Saturday, January 4, 2014

Whether or not to Celebrate Christmas

One day before the Christmas Day Holiday, I received an email from a former Jehovah's Witness that said:

"I know it is not the day Jesus was born. Fact. I know that it is a pagan holiday. Fact.
This year the Lord showed me Jeremiah 10. He was instructing Israel not to pick up the heathen ways. They were cutting down trees in the forest and decorating them.  This was before Jesus's birth.
God does not change. He is the same yesterday today and forever. Because of this man has changed and said it is ok.  We just will say it is the day that the Savior was born.  In fact we lie when we do this.
In the chapter right before this in Jeremiah He told Zion that they would suffer wormwood.  To close to the tribulation in Revelations for me.
Beside this fact I notice that Mystery Babylon aka "the world was drinking the blood of the Saints and the martyrs of Christ."  I ask myself why I understand the martyrs' blood but why had she killed the born again believers as well. Do we have a valid reason as a born again believer to celebrate Dec 25 as the birth of Christ?"

There are many questions in that email. Jehovah's Witnesses teach that all holidays that the church celebrates are "pagan". In fact, the words "pagan and Babylon the Great" are used synonymously and create negative connotations and disdain within the Jehovah's Witnesses minds. Even when they leave the organization, they have trouble celebrating any holidays because they have been told celebrating holidays is not only wrong, it is downright evil! The Watchtower also uses the passage from Jeremiah 10 to convince their followers that Christmas trees are just wrong, wrong, wrong. Anyway, I will address each one of her issues:
Christmas is not a pagan holiday, it is just that simple. Examine the word "Christmas." The first syllable is Christ and we know that Christ is Greek for anointed one or messiah. Jesus Christ is not pagan. The second half of the word is "mas" derived from Old English word for "mass" which is literally derived from Latin "missa." The etymology or meaning behind the word missa is the idea of dismissal or being sent or even a mission. When we look at the word Christmas in the literal sense, it means Christ sent. I believe that is how we as Christians should understand it, as Jesus Christ's first coming or being sent into this world. There is no Biblical law or principle that says we should or should not celebrate that Jesus came into this world as an infant. Decorating one's home with Christmas decorations is not a requirement, but many believe decorations prepare ourselves for the celebratory mood when we remember that Jesus, son of God humbled himself and was born as a helpless infant into this world. There is no real reason to ignore the fact that Jesus Christ was born into this world. It seems to me that celebrating the birth of our Savior is a good thing. After all weren't the angels praising God that this miracle had happened? (Luke 2:13, 14)

The Christmas tree is another question in this e-mail I want to address. In this passage from Jeremiah, if we read the passage in context, it appears that this has nothing to do with Christmas at all. After all, Jeremiah was written several centuries before Jesus Christ was born. The passage at Jeremiah 10:1-16 is referring to the futility of idolatry and how worthless it is. The people of Judea had become ensnared with idolatry. They were living in a time where every nation around them did not worship the true God, but instead worshipped all kinds of other non-existent gods and fashioned icons made of wood or stone, bowing down to them. Idolatry was a very serious sin to God because God did not want His people worshipping non-existent gods which most of the time, was intermingled with immoral sexual practices as well. God wanted his people of Israel to have a relationship with Him as their Creator and Giver of Life. In fact, God allowed the Southern Kingdom of Judea to be destroyed by the Babylonians in 586 B.C. for their disobedience and their immoral practices of idolatry. It was part of the judgment from God. There should be no question about why the true God would forbid idolatry for His people. Back then, it seemed very easy to fall into idolatry because all the nations surrounding Israel practiced idolatry, and perhaps in many cases, it seemed like fun with the accompanying celebrations.

In modern times, the Christmas tree has nothing to do with idolatry. No one (that I have ever heard of) bows down before a Christmas tree and makes the tree their god. Today's modern Christmas tree was begun by German Christians in the 16th century. According to tradition, Martin Luther began the practice of putting lights or candles on the tree. When one examines the Christmas tree tradition closely, one finds that there are about 2000 years between the tree that Jeremiah was writing about and the German Christians in the 16th century desiring to decorate their homes with a green tree. Certainly, no one should accuse Martin Luther of paganism. If a person decides to have a decorated tree in his or her home during the Christmas holiday, neither should that person be accused of a pagan practice since no one is really worshipping the tree. The tree is merely a decoration for the home.

The final part of the e-mail from above deals with false religion and "Babylon the Great." I believe that she may be referring to those persons who practice false religion and persecute Christians. Since this reference comes from the book of Revelation, in my opinion, much of this has not occurred yet, or in come cases has already had a 1st Century fulfilment. Christians should stay away from idolatry, false worship, and false religion. That part is true. However, the celebration of Christmas is not practicing false religion unless one considers Jesus Christ coming to the world the first time to be part of false worship.
In conclusion, to answer the question if Christians should celebrate Christmas, the answer is that it is one's choice to do so. Everyone must decide for themselves how much they prefer to celebrate or how little to celebrate. But none of us should pass judgment on one another based on how we celebrate Christmas. I believe that we should always apply the Apostle Paul's words from Romans 14:1-12: (NET)

As for the one who is weak in faith, welcome him, but not to quarrel over opinions. One person believes he may eat anything, while the weak person eats only vegetables. Let not the one who eats despise the one who abstains, and let not the one who abstains pass judgment on the one who eats, for God has welcomed him. Who are you to pass judgment on the servant of another? It is before his own master[a] that he stands or falls. And he will be upheld, for the Lord is able to make him stand.
One person esteems one day as better than another, while another esteems all days alike. Each one should be fully convinced in his own mind. The one who observes the day, observes it in honor of the Lord. The one who eats, eats in honor of the Lord, since he gives thanks to God, while the one who abstains, abstains in honor of the Lord and gives thanks to God. For none of us lives to himself, and none of us dies to himself. For if we live, we live to the Lord, and if we die, we die to the Lord. So then, whether we live or whether we die, we are the Lord's. For to this end Christ died and lived again, that he might be Lord both of the dead and of the living.
10 Why do you pass judgment on your brother? Or you, why do you despise your brother? For we will all stand before the judgment seat of God; 11 for it is written,
"As I live, says the Lord, every knee shall bow to me,
    and every tongue shall confess[b] to God."
12 So then each of us will give an account of himself to God.

For more information, please refer to the links below:

O Christmas Tree: The Origin and Meaning of the Christmas Tree


Sol Invictus Evidently Not a Precursor to Christmas

Part One: What precedent do Christians have to celebrate the first coming of Jesus? 
Part Two: Were the wise men divinely directed or were they emissaries of Satan? 
Part Three: What major reasons does the Watchtower have for not celebrating Christmas? 
Part One: Is Christmas pagan? 
Part Two: Was the star of Bethlehem Satan's Star? 
Part Three: Why don't Jehovah's Witnesses celebrate Christmas? 
Part Four: Why does the Watchtower kick out Jehovah's Witnesses who celebrate Christmas? 

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