What You Didn’t Know About Christmas
Christmas is the world’s favorite holiday. People of all nationalities and ethnic backgrounds celebrate it. The winter season has become synonymous with gift-giving, joy and family togetherness. What people overlook is the debt problem: It was estimated that the average American spent $830 on Christmas in 2015, up from $720 last year. Incomes haven’t risen, but reckless spending has.
Spending sprees and extreme materialism increase drastically at this time of year. We see shoppers trampling one another to grab the last discount item. With increased debt comes more drunkenness, accidents, divorce, family disruption and crime than at any other time of year. These are the alarming fruits of Christmas observance.
What is Christmas all about? Is there a hidden danger in keeping this day? It is important to get God’s perspective on Christmas.
By No Means Christian
Here is what the Catholic Encyclopedia tells us about the origins of Christmas: “Early Christians did not observe birthdays, not even Christ’s birth. The Catholic theologian Origen, a.d. 185-232, acknowledged that ‘In the Scriptures sinners alone, not saints, celebrate the birthday.’”
“Nowhere does Scripture advocate celebrating Christ’s birthday,” says Christianity Today’s Christian History. “Many believed it would be wrong to honor Christ in the same way Pharaoh and Herod were honored. Birthdays were for pagan gods.”
“‘Christmas’ celebrations preceded Christ’s birth by centuries,” we wrote in a November/December 2011 Trumpet article titled “Two Views of Jesus Christ.” “And somewhere around three centuries after Jesus’s death, church leaders decided to preserve the celebration but affix Christ’s name to it.”
The New Schaff-Herzog Encyclopedia of Religious Knowledge builds on this point: “The pagan festival with its riot and merrymaking was so popular that Christians were glad of an excuse to continue its celebration with little change in spirit and manner. … Christian preachers of the west and the near east protested against the unseemly frivolity with which Christ’s birthday was celebrated, while Christians of Mesopotamia accused the western brethren of idolatry and sun worship for adopting as Christian this pagan festival.”
Nowhere in the Bible is Christmas worship advocated. Early Christians didn’t celebrate birthdays. Those who observed birthdays only did so for men, like Pharaoh and Herod—not gods. Christmas celebrations existed long before Jesus Christ’s human birth. Christmas originates from a pagan festival and is associated with sun worship. Already, the evidence against Christmas is piling up.
Not December 25
“And there were in the same country shepherds abiding in the field, keeping watch over their flock by night” (Luke 2:8). We can glean so much from this one small verse. Consider the context: Mary had just given birth to Jesus Christ (verse 7). Verse 8 makes clear that Christ’s birthday could not have been during the wintertime. How?
“December is in the midst of a cold, rainy season in Judea,” we wrote in a December 2002 Trumpet article titled “Why Christmas Is So Important to God.” “The shepherds always brought their flocks in from the fields and mountains to be corralled by mid-October at the latest, for their protection.”
“For, lo, the winter is past, the rain is over and gone” (Song of Songs 2:11). It nearly always rains during the winter months in the Jewish nation in the Middle East, even today.
“Then all the men of Judah and Benjamin gathered themselves together unto Jerusalem within three days. It was the ninth month, on the twentieth day of the month; and all the people sat in the street of the house of God, trembling because of this matter, and for the great rain. But the people are many, and it is a time of much rain, and we are not able to stand without, neither is this a work of one day or two: for we are many that have transgressed in this thing” (Ezra 10:9, 13).
It gets cold and wet enough during the Mediterranean winter to make staying outside nearly unbearable—especially at night. It is simply implausible to believe that the shepherds of Christ’s day sat outside at night during the winter.
The practice of exchanging gifts during Christmas has become commonplace. Volume 12 of the Bibliotheca Sacra notes: “The interchange of presents between friends is alike characteristic of Christmas and the Saturnalia, and must have been adopted by Christians from the pagans, as the admonition of Tertullian plainly shows.”
Gift-giving comes from the ancient Roman festival of Saturnalia, during which partygoers supposedly honored the agricultural deity Saturn. Pagans commonly observed Saturnalia each winter until the third and fourth centuries a.d., when Christianity became the religion of the Roman Empire under Constantine. At that time, Saturnalia basically morphed into Christmas.
Here is what Herbert W. Armstrong wrote in The Plain Truth About Christmas:
The fact is, this custom fastened upon people of exchanging gifts with friends and relatives at the Christmas season has not a single trace of Christianity about it, strange though that may seem! This does not celebrate Christ’s birthday nor honor it or Him! Suppose someone you love has a birthday. You want to honor that person on his or her birthday. Would you lavishly buy gifts for everyone else, trading gifts back and forth with all your other friends and loved ones, but ignore completely any gift for the one whose birthday you are honoring? Rather absurd, when viewed in that light, isn’t it? Yet this is exactly what people the world over are doing! They honor a day that is not Christ’s birthday by spending every dime they can scrape together in buying presents to trade back and forth among friends and relatives.
Those who argue for exchanging gifts on Christ’s supposed birthday point to the story of the wise men in Matthew 2:1-11. These men were merely following an ancient Eastern custom of presenting gifts to a king when in his presence. That is easily provable.
