Christmas: Pagan or Christian?

In light of today’s growing secularization of the Christmas holiday many sincere and devout Christians have come to question its origin and are wondering to what extent they should participate in its festivities.  On the one hand, they know that its celebration is in honor of the advent into our world of our great God and Savior Jesus Christ—an event central to all of man’s history (we reckon time from this event) and indeed central to God’s redemption of man, a momentous Biblical event described in 4 chapters of the Bible and most worthy of a holiday celebration if ever there was one.  They are also impressed by their own childhood memories of the joy and excitement associated with Christmas.  However, as their eyes are opened to how the world has commercialized this sacred holiday to the very exclusion of the One it is meant to honor, they have also come to wonder what so many of the activities they have always associated with Christmas have to do with the birth of their Savior.  They are also unsettled by reports that such activities are really of pagan origin and to continue practicing them is giving heed to pagan myths and dishonoring to God.  The following letter expresses the quandary many Christians find themselves in today:

Hello Clark and Mary!

I have gotten your latest Bible Study and the question of what myths do you give attention to has made me wonder something.  My parents do not celebrate Christmas in any way.  They used to, but due to our greed (most of all mine), we created such a distasteful time that they decided to stop.  I know you do celebrate somewhat and I was wondering if this raised any questions in your mind about following and giving attention to myths.  I recently found out that the green and red colors of the season are not used because that’s all there is in the natural environment this time of year (pine needles and holly berries), but because ancient worship of mythical gods involved the decking of one’s home in garlands of red and green.  This was a time called the winter Festivals, in which a mythical goddess was worshiped.

I put up my tree and decorated it this year after extensive thought.  I enjoy the atmosphere of beauty it provides.  We do not acknowledge Santa or reindeer in our celebration.  It is a celebration of love and caring for others and acknowledging that we love them with the giving of gifts.  Our daughter Caitlynn is learning how to help others and give as much as she can to those less fortunate.  She loves the story of Baby Jesus and we talk about Him all year long not just at Christmas.  We know the origination of this holiday was due to the Catholic church attempting to win more members by “sanctifying” a pagan holiday and allowing it to be celebrated “in the church” and “in God’s name.”  I give throughout the entire year, but I do enjoy this special time when you can give and people don’t say, “Oh really, you didn’t have to!”  I have spoken with many people who are strongly against having anything to do with this holiday and call it X-mass because they don’t feel Christ’s name should even be associated with it.

Your opinion on this ever conflicting holiday would really be appreciated.  Are we stumbling from the path of God’s will by celebrating love and kindness?  Are we mocking His name by associating with the worldly traditions surrounding this holiday?  I see this time as a way to teach our loved ones what true love is by being an example.  I struggle with everyone’s opinions and have not received a strong admonition from God’s spirit.

We pray your family is in good health and peace.

In God’s Love,

Rebecca

About the time of this letter I also received the following information about Christmas from a friend that helped me better understand the deep convictions of many against the Christmas holiday.  Because of it I could see why they would not want to have anything to do with it.

A Story from the Past

It was the night before the great celebration.  Every child in the house was filled with anticipation and awe.  Their fresh, new clothes were hanging out and waiting for each child to wear the next morning.  None of them could bear the thought of going to bed and sleeping.  How could one sleep, knowing that gifts, deserts, and fun awaited each of them the next day?  They couldn’t help wondering what words they would hear read from the sayings of their great King and Savior.  Would the queen proclaim a huge party for the children tomorrow like she usually did?  Who would recommit their hearts to serve the Church?  Who would rededicate their lives to serve their wonderful Savior, Lord and King?  Waiting for all of this was almost more than any child could take.  Nevertheless, each of them was firmly instructed to march straight off to their beds and go to sleep.

As the children walked reverently past the family’s decorated tree, they bowed their knees.  It was so beautiful with its bright candles, glistening with liberally wrapped gold and silver tinsel.  They thought of how this tree represented the new life of their King and Savior, who had died, but had miraculously come back to life.  As they bowed, each one also felt as if they might die waiting for the morning to come.  They knew that many of their cousins, aunts, uncles and friends would be with them to sing songs, eat tasty food, pastries and dainties.

After the morning Church Service in honor of their great Lord and King, they would all be free to do as they pleased.  They knew very well that each child would receive many gifts.  They wondered what would be waiting for them the next morning.  There was not one of them who hadn’t hoped for something special that whole year long.

As the children went off to bed, the parents began to celebrate the evening with a party.  Although this was supposed to be a Holy event in honor of their Lord, their minds were elsewhere.  Somehow, the smell of wine, sweet breads, and other delicacies took complete control of their thoughts.  This was truly a time of fun, fellowship and relaxation.  Every family had a beautiful, decorated tree, sumptuous foods, wine, and the latest in fashion and gifts.  This was a time for gladness, fellowship, merriment including the sacred worship of their Lord who had died and come back again.

Many of the men had worked very hard during the previous month.  Now it was time to relax and enjoy the fruits of their hard labor.  Some of them had made huge profits the previous month by buying and selling numerous gift and church items necessary for this special holiday.  This was truly the best time of the year for them.  Some adults were already merry from attending numerous celebrations given all week long at their work place or business associate’s home.

Sound Familiar?

You may be thinking that this is a story about Christmas taken from the archives of early America or Europe.  However, this is not the case.  Instead, this scene was common during the Babylonian holiday ‘Saturnalia’1 (Sat-tur-nail-yah).  Observing Saturnalia was normal in the days of early Babylon, when Noah’s grandchildren and great-grandchildren were adults.  This holy day was called Saturnalia in commemoration of the rebirth of their god Saturn, whose real name was Nimrod.  It always took place for a week, ending on December 25th2.  Nimrod was the great grandson of Noah (Gen. 10:8-9; 1Chron. 1:10).

Why does this pagan holiday have such a strong resemblance to what we call “Christmas”? Because in almost every detail, the sentiment, worship and celebration of Christmas are exactly the same as ancient Babylon’s Saturnalia.  Why?

Before this can be understood, some background must be given.  The Bible says of Nimrod that “he began to be a mighty one in the earth.  He was a mighty hunter before the LORD: wherefore it is said, Even as Nimrod the mighty hunter before the Lord”.  Secular history also abundantly records that, ‘Nimrod was a mighty hunter’.  However, this is not referring to him hunting animals, but his own fellow man.  Simple research done at a library or encyclopedia3 will show this to be true.  Semiramis was his wife and queen.  She is said to have been exceptionally beautiful as well as a powerful witch of Satan.  Together, both she and her husband, Nimrod, succeeded in forming the new world’s first and biggest pagan religious system.  Because after Noah, “the whole earth was of one language, and of one speech”, most of the world’s population centered around the middle east (Gen. 11:1).  This is how Nimrod’s Babylonian religion was able to spread throughout the whole world after the Lord had “confound(ed) their language” (Gen. 11:7,9).  Nimrod was not alone in this.  He had been deeply influenced by his father Cush, who was the son of Ham.  Already Cush had adopted the name of the god, “Bel”4 for himself (Isa. 46:1; Jer. 50:2, 51:44).

Before the birth of Nimrod’s son, Nimrod had been killed; some say torn to pieces by wild animals; maybe wild boars5.  Being very resourceful and using satanic assistance, his wife, Semiramis, thought of a way to preserve her Babylonian religion and her power.  Prior to the birth of her son, on our December 25th, she told everyone that her baby was the rebirth (incarnation) of her husband, Nimrod, who had returned to life on earth again as a god through her son.  She then took on the title of “Queen of Heaven”6 (Jer. 7:18, 44:17-19, 25).  Because of the timing, the winter solstice, when the sun was at its lowest point, Semiramis was able to convince her subjects that Nimrod (known as Saturn) had indeed come back to life through her son.  This is exactly where the shrines to the “mother and child” or “Madonna” come from7, as found throughout the world.  Everyone reverenced Nimrod and believed Semiramis’ story, thereby they worshipped him on his son’s birthday, “Saturnalia”.  This pagan holy day spread to the rest of the world when “the LORD scattered them abroad from thence upon the face of all the earth” (Gen. 11:8-9).

In honor of this great event, Semiramis instituted cutting and lavishly decorating trees (a fir tree in the Roman culture) to represent the new life of Nimrod8, through his son.  This is only a small portion of what can be found in relation to the origin of what we today call “Christmas”.  Now to answer the question, how such a wicked pagan holiday came to be observed as Christmas.  Everything here is very easy to verify in a library.

In the days of Constantine, A.D. 324, when he had succeeded in gaining control of the entire Roman Empire, the celebration of Saturnalia was quite popular.  What was he to do? Christianity was now ‘legal’, in fact it was more than this.  It was the official religion of the empire.  One problem, though.  What was Constantine supposed to do with everyone’s favorite pagan holidays?  Bear in mind that these holidays had been in practice for over two thousand years all over the world.  Bear also in mind that most of those who became “Christians”, because it was law, weren’t any different in temperament or sin from any religious, but unconverted, person today.

