What Should We Do about Christmas? | Telecasts | Tomorrow's World

What Should We Do about Christmas?

What Should We Do about Christmas?

Mistletoe. Santa Claus. Yule log. Lighted trees. The real Christmas origin story is from ancient pagan holidays. Are pagan traditions and lies acceptable to God? How does God want you to worship Him? Watch to find out.

[The text below represents an edited transcript of this Tomorrow’s World program.]

Why Keep Christmas?

Many people know that Christmas is pagan. The origins of this popular December holiday are not hidden. In fact, when Christmas comes around each year, we usually see magazine articles or Internet blogs explaining where these traditions came from. Many people are not confused about that.

The bigger question for some is, why does it matter? Should anyone even care where Christmas traditions came from? After all, isn’t the big issue about honoring Christ? Maybe the other details are trivial.

If you’ve ever wondered, “What should I do about Christmas?”, then stay tuned.

No Longer a Christian Holiday—Or Never Was?

Welcome to Tomorrow’s World, where we help you make sense of your world through the pages of the Bible.

Some people don’t keep Christmas. That may not come as a shock to you. You might be one of them. You might have come to that conclusion through your own study, in looking into the pagan origins of Christmas. And it might have caused you to think twice about keeping this popular holiday. If you have, you’re not alone.

Of course, many people still do keep Christmas. In fact, the vast majority of people in our Western nations do. According to the Gallup organization, as of December, 2019, 93% of Americans celebrate Christmas in one way or another. And that figure has been more or less consistent for decades (“What Percentage of Americans Celebrate Christmas?”, News.Gallup.com, December 23, 2019).

In Great Britain as well,  93% of the population celebrate the Christmas season (“18.12.2019 Christmas and New Year’s Survey amongst 1,000 British people reveals habits,” Statista.com, December 12, 2019).

In Canada, it’s a little less, 92% (“In Canada, Christmas traditions change as fewer people see religion as the reason for the season,” AngusReid.org, December 19, 2019).

In Mexico, 93% of those surveyed were planning to keep Christmas (“Plans to celebrate Christmas in Mexico in 2020,” Statista.com, October 11, 2022).

What about Russia? About two-thirds of their population celebrate Christmas. (“How is Christmas Celebrated in Russia?”, Russia Beyond, RBTH.com, December 9, 2019).

And in Germany, the figure stands at about 78% of the population (How Germany celebrates Christmas,” Deutschland.de, December 21, 2021).

These are just a few countries around the world. The point is, Christmas is widely celebrated.

And yet, many people know that its origins are not Christian at all. You probably do as well. If you don’t, or if you’re not sure, just pick up virtually any encyclopedia, or look online. Here is a quote from the online Encyclopedia Britannica, under the heading, “Does Christmas have pagan roots?”:

In ancient Rome, December 25 was a celebration of the Unconquered Sun, marking the return of longer days. It followed Saturnalia, a festival where people feasted and exchanged gifts. The church in Rome began celebrating Christmas on December 25 in the 4th century during the reign of Constantine, the first Christian emperor… (“Christmas,” Britannica.com, April 18, 2023).

December 25? Feasting? Exchanging gifts? That’s describing pagan holidays observed under the Roman Empire. And this date was only adopted by the mainstream Christian church in the 4th century. But why? Why was December 25 chosen as a date to celebrate Christmas?

Note this CBS News article from 2018 for the answer:

Though December 25 is the day Christians celebrate the birth of Jesus Christ, the date itself and several of the customs we’ve come to associate with Christmas actually evolved from pagan traditions celebrating the winter solstice. “Christmas is really about bringing out your inner pagan,” historian Kenneth C. Davis told “CBS This Morning.” According to Davis, Christmas was celebrated as early as the fourth century, suggesting that it had almost nothing to do with Jesus Christ (“The unexpected origins of popular Christmas traditions,” CBSNews.com, December 25, 2018).

Christmas is about “bringing out your inner pagan” and Christmas has “almost nothing to do with Jesus Christ”? These are remarkable quotes. Again, this probably doesn’t surprise you. Especially if you are a regular viewer of Tomorrow’s World. You’ve probably seen articles and videos explaining the pagan origins of the Christmas traditions before. And not just from our material at Tomorrow’s World—it’s out there in the world at large. Such as this article from the CBS News website. It’s not a secret.

But that raises another question: What do we do with this information? Should it matter at all?

