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Is CHRISTMAS Christian?
Plain Truth Magazine
December 1963
Volume: Vol XXVIII, No.12
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Is CHRISTMAS Christian?
Albert J Portune   
Church of God

Died: July 2, 2002
Ambassador College: 1959

The origin of many of our Christmas customs is amazing, SHOCKING! Millions of Christians accept the customs without ever questioning their origin. Millions observe them without REALIZING the God they hope to worship through these customs CONDEMNS THEM!

   HAVE you ever wondered how Santa Claus fits into the story of CHRIST? Have you ever pondered where the tinsel-covered, brightly lit Christmas tree with its ornate decorations figures in the worship of God?
   Why do we follow the custom of exchanging gifts at Christmas time? From where come the holly wreaths, the mistletoe and the greeting cards? Why is December 25th called the birthday of Christ?

In the Bible?

   Did you know that thousands of years before Christ — before there was ever a CHRISTIAN — people, just as we do today — went out into the forests and cut down evergreen fir trees? They trimmed the branches, brought the trees into their homes, nailed them down and decorated them with gold and silver ornaments. They exchanged gifts, sent greeting cards, played games, sang songs and feasted in a gala festive season.
   Did you know this was all done on the same day of the year — our December 25th?
   But Jesus Christ wasn't the central figure of that festival. It was a PAGAN GOD — the SUN-GOD! It was HIS BIRTHDAY.
   Everyone seems to feel that somehow the pageant of Christmas sums up the concept of God and the coming of Christ — the Savior of the world.
   But, shocking as it may seem, you cannot find any of these things in your Bible!
   Prove it for yourself! Look in your Bible. Search for a mention of Santa Claus! Search for Jesus or His apostles ever decorating a Christmas tree or Jesus ever saying we should do so in honor of Him. Examine the Bible carefully for any place Jesus said to celebrate His birthday — to exchange gifts among OURSELVES. Search for the proof December 25th WAS Jesus' birthday. Search for holly wreaths, mistletoe and Christmas cards.
   They are not there!
   Why then do we find ourselves following such customs? Why are these things a part of Christianity? Where did they come from? The truth will amaze you! Do you have the courage to face it?

The Amazing Story

   How these things became a part of Christianity is a story as old as history. It is a story you need to know.
   In the dawn of civilization on this earth, men began to multiply into tribes and nations (Gen. 10:5). These people were PAGANS without the knowledge of the true God.
   Their leaders and rulers had the growing problem — as they grew into nations — of keeping their people in subjection and loyal to the state. The standard pagan methods of penalty and punishment were not enough to hold down lawlessness and rebellion. A greater and more powerful tool was needed to control the masses. The tool of RELIGION!
   Nimrod became the first such ruler to use this tool. He taught his people that their happiness, their welfare, and their eternal destiny was not in the hands of man but in the hands of the SUN-GOD and that HE was the incarnation of that god. He introduced a "new thing" to his people — superstition and FEAR! No longer was there just a fear of a human ruler with only human powers — but now superstition and FEAR of an ALL-POWERFUL GOD who could see and detect all crime and rebellion and one who could exact retribution without detection.
   What a powerful tool this became! Ridership through RELIGION!
   Beyond the fear and superstition another concept. emerged — the WONDERFUL, the appealing and the sensuous — the PAGAN FESTIVALS in honor of that god! Festivals fraught with the fable of mystery and delight; festivals which gave the people all the pleasures and delights that appealed to the human appetite.
   As the SUN — their god — dipped lower and lower in the sky and winter approached, it appeared each year to these pagans (as taught by their god-leader) that their god was forsaking them. As the winter solstice of the sun approached, the sun slowed in its retreat, then stopped, and began to return.
   After a few days, it was evident the SUN was returning. The people became wild with rejoicing. By the time the date equivalent to our December 25th came, it was positive and a great celebration or festival began. It was called the BRUMALIA, birthday, or rebirth of the SUN — their god.
   As this religious holiday evolved among the pagans, the fir tree emerged as a symbol of that god.
   When Nimrod was killed, Semiramis, his wife, perpetuated his religion and gave added impetus to it. She claimed a fully grown-tall fir tree sprang up overnight from an old dead stump symbolizing the reincarnation of her dead husband Nimrod.
   It was at this time the people were taught the custom of worshipping the Christmas tree. They decorated it with round ornaments symbolizing the fertility their SUN-GOD gave them — pictured as a round EGG — the symbol of reproductive fertility.
   The people were taught that on each December 25th, Nimrod would visit their decorated tree and leave gifts upon it for them. This is the true origin of "Santa Claus" — St. Nicholas or NIMROD! Indeed the term "Santa" was a common name for NIMROD in Asia Minor (see Lempriere's Classical Dictionary).
   What a delight this holiday became in the ancient pagan world. It was looked forward to anxiously and with great anticipation — just as Christmas is today. The whole scheme was that not only would people serve a god and a ruler they feared, but also they would be loyal to one who provided such blessings and physical pleasures. To be disloyal or unfaithful to their god and leader who not only held the supreme authority over their lives, but who also gave them the benefits of such delightful festivals—was unthinkable. It became the most effective tool to rule the people.
   The whole documented story from history is available to you. Read Mr. Armstrong's shocking and eye-opening free booklet "The Plain Truth About CHRISTMAS." YOU Win be amazed!

