What You Didn’t Know About Christmas

What You Didn’t Know About Christmas

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Billions worldwide just celebrated another Christmas Day. But what does God think about this observance?

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.

Exchanging Gifts

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.

INFOGRAPHIC: How Much Radicalism Is in the Muslim Community?

INFOGRAPHIC: How Much Radicalism Is in the Muslim Community?

From the February 2016 Trumpet Print Edition

Remembering Herbert W. Armstrong

The Trumpet

One of the best-known, most prominent religious leaders of the 20th century

Listen to the Trumpet Daily each day at 7:00 am (CST) on KPCG.fm.

Just weeks after Herbert W. Armstrong’s death in 1986, Time magazine published a story on the growing popularity of televangelists in the United States: Jimmy Swaggart, Oral Roberts, Jim Bakker, Jerry Falwell.

Time ranked Swaggart’s weekly tv show at the top of its list. His show aired in 197 markets. The others had between 192 and 169 markets. However, all of them were dwarfed by Mr. Armstrong’s program. At that time, the World Tomorrow program could be seen on a total of 382 television stations—almost twice as many as any other religious program in America!

Mr. Armstrong was one of the best-known, most prominent religious leaders of the 20th century. He also had personal meetings with dozens of heads of state and other world leaders. He established a fantastic liberal arts college with three campuses—two in the United States and one in Great Britain.

Mr. Armstrong’s flagship magazine was called the Plain Truth. It focused on current events and the fulfillment of Bible prophecy. It was published in seven languages. In 1985, its worldwide circulation peaked at 8.4 million. That year, Time magazine’s circulation was 5.9 million. At that time, 1 out of every 583 human beings on Earth received the Plain Truth. In the United States, it was 1 in 48. In Canada, it was 1 in 27.

Mr. Armstrong also wrote dozens of books and booklets that were sent to tens of millions of people all over the world. Six million people requested The United States and Britain in Prophecy. Another 3 million people requested his booklet The Seven Laws of Success.

Between 1980 and 1984, the church distributed about 362 million books, booklets, magazines, newspapers, lessons and letters. Then in 1985, the last year of Mr. Armstrong’s life, his church set new records in nearly every category. It answered more than a million phone calls, and it received 6.7 million pieces of mail. It also added 2.1 million new names to its database. It distributed approximately 86 million publications.

Out of all those millions of requests, people were asking for one title more than any other. It was a book that Mr. Armstrong finished just four months before he died, and it was absolutely the greatest book he wrote in his entire 50-year ministry. On today’s program, we remember Herbert W. Armstrong—and we offer you his greatest work, Mystery of the Ages.

#ZumaMustFall Highlights South Africa’s Instability

#ZumaMustFall Highlights South Africa’s Instability

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Protests to recall South African President Jacob Zuma indicate the nation’s unstable situation.

Thousands of South Africans took to the streets of Pretoria, Cape Town, Port Elizabeth and Johannesburg on December 16 with the slogan “Zuma Must Fall” at their lips. Yet the reason for the protests only scratches the surface of South Africa’s current instability.

The protests were sparked by President Jacob Zuma’s decision to remove Finance Minister Nhlanhla Nene and replace him with little-known David van Rooyen. South Africa’s currency, the rand, fell 9 percent against the dollar in three days, as investors lost confidence in its economy and government bonds slumped.

The next day, #ZumaMustFall was the number one trending topic on Twitter locally.

After four days of national outcries, Zuma appointed Pravin Gordhan to the position of finance minister, which he had previously held from 2009 to 2014. The rand bounced back up 5 percent.

In a statement, President Zuma explained why he reversed his decision:

I received many representations to reconsider my decision. As a democratic government, we emphasize the importance of listening to the people, and to respond to their views.

Critics find this explanation hard to believe. Little or no consultation was made with Zuma’s cabinet before the decision was made. The sentiment among many was that it was business as usual for the president. One commentator said he behaved in the “usual corrupt style that he is notorious for because Minister Nene was not playing ball the way he wanted him to.”

In September, thousands from across the country marched to protest ongoing government corruption, which they said was hampering development and widening the wealth gap. Among its demands were that President Zuma pay back some of the 246 million rand (us$16 million) spent on “security upgrades” for his personal home.

The political turmoil is happening during a risky economic period for the nation. South Africa’s currency has lost 25 percent against the dollar so far this year, and the stock market has been volatile. Unemployment still sits at around 25 percent, and inflation is at 4.8 percent and is expected to rise to 5.6 percent in 2016.

Overall commodity prices have slumped around 35 percent in the past year, and nearly two thirds of South African exports come from its mining industry. While China’s economy (the nation’s biggest trading partner) has slowed, Anglo America, which currently employs 72,000 South Africans, has announced it will be cutting 85,000 of its 135,000 jobs worldwide—which will cut deep into South Africa’s mining industry.

