‘Tis The Season

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Before you begin to read this, please understand that I know this is an extremely controversial subject, and so I ask that before you begin, you please take a moment to read the last few paragraphs on this page. It is neither my intent nor my desire to convict others regarding how they should live their lives, only to express what we do and believe.

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Let us search out and examine our ways (Lam 3:40).

I’ve always loved to ask questions. I also love to listen to the questions of others. I love a good debate, and I especially love to ask myself the questions that are meant to be rhetorical by the people who ask them. For instance, someone may say: “tithing is an Old Testament commandment. Are we supposed to stop eating pork and start wearing tassels, too?” These are my favorite kinds of questions. I firmly believe in tithing, so when someone throws out an inquiry like this, rather than question whether I should be tithing, I question whether I should be eating pork and wearing tassels! My understanding of the Bible is always open to interpretation, and I’m always ready to be challenged by someone with an opposing view. So years ago, when I heard someone say they didn’t celebrate Christmas, I immediately wanted to know why. This began an intense period of research on the matter and I discovered many things that were disturbing to me.

“I applied my heart to know, to search and seek out wisdom and the reason of things” (Ecc 7:25).

Christmas originated as a pagan holiday. It has its origin in several ancient pagan festivals, including the Yule-feast of the Norsemen and the Roman Saturnalia (1). Many pagan religions kept December the 25th as the birth day of their gods, and the symbols associated with Christmas also have their roots in pagan worship. The holly, mistletoe, and Yule log are all relics of the festival of Yule which was celebrated by German and Celtic tribes (2), and the ancient Romans “ornamented their temples and homes with green boughs and flowers. The Druids gathered mistletoe with great ceremony and hung it in their homes; and the Saxons used holly, ivy and bay” (3). “When the pagans of Northern Europe became Christians, they made their sacred evergreen trees part of the Christian festival, and decorated the trees with gilded nuts, candles (a carry-over from sun worship), and apples to stand for the stars, moon, and sun” (4).

“Thus says the Lord: Do not learn the way of the Gentiles…. For the customs of the peoples are futile; For one cuts a tree from the forest with an ax. They decorate it with silver and gold, they fasten it with nails and hammers so that it will not topple” (Jeremiah 10:2-4).

Although Jesus Christ and the saints gradually replaced the pagan deities, it came under heavy criticism from the early church and “was long considered completely out of character with the Christian ideal” (5). The festival was too popular with the pagans to be abolished, however, and so “the [Catholic] Church finally granted the necessary recognition, believing that if Christmas could not be suppressed it should be preserved in honor of the Christian God” (6). In AD 601, Pope Gregory I gave the following instructions to missionaries: “Because they [the pagans] were wont to sacrifice oxen to devils, some celebration should be given in exchange for this. . . they should celebrate a religious feast and worship God by their feasting, so that still keeping outward pleasures, they may more readily receive spiritual joys” (7). In an effort to win over the pagan world, the church adopted the heathen worship of those around them and attempted to make it their own.

“Know ye not that the friendship of the world is enmity with God?” (Jas. 4:4).

After learning these things (and much, much more), my husband and I were forced to come to a decision. We knew that we could attempt to honor Jesus through our celebration of Christmas. We even considered cutting out many of the pagan symbols associated with the day (although Christmas without a Christmas tree really looses a lot of it’s appeal.) But no matter which way we tried to work the situation, it just didn’t seem right to us.

“Wherefore come out from among them, and be ye separate, saith the Lord, and touch not the unclean thing.” (2 Cor 16:17.)

Could we really honor Jesus by celebrating His birth on a pagan holy day? Could we take the means and methods used in the veneration of other gods, and adopt them as a way to honor our Lord and Savior? If my husband were to celebrate my birthday on the day of his ex-wife’s birthday, how would I feel about that? What if it were easier for him? What if it had always been done that way? What if that was the best time for him to take a vacation from work and throw me a party? Would I be any less hurt by his actions? Furthermore, could we really yoke ourselves to idol worshippers by participating in their holy day?