Proof from Historians

   From the pages of history comes graphic proof of how states and rulers took advantage of this tool of fable, superstition and fear to keep their people in subjection.
   Note this striking quotation from STRABO, a geographer and writer of the first century B.C.
   "The poets were by no means the first to avail themselves of mynis.
   STATES and LAWGIVERS had taken advantage of them LONG BEFORE, having observed the constitutional biasness of mankind. Man is eager after knowledge, and the love of legend is but the prelude thereto. This is why children begin to listen to fables and are acquainted with them before any other kind of knowledge...."
   Notice how these ancient rulers knew the use of fantastic fable in capturing the minds of the young. Children today learn of Santa Claus and the delights of Christmas before they learn to read and write.
   Strabo continues: "But the MARVELOUS, which is capable of exciting FEAR as well as pleasure, influences not childhood only, but age as well. As we relate to children pleasing tales to incite them to any course of action, and frightful ones to deter them.... So numbers of our citizens are incited to deeds of virtue by the beauties of FABLE."
   Just as today, the ancient peoples were enticed into loyalty to a concept, through invented FABLE and delightful fantasy.
   Notice the rest of this striking quotation: "The great mass of... COMMON PEOPLE, cannot be induced by mere force of reason to devote themselves to piety, virtue and honesty; SUPERSTITION must therefore be employed, and EVEN THIS is insufficient without the aid of the MARVELOUS and the TERRIBLE. For what are the Thunderbolts (of Jupiter), the Aegin (of Minerva), the Trident (of Neptune), the Torches, the Dragons, the Barbed Thyrses, the Arm of the Gods, and ALL the paraphernalia of antique theology but FABLES employed by the FOUNDERS OF STATES."
   Even ancient historians and geographers like Strabo, KNEW that these customs were purely FANTASTIC MYTH to capture the minds of the people.
   Another amazing quotation from history graphically illustrates how the ancient rulers of state INVENTED religious FABLE to keep the masses in line.
   The writer is Polybius, a Greek historian also of the first century B.C. who recognized these same forces at work in the Roman Empire.
   "But among all the useful institutions that demonstrate the superior excellence of the Roman government, the most considerable perhaps is the opinion which the people are taught to hold concerning the gods... I mean, SUPERSTITION, which is impressed with all its TERRORS; and influences both the PRIVATE actions of the citizens, and also the public administration of the state, in a degree that can scarcely be exceeded. This may appear astonishing to many. To me it is evident that this contrivance was at first adopted for the sake of the multitude (the common people). For if it were possible that a state could be composed of wise men only, THERE WOULD BE NO NEED PERHAPS OF ANY SUCH INVENTION. But as the peoples universally are fickle and inconstant, filled with irregular desires, precipitate in their passions and prone to violence; there is no way to restrain them, BUT BY THE DREAD OF THINGS UNSEEN, and by the PAGEANTRY of TERRIFYING FICTION. The ancients therefore acted not absurdly, nor without good reason, when they INVENTED the notion concerning the GODS.... (Book VI. 55, 56. The quote is from Hampton's translation, Vol. II, pp. 405, 406)
   Thus the true source of Christmas and other religious myth is revealed. It was NEVER true. It was never a part of the TRUE worship of the true God. It was invented as a tool in the hands of ambitious leaders to ensnare their people and to capture their minds by fear and superstition!

