***Examining the Historical and Biblical Evidence for the Time of Messiah’s Birth***
The Dubiousness of December 25 as the Time of Messiah’s Birth
Part 1: The Historical Record Speaks
The Pagan Roots of Christmas
The Winter Solstice
The Adoption of December 25th by the Christian Church
The Christmas Tree
The Believer’s Response to the Pagan Elements of Christmas
Part 2: The Biblical Record Speaks
In the Western world, the single most popular and dearly loved of all holidays is Christmas. With “chestnuts roasting on an open fire” and “Jingle Bells,” no other holiday celebration compares with the luster, anticipation and excitement which surrounds Christmas time. Although it culminates on the 25th of December, Christmas really lasts for an entire season. On or around Thanksgiving, a full month before Christmas, people begin (if they haven’t already done so) to decorate their homes and businesses with bright, colorful lights, ornaments and decorations. And shoppers crowd the malls, department and toy stores, and all sorts of merchandising establishments to gather gifts for distribution among their family members and friends.
Yet, one does not need to go to church or practice the religion of the Bible to enjoy in full measure the festivity which is Christmas. Anyone and everyone may participate in this celebration near the time of the winter solstice. However, the person who practices the biblical faith claims a special “reason for the season.” After all, this holiday of holidays did not get the name “Christmas” by accident! The 25th of December purports to be the birthday of Jesus Christ, and is thus a high day on the Christian calendar. Bible thumpers around the world take time during this season to remember the humble beginning of the life of Messiah on this earth.
Because both people of the Book and those who do not claim a biblical faith share the same holiday, a natural friction has resulted. Those who maintain a Bible based faith want to use Christmas as a tool to evangelize the world by advertising Messiah. But at the same time, the non Bible-believing segment of society wants no part in the Christians’ proselytizing rhetoric. Christians want to use the symbols of this holiday to share the love of Messiah (sometimes forcefully) with their counterparts. But the people antagonistic to the faith of the Bible want to ban any and all religious references to Christmas on public properties. Can a solution to this conflict be negotiated? Or will we continue to struggle to find meaningful and acceptable expressions of our celebration of the birth of the Messiah?
The purpose of this writing is to suggest to the Bible-believing Christian community a better way to honor Messiah in the celebration of the incarnation. It is my scripturally and historically informed belief that Elohim Almighty has a different holy day in mind for his people to remember Messiah’s birthday than a December 25th Christmas. History reveals to us that we are celebrating Christ’s birth at the wrong time of the year and in the wrong way with all the wrong traditions and practices! And within the pages of Holy Scriptures, Elohim himself reveals to us how and when he wants us to celebrate Messiah’s birth!
The Dubiousness of December 25 as the Time of Messiah’s Birth
It is quite doubtful that Messiah was born on December 25th. Scripture tells us that on the night of the birth of Messiah,
there were shepherds living out in the fields nearby, keeping watch over their flocks at night. (Luke 2:8)
Certainly, shepherds in Judea would not be spending the night in the fields with the animals in late December. It is too cold and wet during the winter months to be camping out in the fields!
Alexander Hislop made this observance well over a century ago:
What is recorded there, implies that at what time soever His birth took place, it could not have been on the 25th of December. At the time that the angel announced His birth to the shepherds of Bethlehem, they were feeding their flocks by night in the open fields. Now, no doubt, the climate of Palestine (sic) is not so severe as the climate of this country; but even there, though the heat of the day be considerable, the cold of the night, from December to February, is very piercing, and it was not the custom for the shepherds of Judea to watch their flocks in the open fields later than about the end of October. It is in the last degree incredible, then, that the birth of Christ could have taken place at the end of December. There is great unanimity among commentators on this point (The Two Babylons, pp. 91,92).
In Israel, the winter rains start coming in the ninth month which is Heshvan, and increase in intensity through the month Tebeth. The book of Ezra indicates what the weather was like:
Within the three days, all the men of Judah and Benjamin had gathered in Jerusalem. And on the twentieth day of the ninth month (roughly December), all the people were sitting in the square before the house of Elohim, greatly distressed by the occasion and because of the rain. (Ezra 10:9)
And Jeremiah makes reference to the temperatures in Israel at that time of year:
It was the ninth month and the king was sitting in the winter apartment, with a fire burning in the firepot in front of him. (Jeremiah 36:22)
Clearly the ninth month was not only very wet, but it was also cold enough to require a burning fire inside to warm up.
