(Originally published December 1996; please read 2009 update below article)
What a joyous day Christmas is said to be. Children laughing, carolers singing, gifts being exchanged, and families joining together around a meal that no doubt took hours to prepare. It sounds wonderful. As a matter of fact, if this was all that the holiday was about, there would be no reason why we couldn’t stick another name on it and simply celebrate the joy of giving. However, as this article will explain, this is not what it’s all about.
The Shepherds and The Wise Men
It seems that everyone – both heathens and Christians alike – celebrate Christmas. Ask anyone about the story of Christ’s birth and you will hear the same: "Three wise men came from afar bearing gifts for the baby Jesus in a manger." According to The New Book of Knowledge, the re-enactment of this scene is possibly the only thing that has anything to do with Christ or the church. "In fact," the book states, "the church fathers frowned upon the celebration of birthdays and thought them a heathen custom."
If you are a student of the Bible, I know you will agree it is a shame that the re-enactment of Christ’s birth is the only link to Christ Himself, considering the half-truths concerning even this.
As told in Luke 2:1-24, an angel of the Lord came upon shepherds who were abiding in a field nearby, and said to them, "For unto you is born this day in the city of David a Saviour, which is Christ the Lord." The shepherds then went to see Christ in the manger and told everyone of all that they had seen and heard. This is the story that most people know, yet it is wrongly combined with the story in Matthew 2:1-16, which tells of the wise men (the number of which was never mentioned), who followed Christ’s star to Him.
It doesn’t take a scholar to understand that the shepherds and the wise men were two separate groups of men, nor does it take a scholar to understand that when the star finally stopped, it stopped over a house, not a manger. "And when [the wise men] were come into the house, they saw the young child with Mary his mother, and fell down, and worshipped him…" (Matthew 2:11)
As you can see, not only was Christ no longer in the manger, He was also no longer referred to as a babe, but as a young child. In addition to this, the fact that King Herod had all children of the age 2 and under killed, in hopes of having The Lord slain, proves that Christ’s exact age at this time was never recorded. If you should decide to read these scriptures, keep in mind as well that in the days of Christ’s birth, without the convenience of our transportation today, it took months, even years, to reach some destinations. No one can say for certain how long it took the wise men to arrive, but it is clearly noted it wasn’t while Christ and His earthly parents were still at the manger.
The Origin of Christmas
Christmas is a tradition, one that is believed to have originated in the 4th century A.D. It goes without saying that there is nothing written in the Bible to indicate the actual date of Christ’s birth, but, concerning how the date was chosen for the holiday, most encyclopedias basically say the same. "This day was probably chosen because, according to the calendar then in use, December 25 was the winter solstice, the time when days begin to grow longer in the Northern Hemisphere. The sun-worshiping pagans had celebrated this day as the promise of spring."
The reason for The Lord’s title of Christ being placed into this pagan holiday was due to a compromise between the Christians and pagans. "It is believed that the efforts of the early churchmen in Rome to change pagan customs into Christian rites led to the adoption of December 25 as the date of the Christ Mass, or feast, in honor of the birth of Christ," as stated in The New Book of Knowledge. The pagans were to acknowledge the fact that Christ had indeed been born (which they never did), and the Christians were to accept the pagan rituals as their own (which they did).
The compromise was a joining of celebrations – they were to worship our God, and, in return, we were to recognize theirs. And, so, it is done every year on the 25th of December. There are many who would argue, "But that was back then; it doesn’t have anything to do with us today." However, as a compromise of this nature could never place its origin with God, it would obviously be a joining that He was against. And if it was wrong in the eyes of God back then, it is wrong in the eyes of God today.
The Trees and Dazzling Lights
The rituals of Christmas that many people enjoy today are also the results of the compromise between the pagans and the Christians. In the Encarta Encyclopedia, it is said that the Christians "incorporate pagan customs, such as the use of holly, mistletoe, Yule logs, and wassail bowls," then adds that "the custom [of bringing trees into homes] came from Germany when primitive people revered trees – particularly evergreens."
If there were people living on another planet and they were to come to earth during this season, they would undoubtedly assume that our god was the tree. It would seem apparent by the way the trees are adorned – with the dazzling lights and decorations, the star upon the top, and even the gifts placed underneath. It all signifies worship and reverence to the tree, not to God.
