Tag: pagan

Is Christmas Good or Bad?

As part of my ongoing ‘battle against the spirit of christmas‘ which started years back now, I continue to dig in deeper each year.  This year the fire was truly kindled when our family decided that we may not go to our church’s ‘christmas service’ next week as a form of ‘personal separation’ (call it protest if you want but we aren’t feeling any hostility) from a practice that we believe has pagan roots.

As this is a big decision with possible implications for us and the church, I continue to study the topic.  Today I came across perhaps one of the best articles defending Christmas for Christians.  This article nailed down most of the items and did a fairly good job trying to defend them from a biblical perspective.  I will, below, take the point, summarize it, and then comment on it:

The word ‘Christ-mas’ means ‘Christ’s Mass’

The author uses this as kind of a ‘proof’ of its Christian origin, saying that ‘Christianity took this idea from its Jewish roots’ and even goes so far as to suggest that there is a possibility that ‘the pagans may have adopted an already existing Christian celebration’.   Unfortunately all other sources I’ve read up to this point suggest unanimously that Christmas didn’t exist anywhere near the first church until somewhere around 300AD.  Most sources agree that it was put in by the Roman Catholics.  And, just the fact that he pointed out the ‘mass’ is a good proof that this entire Christmas thing is rooted in ‘something outside of the Bible’.  Mass is very much associated with the catholic church. Even if mass is considered an ‘ok ritual’ the question is ‘why the focus on Dec 25th’ and the ‘magnification of the day’?  And the question remains for me “Is Christ the reason for the season or was a pagan celebration slapped with a Christian-looking label and finessed for the church to try to make it fit?”  But this final quote is a good quote, and a good one to support Christmas as being ‘ok’ for Christians to join: “We hold this day holy, not like the pagans because of the birth of the sun, but because of Him who made it.”

Christ’s Birthday

This section, honestly, is so weak that I didn’t read it twice.  Almost every source I read and most academia are in agreement that Jesus was likely *not* born anywhere near December 25th.  But this author worked very, very hard to build a big defence story for keeping it on Dec. 25th – which, is kind of interesting to me….

Christmas Trees

This section was also quite good.  I also know that throughout the Bible the tree has significance and often positive.  “Cedars of Lebanon” and such terms of strength.  His Hosea 14:8 scripture find was a great one.  However, it doesn’t wipe away the very most key point of the Christmas tree debate.  It’s not about the tree, it’s about the ritual.  No one would deny his tree support scriptures.  There are also other wonderful symbols in the Bible like Jesus being the Living Water and the Rock.  And the Holy Spirit being like a flame and such.  So a tree may represent strength and the evergreen more so.  No problem. However…. what happens at Christmas is the tree is (traditionally) chopped down, dragged inside, and decorated!  Come again?  First of all, I’ve always thought that God did a great job creating the fir tree by itself and made it look pretty great.  I’ve not felt the urge to decorate them.  Then there are songs like “O’ Christmas tree’ which, quite frankly, should creep out any born again believer.  Of course, it also doesn’t wipe away Jeremiah 10 which seems to be painting a pretty vivid picture of a ritual of idolatry related to a tree.  Read this and you will see that God is not a fan of this practice.  Try as hard as you want, but you really do have to fight hard to deny that this tree thing is steeped in something ungody that has crept into homes and even churches.  I remain firm against the tree, the more I study.

Chrismons

Interesting to read, interesting to learn about but I still see it as a ‘pagan tree concept brought into the church’.  It’s very interesting to me how hard we fight to keep this tree in our homes!  To me, this might be the biggest marvel.

Wreaths

Again, the author takes and focuses on the ‘christian history’ of the wreath but going back further shows that the wreath can be found in pagan rituals.  I don’t have a big issue with this one so far because it kind of reminds me of the crown of thorns Jesus wore – but what has that to do with his birthday?  Not much…. so… strike that one, too.

As a side note, I also tripped across this nice summary of mainly what I have come to believe about Christmas.

