Taking Christ Out of Christmas
The traditions and practices relevant to Christmas have been celebrated religiously and secularly for thousands of years. Since about the fourth century, many Christians have celebrated Christmas as the day Jesus Christ was born, marking the birth of Christ as a religious ceremony. The pagan festivals for which many of the traditions of Christmas originate reach back several thousand years. Some of the most popular customs today include decorating Christmas trees, sharing meals with family and friends, exchanging gifts, waiting for Santa Claus to deliver a bag full of toys to the children, and occasionally attending church services. Coincidentally, the state where I live, Alabama, was the first U.S. state to make Christmas a legal holiday in 1836. President Ulysses S. Grant declared it a federal holiday in 1870.
Christmas is not, however, without its controversies. Over the recent years, we have begun to see the greeting "Merry Christmas" replaced with "Happy Holidays." Several advertisers and retailers are censoring, avoiding, or discouraging the specific mention of the term "Christmas" or its religious affiliations. The American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) and similar groups have initiated court cases to ban images and materials referring to Christmas from being displayed on public property, including schools. They argue that government-funded displays of Christmas imagery and traditions violate the First Amendment to the United States Constitution, which prohibits the establishment by Congress of a national religion. In November 2009, the Federal appeals court in Philadelphia endorsed a school district's ban on the singing of Christmas carols. Several years ago, I ran an ad in the local newspaper using the term "x-mas" instead of "Christmas." A lady called our office and stated she was appalled by us substituting Christ with an "x" and demanded we cease the advertisement. Many people quickly defend Christmas and take offense at anyone who attempts to take Christ out of Christmas. If she only knew what we are about to prove, she might have a different thought about how it involves Christ.
Most everyone knows well enough what Christmas is… or at least what it is to them. Still, I wonder how many people, especially those who call themselves Christians, have researched the roots of Christmas and how it relates to Christianity. I wonder just how many people understand exactly what they are defending. I suspect most people are like I used to be; they simply follow the traditions of their parents, grandparents, and so on. After all, the traditions of Christmas seem to be religiously good and appropriate as most of us know them.
Shortly after I became a Christian, it was brought to my attention by a few brothers in Christ that members of the church (the "church" being all of those who are saved and make up the body of Christ – or Christians) should not celebrate Christmas as a Christian holiday, nor should we celebrate Christmas as the birthday of Jesus Christ. You can probably imagine my response was one of surprise and curiosity. My family had always celebrated Christmas as a Christian holiday, just like millions of other people do every year. What could possibly be wrong with celebrating Christmas as the day Christ was born? Is not Christmas mentioned in the Bible… and is it not the day that God set aside to celebrate the birth of His Son? If you think about it, this is a biggie! People worldwide believe this to be one of the most, if not the most, holy days of the year.
The BIG question: If Christmas is not a Christian holiday, what is it, how did it originate, and what is wrong with it being a Christian holiday?
Not surprisingly, what I learned about Christmas is no different than so many other things I have learned since I started studying the Bible. There are quite a few Christian traditions practiced today that do not originate from the Bible. However, many have attempted to connect these traditions with Christianity and the Bible in some way or another. Christmas is one of these traditions that does not originate from the Bible.
Many will point to the story of the wise men bringing gifts to Jesus in Matthew 2:11 as the origin of Christmas gift-giving; however, these gifts were offered to Jesus because He was born King of the Jews… it was a Biblical custom to present kings with a gift. Christmas gifts today are not offered to Jesus, they are exchanged between family and friends, so there is hardly any tradition being followed based on this passage.
A careful study will show that biblically there is no evidence that the early apostolic church celebrated… or even mentioned Christmas. The word "Christmas" is nowhere found in the Scriptures. Neither did the early church set aside a day to celebrate the birth of Christ. Therefore, we cannot turn to the Bible to learn about Christmas and its origin; instead, we must turn to secular history.
One event celebrating this day from which Christmas originates is the pagan festival called Saturnalia. This festival began hundreds of years before the birth of Jesus and was known to be celebrated with extremely wild parties of a sexual nature. It commemorated the sun god Saturn and was typically celebrated December 17-24. It was this celebration that inspired the practice of gift-giving and the decorating of houses with cedar trees, holly, mistletoe, and lights. Most people do not realize that the popular Christmas customs such as Christmas trees, mistletoe, presents, and Santa Claus are modern incarnations of the most depraved pagan rituals ever practiced on earth. Some of these are so disgusting they are not worthy of putting in print… and I certainly will not include them herein.
