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The Truth About Christmas
The Truth About Christmas
This message will not offend those who know the word of God and seek to know the truth about Christian customs. But it might offend those who have strong sentimental feelings about Christmas.
I am writing this article to show that while Christmas does not have a Biblical basis, one can have a balanced view about it - by focusing on the birth of Christ, the Incarnation, and the 'new birth' (Christ being born in your heart), without getting trapped by blind and foolish heathen customs and traditions (no matter how attractive they may be!).
Questions about Christmas
But first, it is necessary to ask ourselves a few questions.
i. Do you know that nobody knows the birth date of our Lord? Luke's account makes it clear that the birth did not take place during winter. For we see that shepherds were keeping watch over their flocks by night - and no shepherd would do that in the cold winter.
ii. Do you know that for over 300 years of the Christian era, there was no such celebration as the birth of Christ - which we call Christmas. We learn that December 25th was chosen as the birth day of the Lord Jesus Christ, because there was a popular heathen festival called Brumalia which was celebrated on the 25th of December. This festival had to do with the birth of the sun.
iii. Do you know that Christmas became a popular festival in Britain - only during Victorian times, i.e. the latter half of the 19th century? The Christmas tree, the Christmas star, Christmas carols, Christmas cards, Christmas cakes and other goodies, Christmas gifts and toys, Christmas decorations, new Christmas clothes – all these became the fashion during Victorian times. That means for several centuries Christmas as a festival was not popular at all in Protestant countries, and was celebrated only by the Catholics. The early American settlers never celebrated it at all.
iv. Do you know that the Bible does not sanction the celebration of Christmas? Neither does it speak of celebrating the birth of Christ as an annual event, Luke chapter 2 notwithstanding. On the other hand, the Christian faith celebrates the death of Christ. Every week, at the Lord’s Table (or Holy Communion, as it is called in some Christian churches), believers ‘proclaim the Lord’s death till He comes’. His death speaks of His victory over sin, Satan, and death itself, Heb 2:14.
v. Do you know that so long as there was persecution (and there were ten great persecutions of Christians by the Roman emperors), the church grew in leaps and bounds. But Satan is very crafty; being is a devious, cunning serpent. Through Constantine (who supposedly had a vision of the Cross), Satan acted as ‘an angel of light’. Many heathen festivals (like Brumalia and Saturnalia) were given a Christian colouring; and that’s how heathen practices infiltrated into the church – and, as a result, today millions are deceived.
vi. Do you know that the Roman Catholic church is a false church – and greater numbers of true Christians have been persecuted by that church than by any other church? (Haven't you read horrifying accounts about the Inquisition?) Why does the Roman Church popularize the image of ‘Mother and Child’? That image is especially associated with Christmas, and the popular Nativity scene that you see pictured on Christmas cards. Do you know the Mother and Child cult was popular in Babylon, Egypt, Rome and even in far-off India?
vii. Do you know that today Christmas has become the most popular festival of all festivals - the most commercial and the most expensive? If you go to the market or a shopping mall in December, you will find that the business community celebrates Christmas more than anybody else. I am told that Americans spend $800 per head for Christmas alone.
Sentimental Feelings about Christmas
It is very difficult to break away from the sentimentality and sugariness of Christmas. The custom evokes fond childhood memories; there is an air of nostalgia and charm about it. We remember the cakes and confectionery prepared by moms during Christmas time. We remember the carols that we sang as children in Christian neighborhoods during the nights prior to Christmas. On Christmas Eve we went to church and sang ‘Silent Night, Holy Night’. There were gifts under the Christmas tree; they involved a lot of Christmas shopping. We hung up Christmas cards in the drawing room. We put up a large Christmas star outside the home. Our Catholic friends had a Santa Claus, and lots of parties, including an annual Christmas Ball. We Protestants went to church on Christmas morning and sang ‘O Come, All Ye Faithful’ and ‘Hark the Herald Angels Sing’, and sometimes ‘O Little Town of Bethlehem’. The air was full of sentiment and nostalgia. I think if snow fell in our (tropical) country during Christmas it would have tasted like sugar. So powerful were (and are) the sweet feelings about Christmas.
We celebrated Christmas for years as children and young teens. We even acted in Christmas plays. We grew so fond of it, just like people in the West are fond of a White Christmas with snow and sleigh and Jingle Bells.
Why we have a Church Service on Christmas Day
And then one day God came into our life, and everything changed. It was a miracle to be saved in one’s thirties. Our eyes were opened. Christ had come to live in our heart. We stopped sending Christmas cards. We stopped decorating the home. We gradually broke away from the heathen and commercial traditions of Christmas. But we didn't break away from church on Christmas Day. No, there was no Christmas Eve night service in our church; but there was a time of worship on Christmas Day. And why did our church have it? Because so many Christians were trapped by tradition. They were caught up in the old customs. They wanted to go to church on Christmas Day and hear the word of God. Some of them had got so used to the account in Luke 2; they longed to hear the ‘Christmas story’. So, after much prayer and waiting on the Lord, it was decided to have a church service on Christmas Day.
C.H. Spurgeon, a great preacher in 19th century Victorian England, wrote:
We have no superstitious regard for times and seasons. Certainly we do not believe in the present ecclesiastical arrangement called Christmas... because we do not believe in the mass at all and because we find no Scriptural warrant whatever for observing any day as the birthday of the Saviour; and, consequently, its observance is a superstition, because not of divine authority. (Dec. 24, 1871).
When it can be proved that the observance of Christmas, Whitsuntide, and other Popish festivals was ever instituted by a divine statute, we also will attend to them, but not till then. It is as much our duty to reject the traditions of men, as to observe the ordinances of the Lord. We ask concerning every rite and rubric, "Is this a law of the God of Jacob?" and if it be not clearly so, it is of no authority with us, who walk in Christian liberty. (Treasury of David)
So we have a late morning service for traditional Christians who attend their own denominational churches early on Christmas morning; such people can also join us afterward in our assemblies to hear the gospel of the Lord Jesus Christ. We use the occasion of Christmas to preach salvation through messages on the Incarnation. Orthodox preachers of an older generation didn't even talk about the birth of Christ. They were led by the Spirit to preach on any subject from the Bible. But some of us, who hope to win unbelievers and nominal Christians to Christ, preach on the birth of Christ and on the Incarnation. We emphasize the fact that more than celebrating the historical birth of Jesus, people must desire and experience 'the birth of Christ in their hearts' (called the 'new birth', 'being born again' or 'being born of the Spirit'). So our Christmas preaching is focused towards preaching the gospel and saving souls. Our earnest desire is that 'the birth of Christ' should take place in the hearts of those who hear the Christmas message. There is no greater blessing than that!