The current debate that we are having with some leaders at our church is whether or not it’s ok to ‘celebrate Jesus’ in this way and at this time or whether by doing so we are getting in bed with a ‘pagan thing’.  Here are some bullet point questions that we are grappling with moving forward:

  • Did the first century church ‘do Christmas’?
  • Does it matter if the first century church ‘did Christmas’ or are we allowed to tack on some new things as we move forward?
  • Is there any biblical basis for celebrating Christ’s birth?
  • Did Christ Himself ask us to focus on it as one of the most important days of the Christian calendar or is that something we have done?
  • If a ‘day’ was originally dark, pagan or otherwise (ie. satan’s birthday to be vivid) does that day hold any power over us?
  • Can a ‘day’ be dark, demonic, dedicated to satan or otherwise?
  • Is there a spiritual benefit to celebrating Christmas?
  • If it were decided that Christmas was even ‘partly pagan’ is it ok to keep ‘doing Christmas’ for the sake of the unity of the church (ie. not going so might send them fleeing to other churches)?
  • and more.

A few analogies that are in the middle of being debated are:

  • If one were to take AC/DC’s Highway to Hell song, keep the music, and change the words to “Highway to Heaven’ is the song now redeemed and ok for church/worship?  The analogy here is that the ‘Christians’ have taken a pagan holiday and then thrown a ‘Christian cover’ on it.

To counteract that example given, the following was given:

  • If a building used to be a whore-house, night club, casino, or concentration camp execution chamber, could it be now used as a place of worship for the children of God to gather and worship?  The analogy here is that yes it’s ok to ‘redeem a day’ if the motives are for Christ.

And so because of these two ‘truths’ I have yet been able to conclude my position.  Both seem to be true and applicable to christmas.

It will be most interesting to see where this week goes.

I will attempt a post-Christmas review.

Further Reading:

  1. Article by a 15 year ordained minister with his top ten reasons why he doesn’t do Christmas.  The comments at the bottom of this post are also very thought provoking.
  2. This is a good article, from a reliable source.  The article tries very hard to explain the history of the celebration of Christmas yet, even here it falls short of convincing me that Christmas deserves our focus.  In fact, oddly it further cemented to me that history backs the pagan perspective.
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Overcoming the ‘spirit of christmas’ with the Spirit of Christ: Part 2 in a Series: Tree vs Vine

Compare and contract this:

Jeremiah 10:1-5 (underline added)

Hear ye the word which the LORD speaketh unto you, O house of Israel:Thus saith the LORD, Learn not the way of the heathen, and be not dismayed at the signs of heaven; for the heathen are dismayed at them.  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.  They are upright as the palm tree, but speak not: they must needs be borne, because they cannot go. Be not afraid of them; for they cannot do evil, neither also is it in them to do good.

With this:

John 15: 1-8

I am the true vine, and my Father is the husbandman. Every branch in me that beareth not fruit he taketh away: and every branch that beareth fruit, he purgeth it, that it may bring forth more fruit. Now ye are clean through the word which I have spoken unto you. Abide in me, and I in you. As the branch cannot bear fruit of itself, except it abide in the vine; no more can ye, except ye abide in me. I am the vine, ye are the branches: He that abideth in me, and I in him, the same bringeth forth much fruit: for without me ye can do nothing. If a man abide not in me, he is cast forth as a branch, and is withered; and men gather them, and cast them into the fire, and they are burned. If ye abide in me, and my words abide in you, ye shall ask what ye will, and it shall be done unto you. Herein is my Father glorified, that ye bear much fruit; so shall ye be my disciples.

In the first part of this series, I spoke extensively about roots and whether or not they matter to the God of the Bible and concluded that, yes, they do.  Now we shall move from the roots up towards the living organism of Christmas and see what shall unfold.

Let me emphasize again that I’m not doing this to be a ‘christmas killer’.  I’m just trying to solidify all these things that I’m seeing and put it into one place with some structure so that I, and perhaps any other interested person can add to the discussion and make better spiritual decisions for ourselves and our families.

In both of the above scriptures God is speaking extensively about a tree and a vine.  Do these two plants have some kind of spiritual power? No.  They are plants like a dandy lion or a bamboo – a few unique DNA strands that make it what it is.  They are rooted in dirt and enjoy sunshine like the rest of us.

What matters in the plants described are the roots – or to be more precise – the meaning or significance we give them.  In the latter scripture, Jesus is saying ‘Hey, come here. See this vine? I’m like this vine to you.  Don’t forget this analogy because this is a spiritual truth.”

In the former scripture, God is saying “See those trees?  They don’t have power to do evil, or good, or speak yet you give them ‘god’ status in your lives and hearts.” Same with the vine.  I haven’t seen a vine helping an old lady cross a street or jump out of the woods to mug her either.  They are just a couple of great things that God made way back in Genesis.