Because the empire was now officially “Christian”, what was Constantine to do with all the “traditional” long standing, satanic holidays? Although his kingdom was under his leadership, it was not unshakable, by any means.  He had conquered his other three rivals, but there were still enemies in the land.  Having married Christianity with Sun worship9 (his true religion), Constantine was not a real Christian.  He knew nothing of the early Christian’s doctrine of the two opposing kingdoms (one in heaven and one on earth).  He was certainly not against war or the killing of his enemies, no matter how small or insignificant their offense.  He certainly could not risk a revolution by abolishing his subject’s pagan holidays.  Therefore he did the only thing a natural man (1Cor. 2:14) could do; he changed the name of the holiday “Saturnalia” to “Christmas”.  Now, at the same time, everyone could honor Christianity’s Christ and still allow the pagan hearted “Christians” to indulge themselves in Saturnalia.  This way his subjects could have their cake (Christianity) and eat it too (Saturnalia’s fun and celebrations).

Nothing delighted those, who were Christians in name only, more.  Constantine really thought that he had done a good thing.  Instead, he was more successful in destroying Christianity than any other pagan Caesar up to this point.  What was shocking is that many of the real Christians had been in the process of backsliding during this time.  Many of the “nominal” (compromising) Christians of these days were in the practice of meeting “Paganism halfway”.  Tertullian bitterly lamented “the inconsistency of the disciples of Christ”10 in his old age (230 A.D.).  He wrote “by us who are strangers to Sabbaths (Jewish), and new moons, and festivals, once acceptable to God, the Saturnalia, the feasts of January… are now frequented; gifts are carried to and fro, new year’s day presents are made with din, and sports and banquets are celebrated with uproar; oh, how much more faithful are the heathen to their religion, who take special care to adopt no solemnity from the Christians”11.

Don’t get the idea that just because Saturnalia was called Christmas, all Christians celebrated it.  There were many Christians who uncompromisingly opposed not only Constantine’s ungodly policies, but this as well.  Many real Christians were persecuted by the Roman empire under Constantine as well as later on in the name of the “Holy” Roman Catholic Church.  In every instance, our brethren gave not only their lives, but their families or Church to the flame or stake, other than compromise the doctrine of Christ.  This can also be verified by reading such books as the “Martyrs Mirror”, “In a Whale’s Belly”, “Foxes book of Christian Martyrs”.

The Burning Question

Brother or sister: please consider what you are doing when you celebrate “Christmas”?  Who are you really honoring on this day when you: give gifts to one another; spend God’s money to buy and decorate a tree in your home; when you go to a special “Christmas” service at your Church; or have a special meal of dainties and meats with your family, Church or friends? Please consider who is really being honored?  It certainly isn’t Christ Jesus! Please don’t deceive yourselves! You are honoring the false pagan god, Nimrod.  But you answer by saying, ‘in my heart, I’m worshipping and honoring Jesus’.  And is saying this supposed to make it “okay” and pleasing to Him? Think about someone throwing a birthday party for you, but it’s not close to being your birthday.  And besides this, it’s on the exact same day and done the exact same way that some local rapist or murderer used to celebrate his deeds with his friends.  How would you feel, knowing about this rapist’s or murderer’s celebration and then hearing that your friends are having a great time, without you even being around much, by celebrating your birthday on that day, and in the same way, that this rapist or murderer did? Do their “words” about honoring you make it all right? Please think about how Jesus must feel.  Do you think He will overlook this “little” pagan love of yours?

How then are you going to explain this to the one who made no compromises for you on the cross? What are you going to say to Him Who said, “He that is not with me is against me; and he that gathereth not with me scattereth abroad12”?

What are you going to say when the Lamb of God reminds you of His words “He that loveth father or mother more than me is not worthy of me: and he that loveth son or daughter more than me is not worthy of me13”? If you don’t stop this paganism, what are you going to say to Jesus?

Dear Pastors (my dear fellow laborers): I beg of you.  Please consider how you are going to explain Saturnalia before the great judgment, when you taught your people to ignore “love not the world, neither the things that are in the world”? If you’ve encouraged your people to venerate this satanic holiday and helped them forget that “if any man love the world, the love of the Father is not in him14”, where do you think you will be going after you die? Please don’t deceive yourselves into thinking that “the blood” will cover your offending “one of these little ones which believe in Me”, when He says of you, “it were better for him that a millstone were hanged about his neck, and that he were drowned in the depth of the sea”15.  Is this not “exactly” what you are doing when, by example, you teach that it’s okay for your people to practice “measuring themselves by themselves, and comparing themselves among themselves”16 when it comes to this pagan Saturnalia, called “Christmas”.  Dear heart, how are you going to explain this to Jesus?

Brethren: We didn’t just make this up, because we didn’t like the commercialization of “Christmas”.  Studying this and learning this years back was a shock to us, as well.  Now that we know its origin, everything, including its commercialization, makes perfect sense.  Please, make no mistake about this: Nimrod was and still is a type of antichrist.  Those who honor him by celebrating “Christmas” (make no mistake here) are actually worshipping him.  Please think about where you will go after you die? Nimrod has been worshipped the world over by pagans as Orion, the man in the moon, Tammuz (TAO), Jupiter, Vulcan, Baal, Odin (the real Darth Vader), with mistletoe, the “Christmas goose”, the “Christmas tree”, and the “Yule (infant) Log”.  His wife, Semiramis, has been worshipped the world over as the “Queen of Heaven”, Juno, Astarte, Venus, Cybele, and Diana the goddess of the Ephesians, on “Lady-Day”.

Dear hearts, if you have been guilty of making this pagan day “Christmas” a holiday in your life, please repent in your heart and stop it immediately.  In love I tell you, “time is short” and He is coming “whose fan is in his hand, and he will thoroughly purge his floor, and will gather the wheat into his garner; but the chaff he will burn with fire unquenchable”17.

Let no man deceive you with vain words: for because of these things cometh the wrath of God upon the children of disobedience.  Be not ye therefore partakers with them.  For ye were sometimes darkness, but now are ye light in the Lord: walk as children of light.  (Eph. 6-8).

Footnotes

1      Tertullian, De Idolatria, c. 14, vol.  IV, pg. 682 (A.D.  200); Caligula (Caesar Caius) strictly regulated the “feast of Saturn” or “Saturnalia” (in the year 33).
2      Anglo_Saxons celebrated “Yule (infant) day” or “Child’s day” Sharon Turners’ Anglo_Saxons, vol. 1, pg. 219; American Heritage Dictionary, 1992.
3      Encyclopedia Americana 1976 ed., vol. 20, pg. 356
4      Gregorius Turonensis, De rerum Franc., lib. i; Bryant, vol. ii. pg. 403, 404.
5      Pausanias, lib. vii, Achaica, cap.  7; Two Babylons, Hislop, pg. 99 & 234; Theocritus, Idyll, xxx. V. 21, 45
6      Two Babylons, Hislop, pg.  91-103; 304.
7      Indrani, wife of the Indian god Indra is such a representation in the East.  See Asiatic Researches, vol. Vi. pg. 393.
8      Berlin Correspondent of London Times, Dec.  23, 1853; OVID, Metam., lib. x.v. 500-513; from Baal-berith which means “Lord of the fir-tree”.
9      Eutropius, x. pg. 131-133
10   Two Babylons, Hislop, pg. 99 & 234
11   Tertullian, De Idolatria, c.  4, vol I. pg. 682.
12   Matt. 12:30
13   Matt. 10:37
14   1John 2:15
15   Matt. 18:6
16   2Cor 10:12
17   Luke 3:17

 The above information does indeed portray a sordid history of Christmas, and it is easy to see how such information would deeply influence sincere followers of Christ and why on the basis of such arguments they would shun everything to do with Christmas out of love for their Savior.  However, I have often wondered about the reliability of such “history”.  My first exposure to its like was from Jack Chick of Chick Tracts.  He had a comic book series about the horrors of Roman Catholicism (a six-part series about Alberto, a former Jesuit priest) that presented some of the same type of information, as do several of his tracts and other publications.  And while I found myself agreeing with him to a certain extent on many of the things he was saying about the papacy, I couldn’t help but wonder if he didn’t get carried away and end up overstating his case by stating as historical facts things that were not necessarily so.  The material was persuasive enough and had enough truth which I knew from other sources to be reliable that I didn’t doubt that the things he said could be true.  But still I thought it strange to be reading about it in a comic book and wondered if it was true why there wasn’t anything written about it by other more reputable sources.  No one else seemed to offer such a detailed account of ancient history.

Interestingly, it turns out that the primary source of information for much of the content in the article above (see the footnotes) comes from The Two Babylons by Alexander Hislop, the veracity of which has been called into question.  Following is a review of that work by a Ralph Woodrow who wrote a similar book based upon it but later took it out of print after researching Hislop’s work more carefully.  Although not a direct response to the above article on Christmas, Woodrow’s review offers some sound wisdom and principles of understanding that do directly apply to the assertions made above.