By Hebrew reckoning, the seventh month is the time of the fall harvest and festivals, which falls in September and early October on our traditional calendar. So the ninth month of the biblical calendar corresponds to our December. The open fields are obviously no place for shepherds to be tending their flocks during this wet and cold time of year. In fact, historical records indicate that the sheep were taken into shelters around the ninth month. Most assuredly, this detail in the narrative raises serious doubt as to a 25th of December birth of Messiah, because it was too cold for shepherds to be staying in the fields with the flocks at night.
Yet another reason to doubt a December 25th birthday of Messiah is the census ordered by the Caesar:
In those days Caesar Augustus issued a decree that a census should be taken of the entire Roman world. (This was the first census that took place while Quirinius was governor of Syria.) And everyone went to his own town to register. So Joseph also went up from the town of Nazareth in Galilee to Judea, to Bethlehem the town of David, because he belonged to the house and line of David. He went there to register with Mary, who was pledged to be married to him and was expecting a child (Luke 2:1-5).
Since Caesar Augustus had ordered a census (and a collection of taxes) of the entire world, it is doubtful that he would expect people to travel to their home towns in the winter months for this purpose. Common sense would dictate that citizens would be required to register at a time more conducive to traveling.
Barney Kasdan suggests that the Romans had a more practical plan:
The Romans were known to take their censuses according to the prevailing custom of the occupied territories. Hence, in the case of Israel, they would opt to have the people report to their provinces at a time that would be convenient for them. There is no apparent logic to calling the census in the middle of winter. The more logical time of taxation would be after the harvest, in the fall, (God’s Appointed Times, Baltimore, MD, 1993, p. 97, cited in Samuele Bacchiochi, The Date and Meaning of Christmas).
Most certainly, a better plan must have been formulated to count heads and to collect taxes. Perhaps in the warmer months. And perhaps during a time when people were already traveling, and had the means to pay those taxes, which would be during the fall harvest of the seventh month, when all Israel was traveling to Jerusalem with the tithes of their harvests.
If the biblical narrative describing the birth of Messiah did not happen on December 25th, then it is imperative that we explore two questions. First, why do Christians celebrate his birth on December 25th? And second, when was Messiah really born? Let us examine these questions in detail. We will begin by investigating the historical record to ascertain the origin of Christmas and the celebration which occurs on the 25th of December. Then we will proceed to an examination of the biblical testimony to determine when Messiah really was born.
Part 1: The Historical Record Speaks
The word Christmas means “Mass of Christ.” This came to us from the Roman Catholic Church. But from where did the Roman Church get it? It was certainly not from the Scriptures. The Old Testament says nothing about Christmas. Nor did they receive it from Christ. Yahushua (the actual Hebrew name for the Messiah, usually rendered “Jesus”) never gave any command to celebrate his birthday. There is no record of the apostles celebrating it. Neither did the Jerusalem Assembly of believers in Messiah of the first century. Like many of her ceremonies, customs and traditions, we will show evidence that the Roman Catholic Church took an exclusively pagan holiday, practiced for centuries before the birth of Messiah, and “Christianized” it.
The Pagan Roots of Christmas
The ancient Babylonians began the mother\child cult worship which is still alive and well today. Nimrod of the Bible was the founder of this false religion. He is known as Ninus in historical documentation. Scripture says that Nimrod
He was a mighty hunter before Yahuwah. That is why it is said, “Like Nimrod, a mighty hunter before Yahuwah.” The primary regions of his kingdom were Babel, Erech, Akkad, and Calneh in the land of Shinar. From that land he went to Assyria, where he built Nineveh, Rehoboth-Ir, Calah, and Resen, which is between Nineveh and the great city Calah. (Bereshith [Genesis]10:9-12)
That he was “a mighty hunter” does not infer that Nimrod was a great gamesman. He was a conqueror and hunter of men. Furthermore, the Hebrew preposition in verse 9 could and should be translated “against Yahuwah.”
The Histori Romani Scriptorium states that
Ninus strengthened the greatness of his acquired dominion by continued possession. Having subdued, therefore, his neighbors, when, by an accession of forces, being still further strengthened, he went forth against other tribes, and every new victory paved the way for another, he subdued all the peoples of the east.
