PUTTING CHRIST BACK INTO CHRISTMAS
by David Figenschou
More people attend church at Christmas time than at any other time of the year. As rampant materialism and greed parade themselves in the XMAS shopping spree, the plea is heard, “Let’s put CHRIST back into Christmas.”
Perhaps many churchgoers sympathize and concur with the sentiments of this plea. They might sincerely believe that the “reason for the season” has been hijacked by the world. How do you feel about it? Are you bravely resisting the world’s experience of Christmas, trying to put the Lord Jesus Christ back where you believe He should rightly be during the “festive season”? What is your understanding which motivates you to do so? A study of the Bible has caused some to come to realize that the world has not hijacked Christmas from the “church”, but that Christians have accepted into their midst something that is alien to the faith, something that is of the world. This tract will endeavour to show that you CANNOT put Christ BACK into Christmas because He was never there in the first place.
The Testimony of History
The pages of history show that the “celebration” of the birth of the Lord Jesus Christ in the manner of an annual Christmas festival was unheard of until the mixing of the apostles’ teaching with that of pagan traditions. This mixing or rather, perverting, of the pure worship of God took place over a period of time. The changes took place as tares planted amongst the early Christian churches began to bear fruit. Vigilant shepherds (pastors) dealt with and exposed the corrupt practices of the false disciples. But gradually the corrupt influences began to have effect, “the mystery of iniquity” began to spread its roots and its branches grew in all directions. When Constantine gained the “imperial purple”, “professed” conversion to Christianity and assumed the right to govern and defend the churches, then the flood gates were thrown open to allow pagan idolatrous practices to pour into the churches.
Soon after, Christianity gained special preferential status over the pagan religions with state patronage, and the pagans were harassed and seduced into “professing” conversion. And thus the formerly relatively pure Christian congregations now became swollen with religious pagans who were seeking to get on the right side of the Emperor and state authorities. It is at this time (about 336 A.D.), that the first recorded “Christian Christmases” were kept. In fact the festivities were not motivated by ardor and zeal to honor the Lord Jesus Christ, but were the result of popular pagan sentiments intruding themselves under the veneer of devotion to Him.
“Christmas Day”, December the 25th, could not possibly have been the birth date of the Lord Jesus Christ for a number of reasons deduced from a consideration of the Biblical data. For example, consider the climate and weather conditions in Palestine in December. The reason for Joseph and Mary travelling to Bethlehem was to obey Caesar’s taxation decree. It is unlikely that the authorities would force the travelling required by the decree during the sharp cold months of the Palestinian winter. The Jews were considered a troublesome race and the Roman overlords wisely avoided unnecessary antagonism. The journey was a long one by the standards of those days; from the home town of Nazareth to Bethlehem just past Jerusalem. From what the Gospels record of Joseph, we know that he was a just man and a compassionate and considerate husband and nothing but absolute necessity would cause him to take his wife in a very advanced state of pregnancy on such a long journey.
The severity of the Palestinian winter is indicated by the fact that Herod was forced to postpone a military campaign because of the onset of winter, this indicates that winter was no time for prospective mothers to be travelling in an advanced state of pregnancy. Remember also our Lord’s words concerning the future destruction of Jerusalem, “Pray that your flight be not in winter” – why? Because winter was severe. Compassion would have dictated that in these circumstances a journey in the winter months be not undertaken. Shepherds would not likely spend winter nights out in the fields with their flocks as in fact they did, as Luke 2 v.7 records. Hence it would not have been winter when the Lord Jesus Christ was born.
The Origin of Christmas Pagan
Well then, how was the date December the 25th fixed upon? Encyclopedias and histories reveal that this day was in fact the birthday of “Sol Invictus”, the “unconquered sun”, and special worship festivities were held in Rome and with variations throughout the pagan world. The Emperor-pleasing devotees in the churches had by this time risen to high ranking positions and pandered to popular demand and incorporated sun worship into the “church calendar”. In Rome, where this new cult first began, the term “Christmas” was coined from “Christ” and “mass” because of the special masses held on that day, supposedly in honour of the Lord Christ.
In the great revival which emancipated whole nations from the idolatrous yoke of the papacy in the 16th century and the “puritan era” in Britain and America, this pagan festival was recognized for what it was. The puritans in their zeal to offer pure worship before God outlawed the keeping of Christmas. In the generations following, infiltration by Jesuit plants and sinful lapsing into lukewarmness and formalism sapped the vitality of the churches and indifference to the divine demand for purity in His worship grew apace. Until today, the keeping of Christmas has become an almost universal event, and has again become an “essential” part of the “Christian calendar”.