The New Schaff-Herzog Encyclopedia of Religious Knowledge states in its article on Christmas, "How much the date of the festival depended upon the pagan Brumalia [The December 25 celebration], following the Saturnalia [an eight-day December 17-24 festival preceding it], and celebrating the shortest day of the year and the 'new sun'. . . cannot be accurately determined. The pagan Saturnalia and Brumalia were too deeply entrenched in popular custom to be set aside by Christian influence . . . The pagan festival with its riot and merrymaking was so popular that Christians were glad of an excuse to continue its celebration with little change in spirit and in manner. Christian preachers of the West and the Near East protested against the unseemly frivolity with which Christ's birthday was celebrated, while Christians of Mesopotamia accused their Western brethren of idolatry and sun worship for adopting as Christian this pagan festival."
The Encyclopedia Britannica states, "Certain Latins, as early as 354, may have transferred the birthday from January 6th to December 25, which was then a Mithraic feast… or birthday of the unconquered sun… The Syrians and Armenians, who clung to January 6th, accused the Romans of sun worship and idolatry, contending that the feast of December 25, had been invented by disciples of Cerinthus..."
The apostate Roman Church adopted this pagan festival, changing its name from Saturnalia (the birthday of the sun god) to Christ Mass (Cristes maesse), the birthday of the Son of God, in an attempt to win over converts to the Christian faith. The Roman Church absorbed the customs, traditions, and general paganism of every tribe, culture, and nation to increase the number of people under their control.
What the Roman Church did is no different from what denominational leaders do today. They do whatever they have to do to draw in members and increase their numbers… it matters not to them whether God has authorized what they are doing. It truly puzzles me why so many people who call themselves Christians will completely ignore the authority of the Scriptures in religious matters and much less personal matters, be they religious or not. In reality, people have created denominations that fit their lifestyle and have found preachers who will preach what they want to hear.
Consider what Paul wrote to Timothy.
2 Timothy 4:3,4 "For the time will come when they will not endure sound doctrine; but wanting to have their ears tickled, they will accumulate for themselves teachers in accordance to their own desires, and will turn away their ears from the truth and will turn aside to myths."
What Paul was referring to is similar to what happened in the Roman Church. They told all of these pagan cultures to bring their gods, goddesses, rituals, and rites, and they would give them Christian-sounding titles and names. The pagan festival of Saturnalia ended up being the "Mass of Christ" and ultimately "Christmas." Over the centuries, the religious world has continued the traditions of men in celebrating this day as Christmas while commemorating the birth of Christ.
When Martin Luther started the Protestant Reformation in the 1500s, and other reformers followed his lead, they brought Christmas with them. In England, as the authorized Bible became available to the ordinary people by the decree of King James the II in 1611, people began to discover the pagan roots of Christmas. The Puritans in England, and later in Massachusetts Colony, actually outlawed the holiday as witchcraft. The English Parliament banned the celebration of Christmas entirely, considering it a popish festival with no Biblical justification and a time of wasteful and immoral behavior. Near the end of the nineteenth century, when other Bible versions began to appear, there was a revival of the celebration of Christmas. Again, traditions of men took over and have carried it forward to this day. Traditions of men have significant, yet sinful, influences on Christianity, and most people who claim to be Christians have no idea… they just go with the flow.
The Encyclopedia Britannica, 1946 edition, says, "Christmas (i.e., the Mass of Christ)... was not among the earliest festivals of the church… it was not instituted by Christ or the apostles, or by Bible authority. It was picked up afterward from paganism."
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. In the fifth century the Western Church ordered the feast to be celebrated forever on the day of the Mithraic rites of the birth of the sun and at the close of the Saturnalia, as no certain knowledge of the day of Christ's birth existed."
The World Book Encyclopedia states, "Early Christians considered the celebration of anyone's birth to be a pagan custom" (Vol. 3, page 416). It was not the early Jewish law and tradition to commemorate birthdays."
Notice how recognized secular historical authorities show Christians did not observe Christmas for the first three hundred years after the death of Christ... a period longer than the entire history of the United States as a nation!
Christmas entered the Roman Church by the fourth century A.D. A Roman almanac shows Christmas was observed for the first time on December 25 of 336 A.D. However, it was not until the fifth century that the Roman Church ordered it to be celebrated as an official Christian festival.
Christmas is nothing more than a man-made holiday that comes from traditions of men, not Christian traditions of the early apostolic church.