“Do not be unequally yoked with unbelievers…” (2 Cor 16:14)

Consider the following article, written by a self-proclaimed witch:

Our Christian friends are often quite surprised at how enthusiastically we Pagans celebrate the ‘Christmas’ season. Even though we prefer to use the word “Yule”, and our celebrations may peak a few days before the twenty-fifth, we follow many of the traditional customs of the season: decorated trees, caroling, presents, Yule logs, and mistletoe. We might even go so far as putting up a ‘Nativity set’, though for us the three central characters are likely to be interpreted as Mother Nature, Father Time, and the Baby Sun-God. None of this will come as a surprise to anyone who knows the true history of the holiday, of course.
In fact, if truth be known, the holiday of Christmas has always been more Pagan than Christian, with it’s associations of Nordic divination, Celtic fertility rites, and Roman Mithraism. That is why both Martin Luther and John Calvin abhorred it, why the Puritans refused to acknowledge it, much less celebrate it (to them, no day of the year could be more holy than the Sabbath), and why it was even made ILLEGAL in Boston! The holiday was already too closely associated with the birth of older Pagan gods and heroes…
…Ultimately, of course, the holiday is rooted deeply in the cycle of the year. It is the Winter Solstice that is being celebrated, seed-time of the year, the longest night and shortest day. It is the birthday of the new Sun King, the Son of God – by whatever name you choose to call him. On this darkest of nights, the Goddess becomes the Great Mother and once again gives birth. And it makes perfect poetic sense that on the longest night of the winter, ‘the dark night of our souls’, there springs the new spark of hope, the Sacred Fire, the Light of the World, the Coel Coeth.
That is why Pagans have as much right to claim this holiday as Christians. Perhaps even more so, as the Christians were rather late in laying claim to it, and tried more than once to reject it…
… Remembering that most Christmas customs are ultimately based upon older Pagan customs, it only remains for modern Pagans to reclaim their lost traditions. In doing so, we can share many common customs with our Christian friends, albeit with a slightly different interpretation. And thus we all share in the beauty of this most magical of seasons, when the Mother Goddess once again gives birth to the baby Sun-God and sets the wheel in motion again. To conclude with a long-overdue paraphrase, ‘Goddess bless us, every one!’ (8)

We want to live our lives according to the standards of God, as revealed to us in the Bible. We want to worship Him in “spirit and in truth.” We do not want to mix our worship and honor of God, Most High, with that of idols.

“Take heed to yourself that you are not ensnared to follow after [the nations], and 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 God 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” (Deut 12:30-32).

Billy Graham was once asked why the handful of early disciples were able to “turn the world upside down” when millions of Christians can’t turn it “right side up.” He responded:

“The early Christians didn’t conform their faith to match the world; they changed the world to match their faith. They had the truth, and they refused to water it down. They held the faith that would not compromise…The words of the apostle Paul, ‘Be not conformed to this world,’ have tremendous significance and meaning for us today. These words cut like a sharp sword across our way of life. They are not comfortable words. They separate the weak from the strong. But they are words of inspiration and challenge, and we need to hear them and heed them today” (9).

“Be not conformed to this world: but be ye transformed by the renewing of your minds, that ye may prove what is that good, and acceptable, and perfect, will of God.” (Romans 12:1-2)

.