The Testimony of The Word
As the Word of God is the statute book of the Christian Church and records the will of the Head of the Church for His people, let us see if anything resembling Christmas can be found in the sacred volume. Alas! You can search as much as you want, but you won’t find a trace of a suggestion that the apostles or the faithful early disciples kept such a day as Christmas. Do we think that we can be more zealous for divine honor in worship than the newly formed apostolic community? They were in the full bloom of revival, and their love for the Saviour would not have allowed them to miss the opportunity to celebrate their Redeemer’s incarnation and advent in such a festival as Christmas IF it was allowed or desired by Him. Scripture records that the angels of God worshiped Him when He came into the world, this was not OPTIONAL on their part, nor was it COERCED OR FORCED from them, it was in GLAD and JOYOUS OBEDIENCE. Such an event as this would surely have been annually celebrated on a particular day in a special way if it had been allowed. Surely the early disciples (and especially the apostles) would not have missed such an opportunity to demonstrate their devotion and affection to their Lord? No, the silence of the Scriptures is deafening.
The Bible DOES reveal however that the infant Church OFTEN reflected upon the advent of the Lord from heaven. Throughout the New Testament there is wondrous mention of His incarnation and coming into the world. This was a regular and essential part of the Gospel message, not something that was made a fuss about once a year and then forgotten. Modern churchgoers seem to be content to pay lip service to His first advent and their participation in an event supposedly in remembrance of that advent appeals to their sense of “Christian propriety”. The Saviour Lord Jesus Christ was not negligent to instruct His followers in keeping those things that were pleasing to Him. There was one SPECIAL day on the calendar of the infant Church; that day was the Lord’s Day; the first day of the New Creation; the first day of every week. On this day they met to worship according to His command “do this in remembrance of me”, and received the apostolic instruction and prayed together.
Will Worship Detested By God
What are the consequences of devising means of worshiping God about which God has not given us instruction? Some say, “Surely God looks on the heart, and if a person has sincere intentions God will overlook their failings.” God does not require or desire worship based on imaginations or images. In the Old Testament, God instructs us how He regards those who dare to innovate in His worship. He did not tolerate it. When “strange fire” was offered before the LORD it was unacceptable and provoked Him to wrath.
The Lord Jesus in the New Testament proclaims the acceptable way of worship which the Father seeks, and it is not optional either; they that worship Him, must worship Him in spirit and in truth. The apostle Paul writes of those who indulge in what he calls “will worship”, these people sought to worship God (or so they said) by doing things which God neither commands nor delights in.
What You Must Do
Now that you know about the origin of Christmas, what the Word of God says about it, and how God condemns will worship, you stand responsible to do something about your involvement in so-called “Christmas celebrations”.
Opposition, Evasions, and Excuses
No doubt, if you take the right stand, refusing to participate in the paganizing of the worship of our Great God and Saviour Jesus Christ, you will face the opposition of those who don’t care to receive the testimony of His Word, and who think that they can lightly devise or participate in a type of worship which is condemned in His Word. Do not be deceived, now that you know the truth, God will not overlook your disobedience, your blatant disregard for His commandments. The Lord Christ pronounces dreadful sentence against idolaters, see Revelation 22 v.15; they will be shut out forever from the presence of the Lord.
There are some who might even acknowledge the pagan origins, that the Word of God bears no record of the annual “celebration” of the advent and incarnation of our Lord Jesus Christ, yet they say that Christians should take over non-Christian activities and influence them for good, for the glory of God, etc. And thus they justify their continued participation in this abomination. “Take the opportunity,” they say, “to proclaim the Gospel; all these people coming to church. What an opportunity!” So they have “Christmas services” where the gospel is preached, but at the same time they reinforce the “knowledgeable” unbeliever’s deep-seated suspicions about the insincerity of the church, knowing that it is pandering to the popular but un-Biblical demand. Doesn’t this remind you of something or someone? This is exactly how this alien celebration rooted itself in the churches in the first place, and this is exactly how it will continue to be propagated.
Let us cease pandering to the popular but pagan demand and let us once and for all tell the world that it can keep its Christmas, we Christians will have nothing to do with it. Let us also take care to warn them at the same time of God’s anger against those who take His name in vain.
Christian, hear the word of the Lord! “The hour cometh, and now is, when the true worshippers shall worship the Father in spirit and in truth: for the Father seeketh such to worship Him” (John 4 v.23).
Will you worship Him according to His word and will, or will you carry on according to your own ideas and imaginations?