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Christmas Examined

AN APPEAL TO GOD'S PEOPLE

By Rev. Malcolm MacInnes


Dear child of God, we read in the Scriptures "Come now and let us reason together." This is what we would like to do now to the glory of God. That popular and worldly season of the year called Christmas will soon be upon us again. Multiplied millions will be spent on a boundless shopping spree. Under the pretense of religion saint and sinner alike will join hands in the celebration of that which is not only foreign to scripture but that which will lay waste to the soul and that which draws the name of our Lord into the filth of the world. This is a very serious thing!

What part will you take in it? Will you completely sever yourself from this unholy thing or will you be found with the "mixed multitude" observing this pagan holiday with the enemies of Christ? These are very pertinent questions for there is not one scripture in the entire Bible that tells us when Christ was born, neither is there scripture that allows anyone to celebrate His birthday. God's word says, "Ye observe days, and months, and times, and years. I am afraid of you, lest I have bestowed upon you labor in vain" (Gal 4:11).

History shows that this is a pagan celebration handed down from one generation to another until the whole world has become a slave to it. As a child of God how can you or I become a partner with the world in such a season of levity and mockery to all that which is holy and eternal? Christmas is a time of feasting, drinking and frivolity for the world, done under false religious sentiment for the natural man. Sending out Christmas cards with scripture verses on them is compromising that which is holy with that which is unholy. Can Christ have fellowship with Belial? "Have no fellowship with the unfruitful works of darkness" (Eph 5:11) is God's command to His people.

Little do we realize that we are a living lie to our children when we observe in any way this religious worldly holiday and when we so much as mention the myth of Santa Claus to them. What about the tree? Does not the carnal heart glow with pride as it looks at the work of the hands? Isaiah said, "shall I fall down to that which comes of a tree?" God says, "Learn not the way of the heathen For the customs of the people are vain, for one cutteth a tree out of the forest, the work of the hands of the workman with the ax. They deck it with silver and with gold, they fasten it with nail and with hammers, that it move not" (Jer 10:1-5).

What are we going to say to these things? Why do we have anything to do with that which God hates? Are we afraid of the ridicule of the world? Has not the Lord of glory condemned all that is of the world and commanded us not to be conformed to it? Can we be a testimony for Christ and be worldly at the same time? Are we not taking part in the "pleasures of sin for a season" when we become part of the world's celebrations? Does not the humiliation and suffering that our Lord endured for us mean anything to us? Oh that every one of God's people would hear that voice from heaven saying, "Come out of her my people, that ye be not partakers of her sins" (Rev 18:4) and again, "Touch not the unclean thing."

God warns His people to be a separate people, a different people, a representative of Himself and of all that is pure and holy and good. We are never to unite with the world in a worldly round of fleshly gratification in the observance of days and seasons whether they be religious or political, for again God says, "Thou shalt not follow a multitude to do evil" (Exo 23:2). There is not a day or season upon this earth that is so highly esteemed by man as Christmas. God says, "That which is highly esteemed among men is an abomination to God" (Luke 16:15). Shouldn't this settle the matter forever? Let us not dishonor our Lord any longer by making Him a part of this idolatrous celebration. May we cry to Him for deliverance. Let the world say what it pleases and think what it pleases and let this be our motto, "As for me and my house we will serve the Lord" (Joshua 24:15).

We entreat you again to turn from the world and its holy days, touch not the unclean thing, associate not the birth of Christ with the fables of paganism and apostate Christendom. Hear His voice "Be ye separate, O My people." Consider well, as before God to whom you must surely give an account. May God give us strength and purpose of heart to cleave to the Lord alone.

"Depart ye, depart ye, go ye out from thence, touch no unclean thing; go ye out of the midst of her; be ye clean, that bear the vessels of the Lord." (Isaiah 52:11)

Christmas - Pagan? Roman Catholic? Protestant?

Christmas has become so much a part of the church calender and is so socially acceptable that it might seem pointless to ask any question which would perhaps tend to disturb the 'goodwill and merriment of the season'. The festival has been accepted across the board in the religious world by Roman Catholics and Protestants alike, even among evangelicals and fundamentalists. You might conclude that it is a settled issue. However, expressions like 'THE FIRST CHRISTMAS' and 'THE CHRIST WHO CAME AT CHRISTMAS WILL COME AGAIN' are so interesting that they warrant some consideration. Did Christ come at Christmas? When was the FIRST CHRISTMAS?

Some of the 'Christmas time' activities make it easy for us to understand why the irreligious world observes Christmas. It is a time of great materialism, a time for parties with plenty (too much) of eating and drinking. It is a time for much merriment, so we hear it said 'MERRY CHRISTMAS'. You are entitled to ask 'Where is Christ in all of this?'. The unbelieving world does not know Him, so what is happening at Christmas time? Has there been a change of heart? Much of what makes up the Merry Christmas of society has no place in the teaching and example of Jesus Christ.

Every serious student of the Bible knows that the discipleship to which Christ calls his followers cannot accommodate the lifestyle of the unbelieving world. It is obvious that for the unbelieving world Christmas is a social celebration to which has been attached the name of Christ. Jesus Christ is not in it.

What about 'religious people'? The name CHRISTMAS seems to indicate that it might have some connection with Christianity. What is distinctive about Christianity? It is this, that Christian beliefs and practices are based on the Bible. Christians find in the Scriptures the convictions to which they hold. From it they believe in the divine Person of Jesus Christ, the Person of the Holy Spirit, man's need of regeneration, justification by faith alone, and the certainty of the great Judgement Day. From the Bible, according to Christ's appointment, Christians remember His death in the Sacrament of the Lord's Supper. What about CHRISTMAS?

