Some thoughts on Christmas….. In the past month…

Some thoughts on Christmas…..

In the past months, I have been rethinking what it means to be “seperate from the world” (Romans 12:2, James 4:4, 1 John 2:15). In light of all of this, I decided to do a little homework on Christmas. Obviously Christmas has many meanings today, some are disputed even amoung belivers. Chistmas could be any of the following, according to popular religion:

~a holiday about Santa Claus
~a time when you “get all the gifts you want”
~an excuse to decorate with lights, a tree, and a wreath
~celebrate when God became a man (for the record, this is not biblical)
~birth of the Messiah, the man to one day rule the world in the Kingdom of God

Ponder these things.

There is nothing in the bible that hints to the fact that Christmas needs to be celebrated or was celebrated by early 1st century Christnans. Jesus was most lilely born in late September/early October. In some of my readings, I dug up some great quotes that historians have made concerning the orign of Christmas. Look what the experts are saying:

“The festivals of Rome are innumerable; but five of the most important may be singled out for elucidation -viz., Christmas-day, Lady-day, Easter, the nativity of St. John, and the Feast of the Assumption. Each and all of these can be proved to be Babylonian.” (The Two Babylons, by Alexander Hyslop, page 91)

“… within the Christian Church no such festival as Christmas was ever heard of till the third century, and that not till the fourth century was far advanced did it gain much observance. How, then, did the Roman Church fix on December 25th as Christmas-day? Why, thus: Long before the fourth century, and long before the Christian era itself, a festival was celebrated among the heathen, at that precise time of the year, in honour of the birth of the son of the Babylonian queen of heaven; and it may fairly be presumed that in order to conciliate the heathen, and to swell the number of the nominal adherents of Christianity, the same festival was adopted by the Roman Church, giving it only the name of Christ. This tendency on the part of the Christians to meet Paganism half-way was very early developed … Upright men strove to stem the tide, but in spite of all their efforts, the apostasy went on, till the Church, with the exception of a small remnant, was submerged under Pagan superstition. That Christmas was originally a Pagan festival, is beyond all doubt. The time of the year, the ceremonies with which it is still celebrated, prove its origin. In Egypt, the son of Isis, the Egyptian title for the queen of heaven, was born at this very time, ‘about the time of the winter solstice.'” (Ibid. page 93)

“Even where the sun was the favourite object of worship, as in Babylon itself and elsewhere, at this festival he was worshipped not merely as the orb of day, but as God incarnate. It was an essential principle of the Babylonian system, that the Sun or Baal was the one only God. When, therefore Tammuz was worshipped as God incarnate, that implied also that he was an incarnation of the Sun. In the Hindoo mythology, which is admitted to be essentially Babylonian, this comes out very distinctly. There, Surya, or the Sun, is represented as being incarnate, and born for the purpose of subduing the enemies of the gods, who, without such a birth, could not have been subdued.
“It was no mere astronomical festival, then, that the Pagans celebrated at the winter solstice. That festival at Rome was called the feast of Saturn, and the mode in which it was celebrated there, showed whence it had been derived. The feast as regulated by Caligula, lasted five days; loose reins were given to drunkenness and revelry, slaves had temporary emancipation and used all manner of freedoms with their masters. This was precisely the way in which, according to Berosus, the drunken festival of the month Thebeth, answering to our December, in other words , the festival of Bacchus, was celebrated in Babylon… The Christmas tree, now so common among us, was equally common in pagan Rome and pagan Egypt. In Egypt that tree was the palm-tree; in Rome it was the fir; the palm tree denoting the pagan Messiah, as Baal-Tamar, the fir referring to him as Baal-Berith.”
(Ibid. 96-97)

“Christmas was not among the earliest festivals of the church … the first evidence of the feast is from Egypt.” (Catholic Encyclopaedia 1911 edition)

“Christmas customs are an evolution from times that long antedated the Christmas period – a descent from seasonal, pagan, religious and national practices, hedged about with legend and tradition… In the beginning many of the earth’s inhabitants were sun worshippers because the course of their lives depended on its yearly round in the heavens, and feasts were held at its return from distant wanderings. In the south of Europe, in Egypt and Persia the sun-gods were worshipped with elaborate ceremonies at the season of the winter solstice, as a fitting time to pay tribute to the god of plenty, while in Rome the Saturnalia reigned for a week…The exact day and year of Christ’s birth have never been satisfactorily settled, but when the fathers of the church in A.D. 340 chose the day of the winter solstice which was firmly fixed in the minds of the people and which was their most important festival.” (Encylopaedia Britannica article Christmas page 642)