The historical Ninus is the same person as the biblical Nimrod. Thus, Nimrod was feared in his day. The great city he built was Babel, later called Babylon. He also built Nineveh, which means “the habitation of Ninus.”
Semiramis was married to Ninus (the Nimrod of the Bible). After Ninus died, Semiramis continued the pagan worship he had inspired and declared that Ninus had become the Sun god and was to be worshipped. She had an illegitimate son and named him Tammuz. To conceal her adultery, she claimed that Tammuz was supernaturally conceived in her by the rays of the Sun (she was impregnated by the rays of the sun), which she claimed was her dead (yet still alive) husband Nimrod, who had become the sun god – and that Tammuz was actually the reincarnated Ninus. This Tammuz is the same one spoken of by the prophet Jeremiah, who sees women in the temple of Yahuwah facing east and worshipping and weeping for Tammuz. The pagan practices begun in ancient Babylon by Nimrod had still been practiced by the Israelites in Jeremiah’s day! The celebration of the birthday of this Tammuz customarily was observed at the winter solstice.
The Winter Solstice
In the Northern hemisphere, the shortest day and longest night of the year falls on December 21 or December 22 and is called the winter solstice. Many ancient people believed that the sun was a god and that winter came every year because the sun god had become sick and weak. They celebrated the solstice because it meant that at last the sun god would begin to get well. Evergreen boughs reminded them of all the green plants that would grow again when the sun god was strong and summer would return.
In ancient times, the winter solstice was celebrated in Babylon as the birth day of Tammuz, the god of vegetation. This was the shortest day of the year, in the latter part of December. According to the pagans, the god Nimrod would visit the evergreen tree and leave gifts upon it. This festival became known as the Saturnalia, and friends and family would exchange gifts.
During the time of Nimrod and thereafter, many of the earths inhabitants were sun worshipers because the course of their lives depended on its yearly round in the heavens. Feasts were held to aid its return from distant wanderings. Frazier admits that
The largest pagan religious cult which fostered the celebration of December 25 as a holiday throughout the Roman and Greek worlds was the pagan sun worship — Mithraism…. this winter festival was called ‘the Nativity’ — the ‘nativity of the sun’ (The Golden Bough, p. 471).
Interestingly, the winter solstice was also celebrated centuries later by the followers of Mithras as the “nativity” or “birthday of the unconquered sun.” In Persia and afterward in Rome, Mithraism was the renamed Babylonian mother-child worship. Just as Ninus (Nimrod) was the sun god of the Babylonians, Mithras was the sun god of the Persian Empire, whose rebirth (birthday) was celebrated at the winter solstice around December 25th. Worship of Mithras was widespread throughout the Roman Empire in the days of the early believers of the first century C.E.
Like the mother-child religions of the other cultures which were copied and renamed from the Babylonian mother-child cult, Mithraism had its mother and child:
Mithras was born of Anahita, an immaculate virgin mother once worshipped as a fertility goddess before the hierarchical reformation. Anahita was said to have conceived the Saviour from the seed of Zarathustra preserved in the waters of Lake Hamun in the Persian province of Sistan. Mithra’s ascension to heaven was said to have occurred in 208 B.C., 64 years after his birth. This birth took place in a cave or grotto, where shepherds attended him and regaled him with gifts, at the winter solstice. (Payam Nabaraz, Mithras and Mithraism, http://www.taivaansusi.net/historia/mithraism.html)
Mithras was not the only pagan deity said to be born at this time of year. Osiris, Horus, Hercules, Bacchus, Adonis, Jupiter, Tammuz and other sun-gods were supposedly born at the time of the winter solstice! Many very ancient writings out of Egypt tell of King Osiris and Queen Isis and their son Horus. These originated from about 3000 BC. After the untimely death of King Osiris, Isis began the myth of the ever living spirit of Osiris. According to legend, Osiris was reborn through Horus, the son who was born to Isis much after the death of her husband King Osiris. And Hislop notes the fact
that Christmas was originally a Pagan festival, is beyond all doubt. The time of the year, and the ceremonies with which it is still celebrated, prove its origin. In Egypt, the son of Isis, the Egyptian title for the queen of heaven, was born at this very time, “about the time of the winter solstice.” The very name by which Christmas is popularly known among ourselves — Yule-day — proves at once its pagan and Babylonian origin. “Yule” is the Chaldee name for an “infant” or “little child”; and as the 25th of December was called by our Pagan Anglo-Saxon ancestors, “Yule-day,” or the “Child’s-day,” and the night that preceded it, “Mother-night,” long before they came in contact with Christianity, that sufficiently proves its real character. Far and wide, in the realms of Paganism, was this birthday observed (The Two Babylons, pp. 93-94).