How These Customs Became Christian

   But how did these customs find their way into Christianity? The story will again amaze you!
   When the Roman Empire began to expand and rule the world, it inculcated all the pagan practices of the peoples it conquered. All the pagan gods of the subjugated peoples were brought to ROME! Rome became the religious capital of the world with its pantheon of pagan GODS!
   So, at the time of Christ and in the days of the apostles, these same pagan festivals were being observed in the Roman Empire.
   From December 17th to the 22nd, the Saturnalia was celebrated with all governmental offices and schools closed. Then on December 25th, the ancient Brumalia was celebrated in honor of the birthday of the Sun-god — just as it had been done for thousands of years before.
   Greeting cards were traded, gifts were exchanged — there was feasting and celebrating beginning on the "eve" before — just like our "Christmas Eve" today. But Jesus Christ was not the central figure of this festival. It was again the ancient pagan Sun-god. (See 4000 Years of Christmas by Earl Wendell)
   As true Christianity began to spread, false pagan teachers began to emerge. They taught a counterfeit Christianity which blended the truth of God with pagan fables which were so popular in the Roman world — following the age-old practice of absorbing all religions.
   The Apostle Paul — nearing the end of his "good fight" — warns Timothy of this very thing. Notice it: "For the time will come when they will not endure sound doctrine; but after their own LUSTS (desire for pleasure) shall they heap to themselves teachers, having itching ears; and they shall TURN AWAY their ears from the truth and shall be turned UNTO FABLES" (II Tim. 4: 3-4).
   Some of the teachers of the pagan religions of Rome, greedy for power and recognition, began to see the value of the simplicity of Jesus' message. It had a Champion — the Messiah — who died for the people. It had the appeal of simple faith, the promise of eternal life. It had the overwhelming warmth of love and mercy. AND, the people were "going for it."
   These pagan religious leaders knew their own sensual and alluring festivals were also popular and attractive to the people. They saw that an amalgam of the two concepts would become an all-powerful tool.
   Hence they became associated with the activities of the true apostles. They began to preach Christ on their own, but a different message. A message that enabled the people not only to have the promises that Jesus brought, but ALSO to continue their former festivals. They even began to teach among the Christians that those who didn't believe in these customs — their brand of Christianity — were heretics and began to put them out of the church.
   Such an incident is recorded for us in III John: "I wrote unto the church: but Diotrephes, who loveth to have the preeminence among them, receiveth us not. Wherefore, if I come, I will remember his deeds which he doeth, prating against us with malicious words: and not content therewith, neither doth he himself receive the brethren, and forbiddeth them that would, and casteth them out of the church" (verses 9-10).

Hybrid Christianity Grows

   Soon this hybrid religion — a mixture of Christianity and paganism — began to flourish throughout the Roman Empire. Although many "Christians" were martyred and the old religion of pagan emperor worship of Rome fought for survival, this new hybrid religion finally conquered.
   In the fourth century A.D. this false "Christianity" was elevated to equal status with paganism. The door was now open and thousands of former pagans became nominal Christians, bringing with them the whole scope of pagan customs into the so-called "Christian Church."
   Notice this historic conflict as recorded by the Schaff-Herzog Encyclopedia: "How much the date of the festival (Christmas) depended upon the Pagan Brumalia (Dec. 25) following the Saturnalia (Dec. 17-24), and celebrating the shortest day of the year and the 'new sun'... cannot be accurately determined. The pagan Saturnalia and Brumalia were too deeply entrenched in popular custom to be set aside by Christian influence... The pagan festival with its riot and merrymaking was so popular that Christians were glad of an excuse to continue its celebration with little change in spirit and in manner. Christian preachers of the West and the Near East protested against the unseemly frivolity with which Christ's birthday was celebrated, while Christians of Mesopotamia accused their Western brethren of idolatry and sun-worship for adopting as Christian this pagan festival." But adopt it they did — nonetheless.
   Can there be any doubt as to the real origin of Christmas? Christmas originated with the pagans as an admitted lie and myth foisted off on the people to control their minds. It became a part of Christianity in the same way — through ambitious men seeking power and recognition. They used its delightful myth to lure and attract the people and bring them into their church!

But What Does God Say?