Consider a few passages Paul wrote concerning traditions.
Colossians 2:8 "Beware lest anyone cheat you through philosophy and empty deceit, according to the tradition of men, according to the basic principles of the world, and not according to Christ."
2 Thessalonians 2:15 "Therefore, brethren, stand fast and hold the traditions which you were taught, whether by word or our epistle."
2 Thessalonians 3:6 "But we command you, brethren, in the name of our Lord Jesus Christ, that you withdraw from every brother who walks disorderly and not according to the tradition which he received from us."
There is more to discuss concerning the authority of the Scriptures and traditions, but let us consider the birth of Christ for a moment. Was it December 25, as many would like to believe? There is no proof of this anywhere. As best we can determine from the Scriptures, Jesus Christ was more than likely born in the autumn of the year.
The actual birthday of Jesus is unknown to us, and we can be reasonably confident that it is not December 25.
A few passages give us an idea of the time of year during the infancy of Jesus.
Luke 2:7-8 "And she brought forth her firstborn son, and wrapped him in swaddling clothes, and laid him in a manger; because there was no room for them in the inn. And there were in the same country shepherds abiding in the field, keeping watch over their flock by night."
Adam Clarke commented, "The reason why they watched them in the field appears to have been, either to preserve the sheep from beasts of prey, such as wolves, foxes, etc., or from freebooting banditti, with which all the land of Judea was at that time much infested. It was a custom among the Jews to send out their sheep to the deserts, about the Passover, and bring them home at the commencement of the first rain: during the time they were out, the shepherds watched them night and day. As the Passover occurred in the spring, and the first rain began early in the month of Marchesvan, which answers to part of our October and November, we find that the sheep were kept out in the open country during the whole of the summer. And as these shepherds had not yet brought home their flocks, it is a presumptive argument that October had not yet commenced, and that, consequently, our Lord was not born on the 25 of December, when no flocks were out in the fields; nor could he have been born later than September, as the flocks were still in the fields by night. On this very ground, the nativity in December should be given up. The feeding of the flocks by night in the fields is a chronological fact, which casts considerable light upon this disputed point. See the quotations from the Talmudists in Lightfoot. The time in which Christ was born has been considered a subject of great importance among Christians. However, the matter has been considered of no moment by Him who inspired the evangelists; as not one hint is dropped on the subject, by which it might be possible even to guess nearly to the time, except the chronological fact mentioned above. A late writer makes the following remark: "The first Christians placed the baptism of Christ about the beginning of the fifteenth year of Tiberius; and thence reckoning back thirty years, they placed his birth in the forty-third year of the Julian period, the forty-second of Augustus, and the twenty-eighth after the victory at Actium. This opinion was obtained till A.D. 527 when Dionysius Exiguus invented the vulgar account. Learned and pious men have trifled egregiously on this subject, making that of importance which the Holy Spirit, by his silence, has plainly informed them is of none. Fabricius gives a catalogue of no less than 136 different opinions concerning the YEAR of Christ's birth: and as to his birth DAY, that has been placed by Christian sects and learned men in every month in the year" (Adam Clarke's Commentary, Abingdon Press, Nashville, note on Luke 2:8)."
We can further confirm from Solomon 2:11 and Ezra 10:9, and Ezra 10:13 that winter was a rainy season, and it would be unlikely that the shepherds could tend their flock at night, as was the Jewish custom in that day. The shepherds would bring their flock into the stables in mid-October to protect them from the cold and rainy season. These points would indicate that Jesus was born before mid-October since Luke writes that the shepherds were "keeping watch over their flock by night." We could go even further into the study of the Hebrew calendar and Luke's writings in chapter 2 on the pregnancies of Elizabeth and Mary to ultimately determine a more probable date of September as the birth month of Jesus. However, ultimately we simply cannot pinpoint an exact date.
The Oxford Dictionary of the Christian Church offers the following, "Though speculation as to the time of year of Christ's birth dates from the early third century (Clement of Alexandria suggested May 20) the celebration of the anniversary does not appear to have been general till the later fourth century. The earliest mention of the observance on December 25 is in the Philocalian Calendar, representing Roman practice of the year 336. This date was probably chosen to oppose the feast of the Natalis Solis Invicti [nativity of the unconquerable sun] by the celebration of the birth of the 'Sun of Righteousness' and its observance in the West, seems to have spread from Rome" (1983 edition, Oxford University Press, New York, 1983, p. 280, 'Christmas')."