In the south of Europe, in Egypt and in Persia, the sun god was worshiped with elaborate ceremonies at the season of the winter solstice, as a fitting time to pay tribute to the benign god of plenty. And in Rome, the Saturnalia reigned for a week. In northern lands, mid-December was a critical time because the days became shorter and the sun was weak and far away. Thus these ancients peoples held feasts at the same period that Christmas is now observed. They built great bonfires in order to give the winter sun god strength and to bring him back to life again. When it became apparent that the days were growing longer, there was great rejoicing because of the promise of lengthening days to follow. Thus, the central idea of the winter solstice – the return of the light – was adopted by the Christian world because of its themes of “life” and the “birthday of the child.”
When the feast was celebrated in Rome, it was called the festival of Saturn and lasted for five days. In both ancient Rome and more ancient Babylon, this festival was characterized by bouts of drunkenness, wild merrymaking, and lascivious orgies which would begin with an “innocent kiss” underneath the mistletoe and would then lead to justification of all sorts of sexual excesses, perversions and abominations.
Hislop notes that the winter solstice was also the birthday of the Queen of Heaven:
Long before the fourth century, and long before the Christian era itself, a festival was celebrated among the heathen, at that precise time of the year, in honour of the birth of the son of the Babylonian queen of heaven; and it may fairly be presumed that, in order to conciliate the heathen, and to swell the number of the nominal adherents of Christianity, the same festival was adopted by the Roman Church, giving it only the name of Christ. This tendency on the part of Christians to meet Paganism halfway was very early developed; and we find Tertullian, even in his day, about the year 230, bitterly lamenting the inconsistency of the disciples of Christ in this respect, and contrasting it with the strict fidelity of the Pagans to their own superstition (The Two Babylons, p. 93).
The historical record is replete with testimonies confirming the pagan roots of a December 25 celebration. All of the customs and practices surrounding Christmas can be traced back to pagan celebrations of their gods. But if this is so abundantly clear, then why did the early church and why does the church today continue to adhere to the winter solstice celebration? And when did the Christian church adopt the winter solstice celebration as the time to remember the birth of Messiah?
The Adoption of December 25th by the Christian Church
The religion of Mithraism in the Persian Empire, which featured the worship of the mother and child – the child being Mithras the sun-god – was adopted by the Roman Empire as the dominant religion of the Romans. Mithraism remained in place until the fourth century of the common era when it “mysteriously” disappeared – about the same time that Christianity was declared by Constantine to be the new official religion of the Roman Empire.
Emperor Constantine was a devout Mithraist – a worshipper of the sun-god. During the time of his reign, his kingdom was divided religiously between worshippers of the sun-god Mithras, and worshippers of the Son of Elohim the Messiah. Constantine cleverly realized that because of the many similarities between the worshippers of the sun and the worshippers of the Son, the two religions could be folded together. So, he declared to have seen a vision in the sky of a cross, and declared that he had become a Christian. He then decreed that Christianity was the new official religion of the Roman Empire. But nothing really changed. You see, Mithraism merely got renamed. It came to be called Christianity, with Mary and Jesus as the mother and child! And the birthday of the sun god became the birthday of the Christ child.
Constantine took all that was formerly of sun-god worship and he called it all “Christian.” At the Council of Nicea, he forced all believers in the Messiah to abandon all the Scriptural worship practices, including Sabbath observance, Pesach (Passover), Succot (Tabernacles) and each of the other Appointed Times. He changed all the customs and observed holy days to those times which the pagans had been observing for thousands of years to honor the sun-god. And he called them all “Christian.” Many believers in the Messiah who were obeying the commandments and worshipping on Sabbath and keeping the Appointed Times, who refused to give up their walk of obedience to the Scriptures, were killed. They refused to worship the Messiah by the customs and practices of sun-god worshippers, and paid for this with their lives.
In the fifth century, the Western Church ordered Messiah’s birth to be celebrated forever on the day of the old Roman feast of the birth of Sol (the sun), as no certain knowledge of the day of the Messiah’s birth existed. (Note: The forsaking of the Biblical Festivals was due to a deliberate separation the early Church Fathers chose to take from the Jews and their biblical traditions).
