Should We Celebrate Christmas?
By Greg Dixon
In his December 3, 2008 On Line News Letter the Wake-Up Herald Robert McCurry gives the following historical summary of Christmas as to its origins and practices in England and America in the following words.
“It is a historical fact that the season and day now known as Christmas preceded the birth of Christ by hundreds of years. Christmas was adopted from earlier heathen winter solstice celebrations celebrating the sun, including the Roman festival of Saturnalia celebrated from December the 17th to the 24th; Celtic Yuletide which was a twelve-day long festival of feasting around November/December; the Roman New Year celebrated on January the first when greenery was used to decorate houses in celebration of the birth of the undying sun, and presents were given to children and the poor. The Roman Catholic Church “Christianized” this pagan festival by substituting the birth of Christ for sun worship and named it Mass of Christ. The title was later shortened to Christ-mas. The traditions celebrated at Christmas today were invented by blending together customs from paganism and many different countries.
A brief look at “Christmas in America”
In the early 17th century, a wave of religious reform changed the way Christmas was celebrated in Europe. When Oliver Cromwell and his Puritan forces took over England in 1645, they vowed to rid England of decadence and, as part of their effort, cancelled Christmas. By popular demand, Charles II was restored to the throne and, with him, came the return of the popular holiday.
The pilgrims, English separatists that came to America in 1620, were even more orthodox in their Puritan beliefs than Cromwell. As a result, Christmas was not a holiday in early America. From 1659 to 1681, the celebration of Christmas was actually outlawed in Boston. Anyone exhibiting the Christmas spirit was fined five shillings. By contrast, in the Jamestown settlement, Captain John Smith reported that Christmas was enjoyed by all and passed without incident.
After the American Revolution, English customs fell out of favor, including Christmas. In fact, Congress was in session on December 25, 1789, the first Christmas under America’s new constitution. Christmas wasn’t declared a federal holiday until June 26, 1870.
Before the Civil War
The North and South were divided on the issue of Christmas, as well as on the question of slavery. Many Northerners saw sin in the celebration of Christmas; to these people the celebration of Thanksgiving was more appropriate. But in the South, Christmas was an important part of the social season. Not surprisingly, the first three states to make Christmas a legal holiday were in the South: Alabama in 1836, Louisiana and Arkansas in 1838.
In the years after the Civil War, Christmas traditions spread across the country. Children’s books played an important role in spreading the customs of celebrating Christmas, especially the tradition of trimmed trees and gifts delivered by Santa Claus. Sunday school classes encouraged the celebration of Christmas. Women’s magazines were also very important in suggesting ways to decorate for the holidays, as well as how to make these decorations.
By the last quarter of the nineteenth century, America eagerly decorated trees, caroled, baked, and shopped for the Christmas season. Since that time, materialism, media, advertising, and mass marketing has made Christmas what it is today. The traditions that we practice at Christmas today were invented by blending together religious and secular customs from paganism and many different countries.
In 1997, Artist Robert Cenedella drew a painting of a crucified Santa Claus. It was displayed in the window of the New York’s Art Students League and received intense criticism from some religious groups. His drawing was a protest. He attempted to show how Santa Claus had replaced Jesus Christ as the most important personality at Christmas time. Obviously, he was correct.”
Every year at this time there is a debate that goes on as to whether believers in Christ should celebrate Christmas. On one side there are those who say that it is a pagan holiday, that is of the Devil and anyone who participates in Christmas is involved in witchcraft and Demon worship, and on and on it goes without end. On the other side there are those who admit that there are pagan origins and secular things that have been interjected into it but that there is nothing wrong with one time a year giving special recognition to the incarnation of Christ and all that is involved in that wonderful event. One thing for sure whether of God or Satan it is obvious that the Devil sure hates Christmas because he is doing everything he can to stamp it out. Mostly he is doing it through the secularization of it and by using the courts to demolish the right of municipalities to allow nativity scenes on public property and public schools to have religious observances such as the singing of traditional Christmas carols and programs depicting the birth of the Christ child.
The following article by Dr. Peter Hammond from South Africa Director of Frontline Fellowship, in my opinion, puts the entire issue in perspective. I trust that you enjoy his remarks as much as I did when I read them. And then maybe you can understand why Paul the Apostle wrote those words in Romans Chapter Fourteen where he says, Him that is weak in the faith receive ye, but not to doubtful disputations. Who art thou that judgest another man’s servant? To his own master he standeth or falleth. One man esteemeth one day above another: another esteemeth every day alike. Let every man be fully persuaded in his own mind. He that regardeth the day, regardeth it unto the Lord; and he that regardeth not the day, to the Lord he doth not regard it. Obviously God himself knows that there are some things in this world that good people can both be right on and still be good people and still talk to each other.
And a further word, to me it has always been a blessed thought considering that one day every knee shall bow and every tongue shall confess that Jesus Christ is Lord, that we have a mini preview of that great event each year - Christmas day.RESPONDING TO ATTACKS ON CHRISTMAS By Dr. Peter Hammond
Last week I was interviewed on a secular radio station, Radio 2000, concerning Christmas. I always appreciate the opportunity to have interviews on secular radio stations as it provides a tremendous opportunity for evangelism.
