Monday, December 21, 2009

Elements In History: Origin of Christmas

Exploring the History behind Christmas, and explaining why so many Christians see it as pagan and a sin against God to observe it.

The history of Christmas, as in the name Christmas, came from the Roman Church back in the 4th century A.D. during the time of the East Roman Emperor, Constantine (Roman Empire split into two empires -- East and West -- in 285BC). In Rome and throughout the Roman Empire there were many pagan rituals and festivals observed, which some of these festivals were held on December 25th or sometime around the date.

December 25th hosted two related festivals -- natalis solis invicti, which was the Roman “birth of the unconquered sun”, and the birthday of the Iranian “Sun of Righteousness”, Mithras, whose worship was popular with Roman soldiers. The winter solstice was another celebration of the sun, which fell just a few days earlier. Church leaders seeing that pagans were already exalting deities with some parallels to the True Deity they decided to introduce a new festival -- Christmas or “Christ’s Mass” -- for Christians to observe the birth of the Savior, Jesus Christ. The intention behind church leaders creating this new festival was to avoid Christians from falling into the pagan rituals and festivals that were popular at the time. As a result, Christians first celebrated Christmas on December 25th in 336 A.D. soon after the Christian baptism of Emperor Constantine, who then declared Christianity the empire’s favored religion.

That is the historical account of Christmas, but where does the argument for those opposed to Christmas and other Christmas traditions come from? To answer that question we must go to a particular Bible passage the majority of these “anti-Christmas” people use in justifying their viewpoint that Christmas, namely the “Christmas tree,” is of pagan origin; therefore, a sin against Almighty God for any Christian to partake in:

Jeremiah 10:1-4, “Hear the word which the LORD speaks to you, O house of Israel (2) Thus says the LORD, ‘Do not learn the way of the nations, and do not be terrified by the signs of the heavens Although the nations are terrified by them; (3) For the customs of the peoples are delusion; because it is wood cut from the forest, the work of the hands of a craftsman with a cutting tool. (4)They decorate it with silver and with gold; they fasten it with nails and with hammers so that it will not totter.’” (NASB)

Now, to understand this passage in the book of Jeremiah we must first understand the cultural background behind it. If you go on further in this passage you will clearly see that this pagan custom was a form of idol worship to the pagan god/s to represent (in a way) the One True Everlasting God. One of the most common examples of a tree idol was the Asherah, which is mentioned several times in the Old Testament.

Asherah was a pagan goddess that was worshiped throughout the Mediterranean region. She was considered to be the goddess of the sea and the mother of Baal. She was always represented as a tree or pole, either planted or erected, then decorated. There are many warnings in the Old Testament about the Asherah tree -- here are a couple of examples,

Exodus 34:12-14, “Watch yourself that you make no covenant with the inhabitants of the land into which you are going, or it will become a snare in your midst. (13) But rather, you are to tear down their altars and smash their sacred pillars and cut down their Asherim (14) for you shall not worship any other god, for the LORD, whose name is Jealous, is a jealous God.” (NASB)

Judges 6:25, “Now on the same night the LORD said to him, "Take your father's bull and a second bull seven years old, and pull down the altar of Baal which belongs to your father, and cut down the Asherah that is beside it;” (NASB)

I believe these two examples along with Jeremiah 10 are clearly and specifically referring to idol worship, as they all relate to the pagan goddess Asherah. Therefore, to assume this has any reference to the modern-day Christmas tree is pure silliness, a manipulation of history, and taking the passage away from its contextual meaning. However, if by chance, there are people, today, setting up Christmas trees and then falling down and worshipping it as a god or goddess; or perhaps, a Christian adores their Christmas tree more than Almighty God -- then “Yes” -- there would be an issue of spiritual idolatry; therefore, the passage in Jeremiah 10 would be a relevant reference to use along side the 2nd commandment.

Needless to say, outside of these possible exceptions, I think it clear that most (likely), if not all (hopefully), Christians who set up a Christmas tree in their homes are NOT worshiping them as idols or any other such relation; and I am sure, they do not love them more than Jesus Christ. They are simply using the Christmas tree as a fun -- cultural traditional -- custom and/or as reminder of the true “reason for the season:” the birth of Jesus the Messiah.

It is unfortunate thing that many well-meaning Christians define something as sin when it is not anything of the short, and then try to enslave the minds of their fellow believers be instituting such a notion.

As an old 4th century theologian once said, “We hold this day holy, not like the pagans because of the birth of the sun, but because of Him who made it.”

Monday, December 7, 2009

No Matter Who You Are <>< A Poem

Have you heard about this man
Who is now in glory and at peace with Him

He paid the price for the laws he didn’t abide
But when it was time to die
He made a choice to save his life

There is not much said about this man.
Only a one phase that he said

But his story is one that speaks
How with two simple words
You can be redeemed

Blessed was this man who was lost
Who was beside the Savior on the cross
When he turned and said, “Remember me”
Jesus replied, “In my paradise you will be”


No matter who you are
No matter where you are from
No matter what you did
You have a choice to live again

All you need is faith
To live in the Father’s grace
So turn to Christ like this man
And one day in paradise you will also stand

Written By ForwardThought (November 2007)