A Woman's Perspective On The Times We Live In


December 15, 2013

The Meaning and Observance of Christmas (Part 3): Mark 7:7

And in vain they worship Me,
Teaching as doctrines the commandments of men.


     If you're still with me, you will remember what we've discussed in Parts 1 and 2 of this important topic.  History has shown us the worship of various forms of the pagan gods (and the myths that surrounded their births); the chief among them, the Sun God.  Such worship predated Christ and His Church by 2000 years.  The Moabites worshipped the pagan god Chemosh.  The Ammonites worshipped Molech; the Babylonians worshipped Tammuz. 
     And keep in mind that a nativity celebration for pagan gods was observed near the winter solstice in both Syria and Egypt.  Later, some 400 years before Christ, the Mithraic religion, centering on the Persian sun god Mithras, provided the foundation for the Christmas celebration. Mithraism became very popular in the Roman Empire, and many elements of its worship survive today in Roman Catholicism.  
     When God called Abraham out of that pagan world, He commanded that His people would worship Him in a different manner.  They were to worship Him with feasts and celebrations that would be holy and sanctified.  In fact, God declared that His feasts were to be observed among all generations of His followers, for all time (Leviticus 23:4,14). These same feasts would become an integral part of worshipping God in the First Century Church, when both Jews and Gentile converts were faithful to His commandment.
      As Christianity spread across the known world in the Second Century, the Jewish influence and traditions were at first slowly diminished; and then abruptly halted in the Third Century when the Roman Emperor Constantine combined the pagan worship of his Sun God with his newfound Christianity, and removed the Lord's holy feasts from Christian worship.  In this post, I will relate how much he hated the Jews and how that influenced the new practices he instituted to separate the Christian faith from its Jewish roots.
     Remember that Jewish Believers were still a part of Constantine's Christianity, which is now declared the official religion of the Roman Empire in 324 AD.  Only now, because Constantine is under the false assumption that it was the Jews that killed Jesus, he outlaws any Jewish practices, customs, holidays, or feasts in the new state religion.
     It is at this point that most Christians will balk at what I'm going to say.  But you cannot dismiss this information simply because it offends your heart or your emotions.  You must research it yourself and then determine how you are going to continue to honor God.  So here goes ... To further separate Christianity from its Jewish foundation, Constantine developed a new celebration that would occur around the midwinter festivals that pagans were familiar with; and thus base the new state religion of Christianity around a familiar theme.  And because he knew the Jews did not acknowledge Jesus as the Messiah, he declared that this new holiday would celebrate the birthday of Jesus, the Son of God.  So with the Lord's feasts outlawed, and a holiday that would offend the Jews, Constantine and his state-run Church effectively destroyed the relationship between the Christian Church and its Jewish roots.
     I urge you to research the pagan holidays of "Saturnalia" and "Dies Natalis Solis Invicti" (which means "birthday of the unconquered Sun"), both of which were celebrated on December 25th, when the Romans thought the Winter Solstice took place.  It's not hard to see how easy it was for Constantine to incorporate his "created" birthday of Christ with the birthday celebration of his pagan god (the Saturnalia).  It made it easy for him to merge facets of the Christian faith with accepted pagan practices, and keep the hated Jews separate and isolated.
     If you doubt the veracity of this concept, consider these facts ... the Catholic Encyclopedia is explicit in their writings:  Christmas was not among the earliest festivals of the Church.  Irenaeus and Tertullian omit it from their lists of feasts.  It is the early Church Fathers that shed the brightest light on this controversy, and show us how the celebration of Christmas was established.  Tertullian wrote, The pagan Romans clad their door posts with green and branching laurels.  In the Saturnalia, presents come and go.  There are gifts and banquets … yet Christians should have no acquaintance with the festivals of the pagans. 
     Tertullian also wrote, On your pagan days of gladness, we [Christians] neither cover our doorposts with wreaths, nor intrude upon the day with lamps…We are accused of lower sacrilege because we do not celebrate along with you the pagan holidays…You Christians have your own registers, your own calendar [the Lord's Feasts].  You have nothing to do with the festivities of the world.  In fact, you are called to the very opposite…
     Tertullian also noted that no self-respecting pagan would join in "Christian" celebrations: "Oh, how much more faithful are the heathen to their religion, who take special care to adopt no solemnity from the Christians.  For, even if they had known them, they would not have shared the Lord's Day or Pentecost with us. For they would fear lest they would appear to be Christians. Yet, we are not apprehensive that we might appear to be pagans!"
     And then there is St. Augustine [the fifth-century Catholic theologian] who exhorts his Christian brethren not to celebrate that solemn day like the heathen on account of the sun, but on account of Him who made the sun. What is as convicting for me is the following statement in the New Catholic Encyclopedia: "Christmas originated at a time when the cult of the sun was particularly strong at Rome. This theory finds support in some of the Church Fathers contrasting the birth of Christ and the winter solstice. Though the substitution of Christmas for the pagan festival cannot be proved with certainty, it remains the most plausible explanation for the dating of Christmas" (1967, Vol. 3, p. 656). 
     I could regale you with numerous quotes from early Church Fathers, but this should be enough to at least cause you to research this important issue on your own.  I don't have all the answers, nor do I claim to--- in fact, I have questions.  Did the fading expectation of Christ's imminent return make the contrived celebration of His birth more appealing?  And what do God and Jesus think about our man-derived celebrations?  Re-read the Scripture at the top of this post.  "In vain" is defined as "having no meaning or likelihood of fulfillment."  The Holy Spirit is telling me that if I worship Jesus in a manner based on pagan celebrations, that it has no meaning to Him.  This is a personal decision on my part, and a matter of obedience.
     Perhaps you do not agree, and that is between you and God.  It is a matter of conscience for each individual.  I would simply ask you to study His Word and not decide based on what your heart tells you.  We all carry such warm, fuzzy memories of Christmas in our hearts, and it is difficult to think that anything that wonderful could offend God.  But remember what Jeremiah 17:9 says:  The heart is deceitful above all things, and desperately wicked...  Is the heart really a good judge of what God desires of us?
     Next week, we will finish up this discussion and take a look at how Christmas has been promoted down through the centuries and how it has become so entrenched in our culture.  Thank you for being receptive to this message, and I invite your comments and discussion.
     