The Real Santa Claus
Volume 11 of the Encyclopaedia Britannica reveals the origins of Santa Claus, or Saint Nicholas: “Saint Nicholas, bishop of Myra, a saint honored by the Greeks and Latins on the sixth of December. … A legend of his surreptitious bestowal of dowries on the three daughters of an impoverished citizen … is said to have originated the old custom of giving presents in secret on the eve of Saint Nicholas, subsequently transferred to Christmas Day. Hence the association of Christmas with ‘Santa Claus’ ….”
The German spelling of Nicholas, or “Nikolaus,” means “conqueror of people.” This points us back to Nimrod, the great tyrant found in Genesis 10:8-9. His name means “rebel” or “rebelled.” This power-hungry man was the grandson of Noah’s son Ham. He built walled cities, including the Tower of Babel (the original Babylon) and Nineveh, to protect people from wild beasts.
With the help of his mother, Semiramis, Nimrod founded the Babylonian mystery religion. “Semiramis, through her scheming, had become known as the Babylonian ‘queen of heaven,’” Mr. Armstrong wrote. “That made Nimrod the ‘divine son of heaven.’ Together they became a perverted mother-son tandem.”
Nimrod put himself in place of God. The people inside his walled cities worshiped him and called him Baal, meaning the sun god. Gradually, the sun god became confused with the Son of God, making the pagan festivals of sun worship synonymous with Christmas!
Nimrod is the real Santa Claus, so even this jolly fellow is rooted in paganism. Satan uses this fake figure to shake children’s belief in God. When they grow up and discover that Santa Claus isn’t real, they begin to question God’s existence too. This has a devastating impact on their faith!
God tells us how to deal with the pagan ways of Nimrod and Semiramis. “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 …” (Jeremiah 10:1-2). The “signs of heaven” are referring to Nimrod (the sun god, Baal) and his mother, Semiramis (the queen of heaven, Astarte).
The Hidden Danger
“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 …” (Jeremiah 10:3-5).
Does this tradition sound familiar?
Jeremiah wrote his biblical book in the 7th century b.c. The Christmas tree tradition existed for 600 years before Jesus Christ’s human birth!
There is a hideous, alarming danger in keeping Christmas. “Forasmuch as there is none like unto thee, O Lord; thou art great, and thy name is great in might” (verse 6).
As soon as Jeremiah finished describing the vain practice of erecting a decorated tree in the home, he explained why it is a worthless endeavor: Nothing can take the place of the almighty God. Holidays like Christmas exalt the creation above the Creator. Christmas, in particular, portrays Christ as a helpless baby—not the mighty, powerful Authority that He is today.
“Who would not fear thee, O King of nations? … But the Lord is the true God, he is the living God, and an everlasting king: at his wrath the earth shall tremble, and the nations shall not be able to abide his indignation. Thus shall ye say unto them, The gods that have not made the heavens and the earth, even they shall perish from the earth, and from under these heavens. He hath made the earth by his power, he hath established the world by his wisdom, and hath stretched out the heavens by his discretion. When he uttereth his voice, there is a multitude of waters in the heavens, and he causeth the vapours to ascend from the ends of the earth; he maketh lightnings with rain, and bringeth forth the wind out of his treasures” (verses 7-13).
Christmas causes its observers to move away from the essential understanding of our great living God! God certainly does not approve of true Christians keeping this day.
The Solution to All Problems
We cannot survive without the power of God. We need a religion of might, power and authority to face our problems. We have no hope of solving our nation’s racial strife, the constant threat of terrorism, crippling national debt, and deep political division without the omnipotent God. These problems are a sign of Christ’s imminent return to Earth.
“For the pastors are become brutish, and have not sought the Lord: therefore they shall not prosper, and all their flocks shall be scattered” (Jeremiah 10:21). God places supreme responsibility on His ministers to guard the brethren from pagan festivals like Christmas. He will hold His servants responsible most of all.
Jeremiah had the perfect attitude—an attitude that will help us solve our problems every time. “O Lord, I know that the way of man is not in himself: it is not in man that walketh to direct his steps. O Lord, correct me, but with judgment; not in thine anger, lest thou bring me to nothing” (verses 23-24).
Jeremiah didn’t decide for himself whether or not to keep Christmas. He didn’t rely on human reasoning to determine his life’s course. He actively sought God’s perspective, direction and correction. He recognized the need for God’s power.
Christmas detracts from God’s holy days, which picture His plan for man. This holy day plan includes the solemn Passover observance, which memorializes the death of Jesus Christ, not His birth. It also includes the Last Great Day, which pictures the resurrection of every human who has ever lived. Billions will finally receive a chance to know God for the first time. We need to keep our minds on this beautiful vision.
Paul described the last days in an epistle to Timothy as a time of unmatched selfishness and evil. He also painted a picture of the prevailing religious practices: “Having a form of godliness, but denying the power thereof: from such turn away” (2 Timothy 3:5).
There is power in true religion! It is the power to conquer Satan, become born sons of God, and rule with Jesus Christ for all eternity! The hidden danger in Christmas is that it distracts us from this power.
God says He will protect His people—those who obey Him, give their lives in service to His Work, and dedicate themselves to Him. He will give us the power to solve all problems.