“In a famous letter to Augustine, Pope Gregory directs the great missionary to accommodate the ceremonies of the Christian worship as much as possible to those of the heathen, that the people might not be startled at the change, and in particular the Pope advised Augustine to allow converts to kill and eat at the Christmas festival a great number of oxen to the glory of God, as they had formerly done to the Devil.” (The Story of Christmas by Michael Harrison, page 28)

“It is nevertheless almost certain that the 25th of December cannot be the nativity of the Saviour, for it is then the height of the rainy season in Judaea, and shepherds could hardly be watching their flocks by night in the plains … Not casually or arbitrarily was the festival of the nativity celebrated on the 25th of December. One of the principal causes that co-operated in fixing this period was that almost all the heathen nations regarded the winter solstice as the turning point of the year – the beginning of the renewed life and activity of the powers of nature, and of the gods who were merely the symbolic personifications of these. In more northern countries this fact must have made itself peculiarly palpable – hence the Celts and Germans, from the oldest times, celebrated the season with the greatest festivities. At the winter solstice the Norsemen held their great Yule-feast in commemoration of the fiery sun-wheel, and believed that during the twelve nights from the 25th December to the 6th January they could trace the personal movements and interferences on earth of their great deities, Odin, Beretha, etc. Many of the beliefs and usages of the old Germans, and also of the Romans, relating to this period, passed over from heathenism to Christianity, and have partly survived to the present day.” (Chambers Encyclopaedia 1908 Edition Vol.111 page 222, article Christmas)

“There is no authoritative tradition as to the day or month of Christ’s birth … The winter solstice was regarded as the birthday of the sun and at Rome a pagan festival of the nativity of ‘sol invictus’ was introduced by the Emperor Aurelian on 25th December 274. The church, unable to stamp out this popular festival, spiritualised it as the feast of the Nativity of the Sun of Righteousness. When Christianity spread northwards it encountered a similar pagan festival also held at the winter solstice – the great Yule feast of the Norsemen. Once again Christmas absorbed heathen customs. From the various sources came the Yule log, the Christmas tree introduced into England from Germany and first mentioned in 1789.” (Chambers Encyclopaedia 1970, page 538, article Christmas)

Pause a while and consider the stunning truths you have just read. Here are famous scholars and historians revealing amazing truths. Let me summarize:

That each year on the 25th December the pagans held a festival in honour of the SUN god.
And that centuries after Jesus’s birth in Bethlehem this selfsame festival of the SUN god was adopted by the Christian Church, given the name Christmas and thereafter celebrated as the birthday of the SON OF GOD!

Maybe we can have some comments on what we should do with this information. Should we, as apocalyptic Christans, get involved with the world’s holiday? Can we still spend time admiring the birth of the Messiah? Is there anything wrong with giving gifts? Should we spend hours and money buying trees, decorating our homes with lights, or hanging stockings?

Somethings to think about…

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One response to this post.

  1. Posted by JMG on December 13, 2006 at 1:00 pm

    You hit the nail on the head with the reference to being in the world but not of the world. It seems that the church decided it didn’t want to compete with the pagans, so instead of being “holy” it became accommodating.

    I’ve known for a long time about the pagan origins of Christmas, but for a long time I still celebrated in the traditional way. However, a few years ago, out of necessity–we were doing some home improvement projects–I did not put up a Christmas tree. And I found that I didn’t miss it one bit! Since then, I have gotten rid of all my Christmas junk and no longer bother with all the fuss. It’s very liberating!

    As I try hard to be a disciple of Jesus, I realize that all the hoopla about Christmas is a complete waste of time–time that I could spend doing something beneficial for others (which I should be doing year-round). I listen to the ladies at my bible study talk about the fact that the busy-ness of the Christmas season tends to distract them from what is really important, and I wonder, “Why, if you know this, do you still do it?”

    I think it’s perfectly OK to “admire the birth of the Messiah,” but Jesus didn’t tell his disciples to commemorate his birth; rather he told them to commemorate his death and resurrection (which our Easter tradition has seriously corrupted–but that’s another topic!)

    Reply

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