History Of Christmas
by Christine Egbert
Like many well-intentioned Christians, I once thought Jesus was the reason for the season. The only problem I had with Christmas in those days was commercialism. On a mission to put Christ back into Christmas, I banished Santa Clause (whom I’d renamed Satan Clause) first. Frosty the Snowman and Rudolph went next. I became a Christmas Puritan. Nativity-scenes and little cross ornaments (which I bought at Cracker Barrel), along with gold and silver balls, decked my last tree.
That next year I learned (what so many Christians still don’t know), the history of December 25th. Long before Jesus was born, December 25th was the day every ancient sun god was said to have been born. It was a day celebrated by exchanging gifts, cutting down fir trees then decorating them with silver and gold, by hanging mistletoe and holly, by caroling from house to house, by feasting, partying, and holding street parades.
It All Started in Babylon
Celebrating the sun-god Tammuz’s birth on December 25th started in Babylon, then spread to Greece and Rome under different names after God confused man’s language. In Rome it melded with the pagan Saturnalia festival. This holiday, celebrated with candles, began with a pontiff standing in front of Saturn’s temple, exclaiming, ‘Ho Saturnalia! Ho Saturnalia!”
In the 3rd Century, under Emperor Aurelian, this already popular December 25th celebration acquired even greater significance when Aurelian proclaimed this day “Dies Natalis Invicti Solis” (the Birthday of the Unconquered Sun), and declared it an official Roman holiday.
The Persian sun-god Mithras, who was said to have been born on December 25th, was also worshiped in Rome from the 1stthrough the 4thcenturies, and was also identified with the Unconquered Sun. During this sun-god’s birthday festival all forms of work ceased. Everything closed. Celebrants gorged on food, decked the halls with boughs of laurel and evergreen cuttings, lit candles, and gave presents to their friends, to children, and to the poor.
Aurelian proclaimed Mithraism the official state religion of the Roman Empire. Under Constantine and later the Roman Catholic Church, Rome incorporated not only the date of December 25thbut the very same ways of celebrating the birth of their sun-gods into its new state religion, Christianity. Having already outlawed the Biblical Sabbath and Feasts Days, Rome continued the traditions associated with festivals the people of the empire were already celebrating.
Mother Worship and Mary
The Roman Catholic Church’s anti-biblical policy was to transform pagan festivals, not abolish them. Amalgamating various religions and cultures into one belief system was considered a brilliant strategy for this power-hungry system, but to YHVH this unholy mixture was–and still is–an abomination!
By the fourth century, Mother-worship fueled the emergence of a pagan holiday which the Catholic Church had renamed Christmas. The Catholic Church transformed Mary into the latest version of that ancient pagan deity, known in Scripture as the Queen of Heaven. (Jer 7:18; 44:17-19)
In their 1946 article about Christmas, the Encyclopedia Americana said this about “CHRISTMAS, the ‘Mass of Christ’…
In the 5th century the Western Church ordered it to be celebrated forever on the day of the old Roman feast of the Birth of Sol (the Sun)… Among the German and Celtic tribes, the Winter Solstice was considered an important point of the year, and they held their chief festival of Yule 1 to commemorate the return of the burning-wheel (the sun).”
The Catholic Church justified this unholy mixture with their good intention to “lure people away from the observance of the winter solstice to the adoration of the son of God.” Linking the rebirth of the sun to the birth of the Messiah (the light of the world), the Roman Catholic Church simply slapped on a new title and that old pagan festival, Dies Natalis Invicti Solis (birth of the unconquered sun) became the Church’s Feast of the Nativity.
Christmas was not among the earliest Church festivals listed by Irenaeus and Tertullian. And interestingly, Origen asserted that in the Scriptures it was sinners, not saints, who celebrated their birthdays (Lev. Hom. viii in Migne, P.G., XII, 495).
The Encyclopedia states that the Catholic Church leaders chose December 25th for the birth of Christ to coincide with Rome’s festival marking the birthday of the unconquered sun, Sol Invictus, Rome’s official sun-god.
There are dozens of other sun-gods who share this birthdate, and they ALL predate the birth of our Jewish Messiah. Encyclopedia Americana said that this was done “in order to make Christianity more meaningful to pagan converts.” It is too bad they weren’t more interested in pleasing the Most High, Who orders believers NOT to learn the way of the heathen, and NOT to worship HIM the way they worship their gods.
Although modern Christians, for the most part, are unaware of the pagan roots of Christmas and Easter, the Reformers were not! Here is a quote from the “History of the Reformation in Scotland, 1950, Vol. 1, page 91”:
“That God’s word damns your ceremonies, it is evident; for the plain and straight commandment of God is, ‘Not that thing which appears good in thy eyes shalt thou do to the Lord thy God, but what the Lord thy God hath commanded thee, that do: add nothing to it; diminish nothing from it.’ Now unless ye are able to prove that God has commanded your ceremonies (Christmas & Easter), this, his former commandment, will damn both you and them.”
John Calvin Banned Christmas
In 1550, John Calvin instigated a ban against observing pagan church festivals like Christmas. On one particular tract, Calvin wrote the following: “I know how difficult it is to persuade the world that God disapproves of all modes of worship not expressly sanctioned by His Word.”
Christmas and Easter Banned by the Church of Scotland.
David Calderwood, of the Scottish ministries said the following, ‘The Judaical days (Biblical Feast Days) had the honor to be appointed by the LORD Himself; but the anniversary days appointed by men (Christmas) have not like honor. This opinion of Christ’s nativity on the 25th day of December was bred at Rome.’ He also said, ‘Nay, let us utter the truth, December-Christmas is a just imitation of the December-Saturnalia of the ethnic [heathen] Romans, and so used as if Bacchus, another name for the sun god, and not Messiah, were the God of Christians.”
Pilgrims Outlaw Christmas
The pilgrims who came to the North American continent in 1620, wanting to return to the Scriptures, also forbid the celebration of Christmas. In Boston it was outlawed from 1659 to 1681.
Charles Spurgeon Denounced Christmas
The renowned preacher Charles Spurgeon railed against Christmas in a sermon preached on December 24, 1871: “We have no superstitious regard for times and seasons. Certainly we do not believe in the present ecclesiastical arrangement called Christmas: first, because we do not believe in the mass at all, but abhor it, whether it be said or sung in Latin or in English; and, secondly, because we find no Scriptural warrant whatever for observing any day as the birthday of the Savior; and, consequently, its observance is a superstition, because not of divine authority.”
Charles Spurgeon’s Treasury of David on Psalm 81:4 says: “When it can be proved that the observance of Christmas, Whitsuntide, and other Popish festivals was ever instituted by a divine statute, we also will attend to them, but not till then. It is as much our duty to reject the traditions of men as to observe the ordinances of the Lord. We ask concerning every rite and rubric, ‘Is this a law of the God of Jacob?’and if it be not clearly so, it is of no authority with us, who walk in Christian liberty.”
Keeping CHRISTMAS In Your Heart
By now some disgruntled readers are exclaiming, “But that’s not what Christmas means to me!” To this I can only reply: “It doesn’t matter what Christmas means to you! It matters what it means to Lord YHVH!” He is the One we worship. And God makes the matter abundantly clear: He’s forbidden His people to eat fruit from the tree of the knowledge of good and evil, from mixed worship! Lord YHVH cares how we worship Him! We are to worship Him in Spirit and in Truth.
And the truth is that Yeshua was not born on December 25th. He was born on the first day of the Feast of Tabernacles. Three wise men did not come bearing gifts on the night of His birth. Wise men came, scripture doesn’t say how many, bearing three gifts (gold, frankincense and myrrh). They arrived, not on the night of His birth in a stable, but at His house when Yeshua was a young child and was about to flee with his parents into Egypt.
HOW DO WE KNOW WHAT GOD THINKS?
When the gold and silver vessels taken from the temple in Jerusalem were used in pagan worship, (Daniel 5:1-5) (Daniel 5:23-28) God declared: “You are weighed in the balances and found wanting. Your kingdom is divided, given to the Medes and the Persians.”
What Happened to Aaron’s Sons?
When Aaron’s sons worshiped God in their own way, by offering up what Scripture calls “strange fire” (Lev 10:1-3), that fire consumed them. Why? Because Lord YHVH declared, “I will be sanctified by those drawing near to Me; and I will be honored before all the people.”
When Uzzah reached out, with the good intention of steadying the Ark of the Covenant, God struck him dead. (2nd Sam 6:5-7) Why did God strike him dead? Because Uzzah, though well-intentioned, defied God’s instructions about carrying the Ark. (Exodus 25:12-15)
Folkes, it’s never a good idea to worship our KING in ways He has forbidden, even when those ways seems right to us, even if those ways give us warm, fuzzy feelings. What would you say if one of your children disobeyed you, claiming it was to show you his love?
Remember the Golden Calf?
Aaron made that golden calf, not to worship some other god, but to celebrate a feast to YHVH, Scripture says. (Exodus 32:4-5)
“And he took them from their hand, and fashioned it with an engraving tool. And he made it a molten calf. And they said, These are your ELOHIM, O Israel, who brought you up out of the land of Egypt. And Aaron saw, and he built an altar before it. And Aaron called and said, A feast to YHVH tomorrow.”
It’s time for God’s people to stop acting as if we have no King, to stop doing what Israel did in the time of the Judges–whatever was right in their own eyes. We do have a King, the King of Kings, Who said, “If you love Me keep My Commandments!”
And Yeshua’s commandments are His Father’s. We are not to set aside God’s Commandments to keep the traditions of men, not even Church Fathers.
Matthew 15:3 “But answering He said to them, Why do you also transgress the command of God on account of your tradition?”
Jeremiah 10:2-4 says: “Thus said YHVH, Learn not the way of the heathen, and be not dismayed at them. For the customs of the people are vain? One cuts 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 not move.’
“Take heed that you be not snared by following them, after that they be destroyed from before you; and that you don’t enquire after their gods,saying, How did these nations serve their gods? Even so will I do likewise. You shall not do so unto YHVH your Elohim.”
The next time someone says they want to put Christ back into Christmas, humbly and sweetly–don’t be hateful–ask them, “How do you put the Messiah back into something He was never a part of?” Hopefully, after they have recovered, they’ll ask you to explain this strange comment. That, my dear readers, will be your open door. As my pastor, Matthew Miller has taught me, walk through that door with honey on your lips, for we are all on a journey, growing in grace and truth, from glory to glory!