Bells chime! Hearts go merry! Gifts flow! Children trick out in all their fripperies and fineries; likewise adults looking their best. Tinsels and baubles, decorating Christmas trees, sparkle and glitter. The air is filled with excitement; celebrations erupt! A King is born!
But what king? Many have been deceived to believe that the festival of Christmas, celebrated yearly on 25th December, marks the birthday of Jesus Christ, the Son of the Living God and the Saviour of the world. But in reality it’s a festival whose antecedents lie in ancient paganism. Christmas was anciently called Saturnalia; it was an occasion used to observe the birthday of the sun-god long before the birth of Christ.
The book, Strange Stories Amazing Facts by The Readers Digest Association, reports:
“Christmas and Easter, although the greatest festivals in the Christian calendar, are cerebrated with customs that originated in superstition and heathen rites hundreds of years before Christ was born.
“Even the dates owe more to pagan practices than to the birth and resurrection of Jesus. It was not until the fourth century that December 25 was fixed arbitrarily as the anniversary of the Nativity—because the pagan festivals from which so many Christmas customs spring were held around that time” (pp. 283 & 284).
The World Book Encyclopedia weighs in:
“Scholars do not know the exact date of Christ’s birth. For more than 300 years, people observed His birthday on various dates. In A.D. 354, Pope Liberius of Rome ordered the people to celebrate on December 25. He probably chose this date because the people of Rome already observed it as the Feast of Saturn, celebrating the birthday of the sun” (Art. “Christmas”, p. 416, Vol. 3, 1974 ed.).
The historical facts speak for themselves. Christmas is pagan in origin as are its symbols. We turn again to The WorldBook Encyclopedia for an authoritative insight:
“There are several stories about the origin of the Christmas tree. People in Scandinavia once worshipped trees. When they became Christians, they made evergreen trees part of Christian festivals.
“The custom of decorating homes and churches with evergreens began in ancient times. The Romans exchanged green tree branches for good luck on the calends (first day) of January.
“Mistletoe decorates homes in the United States, Canada, and Europe at Christmastime. No one knows exactly how mistletoe became connected with Christmas. Ancient Celtic priests, called Druids, used to give people sprigs of the plant as a charm” (p. 415).
And we have not even begun to talk about the dark, pagan side to the jolly Christmas figure—Santa Claus or Father Christmas—nor about the pagan symbol of the yule log from the word ‘yuletide’ is derived.
Whither flew Biblical Christianity? Did the Church succeed at all in converting the pagan world? Or it ended up being converted by the pagans? In times past, when ignorance abounded and people had to swallow every word of the clergy, sometimes on pain of death or torture, the observance of ‘Christianized’ pagan festivals could be excused.
But now, do Bible-believing Christians have any reason to cling to a festival as thoroughly drenched in paganism as Christmas? Did Christ authorize it? Did the apostles keep such a festival? Given its pagan background as the birthday of the sun-god who’s but Satan, why should Christians insist on celebrating it in the Name of Christ? Is this acceptable to God?
Of course, the usual argument is that the day is observed in honour of Christ, not Satan. That is to say, the honour previously given to Satan has been transferred to God.
But still the question remains: Do we have any right to foist ‘strange honours’ on God? Is it right that we ignore His explicit commands only to smuggle unbiblical customs into the church?
Is He to show us the proper way to worship and honour Him? Or the opposite is true? It should be remembered that He warns us to “flee from idolatry”—not embrace it or subsume it in shallow Christian ceremonies! (1 Cor. 10:14; 2 Cor. 6:14-16; Gal.4:9-10).
Don’t delude yourself. The “commandments of men” don’t count in true worship; they are of no value to God (Matt. 15:19). Obedience to HIS COMMANDMENTS is everything (1 John 5:3; Rev. 22:14).
When we celebrate a pagan festival like Saturnalia, although renamed Christmas and garbed in Christian robes, it’s an honour we give to the false gods of paganism in spite of ourselves and pretensions to the contrary. The Creator cannot reconcile Himself to the idea of sharing a day of honour with the demons and gods of paganism. They are not His equal and don’t bear comparison with Him in any way. He asks in Isa. 46:5: “To whom will ye liken me, and make me equal, and compare me, that we may be like?”
In Jer. 10:2-4, Yahweh warns His people against learning “the way of the heathen”. That ‘way of the heathen’, which He condemns in absolute terms, is familiarly Christmas-like: “The customs of the people are vain: for one cutteth a tree out of the forest, the work of the hands of the workman, with the axe.
“They deck it with silver and with gold; they fasten it with nails and with hammers, that it move not” (Emphasis ours).
Is the Christmas tree, decked with glittering ornaments, any different from this scriptural description?
God is clear about what He’s saying. He wants us to back away from idolatry in all its forms. The popularity of Christmas does not legitimize it in the sight of God. In fact, that might even be an indication of its poor standing with Him. The Lord Jesus stated: “Ye are they which justify yourself before men; but God knoweth your hearts: for thatwhich is highly esteemed among men is an abomination in the sight of God” (Luke 16:15).
Can Christmas be classified as such? The evidence is not hard to find; it’s right there in the Bible and history.