The truth is that you will be hard-pressed to find a biblical scholar who will support Christ being born in December… and I don't believe we will ever find anyone who can prove it. While the fact that Jesus was born is of great significance, the day of the year He was actually born matters not, according to God and the Bible. Had God wanted us to celebrate the birth of Jesus, He would have given us an example or referenced it in His Word.
The most important issue we should consider is that there is no scriptural authority for celebrating Christmas as the birthday of Christ or as a Christian holiday. Earlier I made the statement that it puzzles me why people who call themselves Christians will ignore the authority of the Scriptures. Consider the implications of this ignorance… it is truly alarming, and Christians should take serious note.
Understanding the "authority of the Scriptures" is integral to our understanding of Christmas as it relates to Christians. Therefore let's consider the topic for a minute.
Do we fully understand the fundamental significance of the authority of the Scriptures?
The inspired apostles had quite a bit to say about the authority of the Scriptures, whether we have the right to do what we do or not. Peter wrote, "If any man speak, let him speak as the oracles of God" (1 Peter 4:11)… and Paul wrote, "…that in us ye might learn not to go beyond the things which are written" (1 Corinthians 4:6). Paul further wrote, "And whatever you do in word or deed, do all in the name of the Lord Jesus, giving thanks to God the Father through Him" (Colossians 3:17). What we do "in word" is teaching… what we do "in deed" is practice, hence, practice what we preach.
Peter explains that whatever a person promotes within Christianity, it should be authorized by the Word of God. Paul explains that whatever a person does in Christianity, it should also be authorized by the Scriptures. "In the name of" means "by the authority of." Jesus gave the great commission to go and make disciples by baptizing them "in the name of the Son and of the Father and of the Holy Spirit," and by "teaching them" all that He commanded (Matthew 28:19-20). In verse 18, He stated, "All authority has been given to Me in heaven and on earth." Jesus made commands by His authority… in His name.
It is clear that "whatever" we do… not some things, but ALL things, we are to do by the authority of Christ… this means EVERYthing we do! We are not to go beyond what is written in God's Word. We must understand that the Word of God, the divine power of God,"…has given to us all things that pertain to life and godliness…" (2 Peter 1:3). We must take seriously that God's Word is ALL we need and that "All Scripture is given by inspiration of God, and is profitable for doctrine, for reproof, for correction, for instruction in righteousness, that the man of God may be complete, thoroughly equipped for every good work" (2 Timothy 3:15-17).
Authority of the Scriptures is vital to our salvation.
The authority of the Scriptures is so important in understanding our duties as Christians that I want to elaborate even further on this topic. I urge you to take heed to God's Word because it is what will judge us all in the end (John 12:47-48). We will certainly not be judged by the traditions of men.
Consider what God told Moses to tell the children of Israel.
Deuteronomy 10:12-13 "And now, Israel, what does the LORD your God require of you, but to fear the LORD your God, to walk in all His ways and to love Him, to serve the LORD your God with all your heart and with all your soul, and to keep the commandments of the LORD and His statutes which I command you today for your good?"
Deuteronomy 12:29-32 "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."
From the beginning, God has expected us to obey Him by doing what He commands. We are to walk by faith, doing nothing more and nothing less than what God has commanded in His Word… "you shall not add nor take away from it." We are bound by Scripture to obey what God tells us to do. We are bound by the promise of salvation to obey that which God has commanded us in His Word. Too often, we hear or read the words of God and understand full well what those words mean and what is expected of us. Thinking we know best, we choose to ignore those words and follow our own path… or the traditions of men… or the traditions of our family, dismissing the proverbial warning that we should trust in God with all of our heart, acknowledging Him in all of our ways… and lean not on our own understanding (Proverbs 3:5-6). We choose not to obey God because it does not fit in with our plans, or we find an excuse as to why not to obey, or maybe we listen to some man tell us that obedience is not necessary to go to heaven. I know that sounds crazy, but believe me, I have a copy of a sermon from a so-called preacher who claims this (the sermon is posted on this website), and I know many others who preach and teach this false doctrine. We will do well to remember the One who is the author of eternal salvation "to all who obey Him" (Hebrews 5:9). Therefore if we eliminate obedience to God, we reject Him being the author of eternal salvation. Have we so soon forgotten that it is better to trust and obey God rather than men (Psalms 118:8; Acts 5:29)?
