Sermon: What About Christmas?
I can remember when I was a boy seeing signs saying “keep Christ in Christmas” and wondering why anyone would put up such signs. I was blind to the issue, and to the significance of it. But the signs were right, there was a need to restore Christ to Christmas, and to restore Christmas to its rightful owner. Someone had stolen Christmas, and it wasn’t a grinch (sorry about that, Dr. Seuss). A few of the wrappings and trimmings were left, but the content was gone. It still is.
Even before we really knew the Lord, we were a religious family. We kept our religious life “in its place,” and didn’t allow it to get out of proportion, but it was important and we took it seriously. So, every Christmas, we had to interrupt the traditional Christmas activities while I read the Gospel accounts of the birth of the Lord. It always seemed awkward and unnatural, and that bothered me, for it just didn’t fit in with everything else we were doing. They just didn’t go together at all! I never stopped to analyze it, and I didn’t understand it, but it was definitely an interruption of everything else (the “real” Christmas activities, the important ones, and the ones everyone was motivated about), and it was an unwelcome one. At the peak of stockings hung by the chimney with care, fireside letters to Santa, Christmas tree, etc. I had to say, in effect, “All right everybody, hold it. I know you don’t want this anymore than I do, but we’re going to interrupt all these happy activities for a few minutes while I read aloud from the Bible.” They would listen politely, and when I was through we all went back to the things we really cared about. We always did it, but it just didn’t fit in. And I never knew why.
Then I met the Lord and began, with my spirit alive and sensitive, to study the Bible, and I realized that most of what we did at Christmas time had nothing at all to do with the coming of Jesus to Earth to redeem lost mankind. It made me restless, increasingly restless.
And then I began to research the traditions of Christmas, their origins and their meanings. I was convicted and appalled! Allow me to share with you briefly some of the things that I have learned.
The Christmas Date. We really don’t know when Jesus was born; there is neither scriptural nor secular evidence to establish the date of His birth. But we do know one thing about it: it was not in December. One reason that this is certain is that when He was born, shepherds were “abiding in the field, keeping watch over their flocks by night” (Lk 2:8) And in Israel shepherds have never slept out on the ground with their flocks in December, because it is much too cold. In winter they lead the flocks out in the daytime and bring them in at night. Yes, we know that He was not born in December and during the very early Christian centuries His birthday was not celebrated at all. When the celebration was established, the late December date was chosen to coincide with Saturnalia, the pagan midwinter festival, and with the pagan Roman holiday called “Birth of the Unconquered Sun” on December 25th.
Christmas Greenery. The carrying in and draping of holly and other evergreen plants has come down to us from the pagan worship of evergreen plants, especially from Druid rituals conducted in midwinter (late December).
Mistletoe. It was sacred to the Druids, and was worshipped by them. They also used it to cast spells, the principal belief being that if they held it over a woman’s head she was powerless to resist, and they could then have their way with her.
The Christmas Tree. There are a number of quaint and appealing stories about the origin of the Christmas tree tradition, including an unreliable one about Martin Luther. But towering about all the folk stories, these facts stand, stark and undeniable, on the field of inquiry; (a) The Christmas tree has nothing at all to do with Jesus, His birth or His life; (b) Since earliest times, evergreen trees have been worshipped as symbols of life, fertility and reproduction, and were often brought into the house and set up as idols. The Bible speaks of a similar pagan practice and condemns it. (Jer. 10:1-5); (c) Although some Christians hang Christian symbols on them, most Christmas trees feature snow, icicles, candy canes, elves and Santa symbolism and have nothing at all to do with the coming of the Saviour to redeem lost mankind.
Santa Claus. Many pagan societies have worshipped a hearth god, clad in red, who came down the chimney to bless those who pleased it and to curse those who didn’t. Food and drink offerings were left for him on hearth or mantel, an effort to please and appease him. There are such red-clad hearth gods worshipped in India and China today. Santa Claus as we know him, is a composite of many (un-Christian) traditions, taking the form in which we now depict him only about 100 years ago. He is clearly supernatural, attended by a host of supernatural elves (spirits), is able to travel over the entire surface of Earth in a few hours (also climbing down millions of chimneys and back up in this time), and know whether we have “been naughty or nice.” Once a year he comes down from the heavenlies to bless with gifts those who have found favor, and to leave coal for those he is displeased with. In the fourth century there is believed to have been a bishop in Asia Minor remembered for his gifts to children. Because his name was Nicholas, the name “Saint Nicholas” has been blended into the Santa Claus tradition, but there is nothing even remotely Christian about this red-nosed, fat, “jolly old elf”. He is completely pagan in origin, and has displaced Jesus in the awareness and affections of children, becoming the undisputed spirit, symbol and centerpiece of Christmas.
I might also point out that if we are going to rear our innocent children in the pagan tradition of Santa Claus, we must deceive them; We must lie to them, deliberately deceiving innocent, trusting children. This leads to disappointment and sowing seeds of doubt about anything else we may teach them, especially the truth about Jesus.
Such lying and deception cannot be right , even if there were nothing else wrong with our Christmas traditions we hold to be so dear.
History of Christmas Celebrations. In colonial America there were no Christmas celebrations; and as recently as 100 years ago such observances and celebrations were against the law (as being pagan and a reproach to the Lord) in many parts of the United States, including most of New England.
How quickly we have reversed our values, for now it is against the law in may places to display any Christmas symbolism that is not pagan. Druidic greenery, Santa and elves are alright, but the family of Jesus, wise men and shepherds are prohibited... especially in New England. How quickly we have reversed our values!
So what does this mean for you?
The holidays that we have all enjoyed so much have been infiltrated with paganism, or were entirely pagan to begin with. Most of us have embraced one form of paganism or another in celebrating these holidays. Idolatry in any form is a sin, and paganism is idolatry. (Colossians 3:5). To continue partaking in the paganism will condemn your soul to hell. (Ezekiel 18:21)