It was the celebration of the birth of the Sun-god in ancient Rome that was accompanied by a profusion of lights and torches and the decoration of trees. To facilitate the acceptance of the Christian faith by the pagan masses, the Church of Rome found it expedient to make not only the Day of the Sun the weekly celebration of Christ’s resurrection, but also the Birth Day of the Invincible Sun-God on December (25), the annual celebration of Christ’s birth. (Samuele Bacchiochi, The Date and Meaning of Christmas)
When the fathers of the church, in AD 440 decided upon a date to celebrate the event, they chose the day of the winter solstice which was firmly fixed in the minds of the people and which was their most important festival.
In the 2009 movie, Angels and Demons, the two protagonists are searching for and following clues to foil a plot to destroy the Vatican. As they enter a church of tombs, the following insightful conversation takes place:
She: Why are the tombs at an angle?
He: They’re facing east to worship the rising sun.
She: But this is a Christian Church.
He: New religions often adopt the existing customs and holidays to make conversion less of a shock – like the 25th of December is the pagan celebration of the unconquered sun. It also makes a handy date for the birth of Christ.
While the movie is fiction, it interestingly draws on the very well documented fact that December 25th was always celebrated in the ancient world as the “birthday of the unconquered sun.” And it was quite convenient for Constantine to adopt this common custom as the birthday of Christ, at the time he was trying to merge the world religions of Mithraism and Christianity.
Why did the Roman Church fix upon December 25 as the day to honor the Messiah’s birthday when it was clearly a pagan festival day? There are many opinions on this. The first reason was that they justified the switch by insisting that the birthday of the Sun was appropriate because they would still be celebrating the “birthday” of the Sun of righteousness (see Malachi 4:2). Another which seems to be valid is that the early Church, in moving all of its celebrations away from Judaism without denying its followers the holidays they had come to enjoy, took the date of Hanukkah, the Feast of Dedication, and Romanized it. Hanukkah occurs on the 25th day of the Hebrew month of Kislev, which occurs approximately in December.
Whatever reason they used to justify it, it still resulted in a perverse amalgamation of the pagan practices of sun god worship into the Christian Church. The pagan festival at Rome lasted five days, and loose reins were given to drunkenness and revelry. This was precisely the way in which the Babylonian midwinter festival was celebrated. But the Christian church not only adopted the 25th of the month to celebrate Messiah’s birthday, they also adopted the prevailing customs which the pagans had long been accustomed to during their festival.
The Christmas Tree
The celebration of the birth of the Sun god, which was accompanied by a profusion of light and torches and the decoration of branches and small trees, had captivated the followers of the cult to such a degree that even after they had been converted to Christianity they continued to celebrate the feast of the birth of the Sun god.
Long before the advent of Christianity, plants and trees that remained green all year had a special meaning for people in the winter. Just as people today decorate their homes during the festive season with pine, spruce, and fir trees, ancient peoples hung evergreen boughs over their doors and windows. In many countries it was believed that evergreens would keep away witches, ghosts, evil spirits, and illness. They celebrated the solstice because it meant that at last the sun god would begin to get well. Evergreen boughs reminded them of all the green plants that would grow again when the sun god was strong and summer would return.
The ancient Egyptians worshipped a god called Ra, who had the head of a hawk and wore the sun as a blazing disk in his crown. In Egypt the tree was the palm-tree. At the solstice, when Ra began to recover from the illness, the Egyptians filled their homes with green palm rushes which symbolized for them the triumph of life over death.
Early Romans marked the solstice with a feast called the Saturnalia in honor of Saturn, the god of agriculture. The Romans knew that the solstice meant that soon farms and orchards would be green and fruitful. To mark the occasion, they decorated their homes and temples with evergreen boughs.
In Northern Europe the mysterious Druids, the priests of the ancient Celts, also decorated their temples with evergreen boughs as a symbol of everlasting life. The fierce Vikings in Scandinavia thought that evergreens were the special plant of the sun god, Balder.