The Old Testament has some excellent examples of how God expects us to do what we do by His authority. No, we are not bound by the Old Testament today... but consider what the apostle Paul wrote.
Romans 15:4 For whatever was written in earlier times was written for our instruction, so that through perseverance and the encouragement of the Scriptures we might have hope.
As mentioned earlier, remember that Paul wrote to Timothy that "All Scripture" is profitable for learning. Paul was referring to the Old Testament Scriptures because the New Testament was not finished at the time of his writing this letter to the Romans. As evidenced by the above verse, these Old Testament writings were "written for our instruction."
Let us consider a few examples of how God shows that all we need is His Word… nothing less and nothing more, and just what He commands is all we need to do. Consider, if you will, the story of Nadab and Abihu, the sons of Aaron, who was brother to Moses and his spokesperson. From Leviticus 10:1-3, we learn that Nadab and Abihu "offered profaned fire (strange fire) before the LORD, which He had not commanded them." Because they offered something other than what God commanded them to offer, God sent fire down to consume them. Nadab and Abihu were not walking by faith (by God's instructions... His very words). Therefore they were condemned by God. They had their own ideas of what God wanted, but God did not ask for the strange fire they offered. God did not need their ideas… God gave instructions, and He expected them to be followed exactly as He had spoken.
"But I was only trying to do a little more than what God asked of me to do."
Consider the story of Saul from 1 Samuel 15:1-23, when the Lord sent Samuel, a prophet, to Saul to tell him he had been made king over Israel. Samuel explains to Saul that he is to listen to God's words. God instructed Saul to go and completely and utterly destroy Amalek and everything to do with Amalek. Did Saul do as the Lord commanded? Saul spared lives and took of the plunder, sheep, and oxen, the best of the things which should have been utterly destroyed. Saul wanted to sacrifice the best of these to God. Saul thought (in his judgment) it was the right thing to do, but God did not ask for any such sacrifice. Saul did not do exactly what God instructed him to do. God was furious about this… read the story! Read what Samuel told Saul… "For rebellion is as the sin of witchcraft, And stubbornness is as iniquity and idolatry. Because you have rejected the word of the LORD, He also has rejected you from being king."
These are excellent lessons on how it is better to obey God than to sacrifice. Several lessons throughout the Bible teach this same principle and warn us of the consequences of not doing exactly what God commanded us to do, nothing more and nothing less. Consider how God has spoken to us today… through His Word… the Bible. Are we doing exactly what God has instructed us… or are we leaving out something… or perhaps adding to it? Are we following the ideas of pagans who created events in addition to what the Bible authorizes?
Are the children of God (Christians) doing any better today than the children of God (Israel) did thousands of years ago? Have we learned from their mistakes as the Bible so aptly warns us to do?
There is indeed a striking resemblance with the children of God today in comparison to the children of Israel. Take a few moments to read Isaiah 1:1-11. Isaiah the prophet received a vision from God of the future of the children of Israel. He wasted no time telling them just how rebellious to God they were. God was lamenting over the condition of His children. God brought them out of slavery and oppression, yet they still refused to obey Him and do as He commanded. Isaiah challenged the children to listen to God's words closely so that they would not end up like the people of Sodom and Gomorrah. God told them that their sacrifices were not acceptable without obedience. Again, it is better to obey than to sacrifice.
We expect obedience… God commands it!
With these biblical records of disobedience to God, why do so many Christians continue in ignorance of God's commands? Think about it. Parents expect their children to obey them, and rightly so (Colossians 3:20; Ephesians 6:1). We establish rules in our homes that we expect to be followed and obeyed. Employers expect their employees to respect and adhere to their duties and responsibilities. We expect others to follow the laws of the land, right? However, just like the children of Israel, and just like Adam and Eve, like the multitudes that Noah preached to, like Nadab and Abihu, and just like Saul... we, as children of God, have a problem obeying God? While we expect obedience… God commands it! Make sense? We want others to obey, but we can't obey God ourselves.
Throughout the Scriptures, God gives us very specific ways of doing things exactly as He wants them done. He also has laid out things He does not want us to do, one of which is not to follow the traditions of the heathens and pagans. God has stated that He only wants us to do as He has commanded, not any less and not anymore. He has taught us that He wants us to have authority (by His Word) for all that we do. When it comes to religious matters, He has spoken, thus saith the Lord!
Nobody said we were perfect!