You see, most people who know the origins of Christmas have somehow rationalized to themselves why they should still keep it. Perhaps they think, “Well, it’s not really a religious observance, it’s just a fun, relaxed time to be with friends and family—it’s a social event.” That’s what a lot of people think. A 2013 survey of American millennials—that is, those born from 1981 to 1996—revealed that although 9 in 10 of them observe Christmas, only 4 in 10 do so for religious reasons (“Many Millennials see Christmas as more cultural than religious holiday,” PewResearch.org, December 18, 2015).

So, more and more people are coming to see Christmas as just a social and secular observance. On the other hand, for those who are religious, many of them also know the origins are pagan. But some of them convince themselves that it’s not a problem, arguing, “Well, as long as I do it for Christ, it’s ok.”

But is it ok? Should we stop and think if this line of reasoning even makes sense?

As one source says,

Christmas makes no sense… the basic facts of the annual ritual just seem to defy logic and meaning. What do brightly lit trees and mistletoe have to do with the birth of a prophet in Bethlehem thousands of years ago? What does a jolly, portly man in red and white garb have to do with Christianity? What’s the meaning behind the Yule log? … Many people have a general inkling about the way old pagan traditions and celebrations fed into Christmas as we know it today… (“The Pagan Roots of Christmas,” History.co.uk).

What Is God’s View of Christmas?

Many people really do know the roots of Christmas are pagan. But they keep it anyway. What should YOU do about Christmas? To help you answer that, let’s consider our first fundamental question:

  1. Does God condone lies?

Everyone knows that Santa Claus does not really come down our chimneys on Christmas Eve. Or, at least everyone knows except our children. Thalia Goldstein is the assistant professor of applied developmental psychology at George Mason University in Fairfax, Virginia. Ms. Goldstein notes that about 85% of American 5-year old kids believe Santa is real:

Children’s belief in Santa starts when they’re between 3 and 4 years old. It’s very strong when they’re between about 4 and 8. Then, at 8 years old is when we start to see the drop-off in belief, when children start to understand the reality of Santa Claus (How many kids still believe in Santa?”, CNN Health, CNN.com, December 19, 2017).

So, a high percentage of kids in the United States are still taught to believe, at a young age, in something that is not true. What about children outside of the United States? According to a research paper presented in 1999 in Finland, at the European Early Childhood Education Research Association:

Of 161 parents in the United Kingdom, 92.5% thought Father Christmas was real for their children up to the age of 8….

But it’s not just the Santa myth. In addition, there is no proof that December 25 was the date of the birth of Christ. In fact, Luke 2:8 records that the shepherds were out in the fields at his birth, and that would never have happened in the rainy, cold winter months. And what about the three kings from the east, visiting the baby Jesus in the manger? That didn’t happen, at least not in the way the Christmas story tells it. The book of Matthew says they were wise men, not kings. And it doesn’t mention how many there were. And it says “when they had come into the house, they saw the young Child with Mary His mother.” That’s in Matthew 2:11.

The Christmas traditions are riddled with errors, misspeaks, and outright lies. The context shows He was upwards to two years old here, and in a house, not a manger. Now, with an open mind ask yourself, would God really be behind such a convoluted tradition? Notice what Titus 1:2 says:

In hope of eternal life which God, who cannot lie, promised before time began (Titus 1:2).

God cannot lie. God will not lie. God never lies. And yet, we are made to believe He condones millions of parents telling their children outright lies and convoluted myths, supposedly about His Son?

Think about it. One of the Ten Commandments specifically forbids being a false witness. You can find that in Exodus 20:16,

You shall not bear false witness against your neighbor (Exodus 20:16).

The specific topic here in Exodus 20:16 is bearing false witness against your neighbor. But certainly the principle is that we must tell the truth in all circumstances.

It’s sobering that the Apostle John records the following, in Revelation 21:7,

But the cowardly, unbelieving, abominable, murderers, sexually immoral, sorcerers, idolaters, and all liars shall have their part in the lake which burns with fire and brimstone, which is the second death (Revelation 21:7–8).

So, who is standing up and warning our parents, to stop the lies of Christmas? Almost no one.

Instead, we have experts like Jacqueline Woolley, professor and  department of psychology Chair at the University of Texas at Austin. Here is what she says:

Some parents wonder whether they are harming their children by engaging in the Santa myth. Philosophers and bloggers alike have mounted arguments against perpetuating the “Santa-lie,” some even claiming that it could lead to permanent distrust of parents and other authorities. So, what should parents do? (“Why children believe (or not) that Santa Claus exists,” The Conversation, TheConversation.com, December 18, 2016).

