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Christmas Part 1 (origin)

November 30, 2012

Have you ever considered where Christmas began and how it became what it is today?  How did all this happen?  Is this what Christmas is all about, is this really a Christian day of celebration?   In my next three posts I want to explore the origins of Christmas, biblical support or lack of biblical support for Christmas and finally should Christians celebrate Christmas.

Please don’t check out on this subject, and please don’t come to any pre-conceived ideas.  Allow me to challenge your thinking and let’s see what we can learn together as we explore the most significant holiday in human history.

Where did Christmas come from?

It’s mostly undisputed that Christmas celebrations began in the fourth century around the time the Roman Emperor Constantine allegedly converted to Christianity, whether his conversion was authentic or not is debated, but he certainly made Christianity legal in the Roman Empire.  At this time in history there were many pagan celebrations occurring around the winter solstice.

“Many of the earth’s inhabitants were sun worshippers because the course of their lives depended on its yearly round in the heavens, and feasts were held to aid its return from distant wanderings. In the south of Europe, in Egypt and Persia, the sun gods were worshipped with elaborate ceremonies at the season of the winter solstice, as a fitting time to pay tribute to the benign god of plenty, while in Rome the Saturnalia reigned for a week. In northern lands mid-December was a critical time, for the days became shorter and shorter and the sun was weak and far away. Thus these ancient peoples held feast at the same period that Christmas is now observed.” [1]

Saturnalia & Yule – “The ancient Romans also held a festival to celebrate the rebirth of the year.  Saturnalia ran for seven days from the 17th of December.  It was a time when the ordinary rules were turned upside down.  Men dressed as women and masters dressed as servants.  The festival also involved decorating houses with greenery, lighting candles, holding processions and giving presents.”… “The Druids (Celtic priests) would cut the mistletoe that grew on the oak tree and give it as a blessing.”  “It was also the Druids who began the tradition of the Yule log.  The Celts thought that the sun stood still for twelve days in the middle of winter and during this time a log was lit to conquer the darkness, banish evil spirits and bring luck for the coming year.” [2]

Have you heard the word syncretism?

Syncretism is the attempted reconciliation or union of different or opposing principles, practices, or parties, as in philosophy or religion according to Dictionary.com   In short this was the philosophy of Constantine and the new Roman church.  Blend Christianity with paganism as an effort to convert pagans, eventually, to Christianity; sounds pretty similar to the “seeker sensitive” church movement.  Don’t challenge them with the gospel, ease them into it.  Show them we don’t mean them any harm and hope the love of Christ will win them over.  It was a bad idea then and it’s a bad idea today.

Why?  Because you get nominal “christians”, these people don’t come to Christ because they realize they are destitute of anything good in themselves.  They come for a variety of reasons which typically fill buildings and build shallow disciples.  Do you think the Believers that were being thrown in with lions and tortured to renounce Christ were nominal?  They knew to count the cost.  The cost might be their lives.  The blending of paganism and the church world produced what it has produced today, nominal, half-hearted, consumer driven “followers” of Christ.  These hold on to traditions and love of the world while wanting the good things that Christ can offer.

Leviticus 19:1-4 And the LORD spoke to Moses, saying, “Speak to all the congregation of the children of Israel, and say to them:  ‘You shall be holy, for I the LORD your God am holy.  ‘Every one of you shall revere his mother and his father, and keep My Sabbaths:  I am the LORD your God.  ‘Do not turn to idols, nor make for yourselves molded gods:  I am the LORD your God.

The LORD’s commands are clear.  Be holy, keep My Sabbaths, and do not turn to idols.  Some will say, “That’s Old Testament stuff”.  No, that’s God’s Word.

1 Peter 1:15-18 but as He who called you is holy, you also be holy in all your conduct, because it is written, “Be holy, for I am holy.”  And if you call on the Father, who without partiality judges according to each one’s work, conduct yourselves throughout the time of your stay here in fear; knowing that you were not redeemed with corruptible things, like silver or gold, from your aimless conduct received by the tradition from your fathers, but with the precious blood of Christ, as of a lamb without blemish and without spot.

There can be little doubt God is displeased by anything that does not honor Him.  A Believer is called to be holy, to be set apart for the service and worship of God.  Can we blend paganism and Christ’s birth?  What does God’s Word have to say about it?  We will explore this topic next time.

Kevin

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