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So many find so much joy in the sights and sounds of December—especially, the arrival of Christmas. Along with green and red decorations, signs and posters featuring a certain jolly, red-robed gentleman, and music you just can not get out of your head, comes the perennial question: Is Christmas a pagan holiday?
Most don’t even care about the answer, but for those who take biblical faith seriously, it is a serious question—and a question in need of an answer. And we will answer that question here on Tomorrow’s World, straight from the pages of your Bible, right now.
Greetings, and welcome to Tomorrow’s World where we help you make sense of your world through the pages of the Bible! Today we’re going to tackle a question that seems to arise every December: “Is Christmas a pagan holiday?”
We’ll be examining the question honestly and openly, with a desire to orient our hearts and minds according to the advice of Jesus Christ as He taught us in Matthew 6 and verse 33 to
“seek first the kingdom of God and His righteousness.”
And the question is important. How we choose to honor the Father and His Son matters. As we will see in the inspired words of Scripture, our practices have a profound effect on our relationship with God and on the character we are forming for His use and purposes.
For literally hundreds of thousands of people who consider themselves sincere Christians, the Christmas season is among the most sacred.
It is a time for calling to mind the birth of Jesus Christ, the promised Savior of the world. Many attend religious services in December, devoted to remembering popular narratives of the birth of Jesus, whose birth is ostensibly celebrated on Christmas Day itself.
And many of us have many pleasant memories associated with the Christmas season. In fact, celebrated as it is all over the world, it would be impossible for me to cover in a program such as this one ALL the many customs that individuals across the globe use to make the season special. So, permit me to focus a bit on those customs I, as an American, am more familiar with.
Our cities and even individual homes are often decorated with special reminders of the season—such as nativity scenes, branches or wreaths of holly, and Christmas trees decorated with tinsel of silver and gold. Many will have bought or personally crafted presents for their friends and family members, who will sometimes travel long distances to reunite for a few evenings, enjoy Christmas dinner together, and exchange presents and pleasantries. And many will seek to sneak a kiss from someone while catching them standing under mistletoe.
Of course, some children will be told the night before that their presents are being brought to them from the North Pole by Santa Claus, or “St. Nick,” as the adults wink to each other with a knowing eye.
In the morning, the children enjoy tearing into their presents to see what “Santa” brought them, and some families will head to religious services to hear a message related to the birth of Jesus—especially those who are concerned that commercialism is crowding out what they believe to be the real meaning of Christmas: The message that God sent His Son into the world on Christmas Day, born of the Virgin Mary to be the Savior of mankind.
There’s more that I could say, but hopefully this captures the popular spirit of the Christmas season. Yes, it is a stressful time for many. Sometimes family gatherings are a source of anxiety, and buying gifts for one another can seem a burdensome obligation—especially when the credit card bill begins to reveal the damage of our attempts at merrymaking.
However, I want to acknowledge that many joyous memories tend to be associated with Christmas and the Christmas season. I, myself, as a child and young man participated in these things. I remember the joys of receiving gifts and buying gifts for others. I don’t know if you can see it very well, but these old, blurry pictures are of me as a small child, enjoying his brand new Christmas presents.
You know, I remember seeing once, as a teenager, a small statue depicting Santa kneeling at the cradle of what was, ostensibly, the “Baby Jesus.” And I was moved—I felt at the time that it was a nice way of trying to point out what I thought was the more important aspect of the Christmas season. I’ve even played the part of Joseph once in a Christmas choral performance.
In other words, I’ve been there; I’ve done that.
I mention these things at the beginning of our discussion to highlight a crucial fact. As we tackle our question today—“Is Christmas a pagan holiday?”—we must keep in mind: None of this is relevant.