Yes, what SHOULD parents do? If they know Christmas comes from error, and falsehood, and even outright lies, maybe parents should tell their children the TRUTH, instead of perpetuating the lie. But that’s not Ms. Woolley’s conclusion. Notice her next statement:

There is no evidence that belief, and eventual disbelief in Santa, affects parental trust in any significant way.

Stop and think about this for a moment. Have you ever had someone lie to you? How did it feel? When you found out, did it affect your ability to trust them? Even if it was for a so-called good reason, did it make you stop and think the next time they told you something—are they telling me the truth, or is this another lie?

If it affects us that way as adults, why wouldn’t we think it would affect our children? One more statement from Ms. Woolley:

Furthermore, not only do children have the tools to ferret out the truth; but engaging with the Santa story may give them a chance to exercise these abilities. So, if you think it would be fun for you and your family to invite Santa Claus into your home at Christmas time, you should do so. Your children will be fine. And they might even learn something.

What an amazing statement. Perpetuating the Santa and Christmas lie will actually be good for your children, at least according to her.

I hope you are seeing that what’s good for your children is teaching them truth and to be truthful. And what is the foundation of truth? God’s word is truth. That’s from John 17:17.

God cannot lie—we already saw that in Titus 1:2. But there is a being, a powerful evil spirit who not only lies but is described as the father of lies. We find that in John 8:44. Jesus was being confronted by the Pharisees. They were hypocritical, selfish and seeking to destroy Him. And notice what He told them:

“You are of your father the devil, and the desires of your father you want to do. He was a murderer from the beginning, and does not stand in the truth, because there is no truth in him. When he speaks a lie, he speaks from his own resources, for he is a liar and the father of it” (John 8:44).

Satan the devil is the father of lies. We don’t want any part of him. So we shouldn’t want any part of a tradition that is based on lies, no matter how we sugar coat it.

We can either be for the truth, or for the lie. We can be seeking to live the way of truth—the way that God reveals in His word, seeking to follow His Spirit and be conformed to His righteousness and the righteousness of His Son. Or, we can fall into living the way of the lie—following error, falsehood, lies, often masquerading as good traditions and holidays. And we can pass on those errors to our children.

So, we might know that the origins of Christmas are not Christian at all. What should we do about it? Well, let’s let the Bible speak for itself. You won’t ever find a word of the Bible where God tells you to do something deceitful or dishonest or promoting error. And that should give us guidance on how we judge what to do about Christmas.

The Deception of “Christianizing” Paganism

Let’s move on to our second fundamental question:

  1. Does God ever say “keep any day” as long as you honor Christ?

This is a reason some use to explain their holding on to Christmas in spite of its error. Well, they reason, as long as we honor Christ in it, it’s ok. But is it ok? We find some powerful principles in the Bible that give us the guidance we need. One is found in the history of Israel.

The ancient nation of Israel was led by God out of enslavement from Egypt about 3,400 years ago. But before they went into what was called the Promised Land, God gave them a serious warning. He said don’t mix worship of Me with the worship of the nations around you. We’ll pick it up in Deuteronomy 12:30,

Take heed… that you do not inquire after their gods, saying, How did these nations serve their gods? I also will do likewise. You shall not worship the LORD your God in that way… (Deuteronomy 12:30–31).

Notice, the principle is not just “don’t worship idols,” it’s “don’t worship the true God with idolatrous practices.” Can you see the difference?

But in the history of the Christian church, that is what exactly happened. Worship of Christ was mixed with traditions of the pagans. In the book The Battle for Christmas, author Stephen Nissenbaum writes this:

It was only in the fourth century that the Church officially decided to observe Christmas on December 25. And this date was chosen not for religious reasons but simply because it happened to mark the approximate arrival of the winter solstice, an event that was celebrated long before the advent of Christianity…. The Puritans were correct when they point out—and they point it out often—that Christmas was nothing but a pagan festival covered with a Christian veneer (The Battle for Christmas, 1996, p. 4).

He then refers to the Puritan minister Increase Mather, from the early days of colonial America:

[Increase Mather] accurately observed in 1687 that the early Christians who first observed the Nativity on December 25 did not do so “thinking that Christ was born in that Month, but because the Heathens Saturnalia was at that time kept in Rome, and they were willing to have those Pagan Holidays metamorphosed into Christian [ones] (The Battle for Christmas).

So, Christmas was not put on December 25 to reflect the birth of Christ. It was put there to absorb the worshippers of Saturnalia and easily bring them into the church. Precisely the opposite of God’s instructions back in Deuteronomy.

