So, here's something that I recently learned: Catholics are REQUIRED to observe Christmas. How's about that? Apparently, Christmas is one of six "holy days of obligation" out of the year (apart from Sundays) on which Catholics are obliged to attend Mass and refrain from work. I'm not Catholic (obviously) but I am most certainly aware of the many liberties this institution has taken with God's Word over the years - and by "liberties" I mean, perversions. I know that they believe themselves to be the one "true Church" and I know that they take their liberties assuming their pope is the vicar of Christ on earth. As such, their perversions are deeply ingrained in Christian culture throughout the world - even in protestant churches, which were supposed to have broken free of the Catholic tradition during the Protestant movement some 500 years ago!
But, I guess some traditions were just too good to give up, and Christmas was one of them.
The thing, though, is there is no god but God in heaven. There is no authority but that which rests in Jesus Christ, who is One with the Father. And the Word of God, which is the testimony of Christ, serves as the final authoritative text on all matters of our faith. Thus, there is no holiday (holy day) or tradition that has ever been created which profit one's service or devotion to God apart from those which God, Himself, sanctioned. Yet, professed Christians of all denominations (generally speaking) and Catholics have long proclaimed Christmas to be “holy” or “sacred”, despite it being well-known to be 1) man-made and 2) rooted in vain and pagan practices.
Not many seem to get the problem with this. And those who do and dare raise concern about it might be met with a quotation of Romans 14:4-5 (see Santa image below), called a legalist and then told shut up! Or, you might be met with a non-biblically-based response similar to what blogger and Catholic apologist Shaun McAfree recently shared:
"There is nothing wrong with the Church baptizing certain practices of other religions. The objector is claiming the Church derived its beliefs from these celebrations when it only assimilated such seasonal celebrations and symbols." (Emphasis added)
Translation: "Yes. Yes, we most certainly did pervert God's Word by mixing truth with paganism to create Christmas. Yep! Sure did! Deal with it!"
I'm glad he was honest enough to admit that.
People, this is a problem. And not a tiny one. To even begin to explain why, let us journey through the Word of the Lord. Shall we?
Holidays, Celebrations + Practices Permitted Unto the Lord
In the book of Romans we see Paul the Apostle guide newly converted Jews through their transition from following the Law to following Jesus Christ (Christianity). In Romans 14, specifically, Paul addresses their dispute over keeping Jewish holy days though they are now in Christ. At the heart of this issue is they had long observed these days UNTO THE LORD - these holy days had become ingrained into their customs for worship and fellowship. Should they now just relinquish them? If they keep them, do they sin? If they don’t, is that sin?
Paul assures them that if they wished to continue to observe God's holy days, they were permitted to do so unto the Lord for the sake of their conscience. What we must keep in mind, though, is that THOSE holy days, the ones they were permitted to keep unto the Lord, were ordained by God via the Law of Moses. THOSE holy days were ordained by God specifically for HIS reverence and to foreshadow the coming of and purposes of Jesus Christ (Colossians 2:17). But, Paul wanted the new converts to also know that they were no longer required to observe those days because Jesus Christ has now come and He fulfills the Law. Thus, one's choice to no longer observe those days and live in the liberty of Christ would also be unto the Lord. In either choice, the observer's conscience must be clear.
Clearly, man-made or pagan holidays are NOT what Paul is referring to here. If that were so, this would mean Gentiles, who were sinking in idol worship, could have come to Christ AND maintained their idolatry and pagan practices “unto the Lord”. That doesn’t make any sense, as it counters everything God said about avoiding idolatry and His command that we love Him with all of our heart, soul and mind (Leviticus 26:1; Deuteronomy 5:7, 6:5; Luke 10:27; 1 Corinthians 10:14 and elsewhere). Jesus fulfills the law, but He tells us plainly that He did not come to abolish it (Matthew 5:17-18). Idol worship and all other sin remain a "no-no" before the Lord (Galatians 5:19-21). As such, pagan holidays that require or leads one to sin or to worship anyone or anything other than God in Heaven cannot be observed.