Underlying all these issues are South Africa’s continuing problems with crime. Its cities have murder, rape and carjacking rates that are among the highest in the world. These problems aren’t limited to the presidency of Jacob Zuma—they are issues that have contributed to the instability of South Africa for years.

#ZumaMustFall highlights the rampant corruption in the South African government. Whether or not the protests continue or succeed in toppling Jacob Zuma, the underlying instability in South Africa is bigger than just one man. For more information on the extent of that instability, read “South Africa: Where Corruption, Rape and Murder Are Normal.”

Week in Review: Iranian Terror, German Self-Defense, China’s Social ‘Credit Score,’ Banning Christmas, and More

Week in Review: Iranian Terror, German Self-Defense, China’s Social ‘Credit Score,’ Banning Christmas, and More

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All you need to know about everything in the news this week

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Highlights:

Iran threat continues

  • “Iran is no longer outsourcing anti-Israel operations to local terrorist groups like Hezbollah and Hamas; it’s now running them directly,” wrote Commentary magazine’s Evelyn Gordon.
  • According to a December report by Haaretz, Iran has about 5,000 of its own soldiers in Syria and another 25,000 under its command—within Hezbollah, Iraqi Shiite militias and some Afghani and Pakistani refugees.
  • One quarter of the more than 200 terrorist groups worldwide “are funded, trained, or directly recruited by the Iranian government,” said Dr. Majid Rafizadeh, an Iranian-American political scientist who works at Harvard and Columbia.
  • Meanwhile, Iran is using the terms of the nuclear deal to demand that the U.S. waive its visa restrictions on travelers who have visited Iran.
  • Germany’s self-defense measures

  • “Germans, facing an influx of more than 1 million asylum seekers from Africa, Asia and the Middle East, are rushing to arm themselves,” noted Soeren Kern for the Gatestone Institute.
  • Sales of self-defense products like pepper spray rose by 600 percent this fall.
  • The ceo of Frankfurt-based def-tec Defense Technology said, “Things took off beginning in September. Since then, our dealers have been totally overrun. We have never experienced anything like this in the 21 years of our corporate history.”
  • Is this another proof that Europe’s old demons are returning?
  • China’s frightening social ranking program

  • “The owners of China’s largest social networks have partnered with the government to create something akin to the U.S. credit score,” explained Extra Credits. “[B]ut, instead of measuring how regularly you pay your bills, it measures how obediently you follow the party line.”
  • Criticizing the government or even interacting with government critics can hurt one’s score.
  • Its goal is to create docile, compliant citizenry who are fiscally and morally responsible and, above all, totally loyal to the Communist Party.
  • United States bows to Russia—again!

  • U.S. strategy in Syria has been called all sorts of things: “a joke,” “a total failure,” “the best of a long list of bad options,” and a plan with “no guarantee of success.”
  • The only viable option has been the regime change in Syria—until Russia intervened and offered its own solution
  • Now, rhetoric from Washington regarding Syria has essentially shifted from “Assad must go!” to “Assad can stay, for now.” U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry told reporters in Moscow that “[t]he United States and our partners are not seeking so-called regime change” in Syria.
  • Trumpet executive editor Stephen Flurry wrote: “[A] world in which America’s word is no longer reliable is a recipe for disaster.”
  • Other news:

  • “Europe is now facing a new Germany, self-confident to the point of self-righteousness,” wrote thetimes.co.uk. “It dominates Europe and is happy to do so. It enforces rules because it believes them to be right—and in Europe’s best interest.”
  • Turkey’s war with Kurdish insurgents is reducing some urban neighborhoods to war zones, and the Kurds are beginning to look to Russia for help.
  • China’s military expenditures go much further than U.S. expenditures because Beijing steals American secrets, and its laborers are much cheaper than Washington’s. Even though America outspends China, “it would be wrong to discount China’s military threat based on budget metrics alone,” wrote the National Interest.
  • Christmas and New Year celebrations were banned in the Muslim-majority nation of Somalia. The country’s director general of the religious affairs ministry warned that the festivities would potentially evoke Islamist attacks, adding: “All events related to Christmas and New Year celebrations are contrary to Islamic culture, which could damage the faith of the Muslim community.”
  • “On one of the busiest travel days of the year,” wrote the Black Lives Matter movement, “[we are] calling for a halt on Christmas as usual in memorial of all of the loved ones we have lost and continue to lose this year to law enforcement violence without justice or recourse.”
  • It appears that inauthentic sushi is aggravating students at Oberlin College. Robby Soave wrote that some students are accusing the college cafeteria “disrespecting Asian culture by preparing dishes so bad—they practically count as microaggressions.”
  • Get more details on these stories and more by subscribing to the Trumpet Weekly!

    Hidden Danger in Keeping Christmas?

    Family time together and the life of Jesus Christ are both wonderful. But does God want us to celebrate these things by keeping Christmas?