Granted, we are by no means perfect… and thankfully, when we fail God, we can confess these weaknesses, and God is faithful to forgive His children (1 John 1:9). We indeed have a significant battle on our hands with the fleshly world, material things, and our wants and desires. It is quite a never-ending battle. I struggle with it every day and have a hard time understanding why I make it so difficult for myself. We are certainly going to mess up from time to time, but we must always strive to do what is righteous, even if we are sometimes persecuted for doing the right thing (Matthew 5:10). We will not always be in the majority, and it may not always be the popular thing to do, but we must strive to be righteous. There is no doubt that those who stand opposed to celebrating Christmas as a religious holiday are in the minority, right along with the atheist… as sad as it sounds. Yet, Jesus assures us that if we follow that narrow path of the minority, it will lead us to eternal life (Matthew 7:14). Granted, it is easier to go with the flow and do what is most popular and fit in with the crowd. The majority will do just that and follow the broad path, but few will find eternal life. It's not my opinion; it's what Jesus said!
Keep in mind that the events that happened between God and the disobedient people of the Old Testament days were recorded as examples for us so that we would not make the same mistakes that they made (Romans 15:4; 1 Corinthians 10:11-12). Either we can choose to listen to the Word of God and learn from these examples… or we can reject it. Jesus is clear about what will happen to those who reject the Word of God.
John 12:47,48 "If anyone hears my words and does not keep them, I do not judge him; for I did not come to judge the world but to save the world. The one who rejects me and does not receive my words has a judge; the word that I have spoken will judge him on the last day."
Things that are not authorized by the Word of God… that are not found in the Scriptures… violate the principle of authority by failing to "speak as the oracles of God," and they go "beyond the things which are written."
Christmas should not be celebrated as a Christian holiday or the birthday of Christ… there is no authority for it.
There is no reason for atheists to complain about Christmas; Christians unknowingly support their cause when they celebrate Christmas as a religious holiday. Furthermore, Christmas has also become a highly commercialized season when retailers spend millions of dollars on Christmas advertising each year, making it a monopoly at the feet of Jesus. The Christmas spirit is jingled every year, but it is not to truly honor Christ; it is to sell merchandise. Think about the crazy number of ads every year that delude and deceive people about the "beauty" of Christmas. Biblically, Jesus is NOT the reason for the season. Why not forgo our selfishness each year and spend these millions of dollars on the sick and poor… and on furthering the Gospel of Christ? Instead, we choose to waste it on our spoiled children who already have more than they will ever need.
Good ole us… we are so gullible… allowing ourselves to become so inoculated with the Christmas spirit that we take offense when the truth about Christmas is unveiled. Make no mistake about it, Satan with his powerful delusions appearing as an "angel of light," will continue to deceive many. We desperately need to wake up and realize that we must seek the kingdom of God first and His righteousness… and He will provide us with our needs (Matthew 6:33)… none the less, we seem to be too worried about ourselves than others.
Who has the right to tell me I cannot celebrate Christmas as a Christian holiday?
As I chuckle at this question sarcastically, I immediately and very seriously respond, God does!
Inevitably, some people are going to say, "Even though Christmas was originally a pagan custom honoring the false sun-god, we do not observe it to honor this false god; we observe it to honor Christ." As previously noted, God has already responded to this reasoning… "take heed to yourself that you are not ensnared to follow them (the pagans in their customs)... 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; …Whatever I command you, be careful to observe it; you shall not add to it nor take away from it" (Deuteronomy 12:30-31).
God tells us plainly in His Word that He will not accept this kind of worship, even though it is intended in His honor. It is an abomination to Him, and therefore it does not honor Him, but instead, it honors the false pagan gods. God says we must not worship Him according to the "dictates of our own conscience" – "There is a way that seems right to a man, But its end is the way of death" (Proverbs 14:12). Jesus says, "God is a spirit: and they that worship Him must worship Him in spirit and in truth" (John 4:24). And what is truth? According to Jesus, the Bible is truth… God's Word is truth (John 17:17), and as we have clearly learned, the Bible says God will not accept worship when people take a pagan custom or manner of worship and try to honor Christ with it. Jesus said: "In vain they do worship me, teaching for doctrines the commandments of men" (Matthew 15:9). Christmas observance as a religious holiday is a tradition of men. The commandments of God, as previously quoted, forbid it. Jesus said to them, "All too well you reject the commandment of God, that you may keep your tradition" (Mark 7:9).
Christians are ignoring the commandments of God.