The Christmas holiday - its history and as we know it today - could cause one to practice idolatry and other sins.
SOOO...WHAT'S A CHRISTIAN TO DO ABOUT CHRISTMAS?
To be clear, not all man-made traditions and holidays are outright evil. Let's forget McAfee's above-noted confession for a moment and assume that Christmas was merely man-made and had absolutely no pagan origins or influences. Would it still be a problem for Christians?
If any tradition or holiday is not of God, it is, at the very least, vain (Jeremiah 10:3; Matthew 15:9). If it be vain, it doesn’t entail any inherent benefits nor damnation for your eternal soul. It just is...it is meaningless...it is us chasing the wind...it is temporal and will pass away...it is earthly (Ecclesiastes 1:1-11). It grants us credit with man and perhaps some enjoyment in this life, but not with God in eternity. Our honoring the American flag, birthday celebrations, wedding anniversaries, and observing holidays such as Thanksgiving and Independence Day are just a few examples of man-made customs we might enjoy in this life that don't cause any inherent sin or eternal benefits.
But Christmas, also being vain, is somehow declared "holy" and "sacred". The problem with that is the Lord makes it clear that we can’t take something vain or earthly and declare it holy or sacred - not before men and certainly not before God. Why? The story of the Golden Calf provides a great example. Note that the priest Aaron helped the Children of Israel melt down their gold to fashion the calf so that they could worship God in Heaven (Exodus 32).
Interestingly, they weren't intending to worship "another god" - they had the "good" intention to pay homage to the Lord God who had brought them out of Egypt. But they fell into idol worship and sinned ANYWAY. But how? Why, Lord?
1) Aaron declared the calf to be a representation of God in heaven and led the people to worship it. But the Lord had commanded: “You shall not make for yourself a carved image—any likeness of anything that is in heaven above, or that is in the earth beneath, or that is in the water under the earth; you shall not bow down to them nor serve them." (Exodus 20:4-5)
2) Aaron, though a priest, was a mere man who, without any prior approval or direction from God, dared to ascribe the Lord's name to something vain and man-made. But the Lord had previously said: "You shall not take the name of the Lord your God in vain, for the Lord will not hold him guiltless who takes His name in vain." (Exodus 20:7)
It did not matter that the golden calf was set up to be worshipped unto the Lord. It wasn't the Lord and the Lord didn't order that form of worship, so it made it all vain and worshipping the Lord in vain is a sin (Isaiah 29:13; Matthew 15:9)!
December 25th in and of itself is just another day. If you choose to use December 25th as yet another opportunity to share the Gospel of Jesus Christ, that is not sin. If you choose to use December 25th as yet another opportunity to cheerfully give...not a sin. If you choose to use December 25th as yet another opportunity to feed the poor and give to the less fortunate...no sin in that. But to boldly proclaim that "Jesus is the reason for the season" you're overstepping into dangerous territory. God never said that! There is nothing in the Word of God that supports the Christmas holiday nor December 25th as the birthdate of our Lord and Savior. And that is by design. God didn't tell us Jesus' exact birthdate for a reason. Mankind was created to worship, but we often seem to err on the side of worshipping and worrying about the wrong things! Just like the Children of Israel did with that golden calf! That form of worship is devised in the human mind, thus it is vain...it is surface and is based on earthly logic and ingenuity - even if it seems "good" to us. Paul warns against this in Colossians 2. God is Spirit, thus true and pure worship of God is to be done in Spirit and in truth (John 4:23-24).
Moreover, because Christmas is rooted in pagan practices and traditions, it causes one to not only worship the Lord in vain, even those who honestly believe in their hearts that they're keeping this day unto the Lord STILL tend to engage in mixed worship - which is still idolatry. King Solomon was guilty of this form of half-hearted worship. He tried to serve the Lord AND please his many concubines by also following after their gods and the customs of their religions. Solomon was the wisest man who had and has ever lived, and he had initially sat in the Lord's favor. But even he was still subject to God's judgment for his sin (1 Kings 11:1-13).