Germany is credited with starting the Christmas tree tradition as we now know it in the 16th century when devout Christians brought decorated trees into their homes. Some built Christmas pyramids of wood and decorated them with evergreens and candles if wood was scarce. Decorating evergreen trees had always been a part of the German winter solstice tradition. The first “Christmas trees” explicitly decorated and named after the Christian holiday, appeared in Strasbourg, in Alsace in the beginning of the 17th century. After 1750, Christmas trees began showing up in other parts of Germany, and even more so after 1771, when Johann Wolfgang von Goethe visited Strasbourg and promptly included a Christmas tree is his novel, The Suffering of Young Werther. In the 1820s, the first German immigrants decorated Christmas trees in Pennsylvania. After Germany’s Prince Albert married Queen Victoria, he introduced the Christmas tree tradition to England. In 1848, the first American newspaper carried a picture of a Christmas tree and the custom spread to nearly every home in just a few years.
Even “Santa Claus,” a very popular symbol of Christmas in the Western world, has a pagan origin. Santa Claus hasn’t always looked like the jolly old fellow we know today. Like so many other American traditions, he’s a product of the great American melting pot – a blend of many different cultures and customs. His earliest ancestors date back to pre-Christian days, when sky-riding gods ruled the earth. The mythological characters Odin, Thor, and Saturn gave us the basis for many of Santa’s distinctive characteristics.
The most influential figure in the shaping of today’s generous as loving Santa Claus was a real man. St. Nicholas of Myra (now Turkey), a fourth century bishop. As a champion of children and the needy, he was legendary for his kindness and generosity. Much admired for his piety and kindness, St. Nicholas became the subject of many legends. It is said that he gave away all of his inherited wealth and traveled the countryside helping the poor and sick.
Over the course of many years, Nicholas’s popularity spread and he became known as the protector of children and sailors. His feast day is celebrated on the anniversary of his death, December 6. This was traditionally considered a lucky day to make large purchases or to get married. By the Renaissance, St. Nicholas was the most popular saint in Europe. Even after the Protestant Reformation, when the veneration of saints began to be discouraged, St. Nicholas maintained a positive reputation, especially in Holland.
St. Nicholas made his first inroads into American popular culture towards the end of the 18th century. In December 1773, and again in 1774, a New York newspaper reported that groups of Dutch families had gathered to honor the anniversary of his death. The name Santa Claus evolved from Nick’s Dutch nickname, Sinter Klaas, a shortened form of Sint Nikolaas (Dutch for Saint Nicholas).
In 1804, John Pintard, a member of the New York Historical Society, distributed woodcuts of St. Nicholas at the society’s annual meeting. The background of the engraving contains now-familiar Santa images including stockings filled with toys and fruit hung over a fireplace. In 1822, Clement Clarke Moore, an Episcopal minister, wrote a long Christmas poem for his three daughters entitled, “An Account of a Visit from St. Nicholas.” Moore’s poem, which he was initially hesitant to publish due to the frivolous nature of its subject, is largely responsible for our modern image of Santa Claus as a “right jolly old elf” with a portly figure and the supernatural ability to ascend a chimney with a mere nod of his head!
Some of Santa Claus’ characteristics date back many centuries. For example, the belief that Santa enters the house through the chimney developed from an old Norse legend. The Norse believed that the goddess Hertha appeared in the fireplace and brought good luck to the home. (World Book Encyclopedia)
Although some of Moore’s imagery was probably borrowed from other sources, his poem helped to popularize the now-familiar idea of a Santa Claus who flew from house to house on Christmas Eve—in “a miniature sleigh” led by eight flying reindeer, whom he also named—leaving presents for deserving children. “An Account of a Visit from St. Nicholas,” created a new and immediately popular American icon.
But the most significant symbolism in this myth is that children are taught that Santa has many of the characteristics that only the Almighty actually has. They are told that Santa “knows if you’ve been bad or good.” Of course, only the Almighty Creator has this attribute of knowing all things. Santa is also believed to be able to travel around the world and visit every home with gifts in one night.
This absurdity is only an attempt to make him look omnipotent, capable of doing anything, and omnipresent, being able to all over the world at one time – characteristics which only Elohim possesses. Any Scripture student knows that Satan always wanted to take the Creator’s place. And in Santa Claus, he has people adoring him as a god-like being and attributing to him qualities which only Elohim Himself possesses.
