DO CHRISTIANS HAVE REASON TO CELEBRATE?
THE HOST OF HEAVEN CELEBRATED CHRIST’S BIRTH!
And suddenly there appeared with the angel a great multitude of the heavenly host, praising God and saying: “Glory to God in the highest, and on earth peace to men on whom His favor rests!” Luke 2:13-14
This study is to shine the light of truth concerning holiday customs for those who condemn Christians for celebrating the birthday and Resurrection of their Lord and Savior.
Watchtower teaches JWs that because pagans once celebrated around these times and worshiped many of the symbols now used in decorating during these holidays, Christians are pagans and Christ will reject us.
Defining the word ‘pagan’ or ‘paganism’ in general can be tricky. In Scripture, the word ‘idol’ is associated with paganism. Here it will be used to describe those people or practices that fall outside the body of true believers, or those who worship idols and false gods rather than those who worship the Creator/Redeemer God of the Bible. YHWH is the true God who identifies Himself as “I Am…” and is revealed as Creator, Savior, Redeemer, and Lord.
Christians today celebrate holidays that were begun many centuries ago. Most people, particularly during the 20th century, had no idea any part of celebrating Christmas or Easter was in any way related to paganism. Christians were taught that Santa Claus originated from a Saint. The idea that using holly, ivy, mistletoe etc. could be pagan was never even considered. Christians celebrated the birth of Jesus and the resurrection of the Lord. Church attendance soared during the holiday seasons with Luke chapters 1 & 2 taught and emphasized at Christmas. Having no internet, or access to the “information highway,” people had very limited access to the history of pagans and their customs, so no one worshiping Christ at Christmas and/or Easter had any intentions of honoring pagan idols, foreign gods or goddesses or of paying tribute to them in any way. Born again Christians today do not worship these pagan gods either, so the question isn’t are Christians choosing pagan gods and idols to worship rather than Christ at Christmas or Easter. The questions are, “Is Christ offended by the use of the items that were once used in pagan worship? Are our celebrations truly honoring to Christ and the gospel?” The Bible is needed to answer these questions.
We will look first at what aspects of pagan worship have been incorporated into our celebrations.
PAGAN WORSHIP AND IDOLATRY
According to many who have looked into historical traditions, the items or traditions from paganism that Christians use are the items listed here. (I cannot vouch for the truth or accuracy on this.)
Romans Gave Gifts at Saturnia
Green Leaves and Red Berries
The Yule Log
Many of these are used to celebrate Christmas today. The Catholic Church instituted the celebration of the birth of Christ as December 25 around the year 336 A.D., it was to replace the Sol Invictus festival introduced by the emperor Aurelian in the 3rd century. It was considered the victory of Christianity over paganism. (Some who think of religion as being the church stumble here because Catholics first celebrated. Those who do not comprehend the true Church (Christ’s body) get very confused. Even so, people continued to use the above items as decoration, but they were not included as worship. Singing was a part of Christian worship from the beginning and has continued with the singing of Christmas Carols in praising Christ. Christians worship in Spirit and truth and not with objects.
Easter apparently has customs adapted from pagan origins.
“The rabbit, symbol of fertility and agility, was sacred to Ostara. Eggs, chicks, green grass and sweets speak to the ancient celebration of new life and rebirth during warm spring days.”
As with Christmas decor, these items have been incorporated into activities and decor when Christians celebrate the resurrection of Christ, but not used when worshiping.
Some criticize Christians for participating in any of these activities because of what is believed to be pagan origins. Some go beyond criticism and totally condemn Christians saying that because they celebrate these holidays they have no part in God’s (Christ’s) kingdom.
THE BIBLE TEACHES
Now He who searches the hearts knows what the mind of the Spirit is, because He makes intercession for the saints according to the will of God. Romans 8:27
Christians believe we are saved by grace through faith and that God is a just God who knows those who truly worship Him and that He judges righteously.
Christians who observe the holidays are abiding by the law of liberty Christ instituted which Paul wrote about…
One man regards a certain day above the others, while someone else considers every day alike. Each one should be fully convinced in his own mind. He who observes a special day does so to the Lord; he who eats does so to the Lord, for he gives thanks to God; and he who abstains does so to the Lord and gives thanks to God. Romans 14:5-6
SCRIPTURE CONCERNING IDOLATRY
Paul’s writings did not forbid Christians from food offered to idols. Would it not follow that God is not offended by items used centuries ago to worship idols?