Read the words of God Himself in Jeremiah 10 concerning these types of reverences. "For 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….But they are altogether brutish and foolish: the stock is a doctrine of vanities. Silver spread into plates is brought from Tarnish, and gold from U-phaz, the work of the workman, and of the hands of the founder: blue and purple is their clothing: they are all the work of cunning men."
Nick and Santa
He is said to spread good tidings all across the world. He rides in a sleigh pulled by flying reindeer, and he enters homes through chimneys to deliver gifts to all of the "good" children. He is Saint Nicholas, more commonly referred to as Santa Claus.
Each year, children are told, "He knows when you are sleeping, he knows when you’re awake; he knows if you’ve been bad or good…" And so the song goes. There is only one who could know these things, and that is God. It is ironic that December 25th is a day that man has set aside to celebrate the birth of the Son of God, yet, on this same day, someone other than God is receiving credit for the things that only God can do. If this isn’t enough, it is a lie that is told to children by the very ones that they trust more than anyone else in this world – their parents.
Every time a parent tells their child that there is a Santa Claus, that parent runs the risk of one day hearing, "If you lied to me about Santa Claus, how do I know you’re not lying to me about God?" Before thoughts intrude that it’s "all in fun and there’s certainly no harm in it," simply think about it for a minute. With this character, they have men, possibly even their dad, wearing a bright red suit, stuffing a pillow beneath a big black belt, and putting on all of the dressing that says "Santa Claus." They can see him, they can touch him and feel that he must be real. God, on the other hand, is a spirit and cannot be seen, except through eyes of faith.
Ask yourself this, should your child come to you one day with that very question, how would you explain that a character he or she saw with their own eyes isn’t real, while trying to convince them that God, of whom they’ve never seen, is real? Even if this entire article should amount to nothing, don’t damage the faith that could be obtained by lying to your child about this fictional character. Tell them of God, explain how He is the only one who can know when they are sleeping and when they are awake. He’s the only one who can be there for them – for everyday, for every minute and second of the year – even when you can’t be. If you are one of the many who truly believes the holiday is for the children, at the very least, tell them the truth.
"This Do In Remembrance Of Me"
With this said, Christmas is declared to be a day to remember the birth of Christ, yet the Bible never says it is something we should do. It states instead that we are to remember His death, and we do this by partaking of the Lord’s supper – as Christ said, "This do in remembrance of me."
In remembering His death, we have explicit details about what we should do, (read Matthew 26:26-29; Mark 14:22-25; Luke 22:19, 20; and 1 Corinthians 11:23-25). However, concerning His birth, we were told that He was born and where He was born. The details, I believe, are Divinely missing. So, in learning about the truth of Christmas, the answer turns out to be fairly simple: Learn the truth of Christ, and you will learn that there is no truth in Christmas.
Christmas, The 10 Commandments, and Public Prayer
A few years back, someone asked my mother why she doesn’t celebrate Christmas. Rather than go into details, she simply said, "Because Christ isn’t in it." Then she turned the question around and asked the person, who is a self-professed atheist, why she does celebrate it. The younger woman responded, "For the same reason, because ‘he’ isn’t in it."
This attitude concerning Christmas is becoming more and more common. Like my mother, I also don’t celebrate the holiday, but when I hear comments as the one above, it makes me think how this is just another area where the world is trying to remove any and every mention of God. Similar to the removal of The 10 Commandments in public settings or anything resembling public (Christian) prayer, the new offense is Christmas, a day supposedly set aside to celebrate the birth of Christ.
In today’s time, it’s no longer acceptable to say "Merry Christmas." Instead, the popular phrase is now "Happy Holidays." I’ve actually said this myself, but this year I admit to feeling an odd dilemma of agreeing with it and being offended by it, both at the same time.
While I still don’t believe Christ has anything to do with Christmas, the reasoning behind many people not calling it Christmas is because they don’t want to have anything to do with Him. To justify joining in the celebrations, they’re using the very real truth about the origin of Christmas (in which it began with the pagans) as their excuse for continuing on with the traditions carried over from their childhood. They still want the gifts and the eggnog, but not the "reason for the season," as some people put it.
Even so, it really doesn’t matter what the world does or doesn’t do, but it does matter what we do. If we will stand for Him in one thing, then we should stand for Him in all, regardless of what day it is.
"Wherefore take unto you the whole armour of God, that ye may be able to withstand in the evil day, and having done all, to stand." (Ephesians 6:13)