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Will Graham
 

Are you a pagan if you celebrate Christmas?

Here’s a short list of the people the Bible mentions who thanked God for Jesus’ birth: the wise men from the East, Mary, the shepherds, the angels, Elizabeth, Zechariah and old brother Simeon. Only God knows how many folk praised Him for Jesus’ birth and nowhere does the Bible say that God rebuked them for doing so.

FRESH BREEZE AUTHOR Will Graham 08 JANUARY 2015 17:50 h GMT+1
Christmas decorations Christmas decorations. / S. Richter

Are you a pagan if you celebrate Christmas? Answer: well, yes and no. The answer hinges upon what you worship during the festive season. If your deities are money, self-indulgence and materialism then you can mark yourself down as a full-blooded pagan. But if your desire at Christmas is to worship the Triune God and to thank Jesus for coming to earth, then there is nothing pagan about you.



In today’s Christian world small pockets of believers are hitting out at other saints of God who choose to celebrate Christmas. They justify their aggression by claiming that Christmas was originally a pagan festival. Therefore Christians must necessarily abstain from any pro-Christmas sentiments. Another bullet in their gun is that God nowhere commands us to celebrate the Incarnation. To do so, then, is unbiblical and uncalled for.



Let’s investigate those two claims with the Bible in one hand and history in the other.



 



#1: Is Christmas paganism?



With regards to the origins of Christmas, it must be confessed that before Constantine’s conversion to Christianity in the early fourth century the Romans did indeed spend a week worshipping Saturn in immoral fashion during the Saturnalia festival (which began on 17th December). The celebration was followed by sun worship as the pagans praised the ‘Unconquered Sun’ to coincide (more or less) with the winter solstice on 25th December.



But when Christianity was afforded a new sphere of influence in the Roman Empire thanks to Constantine, the Church sought to distance itself from any such paganism. This was the reason why the Christians decided to worship the Sun of righteousness (Jesus Christ) instead of the sun. Celebrating God’s goodness in sending Jesus to earth marked believers as a holy people who set themselves apart from pagan tradition and custom. Therefore any contemporary claim proposing that the Church’s commemoration of the Incarnation originated in paganism is totally false. In fact, the very reason the Church decided to praise Jesus for His birth on 25th December was precisely to steer away from paganism.



If pagans opt to worship their false deities on Christmas Day, they may do so. But Christians have always refused to bow down to the sun. They worship the Triune God on 25th December to remember His work of eternal salvation. Just because pagans use money doesn’t mean Christians should stop using money. And just because pagans read books doesn’t mean Christians should stop reading books. In the same manner, just because some false worshippers glorify demons on Christmas Day doesn’t mean Christians should stop worshipping Jesus.



In sum, Christmas Day- as celebrated by Christians- has nothing whatsoever to do with paganism. It is a pagan-free day in the heart of the children of God. There is no substance to the historical objection by the ‘No to Christmas’ groups.



 



#2: Is it a sin to thank God for the Incarnation?



The second objection is more theological than historical. Does God really command us to praise Him for the Incarnation? Answer: well, yes and no again. There’s no specific Scriptural command that says: “Thou shalt worship the Lord thy God for the most blessed Incarnation”, but the Bible does underline time and time again that we are to thank God for everything (Incarnation included). Just reread the nativity texts registered in the first two chapters of Matthew and Luke. How many folk praise God for the Incarnation? Loads!



Here’s a short list of the people the Bible mentions who thanked God for Jesus’ birth: the wise men from the East, Mary, the shepherds, the angels, Elizabeth, Zechariah and old brother Simeon. Only God knows how many folk praised Him for Jesus’ birth and nowhere does the Bible say that God rebuked them for doing so.



It is a spiritual thing to praise God and if Christmas warms your heart to thank God to overflowing for His grace and goodness, then by all means do so! God is not offended by such worship.



So my answer is no. It is not a sin to thank God for the Incarnation although it is nowhere commanded.



 



Conclusion



I hope this has helped you- especially those of you who have a tender conscience and are genuinely concerned about getting caught up in the seductive wrappings of paganism. The apostle Paul was particularly concerned to let no member of the Church judge another for celebrating special days. Such folk tend to speak motivated by a misdirected zeal and thus do much damage to the body of Christ. So be well aware of them but show them compassion.



Here are two Pauline texts that have especially touched my heart in the past two days along this line of thought: “One man esteems one day above another [i.e. Christmas Day] above another: another esteems every day alike. Let every man be fully persuaded in his own mind. He that regards the day regards it unto the Lord; and he that does not regard it, to the Lord he does not regard it” (Romans 14:5-6). And the second one is: “Let no one therefore judge you in food, or in drink, or in respect of a holy day, or of the new moon, or of the Sabbath days: which are a shadow of things to come; but the body is of Christ” (Colossians 2:16).



With these texts and this study in mind, I take this opportunity to wish you a very happy New Year no matter in what part of the world you may be. I hope your Christmas has been a God-glorifying one! In the midst of the bickering and the disputes let’s not forget Christmas isn’t about paganism; it’s all about Jesus!


 

 


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