1.) Man, Myth & Magic, 1995, Vol. 3, p. 418 (quoted in “Christmas: The Curious Origins of a Popular Holiday,” by Jerold Aust [http://www.ucgstp.org/lit/gn/gn055/christmas.htm])
2.) Encyclopedia Britannica (1961 ed.), 6:623
3.) Ibid, 5:643.)
4.) World Book Encyclopedia, (1955 ed.), 3:1425
5.) Man, Myth & Magic, 1995, Vol. 3, p. 418 (quoted in “Christmas: The Curious Origins of a Popular Holiday,” by Jerold Aust [http://www.ucgstp.org/lit/gn/gn055/christmas.htm])
6.) Ibid, p. 418
7.) Bede, Ecclesiastical History of the English Nation, (quoted in Encyclopedia Britannica, (1961 ed.), 5:643
8.) Holidays and Sabbats,
http://www.geocities.com/SoHo/Cafe/1614/Celtwicc/Wicca/Wicca04.htm9.) Billy Graham, Billy Graham Answers Your Questions, World Wide Publications, Minneapolis, Minnesota, pg 123-124

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13 Responses to ‘Tis The Season

  1. Ellen says:

    Hi! I just ran across your blog on Works for Me Wednesday, and I ran across your Christmas post. I grew up not celebrating Christmas for these reasons. I belonged to a small non-denominational home fellowship growing up who had gotten ahold of a book called “Babylon Mystery Religions.” Most people in the church did not celebrate Christmas, and we were part of that. It was a little tough growing up, but I understood the reasoning. When I became an adult and started dating my husband, his family were big Christmas celebrators. I enthusiastically jumped in, deciding that this was my big chance to try out Christmas. And I was disappointed. I was expecting to see a lot of Jesus in his pastor family celebration, and I saw very little. And I realized that what I wanted was not to do Christmas after all. =)

    Fast forward a few years, married to a long time Christmas celebrator. We tried various ways to make mention of Christ’s birth, singing carols in the fall when Jesus was probably born and making him a birthday cake then, etc. Most of them just didn’t work out well for him. And then I decided that it was time to try and honor my husband despite my feelings. We carved out a compromise. We now attempt to only celebrate the aspects of Christmas that have to do with Jesus specifically. We don’t have a Christmas tree, and we don’t exchange presents in our family. We do have an Advent wreath so we can read the Advent scriptures together. To me, this cutting out stuff is no big deal. For my husband, its a lot harder. I had no idea there was so much cultural baggage associated with Christmas, never having had it myself. I naively thought that this should be good enough!

    I have been really surprised how many people tell me that I don’t “celebrate Christmas” because we don’t have a tree or gifts. (I had crazily thought that I would no longer have to tell people that I didn’t celebrate Christmas and explain everything if we celebrated in our own way. I was wrong.) I think that says more about their true meaning of the holiday than it does about me, but they don’t see it that way. And my mother-in-law can’t fathom what I’m all about. When we spend Christmas with them, despite the fact that I’ve told her I’m not sitting around judging her and don’t care what their family chooses to do, and I mean it, they don’t mention Christmas at all on the day, and one year, they sent us off to watch a movie, and we came home to find that they’d opened all their presents and gone to bed! All because I politely asked that we not be a part of the gift exchange on that day. I had no idea this would become such a big deal…

    You are very fortunate that your spouse is completely on board with you about Christmas. My husband has been very kind and gracious about my convictions on this, but I have had to find ways to accommodate his desire to celebrate Christ’s birth in some way that I can live with. It has also been helpful to me to realize that most of the Christian world simply just isn’t burdened with this conviction, and what is sin for me probably isn’t sin for them. They can celebrate Christ’s birth in these ways with a clear conscience. It would be a lot easier if I could as well! But I can’t, and you understand why… Just thought I’d let you know that you’re not alone. There are some others of us out there, though not as many as I’d like.

    • Rina says:

      Ellen, thank you for your comment. I can imagine how difficult it might be for you to have a conviction in an area that your husband doesn’t share. My husband and I have been down that road many times ourselves and I’m grateful that God has given us the grace to reach compromises of our own. I’m glad He is doing the same for you.
      One of the things that God has really taught me over the years is that we’re all in different places in our walk with Him, and none of us walk in 100% truth. There are always going to be ways in which I am participating in sin and don’t even know it. Likewise, there are ways that others will be participating in sinful things and don’t know it. God deals with us each as individuals. He takes us on a journey with Him at a pace we are able to handle, and I am learning that just because I may understand something to be sinful doesn’t mean that I”m further along in my walk with God than someone who does not yet understand it to be sinful. The truth is that someone else may be MUCH further along than I in other areas, such as prayer, worship, or Holy Spirit giftings (healing, spiritual language, prophesy, etc.), even if they are walking in an area of sinfulness. If another Christian isn’t, as you say, “burdened with this conviction,” it simply means that they have not yet been convicted in this regard. It doesn’t necessarily mean that the action they are taking is right but it does mean that they are not held accountable until God personally convicts them in the matter (Romans 5:13). I’m thankful that God doesn’t teach us everything at once and instead deals with us as we’re ready, and loves and supports us in the meantime.
      I think you’re doing a wonderful thing by supporting your husband in his desire to honor the birth of Christ, even against your own convictions. I believe wholeheartedly that God will honor your commitment and that you and your family will be blessed becasue of the role you have taken in this matter.

  2. sarah says:

    I really appreciate this post. My husband and I don’t celebrate Christmas either, and it can be a very lonely stand to take. Our reasons line up with yours. Most people don’t understand why we as Christians don’t celebrate Christmas. Yeah, it’s a LONG answer ;o)

  3. Pingback: Words of Encouragement | Rina Marie

  4. drgiddy says:

    Great post… I’m curious as to how many views you’ve had on it? With so few likes and comments.

    I do celebrate the birth of Christ during the Christmas season… But, have my reservations and definitely focus on keeping it about Jesus.

    • Rina says:

      There aren’t many people who have discussed it with us – or at least not in detail. They know our position and for the most part either accept it or just think we’re crazy. 🙂

      • drgiddy says:

        You’re reasoning is very sound – whether folks agree/accept or not, and whether you’re crazy or not… So – God I am sure is pleased with your decision and conviction. (Not that I have any authority to speak on His behalf)

  5. Pingback: Why we don’t Celebrate Christmas | Rina Marie

  6. Hi! My pastor’s wife just sent me a link to this blog. I appreciate your sharing. Last year was the first year that I did not celebrate Christmas. My pastor and his wife had mentioned a couple of years ago that they did not celebrate Christmas. I thought they were just plain weird. But, then I began to question…why wouldn’t Christians celebrate the birth of Jesus. So I began to research…and what I found out about both Christmas and Easter was really eye-opening. That along with the fact that I had been reading a lot of verses where God explicitly tells us not to mix…not to worship Him the way the pagans worship their gods was really convicting to me. It was a difficult decision…and I was all set to compromise right up until November of last year…when I realized that I could not continue to celebrate these holidays…that I needed to hold the word of God higher than the traditions of man. On some levels, it has been easy…for me. I was always frustrated and irritated at the worldliness of Christmas anyway. On other levels, trying to make my children and other family members understand why we cannot compromise has been a difficult journey. I recently wrote a post about the same thing…
    http://psalmnineteenfourteen.wordpress.com/2012/11/17/truth-tradition-and-trespass/
    Would you mind if I added the link to this post to my post?

    • Rina says:

      Thank you for your comment, I understand how hard that must have been (and must still be) for you, trying to help your family members understand. Have you ever considered keeping the biblical Holy Days (Passover, Tabernacles, etc.?) I always find that it’s much easier to give something up if we have something to replace it. In this case, you might be able to better help your children understand if you were able to give them the opportunity to experience Holy Days that God has given us, as opposed to holidays of man. I read your blog post and love love LOVE the quote from the Barna group – if you don’t mind, may I re-quote you on that? (And of course I don’t mind if you add my link to your post!)

      • We actually have started observing the feast days. I am enjoying learning about and walking out God’s holy days. I still have a lot to learn and my prayer is that my teenagers would open their hearts and minds to God’s truth and walk according to His ways. And you absolutely may use the Barna Group quote!

  7. Pingback: Truth, Tradition, and Trespass « Psalm 19:14

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