So let it be known that I’m not afraid of your christmas tree.  It cannot hurt me or help me.  So, that’s *not* the reason I have elected not to have one in our home.  The reason I have elected not to have one in the home is that the christmas tree is rooted in pagan rituals.  The tree itself represents something that God is not ok with: idolatry.  It’s no different than having a statue of Buddha  on my table or a pentagram on my wall.  The ‘things’ represent the spiritual realm and some realities that cannot be seen with the eye.

ACK! Did you compare a christmas tree to a pentagram??!!! 

Let’s roll with the pentagram example.  Run this scenario with me.  I invite you over to my house for tea and cookies and a few olives on a toothpick.  You show up, tip your hat, slowly walk up the stairs into my living room where you are greeted by a full human size image of a pentagram with ol’ Baphomet in the middle just to make sure you  know it’s the real deal.  I’m pretty sure you are not going to say “Wow! What a neat piece of artwork! I love what you’ve done with ol’ Bappy’s horns there! Right-i-o!”

You would probably start to feel a little concerned about your personal well being and perhaps plotting your escape.

Now why is that?

Because you know what that image represents: satanic power.

And so the item, in that context, is a declaration of faith and dedication to satan.

A long time ago, a christmas tree was used, as you can plainly read in Jeremiah above, as a pagan god.  They decked it with ‘clothes’ and worshipped it.  They thought the tree represented eternal life.  In the same article some try to give it a ‘Christian history’ but it’s simply not congruent with the even older history of Egypt, etc.  Also, the Jeremiah scripture above should wipe away any ideas that this is a Judeo-Christian concept.

Ladies and Gentlemen. Boys and Girls.  Like it or not, your christmas tree is not connected to the Bible or Jesus other than the reference to paganism in Jeremiah 10.

Jesus is the vine.  We are to be as branches on that vine.

I’m not going to go on a campaign to ‘kill the tree ritual’ (I’m sure the tree huggers are well on top of that) but I am going to continue staying close to Jesus and hear His voice and instructions on the topic.  And, unless He gives me directions otherwise, the tree needs to stay outside.  I just simply can’t make a square peg go in a round hole.

Incidentally, I really used to like the ‘magic’ generated by the christmas tree until realized that this magic wasn’t from God. Kind of how I used to like the magic from excessive drinking and other such activities.  The magic was from another source from which I have since departed.  The ‘magic’ was exactly that – magic.  Earthly, secular, and based in paganism.  That’s what I was feeling.  And that’s why these trees are totally accepted and basically worshipped where the crucifix where my Lord Jesus died is not.  The cross is, after all, foolishness to those who are perishing.  You don’t see a crucifix in city hall do you?  But I saw a tree decked with gold and silver there the other day…

If we gave half the veneration we give our flashy trees to God Almighty, I suspect we’d have a pretty good relationship with Him this season.

Just something to chew on while unwrap those gifts.

 Edit: 141227: This is a great link about the christmas tree which pretty much covers it all

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Jesus is Not the Reason for the Season

MODERN DAY DISCIPLE OF JESUS DECLARES JESUS NOT THE REASON FOR THE SEASON

Before I was a disciple of Jesus, I thought that Christianity and Jesus and all that virgin birth stuff was the root of the Christmas holiday. Even the word ‘Christmas’ seemed like ‘the mass of Christ’ – some kind of ‘Christiany-Catholicky-religiousy’ thing. It didn’t help that everyone around me – including those who attended Christian churches – boldly claimed ‘Jesus is the reason for the season’.

It wasn’t until I actually decided to wholeheartedly follow Jesus Himself that some of these claims about Christmas started to show some cracks. A little bit of study on these topics allowed some water to leak out and after digging in to the next level, the ship had sprung a leak and was on its way down.

One of the first thoughts that made me question this Christmas thing was the fact that many unbelievers around me had absolutely no problem ‘celebrating Christmas’. For many of them it was a chance to get more drunk for a longer period of time without work getting in the way. To take it one notch further, when I announced to people around me that I wanted to drop the gift-giving thing from Christmas (at that time it was just because I was broke and realized the nastiness of the commercial aspect of the season on broke people) it was the unbelievers who seemed to be most upset. They said ‘It’s fine if you don’t buy anything but don’t prevent us from buying gifts for you.” It was from these same folk from whom I received emails ‘Jesus is the reason for the season’ or “Let’s put Christ back into Christmas’ or ‘I will say “Merry Christmas!” not “Happy Holidays!”’ as if they were standing up for something very dear to them. The notable thing was that I never heard the name of Jesus exit their lips at any other time of the year yet, for them, Christmas was about Jesus? They were ‘celebrating the birth of Jesus’ they sometimes said.

