This is an article I never thought I’d write. Up until the last few years, Christmas has always been a special time of year for my wife and me. Although exchanging gifts has never been a huge part of Christmas for us, spending time with friends and family, decorating the tree with sentimental ornaments, and reflecting on our Savior’s birth has been.
The last two or three Christmases, however, have gradually eroded from being so special. The nauseating commercialism and consumerism have driven me to become a “Scrooge”. These last couple of years I have been adamant about not raising our children to be caught up in the greed that surrounds this time of year. I’ve wanted to ensure that Christ remains the center of Christmas, because “He is the reason for the season”.
Or is He?
Before I continue with this post, I want to note that my wife and I have not figured out how we will proceed with Christmas. I confess we have a new perspective for this holiday, we just are not sure exactly how it will work itself out. Neither this post or our decisions are intended to be legalistic or to rob our children or our family of fun and traditions. We are not conspiracy theorists, nor do we seek to divide the Body of Christ, whether in our local church or outside of it. We have one goal and one goal alone – to glorify the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ. It is Him we seek to please, no matter what that might cost us, especially among professing Christian friends and family. With this in mind, I hope you understand this is not an easy post to write, but one in which I want to be honest about and share with you what we as a family are struggling with.
It was last year that my perception of this materialistic holiday was reinforced after reading this humble and forthright article by Pilgrim at Defending. Contending. My wife and I had been struggling with the very things he and his wife conveyed with regards to the hypocritical greed that often engulfs many professing Christians during Christmas time. At that time, I was so fed up that Christ had nothing to do with Christmas anymore, and retailers could not wait to begin their marketing seductions. In fact this year, we began seeing marketing and hearing Christmas carols before Halloween! Ugh, but I digress. I’ve come to dread November and December in a sense because it has morphed into two months of Christmas, or shall we say two months of retail marketing. In order to further understand my feelings on this, please do read Pilgrim’s article – I can’t recommend it highly enough.
The other issue Pilgrim addressed is the issue we are currently working through – the pagan and Roman Catholic origins of the Christmas holiday. In the last couple of years, I have largely refrained from getting into arguments about this because, quite frankly, I was ignorant of the issues. This was mostly because I didn’t have time to research the topic and it wasn’t a priority for me. I considered it a Romans 14 issue and even policed my facebook page when the divisive topic came up. Many of the articles or videos I had seen pop up seemed a bit conspiratorial, so I dismissed some of the arguments for this reason. Even when Pilgrim posted his article last year, I mostly skimmed the first part because it was not too relevant for me at the time.
It seems now, however, that this year is the year the Lord would have me research the origins of Christmas and whether this is something a blood-bought believer of Jesus Christ should celebrate. It so happened I recently stumbled across a message from a pastor-teacher who I have come to highly respect – Jim McClarty of Grace Christian Assembly. When I saw he had given a message on Christmas traditions, I knew I had to take the time to listen because Jim is so faithful to Scripture and is not a fan of man-made traditions (especially in the interpretation of Scripture).
My wife and I listened to his message on the way back from Georgia a couple of days ago, and we are left with some decisions to make. In just one hour, Jim packed in so much valuable (and easily researched) information. We are now in a place where we are responsible before the Lord in what we do with this information. A few points Jim covers includes:
- What is Christ-Mass?
- Why was it 200 years after Christ’s life on earth before “Christmas” was unofficially recognized as a holiday?
- Why was it 500 years after Christ before it was officially recognized, by the Roman Catholic church nonetheless?
- Why didn’t the Apostles, early church fathers, or the Puritans celebrate “Christmas”?
- Why did the early American colonizers fight to keep Christmas from becoming an official holiday?
- Why was Christmas not recognized by all American states and territories as a national holiday until 1907 when Oklahoma made it a legal holiday?
- How does “Christmas” predate Christ?
- What are the pagan and Catholic (popish) origins of Santa Claus (“Saint” Nicholas)? Has he always been a jolly, fat guy on a sleigh?
- What pagan gods are associated with this pagan holiday, and how have they influenced the modern practice of celebrating Christmas?
- Where did the Christmas tree come from, and how about gifts left under the tree?
After listening to this message, you will not honestly be able to say that Jesus Christ, the Son of God, Redeemer of the elect of God, has anything to do with what we know as “Christmas”. So the argument “to keep Christ in Christmas” is a fallacious one because He was never in it to begin with (on that note, I recommend this article: Should Christians Boycott?) The fact is, this holiday festival known as “Christmas” is overwhelmingly a pagan tradition that has been overtly Christianized. It is pagan in every way, and stamping and branding it Christian has become our folly.
After listening to the message, I did a quick search to corroborate some of Jim’s message. This not because I doubted him, but because I was left very much surprised about the church history in relation to Christmas. For instance, this is what Charles Spurgeon, the Prince of Preachers, had to say about Christmas,
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, Sermon on Dec. 24, 1871) (source)
You can continue searching for yourself, but so far I have found everything in Jim’s message to be easily supported as fact.
The bottom line is this: Christmas is not a Christian holiday. It is a pagan holiday that has been Christianized.
So what do we do with this information? One thing is for sure, I can no longer go with the traditional flow that Christ has anything to do with Christmas, even though many will say “it doesn’t matter what it once was, all that matters is what it is today” and even though most churches today deck their sanctuaries with Christmas decor. Church traditions should not be an automatic stamp of approval by the Christian anyway.
In no way am I saying it is a sin to celebrate or remember the Savior’s birth, but I think we need to take great care not to attach the second greatest event in human history to pagan traditions. I do not think God is pleased with the protestant church for doing so. It seems we have taken what is holy and made it unholy, even though we may do so with sincere intentions.
What does this mean for our family? Like I said, we haven’t figured it all out yet. Whether we participate in the various traditions of Christmas is yet to be determined, but we will not pretend that such traditions have anything to do with Christ – because they don’t. We are still a bit in shock to this truth, and this is something we will need to continue to pray about.
So here is a challenge for you: do not listen to Jim McClarty’s message if you do not want to be challenged. If you don’t listen to the message, then I encourage you to research the issue as you are led and able. It’s just that I believe Jim’s message to be a great place for you to start.
Here’s the audio: Christmas Traditions
Go here if you have trouble downloading and scroll down to 078 in the list: http://www.gcaarchive.com/luke.shtml
I do welcome your thoughts on this topic in the comment section, however, they will be strictly monitored so to keep the conversation in a spirit of love and humility. If you disagree with anything I’ve said or with the message offered, please do so respectfully.
If you have been down this road and no longer celebrate Christmas, I especially want to hear from you that we might gain better insight and wisdom as to what is best for our family.
Ultimately, this is a matter of conscience before you and the Lord, and I am not here to impose our convictions upon you. Likewise, I expect the same in return and hope that you would at least prayerfully consider what has been presented to you here.
We, no doubt, have a difficult road ahead of us, but with our eyes kept on the Lord Jesus Christ, striving to honor Him and please Him as living sacrifices, we rest in the assurance that our joy is in Him, and not in the traditions and approval of men.