   Most theologians admit the pagan origin of Christmas, but make the same mistake the early church leaders made. They ASSUME it DOESN'T MATTER if they take pagan holidays and Christianize them so long as they keep the name of Christ.
   But what does God say about this? Can WE worship God this way? Notice His answer! "Take heed to thyself that thou be not SNARED by following them (pagan peoples)... and that thou enquire NOT after their gods, saying, How did these nations serve their gods? even so will I do likewise. Thou SHALT NOT DO SO unto the Lord thy God: for every abomination to the Lord, WHICH HE HATETH, have they done unto their gods..." (Deut. 12:30-31).
   God gives us in His Word — the Bible — the WAY to worship Him. God says we must worship Him in spirit and in TRUTH (John 4:24) — NOT through the invented lies of PAGAN peoples.

Additional Condemnation

   Now notice a specific condemnation of a practice so dear to the Christmas season. "Thus saith the Lord, LEARN NOT THE WAY OF THE HEATHEN, and be not dismayed at the signs of heaven... for the customs of the people are vain: for one cutteth a TREE out of the forest, the work of the hands of the workman, with the ax. They deck it with silver and with gold; they fasten it with nails and with hammers, that it move not" (Jer. 10:2-4).
   Does that sound familiar? YES IT DOES. But it is the CONDEMNATION by the Almighty God of a practice we have so long called Christian. Could anything be plainer? Does God enjoy our Christmas season and smile upon it when He sees us reveling in the very pagan practices He condemns? Is Christmas really Christian?

Christmas Gifts?

   Many will say, "Surely giving gifts at the Christmas season is biblical.
   Didn't the wise men bring gifts to CHRIST?" But there is your answer! They gave them to CHRIST — the MESSIAH — KING of the Jews, not to each other. These Magi or wise men had come to honor Him who had been born KING of the Jews (Matt. 2:2).
   It was long a custom of the East never to come into the presence of a king without a gift. And, here was not only the King of the Jews, but one who was to become King of kings and Lord of lords.
   What an open insult it would have been had these wise men exchanged gifts among THEMSELVES rather than presenting them to the King — the Lord Jesus Christ.
   Yet we blindly follow the same vain custom today — exchanging gifts among OURSELVES while ignoring Christ the Messiah in the very festival that is SUPPOSED to honor Him, yet does not.

Christ's Birthday Not December 25

   When was Jesus born?
   The Bible plainly does not reveal His birthday. Yet, it is clear from the Bible that it WAS NOT on December 25th.
   Jesus wasn't born in the winter at all! The Bible makes that clear: "There were shepherds abiding in the FIELD, keeping watch over their sheep by night" (Luke 2:8).
   Beginning in October and November the winter rains and cold weather began in Palestine. Up to that time the flocks were in the open fields, but when the rainy season began, the shepherds could no longer abide in the field. This is a plain fact, as many Bible authorities admit.
   The plain truth is — NO ONE knows the exact date of Jesus' birth. Jesus' message of salvation points us not to His birth, but, to His death for our sins—at the 'Passover season — and His resurrection as our Savior, High Priest and soon-coming KING.
   If you would like a startling, factual account of the historic proof that Jesus wasn't born on December 25th, write for our eye-opening article "When Was Jesus Born?"
   The date—December 25th — therefore, has only one significance: it was the day selected to honor the rebirth of the false PAGAN SUN-GOD, but later, falsely claimed to be Christ's birthday by the false teachers who combined pagan lies with true Christianity. Can we honor Jesus by claiming He was born on this day?

Other Pagan Christmas Symbols

   The Christmas wreath — woven of holly vines and berries simulates the round sun and was a symbol woven during the days preceding the Brumalia as a Symbol of the SUN-GOD. The mistletoe was a similar token used in the old pagan practice of kissing beneath it as part of the revelry and celebration associated with this festival.
   Yes, even the Yule log and the practice of lighting fires and candles were part of the PAGAN festival and used to entice the waning sun back again.

What Will You Do?

   Already the decorations are up. The whole land is full of Christmas. Everywhere gaily lit trees, Christmas wreaths, Christmas candles, greeting cards and Santas. Shoppers are scurrying for gifts for all. The Christmas fable will be told and retold — all in the name of Christianity.
   Yet, the true Christ, whose name this festival has stolen, is truly left out in the cold as we FORGET Him in exchanging gifts among ourselves and reveling amid the pagan sights and symbols around us.
   What will YOU do this year? Will you honor the gods of the heathen under the guise of Christianity or will you do as Almighty God says: "COME OUT OF HER (Babylon — the origin and seat of Paganism) MY PEOPLE, that you be not partakers of her SINS, and that you receive not of her PLAGUES" (Rev. 18: 4).

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Plain Truth MagazineDecember 1963Vol XXVIII, No.12
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