4 comments:

  1. I just wanted to thank you for presenting this topic to your readers again. Five years ago I would have not wanted to believed this, but as I've done my own studying as I've said before, there is a lot of truth to this and we all need to look at it carefully if we are interested in what God has told us and wishes for us to do. If anything, I'm sorry that I didn't know this earlier in my life and my walk with Christ. Yes, it is disappointing to me in some ways as I reflect back on years past and the tradition of it and what we thought it "was". We were celebrating the birth of Jesus, yet did we know how it got so messed up and distorted by man? No. Many of us had no idea. I still believe we just need to realize the facts and God's wishes and His will and we can still be blessed with Christ birth and his death as intended. I hope to do better in my walk with Christ as the years go by and to understand what He's been trying to tell me for a long time. I just needed to have an open heart to receive this to understand it, instead of going along with what I thought others were doing was the right thing. I would love to hear from others if they have found what you have spoken to be fact in their studies as well. Bless you for sharing the truth of Jesus and what Christmas is all about. As everything in this world of man and satan, something that was so good, is distorted very easily and most of us, including myself, do or has gone along in the past traditions because that is what someone told us or how we were raised and/or that is how everyone has ever known it to be and so we follow like sheep over the cliff. I can see and understand the mistrust or hurt to think that what we celebrate today in many ways was not what it was intended to be. Though I rarely watch TV, just take a moment and look at your TV. The commercials alone....is that what Christmas has turned into or was intended to be. Where is Christ in that???? One commercial that comes to mind is the Kmart commercial with men in Christmas fabric underwear shaking their bodies as they "jingle"! I feel ashamed and hurt to think that Jesus sees this. It must break His heart. I'd rather know and find out for myself and be responsible at that point, than just accept what some person has told us in the past in our youth. Let the Spirit of God witness to us as we pray and examine the points in this writing that you've shared with us and let Him make it Light to us so we don't have to struggle with this question any longer, if those who are willing to take the time to study it will find it to be true. Thank you Belle. Have a wonderful day and a blessed one.

    Sincerely,
    Lisa

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    1. Lisa, it sounds as if your path has been very similar to mine. The heart and mind rebel against the thought that Christmas is not what we've been told it was, or that God had nothing to do with instituting it. Does that mean that Christ's birth has no meaning? Of course not! He is the Light of the world and I celebrate that the Father loved us so much that He sent His only Son into this wicked world so that I might know Him and have everlasting life. Jesus's birth is sacred and holy, but I think He deserves His birth to be celebrated in a manner worthy of Him; He deserves so much more than to share it with pagan sun gods!
      But now that I know how and why this celebration came to be, I do not feel it honors my Savior. Furthermore, when I read Scripture and see the ways in which God wants me to worship Him and His Son, then I can see the Enemy's prints all over the Christmas holiday. Do I still tear up when I hear the beautiful song "Oh, Holy Night"? Absolutely! And do I still display my nativity scene? Yes, but not because I think this blessed event happened on December 25th. I choose to display it during Hannukah, which is the Celebration of Lights, and He is the Light unto the world.
      It will take some time to study and discern how God wants me to worship Him in light of the Feasts He commands. That is still part of my journey. Like I've said all along -- I don't have all the answers, nor will I dictate what you should do. I am just sharing what the Holy Spirit has laid upon my heart, mind, and soul. Thank you for sharing your personal story. Until now, I think we've all been afraid to voice our thoughts for fear of ostracism and criticism. But it appears as if the Holy Spirit is awakening in all of us the same desire to please God instead of man.