Do you realize that ignoring God is precisely what millions of people who claim to be Christians are doing today? They are ignoring the commandments of God. Even though God clearly says, "You shall not worship the LORD your God in that way," there are many people today taking this command of God lightly and following the traditions of men in observing Christmas as a religious holiday. Throughout history, there have been warnings against the tendency of men to look with favor and appreciation upon the religious traditions and practices that God has not authorized. As one man stated, "God's people in all ages have created appalling problems for themselves and distorted their own faith by incorporating alien practices and concepts."
God is going to allow it to happen. He will allow us to disobey Him and follow the popular majority. He understands this will happen. As mentioned earlier, even Jesus said that "many will follow the broad path to destruction." (Matthew 7:13) God will allow us to sin and follow traditions of men, but there will also be a day of reckoning… and we will be judged by how we respond to the Word of God (Revelation 20:13-14). Herein is the entire problem with ignorance to the authority of the Scriptures. We cannot respond to the Word of God if we do not understand it… and we will never understand it until we start studying it. It will do no one any good to simply grace the doors of a church building and depend on a mere man to teach them what they need to know to get to heaven. Yes, we do need to assemble with the saints; we need to hear the Word preached, but we also need to live it, and we cannot live it unless we study it and know what is expected of us. The Bible is the revelation of God's mind… it is what He wants us to know about Him… and it is His will for our daily lives and how we should live for and glorify Him. We have a choice to either live like God wants us to live or live like the world thinks we should live. If we simply follow what the worldly majority does or merely rely on our family to determine how we live our lives religiously, we will not enter heaven. To enter heaven, Jesus plainly and clearly says we must do the will of the Father (Matthew 7:21)… not our own will or the will of men.
The Word of God will judge us in the end… are we taking it seriously? We must study to show ourselves approved unto God and rightly divide the word of truth (2 Timothy 2:15). Until we stop dimly reading over God's Word and start seriously studying it and until we quit trusting in what mere man says from the pulpit and start being like the Bereans (Acts 17:11), the devil is going to continue to deceive us and take advantage of these traditions of men to lead more followers away from God. You think you are getting closer to God, but Satan is the master of deceit. It is so easy to get all wrapped up in this world, and what the majority are doing that we lose sight of the narrow path (Matthew 7:14). Are you going to be one of the "many" or one of the "few"?
All of this does not mean that we cannot "esteem one day above another" (Romans 14:5). Authorities may very well set aside a holiday to honor certain people and certain events of the secular world. There is no sin in this until one Christian attempts to bind it upon another (Romans 14:13). While I would prefer to be safe and forgo it altogether, I suppose families could gather around Christmas time each year to share a meal and give gifts if they so choose, which can be done on any occasion or any time of the year for that matter. There is a significant difference between a holiday gathering that a family may enjoy… versus honoring a religious holy day. The question might be, can you honestly have this holiday gathering at Christmas time of the year and not connect it to a religious holiday in at least some minor way? We must be cautious as Christians.
The critical point we must remember is that there is absolutely no Biblical authority for anyone to establish any day as a religious holiday, including the setting aside of December 25 as the birthday of Christ and celebration of the same. Neither does the church have any scriptural authority to set aside a religious holiday. We simply cannot ignore God's Word… period. Presumptuously concocting and observing such a man-made day as a sacred holy day is a definite and deliberate sin against God.
This also does not mean that we cannot celebrate Christ and the fact He was born. We can most certainly rejoice in Christ, His birth, and what He has done for us. However, as mentioned earlier, have you ever thought for a few moments why God never inspired anyone to pinpoint the day that Christ was born? God did not see it as an important day to set aside for remembrance. Nonetheless, Jesus was not even born in the sense that we are born for the first time because He was with God in the beginning (John 1:1). If we are going to celebrate the birth of Christ, let us do it daily, not just once a year when it is time to dust off the ole suit and tie.
The world has already taken Christ out of Christmas.
We do not have to take Christ out of Christmas… the commercialization of Christmas has already done so. The truth is that most people are too wrapped up in the festivities, parties, shopping… and grazing at the table… that they do not focus on Christ anyway. They fail to realize that going through the motion of dragging out that dusty coat and tie, for one of perhaps their three or four annual visits to a vain worship service, is not in the least bit going to help them enter heaven. The majority of those people could not tell you the first verse of the Bible and have probably never read it; much less have they ever studied the Bible. If they had, they would heed the warning to not forsake the assembling of the saints (Hebrew 10:24-27) by skipping all those other services during the year. They probably have no clue what "DO THIS IN REMEMBRANCE OF ME" means. I am not judging them, but the Word of God will if they reject it.