The Two Babylons: A Case Study in Poor Research Methodology

By Ralph Woodrow

This article can be found in the Christian Research Journal, Volume22/ Issue 2 2000 Book Reviews 54-56

Ralph Woodrow has spoken to many different churches, groups, and conferences over the past 42 years, sharing the glad news of Jesus Christ. He is the author of 13 books with over 500,000 copies in print. Ralph and his wife, Arlene, Live in Palm Springs, California

In my earlier Christian experience, certain literature fell into my hands that claimed a considerable amount of Babylonian paganism had been mixed into Christianity. While the Roman Catholic Church was the primary target of this criticism, it seemed the customs and beliefs with which pagan parallels could be found had also contaminated other churches. Much of what I encountered was based on a book called The Two Babylons by Alexander Hislop (1807-1862)

Over the years The Two Babylons has impacted the thinking of many people, ranging all the way from those in radical cults (e.g., the Jehovah’s Witnesses) to very dedicated Christians who hunger for a move by God but are concerned about anything that might quench His Spirit. Its basic premise is that the pagan religion of ancient Babylon has continued to our day disguised as the Roman Catholic Church, prophesied in the Book of Revelation as “Mystery Babylon the Great” (thus, the idea of two Babylons—one ancient and one modern). Because this book is detailed and has a multitude of notes and references, I assumed, as did many others, it was factual. We quoted “Hislop” as an authority on paganism just as “Webster” might be quoted on word definitions.

As a young evangelist, I began to preach on the mixture of paganism with Christianity, and eventually I wrote a book based on Hislop, titled Babylon Mystery Religion (Ralph Woodrow Evangelistic Assn., 1966). In time, my book became quite popular, went through many printings, and was translated into Korean, German, Spanish, Portuguese, and several other languages. Hundreds quoted from it. Some regarded me as an authority on the subject of “pagan mixture.”  Even the noted Roman Catholic writer Karl Keating said, “Its best-known proponent is Ralph Woodrow, author of Babylon Mystery Religion“. 1

Many preferred my book over The Two Babylons because it was easier to read and understand. Sometimes the two books were confused with each other, and once I even had the experience of being greeted as “Reverend Hislop”! As time went on, however, I began to hear rumblings that Hislop was not a reliable historian, I heard this from a history teacher and in letters from people who heard this perspective expressed on the Bible Answer Man radio program. Even the Worldwide Church of God began to take a second look at the subject. As a result, I realized I needed to go back through Hislop’s work, my basic source, and prayerfully check it out.

As I did this, it became clear: Hislop’s “history” was often only an arbitrary piecing together of ancient myths. He claimed Nimrod was a big, ugly, deformed black man. His wife, Semiramis, was a beautiful white woman with blond hair and blue eyes. But she was a backslider known for her immoral lifestyle, the inventor of soprano singing and the originator of priestly celibacy. He said that the Babylonians baptized in water, believing it had virtue because Nimrod and Semiramis suffered for them in water; that Noah’s son Shem killed Nimrod; that Semiramis was killed when one of her sons cut off her head, and so on. I realized that no recognized history book substantiated these and many other claims.

The subtitle for Hislop’s book is “The Papal Worship Proved to Be the Worship of Nimrod and His Wife.” Yet when I went to reference works such as the Encyclopedia Britannica, The Americana, The Jewish Encyclopedia, The Catholic Encyclopedia, The Worldbook Encyclopedia – carefully reading their articles on “Nimrod” and “Semiramis” – not one said anything about Nimrod and Semiramis being husband and wife. They did not even live in the same century. Nor is there any basis for Semiramis being the mother of Tammuz. I realized these ideas were all Hislop’s inventions.

If we sought to base an argument about George Washington and his wife, we should at least start out with facts. We could show who George Washington was, that he had a wife named Martha, when they lived, and continue from there. But if no historian was certain who George Washington was, or if he even had a wife, or when they lived, this would not be a sound basis on which to prove anything. Such is the inherent weakness of Hislop’s thesis that papal worship is the worship of Nimrod and his wife.

I saw that a more direct and valid argument against errors in the Roman Catholic Church (or any other group) is the Bible itself, not ancient mythology. For example, the Bible speaks of a minister being “the husband of but one wife” and that “forbidding people to marry” is a doctrine of devils (1 Tim. 3:2; 4:3). This provides a stronger argument against priestly celibacy than trying to show that ancient priests of Semiramis castrated themselves.

While seeking to condemn the paganism of Roman Catholicism, Hislop produced his own myths. By so doing, he theorized that Nimrod, Adonis, Apollo, Attes, Ball-zebub, Bacchus, Cupid, Dagon, Hercules, Januis, Linus, Lucifer, Mars, Merodach, Thithra, Molock, Narcissus, Oannes, Oden, Orion, Osiris, Pluto, Saturn, Teitan, Typhon, Vulcan, Wodan, and Zoraster were all one and the same. By mixing myths, Hislop supposed that Semiramis was the wife of Nimrod and was the same as Aphrodite, Artemis, Astarte, Aurora, Bellona, Ceres, Diana, Easter, Irene, Iris, Juno, Mylitta, Proserpine, Rhea, Venus, and Vesta.

Take enough names, enough stories, and enough centuries; translate from one language to another; and a careless writer of the future might pass on all kinds of misinformation, Gerald Ford, and American president, might be confused with Henry Ford, the car manufacturer. Abraham Lincoln might end up as the inventor of the automobile, the proof being that many cars had the name “Lincoln”. The maiden name of Billy Graham’s wife is Bell. She has sometimes gone by the name Ruth Bell Graham. The inventor of the telephone was Alexander Graham Bell. By mixing up names, someone might end up saying Billy Graham was the inventor of the telephone; or that he invented Graham Crackers. In fact, the inventor of Graham Crackers was Sylvester Graham. Again, similarities could be pointed out. Both men were named Graham. Both men were ministers. But the differences make a real difference: Sylvester was a Presbyterian and Billy a Baptist, and they were from different generations.

Building on similarities while ignoring differences is an unsound practice. Atheists have long used this method in an attempt to discredit Christianity altogether, citing examples of pagans who had similar beliefs about universal floods, slain and risen saviors, virgin mothers, heavenly ascensions, holy books, and so on.

As Christians, we don’t reject prayer just because pagans pray to their gods. We don’t reject water baptism just because ancient tribes plunged into water as a religious ritual. We don’t reject the Bible just because pagans believe their writings are holy or sacred.

The Bible mentions things like kneeling in prayer, raising hands, taking off shoes on holy ground, a holy mountain, a holy place in the temple, pillars in front of the temple, offering sacrifices without blemish, a sacred ark, cities of refuge, bring forth water from a rock, laws written on stone, fire appearing on a person’s head, horses of fire, and the offering of first fruits. Yet, at one time or another, similar things were known among pagans. Does this make the Bible pagan? Of course not!

If finding a pagan parallel provides proof of paganism, the Lord Himself would be pagan. The woman called Mystery Babylon had a cup in her hand; the Lord has a cup in His hand (Ps. 78:8). Pagan kings sat on thrones and wore crowns; the Lord sits on a throne and wears a crown (Rev. 1:4; 14:14) Pagans worshipped the sun; the Lord is called the “Sun of Righteousness” (Mal. 4:2), Pagan gods were likened to stars; the Lord is called “the bright and Morning star” (Rev. 22:16). Pagan gods had temples dedicated to them; the Lord has a temple (Rev. 7:15). Pagans built a high tower in Babylon; the Lord is a high tower (2 Sam. 22:3). Pagans worshipped idolatrous pillars; the Lord appeared as a pillar of fire (Exod. 13:21-22). Pagan gods were pictured with wings; the Lord is pictured with wings (Ps. 91:4).

I realized that citing a similarity does not provide proof. There must be a legitimate connection. Lets suppose on May 10 a man was stabbed to death in Seattle. There were strong reasons for believing a certain person did it. He had motive. He was physically strong. He owned a large knife. He had a criminal record. He was known to have a violent temper and had threatened the victim in the past. All of these things would connect him to the murder, except for one thing: On May 10 he was not in Seattle; he was in Florida. So it is with the claims that are made about pagan origins. They may appear to have a connection, but on investigation, often there is no connection at all.

Because Hislop wrote in the mid-1800’s the books he refers to or quotes are now quite old. I made considerable effort to find these old books and to check Hislop’s references; books such as Layard’s Nineveh and Its Remains, Kitto’s Cyclopeidia of Biblical Literature, Wilkinson’s Ancient Egyptians, as well as old editions of Pausanias, Pliny, Tacitus, Herodotus and many more. When I checked his footnote references, in numerous cases I discovered they do not support his claims.

Hislop says, for example, that the “round” wafer used in the Roman Catholic mass came from Egyptian paganism. For this he cites a statement in Wilkinson’s Ancient Egyptians (vol. 5, 353,365) about the use of thin round cakes on their altars. When I checked Wilkinson’s work, however, he also said the Egyptians used oval and triangular cakes; folded cakes; cakes shaped like leaves, animals, and a crocodile’s head; and so on. Hislop failed to even mention this.