How did the expanding, visible church deal with the traditions of the pagans around them? Well, it accommodated them. Notice this statement from the book, The Pageantry of Christmas:

… Most of the Christian missionaries who moved into Central and Western Europe as the Roman Empire crumbled, followed the advice of [Pope] Gregory the Great. He wrote, in 597, that they should not try to put down pagan customs “upon the sudden,” but adapt them “to the praise of God” (The Pageantry of Christmas, 1963, p. 10).

Adapt the pagan customs? But that is exactly what happened, and that’s why we have the strange mix of pagan rituals, with the mention of Christ, in Christmas today. But is that what God wanted? No. Notice God’s instruction in Jeremiah 10:1,

Hear the word which the LORD speaks to you, O house of Israel. Thus says the LORD; “Do not learn the way of the Gentiles… For the customs of the peoples are futile; For one cuts a tree from the forest, the work of the hands of the workman, with the ax. They decorate it with silver and gold; They fasten it with nails and hammers so that it will not topple. They are upright, like a palm tree…” (Jeremiah 10:1–5).

Remarkable parallels with the customs of Christmas that jump right off the page. God told ancient Israel through Jeremiah, don’t learn how to worship Me by watching how the nations around you do it. But in the Christian era, that’s exactly what some did. They transformed the worship of Christ into a mix of the true God with the worship of Saturn, Mithra, and others.

God’s standard is truth, as defined by the Bible. Not traditions. Not customs. Notice John 4:23,

… The hour is coming, and now is, when the true worshipers will worship the Father in spirit and truth; for the Father is seeking such to worship Him (John 4:23).

When we show honor to God, we have to do it His way. We have to honor Him on the days He wants us to honor Him.

Reject Christmas and Follow Christ’s True Teachings

So, what should we do about Christmas? Simple. God offers something better. We don’t have to settle for a festival steeped in pagan traditions. We can be different. God outlines His days—His biblical holy days—which teach us about Him and His plan of salvation. You might have heard of them. Passover. Pentecost. The Feast of Tabernacles. The Day of Atonement. These are just a few.

The Apostle Paul took the Gospel message primarily to a Gentile world. Meaning, the brethren he worked with and wrote to were coming out of pagan practices. He worked in the Roman world of the 1st century. And the people in that world were keeping the Saturnalia. Many of them were worshiping Mithra, and other false gods. And they had to come out of it, to become part of the body of Christ, the Church of God.

But he had to encourage them, to not fall back into their former practices. He had to tell them, don’t get discouraged if people don’t understand what you’re doing. Even if that means friends, neighbors or family. Notice what he said in the book of Colossians to the church at Colosse. Colossians 2:16, and I’m reading from the King James Version:

Let no man therefore judge you in meat, or in drink, or in respect of an holyday, or of the new moon, or of the sabbath days: Which are a shadow of things to come; but the body is of Christ (Colossians 2:16–17).

The word “is” is in italics. It’s not in the original text. It should read, “but the body of Christ.” The church is the body. We ARE to let the church teach us, to guide us, and show us how to keep the holy days as outlined in the Bible. And we should not be discouraged if the world judges us for not keeping worldly days.

So, don’t let the world judge you, if you walk away from Christmas. If you make the determination, “I’m done following the traditions of man, and I want to learn the ways of God.” Don’t be discouraged. Your friends and even relatives may not like it. But God is looking for those who are willing to follow Him, come what may.

Christmas does not lead us to truth. It only obscures the truth. It’s not enough to know the origins of Christmas. We have to act on what we know. And that means, follow the truth.

That’s what we should do about Christmas.

Hey everybody, thanks for watching! We hope you enjoyed this video. We here at Tomorrow’s World want to help you make sense of this world through the pages of your Bible. If you found it helpful and want to learn more about this subject, be sure to get your free copy of our study guide Is Christmas Christian?

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Is Christmas Christian?

We see the scene every year—decorated trees, evergreen wreaths, and bright multi-colored lights. Sometimes there is a little crèche in the corner, depicting an infant child receiving lavish gifts. Yet most of the gift-giving these days is done by debt-laden adults, trying to outdo each other in gifting children, family members, and friends with the latest style or fad.

Is this what Jesus Christ had in mind for His followers? For that matter, do these traditions have anything at all to do with the birth of Jesus Christ? People often say, “Let’s put Christ back in Christmas”—but was He ever there? Where did we get our many traditions? The answers may surprise you!

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