So about eating food sacrificed to idols: We know that an idol is nothing at all in the world, and that there is no God but one…But food does not bring us closer to God: We are no worse if we do not eat, and no better if we do. 1 Corinthians 8:4,8
God is concerned with out hearts and our devotion to Him
The only scripture I find that could be used by non-Christians to accuse or cause a question concerning our present holiday celebrations is found in Deuteronomy. Here God warned the Israelites strictly about inquiring and/or serving idols with abominable practices!
“When the Lord your God cuts off before you the nations whom you go in to dispossess, and you dispossess them and dwell in their land, take care that you be not ensnared to follow them, after they have been destroyed before you, and that you do not inquire about their gods, saying, ‘How did these nations serve their gods?—that I also may do the same.’ You shall not worship the Lord your God in that way, for every abominable thing that the Lord hates they have done for their gods, for they even burn their sons and their daughters in the fire to their gods. “Everything that I command you, you shall be careful to do. You shall not add to it or take from it. Deuteronomy 12:29-32
The question for Christians is, did the Christmas and Easter Holidays come into being because Christians were inquiring about how pagans served God and wanting to be sure to incorporate those practices in their own worship? Do we today search out information on these pagan idols rather than reading God’s Word?
Certainly Christians today do not worship pagan deities!
We, in America know little or nothing about the idols that were worshiped in the early centuries following the arrival of Christ. It is highly doubtful, based on writings of early Christians, that anyone wanted to worship pagan gods in the early church. I do not see this as a reason to leave off our customs.
TRADITIONS AND CUSTOMS OF TODAY
True Christians know they are not worshiping pagan gods. The Father knows those who worship Him in Spirit and Truth, which is the only worship He will receive. The thing we must then decide however is…
Do our customs hinder the cause of Christ or prevent others from knowing Him?
Most customs are truly benign and Christians can decorate and enjoy foods without fear of offending. Non-Christians are always offended by Christ. They refuse to give Him glory and they look with distain on those who do, so we are not told to end practices that offend the heathen. We are, however, warned not to offend a weaker brother in Christ.
The real danger is that we are allowing Satan and the world to encroach and hinder or taint true worship during a time set aside to worship Christ.
Things that are offensive to God remain offensive throughout the holiday season. 1) Drinking and debauchery have no place in the life of a Christian believer. 2) Placing the celebration above the One we are to celebrate is also sinful. 3) What we teach can be wrong.
If we teach our children to ‘believe’ in Santa Clause and the Easter Bunny, how can we teach them the real meaning of ‘believe in the Lord Jesus Christ.’
Salvation by grace through faith is too precious to risk confusing our children about belief and faith in Christ! They can have a happy childhood, celebrate Christ’s birth, and enjoy Christmas and Easter without being lied to.
One problem that has caused those outside the Kingdom to question Christians is that the unsaved world now celebrates Christian holidays. Christians are set apart to be dedicated to the Lord and be different than the world. Therefore, we must, as Christians use the season as a time to spread the gospel and demonstrate true worship inside and outside the church gatherings! The gospel message is the good news that..
But the angel said to them, “Do not be afraid! For behold, I bring you good news of great joy that will be for all the people: Today in the City of David a Savior has been born to you. He is Christ the Lord! And this will be a sign to you: You will find a baby wrapped in swaddling cloths and lying in a manger.” And suddenly there appeared with the angel a great multitude of the heavenly host, praising God and saying: “Glory to God in the highest, and on earth peace to men on whom His favor rests!” Luke 2:10-14
On the first day of the week, very early in the morning, the women came to the tomb, bringing the spices they had prepared. They found the stone rolled away from the tomb, but when they entered, they did not find the body of the Lord Jesus. While they were puzzling over this, suddenly two men in radiant apparel stood beside them. As the women bowed their faces to the ground in terror, the two men asked them, “Why do you look for the living among the dead? He is not here; He has risen!…” Luke 24:1-6a
OF ALL PEOPLE, CHRISTIANS HAVE REASON TO CELEBRATE
As we celebrate we are to…
… sanctify Christ as Lord, always ready for a defense to everyone asking you an account concerning the hope in you; yet with gentleness and fear…1 Peter 3:15
We need to be very sure all we do during the holidays exalts Christ and allows others to know the good news of the Gospel of Jesus Christ!
* I cannot vouch for accuracy of the information on Christmas Traditions With Pagan Origins. Most historians teach this or something similar.
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