The Bible clearly gives an account of Christ's birth in the Gospels. You cannot be a Christian unless you believe in the supernatural conception and virgin birth of the Saviour. The Incarnation is a great mystery, but a matter of divine revelation and consequently of faith. Does 'THE FIRST CHRISTMAS' refer to the birth of Christ as recorded in the Gospels? If you look at the word 'CHRISTMAS', you will see that it cannot. The obvious derivation of the word is CHRIST and MASS. The word 'mass' refers to the Roman Catholic sacrament in which the sacrifice of Christ is supposedly offered again to God. Whatever your theological convictions with regard to the 'mass', you will appreciate that it is supposed to have its authority from the Last Supper, at which Jesus took the bread and the wine. That was before He died, NOT when He was born. How absurd to associate with his birth the sacrament which he identified with His death. To say the least, we might say 'The timing is wrong'. The name is most inappropriate, and it ought to be distasteful to all Protestants who understand anything of what the 'mass' is claimed to be. The name betrays the origin of CHRISTMAS. MASS is obviously Roman Catholic, and history shows that Christmas has come through the Church of Rome taking over a festival of paganism. The Toronto Star, a secular newspaper, on 24th December 1977, explained the development of Christmas in this way:

"Take, for example, the date itself. Nothing in the Bible indicates Christ was born December 25th. In pagan Rome, that day was given over to the worship of the sun-god. But when Christianity became the official religion of the Roman Empire, the church appropriated many of the pagan festivals, and the one that honoured the sun was dedicated to Christ instead."

The Biblical accounts show that the birth of Christ could not have been at that time of year - with shepherds outside at night, and a national tax collection which involved much travel being taken. Extra-biblical evidence shows that Christmas does not have its origin in the Bible at all. The Bible is silent on the date, and there is no indication that the birth of Christ was celebrated in the apostolic church. It was the Church of Rome that adopted the pagan service into her ritual. Listen what Williston Walker says in his "History of the Christian Church":

"About the same time, the early fourth century, there developed in the west a distinctive nativity festival on December 25th. The date was partly determined by the idea that the birth of the world occurred on the vernal equinox (March 25th), and correspondingly its new birth in the Saviour would have been at the same moment. This was understood as the conception of the Virgin, and hence the natural birth would be nine months later, December 25th. But perhaps even more, the date was influenced by the fact that December 25th was a great pagan festival, that of Sol Invictus, which celebrated the victory of light over darkness and the lengthening of the sun's rays at the winter solstice. The assimilation of Christ to the Sun god as Sun of Righteousness, was widespread in the fourth century and was furthered by Constantine's legislation. In any case, these two celebrations of Epiphany and Christmas rose independently of each other in the fourth century."

To refer, therefore to the birth of Christ as THE FIRST CHRISTMAS is wrong, and although it may appeal to people who place more value on sentiment than on fact, it is misleading.

Equally so is it false to assert that THE CHRIST WHO CAME AT CHRISTMAS WILL COME AGAIN, because the evidence is that He did not come at Christmas. Why not tell the truth? The Gospels give account of His birth, but after that there is no account of celebrating the birth of the Saviour. Christmas was started in the early 4th century by the Church of Rome. It is easy to understand that Roman Catholics would wish to observe Christmas - the name of their sacrament is in it, and they do not look for a Biblical warrant for their religion. However, it is extremely difficult to understand why Protestants, whose religion is based on 'Scripture only' - Sola Scriptura - should follow the Roman Catholic Church into Christmas. ARE PROTESTANTS LOSING THEIR PROTEST? When Jesus sent out the preachers of the Gospel with the Great Commission in Matthew 28, He instructed them to teach people to observe 'whatsoever I have commanded you'. Where did Christ command us to remember His birthday? Nowhere! He gave us a sacrament in the Lord's Supper, commanding us to remember His death.

It has been argued that this celebration gives opportunity to preach the Gospel of Jesus Christ. Preach the Gospel whenever possible, but why present it under the guise of a pagan festival taken over by the Church of Rome and with such an obviously Roman Catholic label on it? C. H. Spurgeon, highly respected and often referred to as a great preacher of the Gospel, made these comments on Psalms 81:4 (Treasury of David):

"When it can be proved that the observance of Christmas, Whitsuntide and other popish festivals were ever instituted by a divine statute, we also will attend to them, but not until then. It is as much our duty to reject the traditions of men as to observe the ordinances of the Lord."

The Church of Rome is quickly gaining ground, and in many quarters the Pope is quoted as the spokesman for Christianity. The work of Protestant Reformers is being eroded as Protestants adopt the festivals of the Church of Rome. CHRIST-MASS speaks its own message as to its origin, and it is time for Protestants to disassociate themselves from this Roman Catholic tradition. Consider these things seriously. What has the exchanging of gifts at Christmas time to do with the birthday of Christ? If it was His birthday would He not be the one to whom the gifts would be given? What have the Christmas tree, the nativity play, a Christmas church concert, and other Christmas trimmings to do with the birthday of the Saviour? These are not part of Biblical Christianity. May God give you discernment that they will not be part of yours.

"Learn not the way of the heathen . . . for the customs of the people are vain." (Jeremiah 10)