While condemning round communion wafers as images of the sun-god Baal, Hislop fails to mention that the very manna given by the Lord was round. “Upon the face of the wilderness there lay a small round thing…And Moses said unto them, This is the bread which the Lord hath given you to eat” (Exod. 16:14-15, KJV, emphasis added). round is not necessarily pagan.

Hislop taught that Tammuz (whom he says was Nimrod) was born on December 25, and this is the origin of the date on which Christmas is observed. Yet his supposed proof for this is taken out of context. Having taught that Isis and her infant son Horus were the Egyptian version of Semiramis and her son Tammuz he cites a reference that the son of Isis was born “about the time of the winter solstice.” When we actually look up the reference he gives for this (Wilkinson’s Ancient Egyptians, vol. 4, 405), the son of Isis who was born “about the time of the winter solstice was not Horus, her older son, but Harpocrates. The reference also explains this was a premature birth, causing him to be lame, and that the Egyptians celebrated the feast of his mother’s delivery in spring. Taken in context, this has nothing to do with a December celebration or with Christmas as it is known today.

In another appeal to Wilkinson, Hislop says that a Lent of 40 days was observed in Egypt. But when we look up the reference, Wilkinson says Egyptian fasts “lasted for seven to forty-two days, and sometimes even a longer period: during which time they abstained entirely from animal food, from herbs and vegetables, and above all from the indulgence of the passions” (Wilkinson, Ancient Egyptians vol. 1, 278) with as much credibility, we could say they fasted 7 days, 10 days, 12 days, or 42 days. Hislop’s claim appears to have validity only because he used partial information.

If we based claims on partial information, we could even prove from the Bible there is no God: “…’There is no God’” (Ps. 14:1). When the entire statement is read, however, it has a different meaning: “The fool says in his heart, ‘There is no God.’”

For these and many other reasons, I pulled my own book, Babylon Mystery Religion, out of print despite its popularity. This was not done because I was being threatened in any way or persecuted. This decision was made because of conviction, not compromise. While my original book did contain some valid information. I could not in good conscience continue to publish a book against pagan mixture knowing that it contained a mixture itself of misinformation about Babylonian origins.

I have since replaced this book with The Babylon Connection? A 128-page book with 60 illustration and 400 footnote references. It is an appeal to all my brothers and sisters in Christ who feel that finding Babylonian origins for present-day customs or beliefs is of great importance. My advice, based on my own experience, is to move cautiously in this area, lest we major on minors. If there are things in our lives or churches that are indeed pagan or displeasing to the Lord they should be dealt with, of course. But in attempting to defuse the confusion of Babylon, we must guard against creating a new “Babylon” (confusion) of our own making.

—Ralph Woodrow

  1. Karl Keating. Catholicism and Fundamentalism (San Francisco: Ignatious Pree, 1988), 157

I now began to read more critically the article on Christmas that had been sent to me and to think more carefully about what and how it was said.  The more I meditated the more convinced I became of how bigoted and deceitful its arguments really were.  While I had to give the author credit for being persuasive, I couldn’t believe that this sort of persuasion came from God.  I was reminded by it of the same sort of bigoted and persuasive, though unsound arguments used by those who believe the King James version is the inspired version of the Bible for English speaking people and that all other versions corrupt the truth and will surely deceive and lead a person to hell.  Certainly it is as much a sin to overstate the truth as to understate it.  And the use of inflammatory and judgmental language and unsubstantiated history to argue a point is more in keeping with the tactics used by cults than those who sincerely love the truth.

Interspersed below in the midst of the original article are some of my thoughts as I reflected more deeply on what was said.  I have thought that both the original and that which follows will be useful for the future education of our children, as I now believe the original is an infamous example of both the persuasive power and the unethical use of what Woodrow calls “poor research methodology”.

A Story from the Past (or: How the Grinch Stole Christmas)

It was the night before the great celebration.  Every child in the house was filled with anticipation and awe.  Their fresh, new clothes were hanging out and waiting for each child to wear the next morning.  (Does history really tell us this?) None of them could bear the thought of going to bed and sleeping.  How could one sleep, knowing that gifts, deserts, and fun awaited each of them the next day?  They couldn’t help wondering what words they would hear read from the sayings of their great King and Savior.  Would the queen proclaim a huge party for the children tomorrow like she usually did?  Who would recommit their hearts to serve the Church(The author is plainly reading these events into history as the Church did not exist until the time of Christ.)  Who would rededicate their lives to serve their wonderful Savior, Lord and King?  Waiting for all of this was almost more than any child could take.  Nevertheless, each of them was firmly instructed to march straight off to their beds and go to sleep.

As the children walked reverently past the family’s decorated tree, they bowed their knees.  It was so beautiful with its bright candles, glistening with liberally wrapped gold and silver tinsel.  (Again, what history book tells us this?  Silver tinsel on trees with candles just after the time of Noah?)  They thought of how this tree represented the new life of their King and Savior, who had died, but had miraculously come back to life.  (Even supposing this to be true, which is suspect at best, would that necessarily forbid a Christian to do so in honor of his Savior and King?  Many ancient people had tabernacles and temples to their gods before Israel, and yet that did not forbid them from having the same in honor of the true God.  In fact, nearly everything in God’s creation which points to the creator has been perverted at one time or another into something that is false.)  As they bowed, each one also felt as if they might die waiting for the morning to come.  They knew that many of their cousins, aunts, uncles and friends would be with them to sing songs, eat tasty food, pastries and dainties.  (People throughout all of recorded history and in every culture have celebrated holidays throughout the entire year in the same manner; does this make it wrong?)

After the morning Church Service (in ancient Babylon, before the Church existed?) in honor of their great Lord and King, they would all be free to do as they pleased.  They knew very well that each child would receive many gifts.  They wondered what would be waiting for them the next morning.  There was not one of them who hadn’t hoped for something special that whole year long.  (Again, we should ask if this is really history or if the author is simply reading modern events into an ancient pagan setting in order to argue his point.)

As the children went off to bed, the parents began to celebrate the evening with a party.  (More history?)  Although this was supposed to be a Holy event in honor of their Lord, their minds were elsewhere.  Somehow, the smell of wine, sweet breads, and other delicacies took complete control of their thoughts.  This was truly a time of fun, fellowship and relaxation.  Every family had a beautiful, decorated tree, sumptuous foods, wine, and the latest in fashion and gifts.  This was a time for gladness, fellowship, merriment including the sacred worship of their Lord who had died and come back again.

Many of the men had worked very hard during the previous month.  Now it was time to relax and enjoy the fruits of their hard labor.  Some of them had made huge profits the previous month by buying and selling numerous gift and church items necessary for this special holiday.  This was truly the best time of the year for them.  Some adults were already merry from attending numerous celebrations given all week long at their work place or business associate’s home. (This is not history, but the author’s personal commentary on our society’s celebration of Christmas.)

Sound Familiar?

 You may be thinking that this is a story about Christmas taken from the archives of early America or Europe.  However, this is not the case.  Instead, this scene was common during the Babylonian holiday ‘Saturnalia’1 (Sat-tur-nail-yah).  Observing Saturnalia was normal in the days of early Babylon, when Noah’s grandchildren and great-grandchildren were adults.  This holy day was called Saturnalia in commemoration of the rebirth of their god Saturn, whose real name was Nimrod.  It always took place for a week, ending on December 25th2.  Nimrod was the great grandson of Noah (Gen. 10:8-9; 1Chron. 1:10).

Here’s what McClintock and Strong’s says about Saturnalia.  Notice that it is noticeably silent about the author’s understanding of it and says that it was a Roman holiday that commenced on the 16th of December (World Book Encyclopedia says the 17th) and that its origin is obscure. 

Saturnalia

the festival of Saturnus, to whom the people of Latium attributed the introduction of agriculture and the arts of civilized life. It was kept towards the end of December, as a sort of harvest home, during which business was suspended; courts and schools were closed; no war was commenced or malefactor punished; slaves were relieved from ordinary labor, and, dressed in their masters’ clothes, were waited upon by them at the table. Saturnus being an ancient national god of Latium, the institution of the Saturnalia is lost in the most remote antiquity. One legend ascribes it to Janus, another (by Varro) to the Pelasgi, while a third tradition represented certain followers of Hercules, whom he had left behind on his return to Greece, as the authors of the festival. At first only one day was set apart for the sacred rites of Saturnus, but additions were gradually made until it occupied seven days. In reality, during the empire, three different festivals were celebrated. First came the Saturnalia proper, commencing on XVI Kal. Dec., followed by the Opalia, anciently coincident with the Sigillaria, so called from little earthenware figures (sigilla oscilla) exposed for sale at this season.

Why does this pagan holiday have such a strong resemblance to what we call “Christmas”? Because in almost every detail, the sentiment, worship and celebration of Christmas are exactly the same as ancient Babylon’s Saturnalia.  Why? (There is no established history by which we may know that “the sentiment, worship and celebration of Christmas are exactly the same as ancient Babylon’s saturnalia”, or that the Roman holiday of Saturnalia even originated in ancient Babylon, let alone was the same.)

