I have been confronted many times for my position on the subject and even accused of being a heretic because I love to celebrate Christmas.
I have been asked, “How can you say that you believe in the inerrancy of Scripture and celebrate Christmas? Don’t you understand that it comes directly out of paganism?”
Next they remind me, “God said, ‘You shall utterly destroy all the places where the nations which you shall dispossess served their gods, on the high mountains and on the hills and under every green tree’” (Deuteronomy 12:2 NKJV).
Then they explain how the Roman Catholic Church established the Christmas celebration mixing Babylonian paganism with Christianity.
I understand where these good people are coming from.
It would probably surprise my children and grandchildren to learn I actually taught these things early in my ministry.
I did not always love to celebrate Christmas because of some very negative memories of the Christmas holiday, as a child.
Promises not kept; alcohol abuse and angry arguments fill much of my Christmas memories from childhood. So when decorations went up and the carols started playing in the stores I became depressed.
Christmas 1973 began to change all of that.
Wanda and I been married three years, our first child was ten months old. Walking through a shopping mall with carols playing I was in a cloudy mood.
Suddenly the music and the words broke through my negative thoughts.
Silent night, holy night!
Shepherds quake at the sight.
Glories stream from heaven afar
Heavenly hosts sing Alleluia,
Christ the Savior is born!
Christ the Savior is born
Silent night, holy night!
Son of God love’s pure light.
Radiant beams from Thy holy face
With dawn of redeeming grace,
Jesus Lord, at Thy birth
Jesus Lord, at Thy birth.
Songwriters: Simon Lole, Silent Night lyrics © Sony/ATV Music Publishing LLC
I heard the Lord gently speak to my heart, “Will you allow the memories of sinful behavior by your dad and stepmother cloud out the true meaning of the celebration?
I began to softly sing the words with a new meaning.
Over the next two weeks the music and the decorations took on a brightness they had not had before. That was a wonderful first Christmas with our daughter and some dear friends.
A whole new perspective of Christmas began to grow in my heart until I read a teaching in the late 1970’s explaining the paganism of the holiday.
Again, my attitude changed and I began teaching the paganism about Christmas.
But, I still loved the music and I loved the spirit of Christmas.
I loved how the Christmas carols clearly told the Gospel story and I loved the Nativity displays.
Deep inside something was not reconciling. The spirit of Christmas, the biblical stories, the historical data of those who taught Christmas was pagan had a measure of incongruence that caused me to dig deeper.
My first discovery was the origin of putting lights on the Christmas tree did not come from pagan practices but the heart of the Reformation leader, Martin Luther.
While walking home one winter evening, with the words of a new song running through his mind, Martin was captured by the beauty of the stars twinkling on the boughs of the snow flocked evergreen trees. The beauty filled his heart so much he went home and wired candles on the branches of his Christmas tree and lighted them, celebrating Jesus the Light of the world.
Why have I not heard that being taught, I wondered?
My second discovery came through studying the writings of Dr. Alfred Edersheim, a foremost authority of Jewish history.
In his monumental volume, The Life and Times of Jesus the Messiah, he explains It is not coincidence that Jesus Christ was arrested and crucified on Passover. Nor was it a coincidence Jesus Christ’s birth was in a cave on the edge of the fields of Migdol Eder, meaning “the tower of the flock” (Edersheim, pg. 186).
These were no ordinary fields. The shepherds that came to see the baby born in the stable cave were no ordinary shepherds.
The sheep raised in these fields were for sacrifice at Passover.
Would these sheep and shepherds be out in the field on a winter night of December?
Dr. Edersheim addresses that important detail. “The same Mishnic passage [that addresses the law of the shepherds and raising sheep for Passover] also leads us to infer that these flocks lay out all the year round (Ederseim’s emphasis)… of such a coincidence, it is needless to speak” (pg. 187). He goes on to say, “There is no adequate reason for questioning the historical accuracy of this date [December 25th]. The objections generally made rest on grounds, which seem to me historically untenable” (pg. 187, footnote).