There are MANY professed Christians who use this season to teach their children about Jesus, but they also teach their children to place their faith in Santa Claus....that's idolatry. Some have determined the Christmas tree is a "sacred" symbol for the birth/life of Christ...that's idolatry. Even without the contrived, Christ-based symbolism, adorning trees is a vain pagan practice, according to the Lord (*Jeremiah 10:3-5). Some claim the tradition of giving gifts symbolizes the gifts the wise men gave Jesus for His birthday, or even the gift of Jesus's sacrifice! (That's such a stretch!) Meanwhile, someone who is so desperate and stressed to get gifts for their children might lie, steal, cheat or go into debt to obtain material things that no one truly wants, needs, will appreciate or will remember receiving. My point, people, is the symbolism and traditions are ALL vain and the moment we slap God's name (or another "god's" name) to them, we sin.
BE GOOD FOR CHRIST'S SAKE
The "holiday season" isn't inherently evil. But I will caution all professed Christians (and those who subscribe to Catholicism) to truly consider the purposes for which they celebrate or observe the day we've come to know as "Christmas". I am beginning to see Christmas as nothing but a Valentine’s day for Christ. It is yet another man-made, vain holiday, (rooted in pagan practices) that prompts people to express the love they should be showing everyday.
In our minds, because we endeavor to do good, that should be good enough. But it isn't beneficial to give gifts or make sacrifices that are thoughtless or unwanted. You get no credit from your Love for that. If anything, you'll be met with disappointment, anger or even rejection - that was Cain's error (Genesis 4:3-5). Each year, we're basically re-gifting Jesus a dusty Christmas fruit cake when all He truly desires from us is to produce good fruit (John 15:4-5, 16)! We have to get away from this mindset that just because we say we are honoring God that we are truly honoring Him (Amos 5:21). We have to come to grips with the truth that doing good works is NOT what pleases God if those efforts are not born out of sincere devotion to Him. Don't be good for goodness sake. Do specifically what the Lord says is "good" every day, because you love Him and want to do what pleases Him. Christ says that if we love Him, we will obey His teachings (John 14:15; 1 John 5:3). So, it would be wise of us all to truly seek to understand what those teachings are (John 8:31). THAT is what matters to Him. Everything else is vanity or sin before the Lord.
I said all of this to say...
I'm not sure why the Catholic Church seeks to make our yoke harder or our burden heavier than is required. Did they NOT notice how much Christ abhorred the religious system upheld by the Pharisees? Did they NOT get the memo that we have liberty in Christ, so long as we don't exercise that liberty to sin (Galatians 2:4; 5:13)? We are free to enjoy time with friends, family and do good for others any day of the year. But to take paganism or vain practices and dare declare them as "holy" or "sacred" worship unto God is a gross error of the Roman Catholic Tradition - and it has, unfortunately, led MILLIONS, if not BILLIONS, astray with this error over the centuries. (Lord! I repent and thank you for Jesus Christ and the grace to come to understand this truth! Please forgive me for my participation in this error!)
If we truly love our Savior and wish to celebrate Him as much as we say, we will honor Christ by denying ourselves (following Him), spreading love and joy (bearing fruit), preaching peace on earth (sharing the Gospel) and practicing goodwill toward men (being Christ-like) every day of our natural lives. December 25th should be just like any other day - because it is.
So merry 360th day of the year to all, and to all a good night!
* There is some dispute over the interpretation of Jeremiah 10:3-5. Some argue these verses specifically refer to the adorning of trees, which history proves is a pagan practice that predated the birth of Jesus Christ but found its way into the tradition we now know as decorating the Christmas tree. Yet, some hold that Jeremiah 10 is altogether referring to the process of making idols. I tend to hold to the former interpretation based on the King James Bible. But, whether these verses refer to decking a tree or fashioning a tree into a wooden idol to be decked with silver and gold, they are both still made of wood, which is earthly. The purpose of Jeremiah 10 is to highlight the vanity of man-made customs, which place importance on or solemnity in things that do not ultimately matter in eternity.