Is telling your children that there is a Santa Claus just a cute little joke? Harmless fun? Innocent traditional folklore? Hardly. In fact, telling this tongue in cheek white lie can be a monumental faith destroyer! Children are taught and believe with a great deal of trust, faith and emotion that Santa is ‘godlike,’ only one day to have their dreams and hopes dashed and their trust in those who fooled them shaken. (Many of us still remember how hurt we felt when we learned he isn’t real). Teaching the myth of Santa does great damage to our children’s belief in the real things we tell them about Yah, the Creator. They learn a bitter lesson which drives them to cynicism. And they learn to hold in suspicion whatever their parents say. By playing the game and telling our kids there is a Santa Claus, we undermine our own integrity and trustworthiness. It’s no wonder that when they become teenagers, they no longer want to listen to the advise of their parents, whom they have learned to distrust and disbelieve because they have a history of lieing to their children!
The Believer’s Response to the Pagan Elements of Christmas
How should the person who has placed his faith in the Elohim of the Bible respond to these pagan customs, traditions and celebrations? Is it really appropriate for the believer to celebrate Messiah’s birthday on the same day and in much the same manner that the pagans worshipped and celebrated the birthday of the sun?
The prophet Jeremiah rebuked the people of his day who were celebrating the same festival which later developed into the Christmas we are familiar with:
Hear what Yahuwah says to you, O house of Israel. This is what Yahuwah says: “Do not learn the ways of the nations or be terrified by signs in the sky, though the nations are terrified by them. For the customs of the peoples are worthless; they cut a tree out of the forest, and a craftsman shapes it with his chisel. They adorn it with silver and gold; they fasten it with hammer and nails so it will not totter. Like a scarecrow in a melon patch, their idols cannot speak; they must be carried because they cannot walk. Do not fear them; they can do no harm nor can they do any good.” No one is like you, O LORD; you are great, and your name is mighty in power. Who should not revere you, O King of the nations? This is your due. Among all the wise men of the nations and in all their kingdoms, there is no one like you. They are all senseless and foolish; they are taught by worthless wooden idols. (Jeremiah 10:1-8).
It is true that Jeremiah is not describing the adornment of a Christmas tree. But he is describing the practice of the heathen to carve an idol out of a tree and decorate it – which custom later developed into the practice of sun-god worshippers to leave the tree intact and decorate it for their own worshipping pleasure.
Yes, these are strong words of rebuke. But Jeremiah was speaking to a people who were engaged in the celebration of the winter solstice, like Israel’s ungodly, sun-worshipping neighbors. Though they may have been trying to justify their celebrations by linking them to Yahuwah, the Elohim of Israel, Jeremiah was instructed to communicate to his people that he does not accept this kind of worship or celebration because it was done in the same way that the pagans worshipped their gods. In fact, they were actually worshipping the sun! And they did so by decorating the idol.
Yahuwah is a jealous Elohim. And worship of him must never be done in the same way that unbelievers worship their gods. The Scriptures are clear on this point:
These are the decrees and laws you must be careful to follow in the land that Yahuwah, the Elohim of your fathers, has given you to possess– as long as you live in the land. Destroy completely all the places on the high mountains and on the hills and under every spreading tree where the nations you are dispossessing worship their gods. Break down their altars, smash their sacred stones and burn their Asherah poles in the fire; cut down the idols of their gods and wipe out their names from those places. You must not worship Yahuwah your Elohim in their way (Deuteronomy 12:1-4).
You must not worship Yahuwah your Elohim in their way, because in worshiping their gods, they do all kinds of detestable things Yahuwah hates. They even burn their sons and daughters in the fire as sacrifices to their gods. See that you do all I command you; do not add to it or take away from it (Deuteronomy 12:31,32).
Yahuwah specifically instructs his people NOT to worship “under every spreading tree” – a direct reference to the pagans practice of using an evergreen tree in their worship of the sun-god. Yahuwah has made it crystal clear that he does not accept any worship done the way that unbelievers worship their gods. He does not want his people to add to or take away from his own prescribed way of worship. He must be worshipped in the way that he has revealed in his Torah.
Someone may object, “We are not worshipping other gods on Christmas, we are honoring the heavenly Father and his Son, Jesus the Messiah.” Yes, maybe that’s what you believe you are doing. But that’s not the way Yahuwah receives it. To him it is an abomination. So, what if there is a better way – a way to celebrate the incarnation, the birth of Yahushua the Messiah – in a way that is thoroughly scriptural? What if Elohim has already provided the setting and the time and manner he wants us to celebrate the birth of his Son? Shouldn’t Elohim’s way and time of celebrating the birth of the Messiah be the preferred way for sincere and set-apart believers?
To be continued….(PART 2)