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  2. Totally agree..... Once you understand the division of the church from Jesus, one will see the spirit of anti-semitism replete throughout the 'christian church'. we no longer call ourselves christians, but 'believers' in Jesus (Yeshua) the Messiah. Christianity has done much to destroy the Jewishness of Jesus - phrases like "Jesus was a Jew" .... Was? Uh, no, *IS* a Jew. Period. A reading of Leviticus 23 - the Lord's Moadim (appointments) tells when God wants to visit with us.

    Constantine, one of the 'church fathers' did much to separate Christianity from the original observance of Yeshua - Jesus most definitely is *NOT* a 'christian'.... If one studies Constantine, and some of the famous writings that the church relies on today - it clearly shows anti-semitism.

    Constantine the Great established "Christianity" as the State religion throughout the Roman Empire issued many anti-Jewish laws

    With the establishment of Christianity as the official religion of the Roman Empire by Constantine in the fourth century, Christianity soon began to enjoy a position of superiority over Judaism which caused serious consequences for Judaism.

    Under Constantine, the church became “a state church” and the persecution of “Christians” ceased, while the persecution of the Jews continued.

    The Council of Nicea AD 325 called by the Emperor Constantine to settle some theological differences that were dividing his Christian Empire. The first act of the three hundred bishops assembled was to set a date for ‘Easter’ to be distinct from the Jewish Passover thereby effectively separating Jews and Christians.

    To mainstream Jews, this change appeared as a willingness on the part of the early church to be a lawless society. They also feared this would allow pagan influences into the Jewish-Christian circles and eventually, Israel.

    By the year AD 347 - under the teachings of John Chrysostom, a cruel, vicious spirit of Anti-Semitism arose. And under his Leadership, the church, who was now ‘Israel’ had to discredit the physical Israel and turned out volumes of literature to prove that they were the ‘true’ people of God and that Judaism had only been a prelude to, or in preparation for Christianity.

    Chrysostom’ teachings were prompted by the fact that many Christians were still meeting on friendly terms with Jews, visiting Jewish homes, and attending their synagogues. He said: "The Jews sacrifice their children to Satan....they are worse than wild beasts. The synagogue is a brothel, a den of scoundrels, the temple of demons devoted to idolatrous cults, a criminal assembly of Jews, a place of meeting for the assassins of Christ."

    On another occasion Chrysostom is quoted as saying "I hate the Jews because they violate the Law. I hate the synagogue because it has the Law and the prophets. It is the duty of all Christians to hate the Jews." Chrysostom' teachings were to be used in seminaries and schools for centuries as model sermons, with the result that his message of hate would be passed down to succeeding generations of theologians.

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  3. Sorry, my message was too long to be accepted as one comment. Let me continue...

    Augustine, the great theologian, was also guilty of the growing hatred. In a sermon on Catechumens, he says: "The Jews hold Him, the Jews insult Him, the Jews bind Him, crown Him with thorns, dishonour Him with spitting, scourged Him, overwhelm with reviling, hang Him upon the tree, pierce Him with a spear...The Jews killed Him."

    Important to note here is that it took both Jew and Gentile to Crucify the Lord – neither were innocent.

    With that said, legalism certainly can come in. It is up to us believers to refute legalism, and especially 'religion'. We MUST toss that aside.

    Do note, Chanukah is most definitely NOT one of God's appointed times - yet came about later and is followed by Jewish folks mostly. A short mention of Chanukah is mentioned in the New Testament, John 10:22 shows that Jesus was at the Temple of Solomon's Porth during the "Feast of Dedication".... So not being legalistic, it shows the celebration did occur - and do a study on Chanukah to see the Miracles that occurred during that time.

    In addition, Look at how the Old Testament looks at Passover - you are to eat standing, girded loins, as if you were ready to flee any moment. Yet, look how Jesus celebrated Passover (not being legalistic) - He and His disciples reclined, as if a friendship meal, yet followed the order of the telling of the Passover story. Interesting.

    Thanks Belle for keeping this in the forefront.

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