As I continued to dig deeper into the history of celebrating Christmas, I made an important discovery.
Yes, many of the Pilgrims and Puritans considered the celebration of Christmas pagan. Their position rested firmly upon their anti-Roman Catholic stance.
I found the same juxtaposition in most of those today who write against the celebration of Christmas.
However, careful and more thorough historical study will reveal the celebration of Christmas was previous to Constantine and Roman Catholicism.
Believers in North Africa celebrated the birth of Christ on December 25th during the reign of Diocletian, that was before 311 AD and before Emperor Constantine.
The more I studied the deeper historical roots of celebrating Christmas, the more I loved the holiday. While there may be pagan rituals that surround the December date and worldly traditions; that is only Satan seeking to steal the truth and attempting to kill the spirit of the season.
3 Reasons Why I Celebrate Christmas
1. Jesus Christ is the light of the world. “The people who walked in darkness have seen a great light; those who dwelt in the land of the shadow of death, upon them a light has shined” (Isaiah 9:2 NKJV).
Is it mere coincidence that Simeon and Judas, called Maccabaeus, led the cleansing of the Lord’s Temple and the restoration of true worship with the miracle burning of the Menorah for eight days in 166 BC took place on the 25th day of Chislev?
Hanukkah, The Festival of Lights, commemorates the miracle.
The month of Chislev corresponds with our month of December. While the Hebrew calendar varies from our Gregorian calendar, the 25th of Chislev and December 25th have often been the same date in history.
Wouldn’t it be just like God to appoint the Lamb of God, Light of the World to be born in the fields of the Passover Lambs on the same day as the Festival of Lights?
Put the lights on your house and light the Christmas tree.
Celebrate with Martin Luther the beauty of Jesus Christ. Rejoice with the angelic host that Jesus Christ the Light of World has been born in Bethlehem’s stable.
2. We do not put up a Christmas tree in worship of an idol or pagan deity, rather, we put up the tree to celebrate, “Christ has redeemed us from the curse of the law, having become a curse for us (for it is written, “Cursed is everyone who hangs on a tree”), that the blessing of Abraham might come upon the Gentiles in Christ Jesus, that we might receive the promise of the Spirit through faith” (Galatians 3:13-14 NKJV).
The gifts are not placed under the tree in worship of an idol but to commemorate the gifts of the Magi and most important in celebration of the gift of salvation through faith in our Lord Jesus Christ.
To be certain the world may sing, “Tannenbaum O Tannenbaum” in glowing worship of the tree, just as the world may celebrate the winter solstice.
That does not replace or nullify the truth of Christ’s birth and His death on the cross. It certainly does not make it pagan or idolatrous to put up a tree and cover it with lights in memory and celebration of Jesus Christ removing the curse of sin from our life by hanging on the tree.
If that were the case, displaying the cross would be a pagan practice and idolatrous and every church that has a cross on display should remove the cross.
No one is calling for that.
3. Let the bells of Christmas resound. Fill the air with the beauty of their sound and the good news of the angelic message, “Peace on earth, good will toward men… For unto you is born this day in the city of David, as Savior which is Christ the Lord.”
Even the advanced software, Starry Night, used by NASA and other astronomers around the world confirms the Magi from the east would have arrived at the home of Mary and Joseph in Bethlehem, to worship the toddler, born King of the Jews, on the date December 25 2BC.
Christmas corresponds with the winter solstice the same as Resurrection Sunday corresponds with the spring solstice.
While some become argue we should not celebrate Easter, but Resurrection Sunday, it does not nullify the significance and importance of celebrating the death, burial and resurrection of Jesus Christ.
While there are some corresponding aspects of Christmas with the pagan rituals they should not nullify the significance and importance of celebrating the birth of the Savior; the Lamb of God who takes away the sin of the world; Immanuel, God with us; The Word become flesh; the Son of David, the Son of Man, the Son of God; the King of Kings who will sit upon the throne of His father David, and of His Kingdom there will be no end.
Celebrate. Turn on the lights. Ring the Bells. Rejoice.