Before this can be understood, some background must be given.  The Bible says of Nimrod that “he began to be a mighty one in the earth.  He was a mighty hunter before the LORD: wherefore it is said, Even as Nimrod the mighty hunter before the Lord”.  Secular history also abundantly records that, ‘Nimrod was a mighty hunter’.  However, this is not referring to him hunting animals, but his own fellow man.  Simple research done at a library or encyclopedia3 will show this to be true.  (Simple research shows that the Jews believed the statement in the Bible about Nimrod meant more than that he was a mighty hunter of animals, and that he was also a hunter of men’s souls.  However, it does not confirm much of the rest of what the author says, and in fact leads us to believe that the author has taken great liberty to state as historical facts things that are not necessarily so.) Semiramis was his wife and queen.  She is said to have been exceptionally beautiful as well as a powerful witch of Satan.  Together, both she and her husband, Nimrod, succeeded in forming the new world’s first and biggest pagan religious system.  Because after Noah, “the whole earth was of one language, and of one speech”, most of the world’s population centered around the middle east (Gen. 11:1).  This is how Nimrod’s Babylonian religion was able to spread throughout the whole world after the Lord had “confound(ed) their language” (Gen. 11:7,9).  Nimrod was not alone in this.  He had been deeply influenced by his father Cush, who was the son of Ham.  Already Cush had adopted the name of the god, “Bel”4 for himself (Isa. 46:1; Jer. 50:2, 51:44).  (This is not established history.)

Before the birth of Nimrod’s son, Nimrod had been killed; some say torn to pieces by wild animals; maybe wild boars5.  Being very resourceful and using satanic assistance, his wife, Semiramis, thought of a way to preserve her Babylonian religion and her power.  Prior to the birth of her son, on our December 25th, she told everyone that her baby was the rebirth (incarnation) of her husband, Nimrod, who had returned to life on earth again as a god through her son.  She then took on the title of “Queen of Heaven”6 (Jer. 7:18, 44:17-19, 25).  Because of the timing, the winter solstice, when the sun was at its lowest point, Semiramis was able to convince her subjects that Nimrod (known as Saturn) had indeed come back to life through her son.  This is exactly where the shrines to the “mother and child” or “Madonna” come from7, as found throughout the world.  Everyone reverenced Nimrod and believed Semiramis’ story, thereby they worshiped him on his son’s birthday, “Saturnalia”.  This pagan holy day spread to the rest of the world when “the LORD scattered them abroad from thence upon the face of all the earth” (Gen. 11:8-9).  (Again, none of this is established history).

In honor of this great event, Semiramis instituted cutting and lavishly decorating trees (a fir tree in the Roman culture) to represent the new life of Nimrod8, through his son.  (See this footnote, and notice that the assertion that Baal Berith means “Lord of the fir tree” is entirely false.  Both Baal and Berith are common Hebrew words and the phrase means “Lord of the covenant”.  Cf. Judges 8:33 and 9:4)  This is only a small portion of what can be found in relation to the origin of what we today call “Christmas”.  Now to answer the question, how such a wicked pagan holiday came to be observed as Christmas.  Everything here is very easy to verify in a library.  (Such a statement is false and misleading.  Bits and pieces are verifiable, but much is not established history and the overall thrust is a wanton attempt to make the reader believe history clearly supports the author’s view of Christmas when it does not.  The reader should take care to notice how deceptive the author’s words are in this regard.)

In the days of Constantine, A.D. 324, when he had succeeded in gaining control of the entire Roman Empire, the celebration of Saturnalia was quite popular.  What was he to do? Christianity was now ‘legal’, in fact it was more than this.  It was the official religion of the empire.  One problem, though.  What was Constantine supposed to do with everyone’s favorite pagan holidays?  (The author would have us believe that one of Constantine’s greatest problems was “everyone’s favorite pagan holidays”, which is simply not true.)  Bear in mind that these holidays had been in practice for over two thousand years all over the world.  (Again, not established history.)  Bear also in mind that most of those who became “Christians”, because it was law, weren’t any different in temperament or sin from any religious, but unconverted, person today.

Because the empire was now officially “Christian”, what was Constantine to do with all the “traditional” long standing, satanic holidays?  (Notice the inflammatory verbiage that the author uses to persuade the reader of the great evils of Christmas.  We should ask what examples we have in Scripture of devout men of God who felt the necessity of using such tactics to persuade men of the truth.)  Although his kingdom was under his leadership, it was not unshakable, by any means.  He had conquered his other three rivals, but there were still enemies in the land.  Having married Christianity with Sun worship9 (his true religion), Constantine was not a real Christian.  (An extremely biased and judgmental statement.  According to McClintock and Strong, “The character of Constantine has been the object of various and contradictory judgments, according to the religious and political spirit of the various writers. Eusebius, Nazarius, and other Christian contemporaries, grateful for the protection afforded by the emperor to the Christian religion, may be considered his panegyrists, while Zosimus and other heathen writers, animated by an opposite feeling, were his enemies.“)  He knew nothing of the early Christian’s doctrine of the two opposing kingdoms (one in heaven and one on earth).  He was certainly not against war or the killing of his enemies, no matter how small or insignificant their offense.  He certainly could not risk a revolution by abolishing his subject’s pagan holidays.  Therefore he did the only thing a natural man (1Cor. 2:14) could do; he changed the name of the holiday “Saturnalia” to “Christmas”.  Now, at the same time, everyone could honor Christianity’s Christ and still allow the pagan hearted “Christians” to indulge themselves in Saturnalia.  This way his subjects could have their cake (Christianity) and eat it too (Saturnalia’s fun and celebrations).

Nothing delighted those, who were Christians in name only, more.  Constantine really thought that he had done a good thing.  Instead, he was more successful in destroying Christianity than any other pagan Caesar up to this point.  (The author would have us believe that Constantine was the most successful emperor in destroying Christianity because he instituted the Christmas holiday, which is incredibly misleading and a real misuse of history.  Constantine’s decree making Christianity the official religion of the empire hugely impacted the early church both positively and negatively.  On the one hand it “opened the way for the unobstructed propagation of the Gospel to a wider extent than at any former period of its history”, but on the other hand it “began to suffer from being brought into close contact with the fostering influence of secular power” (McClintock and Strong).  History tells us that it was not Constantine who changed the name of Saturnalia to Christmas to subtly destroy Christianity, but the early Church that established a celebration of Christ’s birth around the time of the pagan Saturnalia in order to supplant old pagan notions with Christian ones.  See the excerpt from Schaff’s History of the Christian Church below.  To so rashly and haphazardly ascribe such evil intent with no regard for the complexity of the historical facts, even to one like Constantine, is horrendously judgmental and evidences a real lack of a sound understanding and use of history.)  What was shocking is that many of the real Christians had been in the process of backsliding during this time.  Many of the “nominal” (compromising) Christians of these days were in the practice of meeting “Paganism halfway”.  Tertullian bitterly lamented “the inconsistency of the disciples of Christ”10 in his old age (230 A.D.).  He wrote “by us who are strangers to Sabbaths (Jewish), and new moons, and festivals, once acceptable to God, the Saturnalia, the feasts of January… are now frequented; gifts are carried to and fro, new year’s day presents are made with din, and sports and banquets are celebrated with uproar; oh, how much more faithful are the heathen to their religion, who take special care to adopt no solemnity from the Christians”11.

Don’t get the idea that just because Saturnalia was called Christmas, all Christians celebrated it.  There were many Christians who uncompromisingly opposed not only Constantine’s ungodly policies, but this as well.  Many real Christians were persecuted by the Roman empire under Constantine as well as later on in the name of the “Holy” Roman Catholic Church.  In every instance, our brethren gave not only their lives, but their families or Church to the flame or stake, other than compromise the doctrine of Christ.  This can also be verified by reading such books as the “Martyrs Mirror”, “In a Whale’s Belly”, “Foxes book of Christian Martyrs”.  (These books verify that many devout Christians gave their lives for their faith and stood for soundness of doctrine.  However, Foxes Book of Martyrs and the half of Martyr’s Mirror I have read lend absolutely no support to the author’s argument against Christmas and record no instances of people making a life or death stand on the issue of Christmas as the author would have us believe.  I have never read In a Whale’s Belly, but doubt it does either.  Interestingly, one of the only instances Christmas is mentioned in Foxes Book of Martyrs is in regard to a man who gave his life in the Roman arena as he put into practice the doctrine of non-resistance and tried to persuade the crowd and the gladiators who were fighting to cease from such wickedness.  It says of him, “His dress showed him to be one of the hermits who vowed themselves to a holy life of prayer and self-denial, and who were reverenced by even the thoughtless and combat-loving Romans. The few who knew him told how he had come from the wilds of Asia on a pilgrimage, to visit the churches and keep his Christmas at Rome; they knew he was a holy man, and that his name was Telemachus — no more. His spirit had been stirred by the sight of thousands flocking to see men slaughter one another, and in his simple-hearted zeal he had tried to convince them of the cruelty and wickedness of their conduct. He had died, but not in vain. His work was accomplished at the moment he was struck down, for the shock of such a death before their eyes turned the hearts of the people: they saw the hideous aspects of the favorite vice to which they had blindly surrendered themselves, and from the day Telemachus fell dead in the Colosseum, no other fight of gladiators was ever held there.”)

The Burning Question

Brother or sister: please consider what you are doing when you celebrate “Christmas”?  Who are you really honoring on this day when you: give gifts to one another; spend God’s money to buy and decorate a tree in your home; when you go to a special “Christmas” service at your Church; or have a special meal of dainties and meats with your family, Church or friends? Please consider who is really being honored?  It certainly isn’t Christ Jesus! Please don’t deceive yourselves! You are honoring the false pagan god, Nimrod.  (This is an inflammatory and judgmental statement, and is entirely lacking in the most important Christian virtue, which is love.  “Knowledge puffs up, but love builds up”  See 1 Cor 8 and Romans 14:1-15:7 for sound Biblical teaching on how Christians ought to respond to one another in regard to such matters of conscience.  We must especially take care that by means of such “knowledge” we don’t wound the conscience of a weak brother and so sin against Christ; cf. 1 Cor 8:11-12)  But you answer by saying, ‘in my heart, I’m worshiping and honoring Jesus’.  And is saying this supposed to make it “okay” and pleasing to Him? Think about someone throwing a birthday party for you, but it’s not close to being your birthday.  And besides this, it’s on the exact same day and done the exact same way that some local rapist or murderer used to celebrate his deeds with his friends.  How would you feel, knowing about this rapist’s or murderer’s celebration and then hearing that your friends are having a great time, without you even being around much, by celebrating your birthday on that day, and in the same way, that this rapist or murderer did? Do their “words” about honoring you make it all right? Please think about how Jesus must feel.  Do you think He will overlook this “little” pagan love of yours?  (More inflammatory and judgmental language.  Consider Paul’s word’s to the Colossians, “Let no one act as your judge in regard to…a festival…Let no one keep defrauding you of your prize by delighting in self-abasement…inflated without cause by his fleshly mind, and not holding fast to the head…  If you have died with Christ to the elementary principles of the world, why, as if you were living in the world, do you submit yourself to decrees, such as, “Do not handle, do not taste, do not touch!”…in accordance with the commandments and teachings of men?  These are matters which have, to be sure, the appearance of wisdom in self-made religion and self-abasement and severe treatment of the body, but are of no value against fleshly indulgence.” (Col 2:16,18-19,22-23).  Paul used these words of the Spirit’s sword to cut one way against those who were telling the Gentiles they had to obey the Jewish law in order to be saved.  However, that double edged sword also cuts the other way against those who would go to the opposite extreme and argue that those who observe such festivals cannot be saved or are second-class Christians because they do.  As he wrote to the Romans, “Who are you to judge the servant of another?  To his own master he stands or falls; and stand he will, for the Lord is able to make him stand.  One man regards one day above another, another regards every day alike.  Let each man be fully convinced in his own mind.  He who observes the day, observes it for the Lord.” Rom 14:4-6.)

How then are you going to explain this to the one who made no compromises for you on the cross? What are you going to say to Him Who said, “He that is not with me is against me; and he that gathereth not with me scattereth abroad12”?

What are you going to say when the Lamb of God reminds you of His words “He that loveth father or mother more than me is not worthy of me: and he that loveth son or daughter more than me is not worthy of me13”? If you don’t stop this paganism, what are you going to say to Jesus?  (More inflammatory and judgmental language.)

Dear Pastors (my dear fellow laborers): I beg of you.  Please consider how you are going to explain Saturnalia before the great judgment, when you taught your people to ignore “love not the world, neither the things that are in the world”? If you’ve encouraged your people to venerate this satanic holiday and helped them forget that “if any man love the world, the love of the Father is not in him14”, where do you think you will be going after you die?  (Certainly every pastor who teaches his people to love the world must give an account to God, whether it was from his example at Christmas or his example throughout the entire year.  But to so broadly equate celebrating the birth of Jesus Christ with loving the world and venerating a satanic holiday and to condemn those who do so to hell reeks of the judgmental attitude Scripture forbids; see Mat 7:1-3, Luke 6:37, Jn 7:24, Rom 14:13, Jam 4:11-12.)  Please don’t deceive yourselves into thinking that “the blood” will cover your offending “one of these little ones which believe in Me”, when He says of you, “it were better for him that a millstone were hanged about his neck, and that he were drowned in the depth of the sea”15.  Is this not “exactly” what you are doing when, by example, you teach that it’s okay for your people to practice “measuring themselves by themselves, and comparing themselves among themselves”16 when it comes to this pagan Saturnalia, called “Christmas”.  Dear heart, how are you going to explain this to Jesus?

Brethren: We didn’t just make this up, because we didn’t like the commercialization of “Christmas”.  Studying this and learning this years back was a shock to us, as well.  Now that we know its origin, everything, including its commercialization, makes perfect sense.  Please, make no mistake about this: Nimrod was and still is a type of antichrist.  Those who honor him by celebrating “Christmas” (make no mistake here) are actually worshiping him.  (Another inflammatory and judgmental statement, but by his own emphasis this is his main thesis.)  Please think about where you will go after you die? Nimrod has been worshipped the world over by pagans as Orion, the man in the moon, Tammuz (TAO), Jupiter, Vulcan, Baal, Odin (the real Darth Vader), with mistletoe, the “Christmas goose”, the “Christmas tree”, and the “Yule (infant) Log”.  His wife, Semiramis, has been worshipped the world over as the “Queen of Heaven”, Juno, Astarte, Venus, Cybele, and Diana the goddess of the Ephesians, on “Lady-Day”.  (This is not established history).

Dear hearts, if you have been guilty of making this pagan day “Christmas” a holiday in your life, please repent in your heart and stop it immediately.  In love I tell you, “time is short” and He is coming “whose fan is in his hand, and he will thoroughly purge his floor, and will gather the wheat into his garner; but the chaff he will burn with fire unquenchable”17.

Let no man deceive you with vain words: (Amen!) for because of these things cometh the wrath of God upon the children of disobedience.  Be not ye therefore partakers with them.  For ye were sometimes darkness, but now are ye light in the Lord: walk as children of light.  (Eph. 6-8).

(It is not good to have zeal without knowledge…Prov 19:2).

§ 77. THE CHRISTMAS CYCLE. (From Schaff’s History of the Christian Church)

Besides the general literature given in the previous section, there are many special treatises on the origin of the Christmas festival, by BYNAEUS, KINDLER, ITTIG, VOGEL, WERNSDORF, JABLONSKY, PLANCK, HAGENBACH, P. CASSEL, &c. Comp. AUGUSTI: Archaeol. i.533.

The Christmas festival is the celebration of the incarnation of the Son of God. It is occupied, therefore, with the event which forms the centre and turning-point of the history of the world. It is of all the festivals the one most thoroughly interwoven with the popular and family life, and stands at the head of the great feasts in the Western church year. It continues to be, in the entire Catholic world and in the greater part of Protestant Christendom, the grand jubilee of children, on which innumerable gifts celebrate the infinite love of God in the gift of his only-begotten Son. It kindles in mid-winter a holy fire of love and gratitude, and preaches in the longest night the rising of the Sun of life and the glory of the Lord. It denotes the advent of the true golden age, of the freedom and equality of all the redeemed before God and in God. No one can measure the joy and blessing which from year to year flow forth upon all ages of life from the contemplation of the holy child Jesus in his heavenly innocence and divine humility.

Notwithstanding this deep significance and wide popularity, the festival of  the birth of the Lord is of comparatively late institution. This may doubtless be accounted for in the following manner: In the first place, no corresponding festival was presented by the Old Testament, as in the case of Easter and Pentecost. In the second place, the day and month of the birth of Christ are nowhere stated in the gospel history, and cannot be certainly determined. Again: the church lingered first of all about the death and resurrection of Christ, the completed fact of redemption, and made this the centre of the weekly worship and the church year. Finally: the earlier feast of Epiphany afforded a substitute. The artistic religious impulse, however, which produced the whole church year, must sooner or later have called into existence a festival which forms the groundwork of all other annual festivals in honor of Christ. For, as Chrysostom, some ten years, after the introduction of this anniversary in Antioch, justly said, without the birth of Christ there were also no baptism, passion, resurrection, or ascension, and no outpouring of the Holy Ghost; hence no feast of Epiphany, of Easter, or of Pentecost.

The feast of Epiphany had spread from the East to the West. The feast of Christmas took the opposite course. We find it first in Rome, in the time of the bishop Liberius, who on the twenty-fifth of December, 360, consecrated Marcella, the sister of St. Ambrose, nun or bride of Christ, and addressed her with the words: “Thou seest what multitudes are come to the birth-festival of thy bridegroom.” This passage implies that the festival was already existing and familiar. Christmas was introduced in Antioch about the year 380; in Alexandria, where the feast of Epiphany was celebrated as the nativity of Christ, not till about 430. Chrysostom, who delivered the Christmas homily in Antioch on the 25th of December, 386, already calls it, notwithstanding its recent introduction (some ten years before), the fundamental feast, or the root, from which all other Christian festivals grow forth.

The Christmas festival was probably the Christian transformation or regeneration of a series of kindred heathen festivals—the Saturnalia, Sigillaria, Juvenalia, and Brumalia—which were kept in Rome in the month of December, in commemoration of the golden age of universal freedom and equality, and in honor of the unconquered sun, and which were great holidays, especially for slaves and children.  This connection accounts for many customs of the Christmas season, like the giving of presents to children and to the poor, the lighting of wax tapers, perhaps also the erection of Christmas trees, and gives them a Christian import; while it also betrays the origin of the many excesses in which the unbelieving world indulges at this season, in wanton perversion of the true Christmas mirth, but which, of course, no more forbid right use, than the abuses of the Bible or of any other gift of God. Had the Christmas festival arisen in the period of the persecution, its derivation from these pagan festivals would be refuted by the then reigning abhorrence of everything heathen; but in the Nicene age this rigidness of opposition between the church and the world was in a great measure softened by the general conversion of the heathen. Besides, there lurked in those pagan festivals themselves, in spite of all their sensual abuses, a deep meaning and an adaptation to a real want; they might be called unconscious prophecies of the Christmas feast.

Finally, the church fathers themselves confirm the symbolical reference of the feast of the birth of Christ, the Sun of righteousness, the Light of the world, to the birth-festival of the unconquered sun, which on the twenty-fifth of December, after the winter solstice, breaks the growing power of darkness, and begins anew his heroic career. It was at the same time, moreover, the prevailing opinion of the church in the fourth and fifth centuries, that Christ was actually born on the twenty-fifth of December; and Chrysostom appeals, in behalf of this view, to the date of the registration under Quirinius (Cyrenius), preserved in the Roman archives. [The December 2006 Berean Call also notes the following in regard to December 25 as Christ’s birthday: “Early Christians set the date of December 25 by assuming that Mary visited Elizabeth immediately after her (Mary’s) conception, and then calculating the time of Elizabeth’s conception as six months earlier (Lk 1:23-25)-based on Jewish records and tradition concerning the schedule of priestly temple duties and  Zacharias’s “course of Abia” (Lk 1:5)].  But no certainty respecting the birthday of Christ can be reached from existing data.  Around the feast of Christmas other festivals gradually gathered, which compose, with it, the Christmas Cycle. The celebration of the twenty-fifth of December was preceded by the Christmas VIGILS, or Christmas NIGHT, which was spent with the greater solemnity, because Christ was certainly born in the night.

After Gregory the Great the four Sundays before Christmas began to be devoted to the preparation for the coming of our Lord in the flesh and for his second coming to the final judgment. Hence they were called ADVENT Sundays. With the beginning of Advent the church year in the West began. The Greek church reckons six Advent Sundays, and begins them with the fourteenth of November. This Advent season was designed to represent and reproduce in the consciousness of the church at once the darkness and the yearning and hope of the long ages before Christ. Subsequently all noisy amusements and also weddings were forbidden during this season. The pericopes are selected with reference to the awakening of repentance and of desire after the Redeemer.

From the fourth century Christmas was followed by the memorial days of ST. STEPHEN, the first Christian martyr (Dec. 26), of the apostle and evangelist JOHN (Dec. 27), and of the INNOCENTS of Bethlehem (Dec. 28), in immediate succession; representing a threefold martyrdom: martyrdom in will and in fact (Stephen), in will without the fact (John), and in fact without the will, an unconscious martyrdom of infant in innocence. But Christian martyrdom in general was regarded by the early church as a heavenly birth and a fruit of the earthly birth of Christ. Hence the ancient festival hymn for the day of St. Stephen, the leader of the noble army of martyrs: “Yesterday was Christ born upon earth, that to-day Stephen might be born in heaven.”  The close connection of the feast of John the, Evangelist with that of the birth of Christ arises from the confidential relation of the beloved disciple to the Lord, and from the fundamental thought of his Gospel: “The Word was made flesh.” The innocent infant-martyrs of Bethlehem, “the blossoms of martyrdom, the rosebuds torn off by the hurricane of persecution, the offering of first-fruits to Christ, the tender flock of sacrificial lambs,” are at the same time the representatives of the innumerable host of children in heaven.  More than half of the human race are said to die in infancy, and yet to children the word emphatically applies: “Theirs is the kingdom of heaven.” The mystery of infant martyrdom is constantly repeated. How many children are apparently only born to suffer, and to die; but in truth the pains of their earthly birth are soon absorbed by the joys of their heavenly birth, and their temporary cross is rewarded by an eternal crown.

Eight days after Christmas the church celebrated, though not till after the sixth or seventh century, the CIRCUMCISION and the NAMING of Jesus. Of still later origin is the Christian NEW YEAR’S festival, which falls on the same day as the Circumcision. The pagan Romans solemnized the turn of the year, like the Saturnalia, with revels. The church teachers, in reaction, made the New Year a day of penance and prayer. Thus Augustine, in a sermon: “Separate yourselves from the heathen, and at the change of the year do the opposite of what they do. They give each other gifts; give ye alms instead. They sing worldly songs; read ye the word of God. They throng the theatre come ye to the church. They drink themselves drunken; do ye fast.”

The feast of EPIPHANY on the contrary, on the sixth of January, is older, as we have already observed, than Christmas itself, and is mentioned by Clement of Alexandria. It refers in general to the manifestation of Christ in the world, and originally bore the twofold character of a celebration of the birth and the baptism of Jesus. After the introduction of Christmas, it lost its reference to the birth. The Eastern church commemorated on this day especially the baptism of Christ, or the manifestation of His Messiahship, and together with this the first manifestation of His miraculous power at the marriage at Cana. The Western church, more Genthe-Christian in its origin, gave this festival, after the fourth century, a special reference to the adoration of the infant Jesus by the wise men from the east, under the name of the feast of the THREE KINGS, and transformed it into a festival of Genthe missions; considering the wise men as the representatives of the nobler heathen world.

Thus at the same time the original connection of the feast with the birth of Christ was preserved. Epiphany forms the close of the Christmas Cycle. It was an early custom to announce the term of the Easter observance on the day of Epiphany by the so-called Epistolae paschales, or grammata pascalia. This was done especially by the bishop of Alexandria, where astronomy most flourished, and the occasion was improved for edifying instructions and for the discussion of important religious questions of the day.

What then is to be the sincere and devout Christian’s attitude toward Christmas, and to what extent should he feel free to participate in its festivities?  Ultimately I believe it is a matter of conscience that each must decide for himself based upon his understanding of Scripture and the traditions confronting him.  My own understanding is expressed in the following letter that was written in response to our friend Rebecca who struggled with other people’s opinions about Christmas (including her own parents) and wondered if one was “mocking His name by associating with the worldly traditions surrounding this holiday”.

Dear Rebecca,

Thank you for your thoughtful note.  Like you I find myself struggling with other people’s opinions of Christmas.  I do share some of your parents’ concerns and apprehensions about it, which you yourself echoed.  In particular, I have never felt that we could or in any way should lie to our children about Santa, who is presented in our secular society as a substitute for the one true God who alone knows if we have been naughty or nice and is alone the giver of every good and perfect gift.  As Milton Green once said, Santa is just an anagram for Satan.  For similar reasons we have never pretended with our children about the Easter bunny or the tooth fairy either.  I also loathe the materialistic and commercial aspects of Christmas that so easily carry us away after the manner of the world.  I know that this is a source of real strife in many homes as people are compelled by the worldly nature of the holiday to spend money on things that they and the people they buy them for really don’t need and perhaps shouldn’t even have.  I also don’t care for the name of the holiday believing the Roman Catholic Mass to be an un-Biblical  distortion of the truth that Christ died once for all (Heb 7:27, 9:12,25-28, 10:10-12).

However, in spite of these reservations, I have never felt the depth of conviction against all aspects of the holiday that your parents obviously do.  Perhaps this is because it is something to which I am spiritually blind, and if so I pray that God in His mercy would open my eyes to see clearly and put within me the same conviction.  However, at this time I am inclined to believe that I don’t share their convictions because it is a matter of conscience and my conscience allows me a greater freedom in this regard than it does your parents and others who share their views.  For even in regard to the holiday’s name, just because I use the name commonly used to describe it by our society does not mean that I share the Catholic concept of the mass, any more than using the name Thursday to describe the fifth day of the week means I share the ancient Norse concept that viewed Thor as a god.  Neither does it mean because we celebrate that day in remembrance of the birth of our Savior that we give credence to the many pagan notions about the day, any more than worshiping God on Sunday gives credence to the ancient Roman notion about worshiping the sun, or celebrating a child’s birthday gives credence to the modern humanistic view of man himself as a god.  If I ascribed such meaning to those events, then I would agree it would be a sin to continue calling the fifth day of the week Thursday or celebrating my children’s birthdays or celebrating Christmas.  But since I don’t, neither does my conscience nor the Spirit of God convict me that to do so is sin.

In this same way, I believe that if we were to deck our houses in garlands of red and green in honor of a mythical goddess then it would be a sin against the true God of heaven.  However, if the holly and the ivy of God’s creation are understood as a symbol that reminds us of the Savior’s life and death as described in the Christmas carol (see below), then I don’t see that this dishonors God.  “For everything created by God is good, and nothing is to be rejected, if it is received with gratitude” (1 Tim 4:4).  In the same way, if we decorate our houses with lights out of the same worldly spirit that leads casinos to mask the darkness within by the artificial glow without, or assign the same meaning that I’ve been told ancient pagans did to a Christmas tree, then I agree it would be an affront to God.  However, if the lights of Christmas remind us of the Light of the world who has shone in the darkness of our lives (John 1:4-5, 8:12), and of His gospel “to which you do well to pay attention as to a lamp shining in a dark place” (2 Pet 1:19, cf. 2 Cor 4:4, 2 Tim 1:10), and if a Christmas tree (I like to call it a Christian tree) reminds us both of Him as it is sung in the carol (see below) and of our own Christian lives (even referred to in Scripture as trees of righteousness, cf. Is 61:3 in the KJV) which like it are to be beautifully adorned with the fruit of the Spirit and shine with the light of Christ (see Mat 5:16), then I don’t see that our doing so is a sign of our failure to come out from the harlotries of Babylon as your parents believe.

I also believe the same could be said of the giving of gifts.  If our gift-giving is patterned after the manner of the world merely to indulge our own carnal appetites or those of our children, if our gifts are not wholesome for the development of godly character, if they are given under compulsion from a heart of greed or result in our being bad stewards of the resources God has entrusted to us, then I agree that this aspect is not honoring to God.  However, our giving of gifts doesn’t have to and shouldn’t be this way, and can in fact be very useful for teaching our children some important spiritual truths and developing even within ourselves what is perhaps the most important of godly traits.  For as little children delight in the gifts of others during the holiday, so do spiritual children delight in the spiritual gifts of their heavenly Father.  Just like toddlers they love getting and have yet to learn about giving.  But just as those little ones grow up and hopefully discover when they have children of their own that there is a happiness greater even than being the recipient of someone else’s grace, and that is the joy of giving and being the source of someone else’s happiness, so too must God’s children grow up in their faith and come to the same understanding.  For as Christ did not remain as an infant to merely receive the gifts of others (Mat 2:11), but grew up to offer the world the supreme gift of Himself, so would He have us grow up in our salvation and discover not only the fathomless depths of joy but also His own radiant glory which we enter into as we give of ourselves to others (cf. 2 Cor 3:18, 2 Thess 2:13-14, etc…).

I think it is important for us to realize that it is not the giving of gifts itself that creates such a distasteful time and causes strife in many homes during the Christmas season, but rather our sinful natures that are aroused by doing so, whether it be from our own selfishness in giving, or from our greed in desiring something else or something more, or from our lack of self-control that causes us to buy things we shouldn’t, or from our thoughts about whether or not the recipient was really worthy or grateful, or from whatever other subtle aspect of our carnal flesh that has yet to be crucified.  For indeed the same ill will and strife are often just as evident when people celebrate birthdays or give to charity, sometimes even when they give to God.  And while some are able to overcome such manifestations of their cursed nature while continuing to enjoy the holiday season (like those who may be given to drunkenness but are able to master their passions while continuing to drink in moderation), others may feel it is preferable or even necessary to do away entirely with that which occasions such evil in their own and other people’s lives.  Such matters of conscience are akin to the issue of eating certain foods and observing certain days that confronted first-century believers.  I think we would all do well to take to heart Paul’s words on the subject:

Now accept the one who is weak in faith, but not for the purpose of passing judgment on his opinions.  One man has faith that he may eat all things, but he who is weak eats vegetables only.  Let not him who eats regard with contempt him who does not eat, and let not him who does not eat judge him who eats, for God has accepted him.  Who are you to judge the servant of another?  To his own master he stands or falls; and stand he will, for the Lord is able to make him stand.  One man regards one day above another, another regards every day alike.  Let each man be fully convinced in his own mind.  He who observes the day, observes it for the Lord, and he who eats, does so for the Lord, for he gives thanks to God; and he who eats not, for the Lord he does not eat, and gives thanks to God.…Therefore let us not judge one another anymore, but rather determine this—not to put an obstacle or a stumbling block in a brother’s way.  I know and am convinced in the Lord Jesus that nothing is unclean in itself; but to him who thinks anything to be unclean, to him it is unclean.  For if because of food your brother is hurt, you are no longer walking according to love.  Do not destroy with your food him for whom Christ died.  Therefore do not let what is for you a good thing be spoken of as evil; for the kingdom of God is not eating and drinking, but righteousness and peace and joy in the Holy Spirit.  For he who in this way serves Christ is acceptable to God and approved by men.  So then let us pursue the things which make for peace and the building up of one another.  Do not tear down the work of God for the sake of food.  All things indeed are clean, but they are evil for the man who eats and gives offense.  It is good not to eat meat or to drink wine, or to do anything by which your brother stumbles.  The faith which you have, have as your own conviction before God.  Happy is he who does not condemn himself in what he approves.  But he who doubts is condemned if he eats, because his eating is not from faith; and whatever is not from faith is sin….Now we who are strong ought to bear the weaknesses of those without strength and not just please ourselves.  Let each of us please his neighbor for his good, to his edification….Now may the God who gives perseverance and encouragement grant you to be of the same mind with one another according to Christ Jesus; that with one accord you may with one voice glorify the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ.  Wherefore, accept one another, just as Christ also accepted us to the glory of God.  Romans 14:1-6,13-23, 15:1-2,5-7

In still other words of Paul, Christmas or no Christmas will not commend us to God.  We are neither the worse if we celebrate nor the better if we don’t (cf. 1 Cor 8:8).  In the final analysis it is never our stance on such matters of conscience that commends us to God, but our love.  As a point of application I think we need to be careful to not allow our own convictions and understanding of such issues to become a litmus test by which we judge others.  For “knowledge puffs up, but love builds up.  If anyone supposes that he knows anything, he has not yet known as he ought to know.” (1 Cor 8:1-2).  Neither should we allow others to judge us in regard to something that is for us a good thing.

In answer to your question then, unless the events surrounding the birth of Christ described in 4 chapters of the Bible are a myth I don’t believe our family’s celebration of Christmas gives heed to myths against the admonition of Scripture.  Nevertheless, in light of the present secularization of the holiday I can understand and respect why some would choose not to celebrate it.  I certainly don’t judge them as being irreverent toward Christ because they don’t observe Christmas.  I can only hope they will not judge us because we do.

I hope these thoughts are helpful.  I’m sorry it’s taken me a few days to get back to you, but it took me a while to gather my thoughts on the subject.  We wish you a very merry celebration of our Savior’s birth and a happy holy-day season.  May it draw you and your family ever closer to Him as you run with endurance the race which is set before us and lay aside every encumbrance‑-both the myths of our generation, and the sin which so easily entangles.  God bless you.

Sincerely in Christ,

Clark Brown

 

The Holly and the Ivy

The holly and the ivy,
When they are both full grown,
Of all trees that are in the wood,
The holly bears the crown:
O, the rising of the sun,
And the running of the deer
The playing of the merry organ,
Sweet singing in the choir.

The holly bears a blossom,
As white as lily flow’r,
And Mary bore sweet Jesus Christ,
To be our dear Saviour: Refrain

The holly bears a berry,
As red as any blood,
And Mary bore sweet Jesus Christ,
To do poor sinners good: Refrain

The holly bears a prickle,
As sharp as any thorn,
And Mary bore sweet Jesus Christ,
On Christmas Day in the morn: Refrain

The holly bears a bark,
As bitter as the gall,
And Mary bore sweet Jesus Christ,
For to redeem us all: Refrain

The holly and the ivy,
When they are both full grown,
Of all trees that are in the wood,
The holly bears the crown: Refrain

O Christmas Tree

O Christmas Tree, O Christmas tree, O tree of green unchanging.
Your boughs, so green in summer time, Do brave the snow of wintertime.
O Christmas Tree, O Christmas tree, O tree of green unchanging.

O Christmas Tree, O Christmas tree, You set my heart asinging.
Like little stars, your candles bright Send to the world a wondrous light.
O Christmas Tree, O Christmas tree, You set my heart asinging.

O Christmas Tree, O Christmas tree, You come from God, eternal.
A symbol of the Lord of Love Whom God to man sent from above.
O Christmas Tree, O Christmas tree, You come from God, eternal.

O Christmas Tree, O Christmas tree, You speak of God, unchanging.
You tell us all to faithful be, And trust in God eternally.
O Christmas Tree, O Christmas tree, You speak of God, unchanging.

Let each of us therefore examine our own observance of Christmas in order that its great significance might become all the more meaningful to us.  Let us also give thanks for those elements that teach us about Christ and draw us closer to Him.  And finally, let us act upon the opportunities these provide us to practice the incarnate love of God, which is the true meaning of Christmas.

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