I have to admit – there was something about that ‘Christmas magic’ that compelled me. It had me addicted. Something about those gifts. Something about Santa. Something about that decorated tree. All these things are very deep, cultural, and most definitely unavoidable.

One of the second Christmas experiences that happened occurred while I was living in Korea. My wife is Korean and a believer, so I did Christmas Gangnam Style a few times. It was interesting for me to note that this entire country goes to work and school and don’t think twice about it. The Christians in Korea gather for a service focused on the birth of Jesus and that’s about it. I suppose even this is rooted in the long term connection between the North American and Korean churches. The Santa thing was considered an ‘American cute thing’ and no one treated him much more seriously than you would treat a fast-food mascot walking down the street promoting cheap burgers as you drive by. I don’t recall meeting anyone who would actually lie to their children telling them that this fat old man was real and had God-like moral authority over their lives. It made me question what this time of the year was all about and why I was even a participant as a Christian.

These events prompted me to search the history of all these Christmas symbols. I found that all of them were pagan or secular at best. There was even substantial evidence saying that mixing the birth of Jesus into this holiday was a way for the ‘church’ to be able to participate in the dominant pagan festivities of the time (related to sun gods and other winter solstice events). The ‘Christians’ may have felt left out and wanted a piece of the pagan pie. Or, another view was that they celebrated Jesus’ birth because there was already this event going on so you might as well ‘Christianize’ it. Regardless of the reason, there is no proof at all to substantiate that Jesus was behind this December event whatsoever.

There are, however, many reasons to believe Jesus is NOT the reason for the Christmas season. Here is just a snapshot:

  1. Christmas trees are a pagan ritual condemned in Jeremiah chapter 10
  2. Jesus wasn’t born anywhere near December 25th. All scholars agree on this one.
  3. Santa has nothing whatsoever to do with the Bible but instead is a significant distraction from the God of the Bible painting an inaccurate view of our Heaveny Father and the reality of faith.
  4. It wasn’t really until around the mid 1850’s that Christmas was even regarded as a special day in the United States. Before that the celebration of it was even condemned and the existence of a Christmas tree in a church was nothing short of heretical.
  5. {More to be inserted here one day, maybe winter 2013}

After having researched these things and inside of myself decided that as for myself and my family we will not participate in these aspects of Christmas, I started to realize the immense social pressure to do it so as to not ruin the fun for others. In fact, the very day after I decided this, our family ended up at a Christmas event where I was the only white guy (again). Within just a few moments I was handed a big box full of Santa gear and asked to be Santa for these kids, one of whom was my daughter. Instead of ruining the event I decided that I would give them one year’s warning of my non-participation and make sure that as for my daughter, she knew that it was daddy under the suit. The pressure to do all these things is akin to high school social pressure.

The argument against Santa for Christians, with which I concur is this: If you lie to your kids about Santa, what makes you think they will trust you when you are teaching about the God of the Bible? In fact, it is this exact ‘argument’ that many atheists use when trying to refute the stories of the Bible. They say ‘The creation story, virgin birth and resurrection are nothing more than fairy tales like Santa and the Tooth Fairy.” Is this the kind of foundation we want to leave with our children? I cannot stop you from lying to your kids but if mine ask me if Santa is real, they are going to hear the truth in the same way I will tell them the truth that God is real. Our words and actions must line up.

So, then, what is the solution?

I do not have a complete answer yet and it will likely be a work in progress over the next few years. The best one I have heard so far and I will attempt to implement it is the idea of following the feasts and celebrations of the Bible (mainly Old Testament ones like the Passover). This will create a better understanding of the Bible while allowing us to celebrate something with eternal importance. Further, I believe that preparing a solid answer as to why we’re not celebrating the Christmas that the world celebrates will open many doors of discussion.

One of my concerns, admittedly, was that someone might consider me a cult member like a Jehovah’s Witness. So, I think it’s important to create a ‘new thing’.

Something that’s fun: family, friends, social.

Something that’s different completely from the ‘Christmas’ that the world celebrates.

Something that honours God.

 

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