UNHOLY CHRISTMAS TRADITIONS
By Betty Miller
Christians look forward to the time of the year when we celebrate two important holidays, Thanksgiving and Christmas. These holidays have their beginnings and roots in Christian celebrations. The word holiday actually means "holy day"; hence these events should be remembered and celebrated in a holy manner. We have strayed from that purpose over the years as we have embraced many unholy practices and worldly customs and added them to our "holy days."
Christmas has also been ed with many secular and traditional additions that take away from this celebration of our Lord's birth. The materialism that surrounds this season is one of the most obvious; however, there are others. Office parties with the alcohol flowing freely certainly desecrate all that the day stands for. As Christians, we celebrate this day because it is the Lord's birthday and it gives us pleasure to remember the Christmas story as recorded in the Bible in Luke 2.
WAS CHRIST BORN ON DECEMBER 25?
Scholars do not know the exact date of Christ's birth. For more than 300 years, people observed His birthday on various dates. In A.D. 354, Bishop Liberius of Rome ordered the people to celebrate on December 25. He chose this date because the people of Rome already observed it as the Feast of Saturn, celebrating the sun. Christmas is not, as some have claimed, historically descended from the celebration of the Roman Saternalia with its fleshly excesses, but was set up by Christians to counter it. Christians honored Christ, instead of Saturn, as the Light of the World.
Due to this and other error, some Christians argue we should not even observe Christmas since December 25 is not the true birth date of our Lord Jesus Christ, as most scholars agree it was in the fall. However, the date is not important but the attitude of our hearts in celebrating it. It is how we celebrate Christmas that pleases or displeases the Lord. Since it is observed around the world, it is a wonderful time to witness to people, and the holiday does cause many to think of Jesus.
It is not that to celebrate Christmas is wrong. It is the way we treat it which makes it right or wrong.
UNHOLY CUSTOMS AND TRADITIONS
For many years, people observed Christmas as a religious festival only. But they gradually adopted more and more customs unrelated to the church. In England, during the Middle Ages, Christmas became the merriest day of the year. Celebrations eventually became so rowdy that the Puritans in England did away with the observance of Christmas by law in 1643.
Our present day celebration here in the United States is a combination of several customs and traditions that come from different European countries. (The World Book Encyclopedia gives an in-depth description of these for those interested.) Since we are looking to the Bible for our standards it would be well to eliminate those things that are not Christ-exalting. We should avoid going to extremes, but on the other hand we should not partake of things that are not honoring Jesus' birthday.
WHAT ABOUT THE CHRISTMAS TREE?
One tradition that we might mention that has been a controversy in Christian ranks is the decorating of the Christmas fir tree. There are several stories about the origin of the Christmas tree. People in Scandinavia once worshiped trees. Other cultures such as the Romans believed the green tree branches brought good luck. The Germans were probably the first to use Christmas tree decorations. Some Christians think this tradition should not be observed because of this. However, we find in the Bible that the same custom existed in that day and we find the Lord's instructions as to what our stand should be.
Jeremiah 10:1, "Hear ye the word which the LORD speaketh unto you, O house of Israel: 2 Thus saith the LORD, Learn not the way of the heathen, and be not dismayed at the signs of heaven; for the heathen are dismayed at them. 3 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. 4 They deck it with silver and with gold; they fasten it with nails and with hammers, that it move not. 5 They are upright as the palm tree, but speak not: they must needs be borne, because they cannot go. Be not afraid of them; for they cannot do evil, neither also is it in them to do good."
Here the heathen of that day where cutting down trees and decorating them and worshipping them. But the word of the Lord was for his people not to fear this practice as He pointed out to them that the tree itself had no power to do good or evil. Evil is in the heart of man. So putting up a Christmas tree is not evil or good in itself. If we decorate a tree and celebrate in honor of our Lord Jesus then, to us it is good. To those with improper motives, it is evil. There is a Biblical reference for bringing boughs into the house for celebration. The Lord commanded Israel during the feast of tabernacles to do just that.
Leviticus 23:40, "And ye shall take you on the first day the boughs of goodly trees, branches of palm trees, and the boughs of thick trees, and willows of the brook; and ye shall rejoice before the LORD your God seven days."
WHAT ABOUT SANTA CLAUS?
There is one area in our Christmas celebration however, that has no Biblical basis. We realize this is a sensitive issue but we feel Christians should be made aware of this as it is having a tremendous effect on our children that produces no Christian fruit. This is the interjection of "Santa" into our Christmas gatherings. Satan has infiltrated and defiled our Christian celebration of Christmas by adding the dimension of emphasizing Santa Claus at the celebration of the Savior's birth. Satan s that date because he s to see people worshipping the Lord. Instead he diverts s and children alike to revolve their attention around what Santa will bring that day instead of what the real meaning of the day really is. The name "Santa Claus" was taken from a kindhearted Christian bishop, Saint Nicholas, who lived in the A.D. 300's. He became the patron saint of many European countries. In the Netherlands and Belgium men in bishops' robes pose as Saint Nicholas and visit children, examine them on their prayer and urge them to be good, and give them gifts. Hence, the Dutch brought "the visit of Saint Nicholas" to the Americas. The Christmas visit of Santa Claus came from this custom.
You can see how through the years it has changed now and Santa Claus has replaced the celebration of our Lord's birth. "Old Saint Nicholas" or "Santa Claus" has been interjected into the day to take away from the true meaning of Christmas. Santa Claus is portrayed as a god. He supposedly "knows all" as does God. ("He knows when you are sleeping, he knows when you're awake, he knows when you've been bad or good...") He has supernatural power as he flies through the air making stops throughout the world in one night. He comes down chimneys that would be impossible to enter and has an unlimited supply of toys in one sleigh. He has elves as assistants. (Elves originated in Scandinavian mythology. There were good and evil elves who could disappear at will.) The belief in Santa Claus is also based on a lie. This lie by parents undermines the trust of their children. Later the children may then doubt the reality of God because parents lied about Santa Claus. The emphasis is on receiving gifts in many homes, instead of exchanging gifts. Gifts for the Lord are forgotten.
As Christians, we should ask the Lord how to purge this holiday of Satan's false god, Santa Claus, and put the emphasis on Christ and His love so that our children know the true meaning of this holy day. Many children only know that it is a day that Santa will come and bring them gifts. They know nothing of the gift of love that was sent to us in the birth of Jesus, our savior. Wouldn't it be better if we refused to tell our children the lie about Santa? Some may say how terrible to deny children the fun of Santa Claus because he is only a fairy tale like other fairy tales. However, if we ask why Santa Claus is promoted at Christmas instead of another day of the year, I believe we can see the answer clearly. He has become a substitute in the lives of millions of children so that they know nothing of the true gift of life in Christ. I dare say if you ask any child in America who Santa Claus is they would be able to tell you, but many of those same children if asked who Jesus Christ is would not be able to answer that question.
WHAT ABOUT GIFT GIVING?
So much emphasis is put upon getting gifts at Christmas. This has promoted materialism and selfishness in many children as well as the s. It is the Lord's birthday. Where are our gifts to Him and His interests? It isn't wrong to give gifts at Christmas as this is part of the spirit of Christ -- giving. What is wrong, is that we have gone to the extreme and forgotten the Lord and the poor in our giving. Biblical celebrations such as the one in Esther 9:22 are approved by God. "As the days wherein the Jews rested from their enemies, and the month which was turned unto them from sorrow to joy, and from mourning into a good day: that they should make them days of feasting and joy, and of sending portions one to another, and gifts to the poor."
Our modern Christmases have become mostly tinsel, and every true believer is aware of it. Stress from all the shopping and cooking keeps many from even enjoying this time of year. The media at the holiday season will carry advertisements for items to be given as gifts, which are a disgrace to Jesus Christ. The legend of St. Nicholas, the notorious Christmas office party, the giving of drunken entertainment, the materialism and selfishness which have paganized and spoiled Christmas of its true Christian meaning are things we need to resist and have no part in. Our task, if we are true Christians, is to recapture this holiday from the pagans. It really belongs to us as believers! In fact, in our spirits we should celebrate Christmas every day of the year, instead of once a year as the world does. It does not take tinsel and decoration to remind us of Jesus when we truly love and worship Him from our hearts.