During the interview I was asked whether Christmas shouldn’t be made more inclusive to accommodate other religions. (Last week I also read an article from WorldNetDaily concerning a New York village which decided to place an Islamic star and crescent alongside the community’s official Christmas tree. As the WND writer commented: “One wonders if there are any wise men amongst the town’s leaders?”).
My response was that Jesus is the reason for the season. Wise men still seek Him. Christians have never suggested that Jewish people need to make Yom Kippur more inclusive for Gentiles, nor has anyone suggested that Muslims adapt Ramadan to accommodate Christians, Jews, Hindus and Buddhists!
Christmas is the greatest holiday in the year celebrating the birth of the greatest person who ever lived. The Church of Jesus Christ is still the greatest, and most effective, charitable organisation in the world. Christians do more to alleviate the suffering of fallen and lost humanity than any and all other agencies on earth. This is why we give gifts at Christmas time: to remind us and our children of the greatest gift of all – God’s Son. Jesus Christ is Emmanuel – God with us. He has come and made the greatest sacrifice to fill the greatest need for the greatest number of people in history.
We need forgiveness for sin and freedom from sin. We need life, light and love. We need grace – undeserved favour – and it is in Jesus Christ that we find the mercy we so desperately need. We are lost and He is the Good Shepherd that shows us the way. We are often deceived and confused, but He is the Truth. We were dead in our trespasses and sins, but He is the Life and through Him we receive spiritual life, abundant life and eternal life.
Even the figure of Father Christmas is based on Saint Nicolas, a Christian who secretly gave gifts to the poor at Christmas time in order to express his love and gratitude to the Lord for His great gift.
We decorate for special occasions, such as weddings, coronations, birthdays, etc. So why not for this special day above all special days – the official birthday of the King of kings and the Lord of lords.
It is appropriate that the greatest holiday on calendars worldwide celebrates the birth of the greatest person who ever lived. All charities report that this is their best time of the year for donations. It is quite appropriate that so many acts of charity, good neighbourliness, friendship and generosity are expressed during the Christmas season, to family, friends, neighbours and to strangers.
The famous American actor (most recently known for the Expelled! – No Intelligence Allowed! film) gave the following statement on CBS television in America: “I am a Jew, and every single one of my ancestors was Jewish. And it doesn’t bother me even a little bit when people call those beautiful lit up bejeweled trees, Christmas trees. I don’t feel threatened. I don’t feel discriminated against. That’s what they are: Christmas trees. It doesn’t bother me a bit when people say ‘Merry Christmas’ to me. I don’t think they are slighting me…In fact I kind of like it. It shows that we are all brothers and sisters celebrating this happy time of year. It doesn’t bother me at all that there is a manger scene on display at a key intersection near my home…I don’t like getting pushed around for being a Jew, and I don’t think Christians like getting pushed around for being Christians. I think people who believe in God are sick and tired of getting pushed around. I’ve no idea where the concept came from that America is an explicitly atheist country. I can’t find it in the Constitution and I don’t like it being shoved down my throat.
“Or maybe I can put it in another way: where did the idea come from that we should worship celebrities and we aren’t allowed to worship God…?”
“Billy Graham’s daughter was asked: ‘How could God let something like this happen?’ (Regarding Hurricane Katrina). She gave an extremely profound and insightful response. She said: “I believe God is deeply saddened by this, just as we are, but for years we have been telling God to get out of our schools, to get out of our government and to get out of our lives. And being the gentleman He is, I believe He has calmly backed out. How can we expect God to give us His blessing and His protection if we demand He leave us alone?”
Ben Stein then pointed out that terrorist attacks and school shootings have happened in institutions which have rejected the Bible and thrown out prayer. The Bible says that we should not kill and we should not steal, but we should rather love our neighbour as ourself. Madeleine Murray O’Hare, who campaigned to have the Bible taken out of schools, was murdered.
“Then Dr. Benjamin Spock said we shouldn’t spank our children when they misbehave because their little personalities would be warped and we might damage their self-esteem (Dr. Spock’s son committed suicide)….
“Now we ask ourselves why our children have no conscience, why they don’t know right from wrong, and why it doesn’t bother them to kill strangers, their classmates, and themselves?
“Probably, if we think about it long and hard enough, we can figure it out. I think it has a great deal to do with WE REAP WHAT WE SOW.
“Funny how simple it is for people to trash God and then wonder why the world is going to hell. Funny how we believe what the newspapers say, but question what the Bible says. Funny how you can send jokes through e-mail and they spread like wildfire, but when you start sending messages regarding the Lord, people think twice about sharing. Funny how lewd, crude, vulgar and obscene articles pass freely through cyberspace, but public discussion of God is suppressed in the school and workplace.”
It is time to put Christ back into Xmas. Jesus is the reason for the season. Wise men still seek Him.
P.O. Box 74
Cape Town, South Africa
Tel: (021) 689-4480
Fax: (021) 685-5884
If you would like to have my news letter The Trumpet the voice of the unregistered church movement in America please send me your name and e mail address to: