The Sanctification of Christmas

by Lonnie Lane

If you've ever been in Jerusalem in December, you know how cold it can be. Brrrr! Despite idyllic pictures of palm trees gently waving in the breeze, Jerusalem, being on a mountain far above sea level, is not palm tree territory. Bethlehem is about a 2 1/2 hour walk from Jerusalem.  Also cold. No shepherd would want to be out for any extended period in that weather, let alone at night when it's even colder. Nor would he keep his sheep out there, for his sake and theirs, but would shelter them indoors for the winter, despite how "midnight clear" it might be. My point? Jesus was not born in December. Then where did this whole idea of celebrating His birth at that time come from?

Admittedly there are pagan roots to what is for many a beloved Christmas celebration. In fact, just about the whole affair can be traced to having been pagan-inspired. For this very reason, to some Hebrew Roots enthusiasts, including some of my dearest friends, celebrating Christmas is equal to eating food sacrificed to idols.  Here's why:

To begin with, December 25th, has numerous associations which made it a perfect choice for Jesus' birthday because it coincided with three other events: the birthday of Mithras who was the Roman sun god, the winter solstice, and the date of the Saturnalia which was an "X" rated worship of the Roman god Saturn.

Mithras is the Roman god who conquers darkness and as we all know the shortest hours of daylight take place between December 21-15. When the daylight grows longer again following the solstice, Mithras is supposed to have accomplished the miracle once again. The pagans would worship the sun at its lowest point, after which the sun was "reborn" (hence a birth-day) making its way back to a more normal length of day by New Years day at which time the celebration of the god Janus, from which we get the name January, took place. By lumping all this together, it allowed for worship of Jesus to become more palatable to the Roman citizens who were already busy worshipping other gods anyway. Why not one more? Obviously, they didn't understand Who Jesus was!

As for the year of His birth, neither was Jesus born on what is purported to have been the year "0" as the setting of the calendar was done by one Dionysius Exiguus, who was commissioned in 525 A.D. by Pope John I to do so.  He estimated the year of Jesus' birth based upon the founding of Rome. However, Jesus' birth is recorded by the historian Josephus to have occurred during the reign of Herod the Great and actually mentions Jesus' birth in his writings as taking place in the Spring of 4 B.C. (Antiquities of the Jews, Book 17, chapter 8)

There is no mention of celebrating Jesus' birth in any very early "Believer" writings and there is no picture of Jesus as a baby in any of the artwork that has been found. Until after Constantine, aside from what is recorded in the Scriptures of the virgin birth and the angelic announcement to the shepherds, there is nothing to indicate any celebration of Jesus' birth, let alone an ongoing feast for the occasion. As for the magi, the Scriptures tell us that "after Jesus was born...they came into the house and saw the child with Mary, His mother." (Matt. 3:1 and 11). They were no longer in a stable and we really don't know how long "after" was. Because Herod slew the male children who were two years and younger (:16), Jesus could have been close to two years old. At any rate, worship of Jesus' birth did not begin to take place until after the Church has been institutionalized by Constantine and made a part of the State religion. 

The term Christmas means "Mass of Christ" or its shortened version, "Christ-Mass." While there is a plethora of information available about the pagan origins of Christmas, let's take a look at just a  few things that accompany the celebration, such a decorations, etc.

  • Garlands are mentioned in the Bible only related to pagan worship. If you recall, Paul and Barnabus were thought to be gods in Lystra where "the priest of Zeus, whose temple was just outside the city, brought oxen and garlands to the gates and wanted to offer sacrifices with the crowds." (Acts. 14:12,13)

  • Mistletoe had to do with the Norse god named Balder whom the evil god, Loki, killed by an arrow made of mistletoe. After the other gods brought Balder back to life, the mistletoe promised never to hurt anyone again and it eventually became a symbol of love. It was used by the Druids to cast spells, the principal one being that if they held it over a woman's head she was powerless to resist his intentions toward her. There is more to be said about mistletoe but suffice it to say that it has to do with fertility and sex in some rather ungodly ways.

  • Christmas trees carry the symbol of being a pyramid, which is symbolic of the earth in a maternal aspect. Decorations and lights on a tree express the idea of death and immortality associated with the Great Mother. This idea of the Christmas tree seems to have originated in Egypt. Trees of various kinds are quite often mentioned in Scripture in association with idol worship which instigated God's wrath. 

  • Wreaths and Holly: Evergreens and holly formed into circular wreaths are representative of the sun which was worshipped as without it life wouldn't exist. During the initiation into Dionysian mysteries, wreaths were used as fertility symbols. They also decorated buildings to designate them as places of worship at the feasts which took place at the same time as Christmas. Advent Wreaths represented the perpetuation of the sun, while the several candles that stand up round it were regarded as fertility symbols.

  • Yuletide greetings have to do with a Yule Log which comes from Scandinavia where the pagan sex and fertility god Jule was honored in a twelve-day celebration in December. This is where the Twelve Days of Christmas comes from, the Twelfth night being Christmas. Yuletide is still observed by witches today. 

  • The Christmas ham (which certainly didn't come from Jesus' Hebrew background) most likely had to do with the Norse tradition of sacrificing a boar to their god Freyr during yuletide.

  • Singing Christmas Carols, or Wassailing came from the practice of going door-to-door singing Christmas carols and requesting wassail (food or drink, as in liquor). In England the original purpose was to honor the trees in the middle of winter usually across the twelve days of Christmas. Incantations were recited. Liquor poured on the roots and superstitious acts performed in a spell-casting ceremony to insure a good crop in the coming year. You can hear the horticultural emphasis in the words of the song, "Here we come a-wassailing, among the leaves so green"

Now, having said all that, I have a question for you: Were we too not pagans at one time? Were we not unholy and with wrong motives and uniformed about the truth? Did we not engage in activities and even celebrations that in our ignorance we didn't realize were not pleasing to God? Did we not serve satan unknowingly, or even knowingly? And have we not now been sanctified by God as holy?  Has He not purified our motives so that our desire now is to seek His glory and to be pleasing to Him? Could God not sanctify Christmas to be holy unto Him? Can that which is called Christmas not be set apart from all that is unholy to be a time in which our Lord and King is worshipped for having come at all to us?

I attended a concert put on by our city's symphony orchestra this past weekend which was held in a large local church. It was in a word - WONDERFUL.  As in full-of-wonder for me.

I recall my first Christmas after becoming a believer. I attended a Christmas luncheon held by Christians. After lunch we began to sing some carols. I had sung them in school and since my whole life. Singing Christmas carols were to me part of being an American. But when we began to sing, "Joy to the world, the Lord has come. Let earth receive her king!" I burst into tears. I had never known what it meant before. Before they were just words to a song, like Jingle Bells. But now.... I'm all choked up again as I write.... But now it was about my Jesus, about my Lord. He had come to me and given me the grace to receive Him into my heart...and I now knew what it meant for Him to be my King!  To this day, I cannot sing that song without floods of worship tears streaming down my face. It happened again this weekend at the concert.

As the music continued, my heart beat with love and gratefulness that He entered the human experience and became one of us, so that even I could become one with Him. Celebrating Him as a baby, maybe not. But celebrating the incarnation - that God loved us that much - oh, yes!  As I listened to the music, and sang along when we were asked to, I pondered the words. 

While the world under Rome may not have in solemn stillness lay, still rejoicing angels, maybe hundreds of them, assembled in the sky above the shepherds (not the priests in the temple, but shepherds in the fields - oh how humble our God can be!). They heralded the newborn King through whom we would experience God and sinners reconciled. It is indeed reason to shout, "All ye nations rise; join the triumph of the skies."  Whatever takes place in the affairs of humankind on the earth God is triumphant and His will shall be done!  It's enough to cause all heaven and nature to sing.  And oh how I want to see every heart prepare Him room, to know the joy that we who are His share now and will share forever.

We were in that room gathered for a concert. And though I knew few who were in that large crowd, we had come as the faithful, and for that night at least, we were joyful and triumphant. While life in the here and now might be difficult for some, this night we were singing in exultation as citizens of heaven above. I wouldn't be surprised if choirs of angels had joined us as we sang from our hearts, "Come let us adore Him!" 

We concluded the evening with a royal finale fit for The King, the instruments praising Him as we sang the four parts of the Halleluiah Chorus. I remembered that Handel had said when he finished writing it the room was filled with angels. While I didn't see any, I'm pretty sure they were there, singing Halleluiah with us.

I may opt out of the tree and the garlands and mistletoe, but this season, when people are friendlier, more generous, more concerned for the well-being of those in need, when those who know Him reach out to those who don't more than they would ordinarily perhaps, when the Kingdom of God seems to have settled down like freshly fallen snow upon our world to make it brighter, I for one am in favor of this thing called Christmas. It reminds me of the majesty of God's humility in becoming one of us in order to rescue us. And it makes me oh so grateful that I too have been cleansed from all that was unworthy of Him, and have been made acceptable and holy by my Lord and King.

May the Glory of God which reigns in the highest be manifest in your lives in this season and always.  Amen.  

Reprint of this article is permitted (for free distribution, not to be sold) if the following is included:  Reprinted with permission of Messianic Vision Ministries, www.sidroth.org, 2007.  The historic information in this article was largely taken from: The Pagan Origins of Christian Holidays by Jason Hunt, and is available at http://www.kingdomharvest.us/.


Lonnie Lane

For Lonnie's other articles, check out our Exclusive Articles and Resources, especially the section on One New Man.

Lonnie Lane comes from a family of four generations of Jewish believers, being the first one saved in 1975. Lonnie has been in church leadership for many years, and has planted two “one new man” house fellowships, one in Philadelphia suburbs and the other in Jacksonville, Florida, where she now lives near 6 of her 8 grandchildren. Lonnie is the author of “Because They Never Asked” and numerous articles on this website. She has been the Producer of Messianic Vision's radio and TV shows and the International Prayer Co-Coordinator for Messianic Vision's intercessors. Click Here to order Lonnie's book, "Because They Never Asked."

Scripture quotations are from the New American Standard Bible Copyright 1960, 1962, 1963, 1968, 1971, 1973, 1975, 1977, 1995 by The Lockman Foundationk, La Habra, Calif.  All rights reserved. Used by permission.

 

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