born on or near December 25th.
There are several biblical reasons why we can concluded that Christ's birth was not on/near December 25th. Luke 2:8 records that the shepherds were living in the fields with the sheep when He was born. The climate in Israel in December is down in the low 40's on average, sometimes even colder with snow, especially in the higher elevations. Shepherds would not have submitted their sheep (or themselves) to this weather. Additionally - Christ was born during a time in which the Romans were taking a census - His parents Joseph and Mary were headed back to Bethlehem to be counted. The weather conditions in Judea at this time of year would not have allowed for ease of travel, which would mean many would be missed in the counts, it makes more sense that they would have conducted these censuses at a different time of year. Lastly, the conception and birth of John the Baptist helps us nail down a window of time. In Luke 1:26-45, we see that Elizabeth was 6 months pregnant with John when Mary came to her. John's father Zacharias was serving in the temple according to the division of Abijah when he was told Elizabeth would conceive. (Luke 1:5-25) David divided the priestly work into divisions which had specific times of service for a week, twice a year. 1st Chronicles 24:7-18 indicates the order of those divisions. Abijah had the 8th lot (8th week) and the 32nd week. Most scholars agree that based on the Hebrew Calendar, the division of Abijah would have taken place in late May for the first division, and mid-November for the 2nd. If Christ was conceived shortly before John was 6 months old, that would indicate that Christ was born in late September, or February. Given the shepherds being in the fields and the census, September is the most likely conclusion, NOT December 25th.
2) Christ never commanded we celebrate His birthday.
Christ's ministry was 3 1/2 years with His disciples. We have no scriptural record of Him teaching His disciples, or His disciples teaching the early Church to celebrate Christ's birthday. Christ himself commanded that we commemorate His death, but didn't once discuss keeping His birthday. 1st Corinthians 11:3, the Apostle Paul in the late 50's, early 60's AD talks of the things that he directly received from the LORD, that on the night He was betrayed instituted the bread and the wine of Passover, and that we should do these things to proclaim the LORD's death until He comes. He never said anything about His birth. In fact, it's not for another 300 years that there is a mention in the literature of Christ's birth being on December 25th, and that it would be kept in honor of Him.
The disciples didn't keep it, the 1st Century church didn't keep it - it wasn't until later when a number of other heresies began to enter the Church that the celebration of Christmas, with all its pagan trappings become a part of religious worship of Christ.
3) Christmas is built on a foundation of lies.
In addition to the lies about the timing of Christ's birth - tonight is the night that Santa Claus is supposed to fly around the world, in a sleigh filled with toys for all the good boys and girls by 8 magical reindeer. According to the story, he is going to land on the rooftops, squeeze down the chimney, deliver presents, eat some cookies and drink some milk, then head to the next house. He is assisted by his elves, who work in a workshop at the North Pole where all the toys are built.
There is the elf on a shelf tradition, where parents make up little stories about the mischief the little elf is getting into. In Europe, there is Krampus, the half-goat, half-demon that terrorizes children who have misbehaved during the prior year, parents tell their kids if they don't behave that Krampus will get them.
Parents teach these lies to their children early on, and it is foundational of the holiday. Are these lies of God? A being who wishes to be worshipped in Spirit and in Truth? John 8:44 declares that Satan the Devil is the father of lies. It is with him that these lies originate because there is no truth in him.
Based on these things - we must conclude that Christmas, with all of its pagan trappings, the falsehoods and lies, as well as the lack of scriptural evidence for commands to keep His birthday, proofs that His birthday wasn't anywhere near December 25th is something that does not please God.
If we are truly desirous to please God, we must ensure that we do not teach as doctrine the commandments of men.
Have a happy Sabbath, and much love from us all.