Please consider what we are commanded and authorized to remember about Jesus, per God's Word. As a matter of scriptural authority, we are commanded by Jesus to remember Him every Lord's Day. This is the truth, and this is essential as far as God is concerned.
And when He had taken some bread and given thanks, He broke it and gave it to them, saying, "This is My body which is given for you; do this in remembrance of Me." And in the same way He took the cup after they had eaten, saying, "This cup which is poured out for you is the new covenant in My blood" (Luke 22:19-20).
Jesus Christ instituted the Lord's Supper.
"For I have received of the Lord that which also I delivered unto you, That the Lord Jesus the same night in which he was betrayed took bread: And when he had given thanks, he brake it, and said, Take, eat: this is my body, which is broken for you: this do in remembrance of me. After the same manner also he took the cup, when he had supped, saying, this cup is the new testament in my blood: this do ye, as oft as ye drink it, in remembrance of me. For as often as ye eat this bread, and drink this cup, ye do show the Lord's death till he comes" (1 Corinthians 11:23-26).
The Lord's Supper is Communion with Christ.
"The cup of blessing that we bless is a sign of our sharing in the blood of Christ, isn't it? The bread that we break is a sign of our sharing in the body of Christ, isn't it? Because there is one loaf, we who are many are one body, because all of us partake of the one loaf" (1 Corinthians 10:16-17).
I cannot resist asking the very important question…
If Jesus, the One who suffered so horrendously for us, the One who paid the penalty for our sins, asked that we partake of the Lord's Supper "in remembrance" of Him," why would we not want to show our gratitude by REMEMBERING HIM EVERY WEEK when we come together on the first day of each week (the Lord's Day) for worship service? It is what He commanded!
How many congregations find all kinds of excuses to ignore the very words of Jesus?
John 12:47,48 "And if anyone hears My words and does not believe, I do not judge him; for I did not come to judge the world but to save the world. He who rejects Me, and does not receive My words, has that which judges him— the word that I have spoken will judge him in the last day."
Consider what Luke wrote, "Now on the first day of the week, when the disciples came together to break bread, Paul, ready to depart the next day, spoke to them and continued his message until midnight" (Luke 20:7).
During the days of the early church, the people gathered on the first day of each week to break bread and remember the death of Christ. They wanted to remember what Christ did for all humanity, just as He commanded us to do. This is the pattern and tradition that God authorized for us to practice. What has changed this pattern of remembering Christ over the years? Men have changed it to be more convenient and less time-consuming during worship services. They claim that it takes too long to do the Lord's Supper every week, yet they have no problem passing the collection plate around weekly. They have no problem making time to honor special events and people in the congregation. They have no problem with many unauthorized activities in worship. Yet they cannot even obey the command of God, and the pattern of worship authorized by the Scriptures and "DO THIS IN REMEMBRANCE OF ME" each Lord's Day for the sake of Jesus. It is truly ashamed… and I would have nothing to do with a congregation who cannot honor Christ as He asked us to do.
Matthew 15:9 "AND IN VAIN THEY WORSHIP ME, TEACHING AS DOCTRINES THE COMMANDMENTS OF MEN."
God has not authorized any changes to the pattern of worship, which He laid out for us in the New Testament.
Colossians 2:8 See to it that no one takes you captive by philosophy and empty deceit, according to human tradition, according to the elemental spirits of the world, and not according to Christ.
Philippians 3:16-17 Nevertheless, to the degree that we have already attained, let us walk by the same rule, let us be of the same mind. Brethren, join in following my example, and note those who so walk, as you have us for a pattern.
Celebrating, remembering, and rejoicing in Jesus is not something we only do annually at Christmas time when so many seem to come out of the closet, or semi-annually, or quarterly, or every fifth Sunday... or whenever we decide it is convenient. Celebrating what Jesus did for us is something we should desire to do every day... and certainly by obeying His command to partake of the Lord's Supper every Lord's Day.
Remember the very words of Jesus and let them dwell in your heart and on your mind… His words were.
"DO THIS IN REMEMBRANCE OF ME. "
Let us celebrate Christ as we are authorized by the Word of God and not according to the traditions of men.
Thus says the LORD: "Stand in the ways and see, And ask for the old paths, where the good way is, And walk in it; Then you will find rest for your souls. But they said, 'We will not walk in it" (Jeremiah 6:16).
God bless you!