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Christmas and the Christian
By Pastor Ralph Ovadal, December 24, 2004

"But in vain they do worship me, teaching for doctrines the commandments of men."
Matthew 15:9

Once again, 'tis the season. Centuries ago, without any mandate from the Scriptures and consequently no example from the apostolic church, the Roman Catholic Church instituted a "holy day" known as the Mass of Christ. Or do you say Christmas? The advent of the day which ostensibly celebrates the advent of Christ had everything to do with the Roman church "Christianizing" paganism or paganizing Christianity. Whichever way one wants to slice it, the end result is a net gain for the devil.

The high holy day called Christmas which is celebrated throughout "Christendom" is not just pagan in its origins but is also steeped through and through with pagan traditions covered over with very thin Christian wrapping paper. Many Christians are uneasy about the crass commercialism and greed associated with a day which they hold to be holy. Unfortunately, few of them have any scruples about designating and celebrating as biblical and holy something that is profane in origin, substance, and practice. Tragically, most Christians are not getting sound biblical guidance from the pastors and elders who should be on the forefront of turning God's people away from this pagan holiday instead of being at the front of the line at the check-out counter, laden down with Christmas gifts.

But how should Christians deal with this day which is so tightly woven into the fabric of their lives? The fact that so few even see that as a question suggests a love of the world (1 John 2:15) and a lack of spiritual maturity. I believe that the Bible gives us clear guidance with regard to the subject of this discussion, the celebration of Christmas as a day holy unto the Lord. It is one thing for individual families to establish traditions such as family reunions, birthday parties, vacations, and special days of fellowship. While Christians should seek to honor the Lord and obey him every second of every day, the events just mentioned are things which belong to the day-to-day warp and woof of life. They are not special days consecrated as holy unto the Lord by His Church. It is another thing altogether for the Church of Jesus Christ to sanctify a day as having special spiritual significance to be religiously observed as holy unto the Lord. To exercise such authority without biblical justification and direction is to indulge in "teaching for doctrines the commandments of men" (Matthew 15:9, Mark 7:7). The Pharisees were good at doing that, as is the Roman Catholic Church. Those two examples alone should drive home the danger of falling into man-centered, religious traditions in the name of promoting true religion. Certainly, both groups mentioned perfected the finer points of annexing man-made traditions to God's Word and then promoting those traditions as holy, necessary, and beneficial. Doubtless, we must be ever on-guard against doing the same thing ourselves, even in small things.

Christmas is a man-made tradition, and no small one, which is seen as holy by most of God's people. Further, Christmas was pagan from the start, thus Christians never should have yoked with unbelievers to commemorate, promulgate, and promote it (2 Corinthians 6:14-18, Ephesians 5:11). It is a serious thing to designate a specific day as holy unto the Lord. It is more serious yet to take a pagan holiday and "Christianize" it by proclaiming it as a holy day to be honored as such by God's people. If we are going to set aside, before the whole world, special days as holy unto the Lord, is it not obedient, reasonable, and right to only do so based on instruction from the Word of God rather than to docilely adopt a holy day designated as such by that unholy, counterfeit, Roman church? I believe that it is clear from God's Word that Christians are to honor the Lord's Day as a holy day of rest when His people assemble together for teaching, preaching, worship, prayer, and fellowship. In addition, there is certainly solid scriptural foundation and example for the observance of special days of thanksgiving as well as days of fasting and prayer. But there is absolutely no justification, instruction, or example in God's Word for setting up an annual holy day as the day of Christ's birth. It is a dangerous thing for man to unilaterally erect such a day and then declare it holy and in effect until the return of Christ! There is no hint in the Bible that the apostolic church did such a thing. There is no license for the present-day church to do so.

We do not know when Christ was born, but we certainly know why the Romanists chose December 25 as His "birthday" given that their friends celebrate the solstice at the same time. The Christmas season itself is birthed and steeped in pagan history, symbols, and rituals. The name of the holiday is Roman Catholic and honors a blasphemous Catholic ritual. Is it not possible—and I think more than possible—that flippantly using the name of the Son of God in such a way is a violation of the third commandment? Certainly, we are not talking here of open cursing or blasphemy. But the command against the "vain" use of God's name includes the light, disrespectful use of His name. We would perhaps do well to reconsider whether it is right to annex the name of our Lord to a word describing a pagan ritual which blasphemes Him in the most awful way and to then use the word to identify a day ostensibly set apart for His honor and glory! One would think that even if true Christians felt obligated and justified to commemorate the Son of Man's birth on a special day, they would at least do it on a different day bearing a different name!

But again, such considerations bring into sharp focus how tradition-bound, instead of Bible-bound, many Christians have become. What a sad situation it is when God's people cannot find the strength to break free from something so beneficial to the devil's cause! Christmas is one of the greatest things which ever happened to the Roman Church. It is the pope's time to shine in his usurped office as supreme head of the universal "Christian" church. Christmas is a propaganda bonanza for the ecumenical movement, to say the least. Christian churches openly celebrating it unwittingly play the part of the Vatican II separated brethren and testify to the world that the Roman Catholic Church is the true Christian church. Just think for one moment what a testimony it would be, what a distinction it would draw, what a contrast it would provide if Christ's true Church refused to celebrate the Roman whore's holiday with her.

But I hear shrill protests that Christmas is a great time to share the gospel with unbelievers. Dear brothers and sisters, now is the day of salvation (2 Corinthians 6:2). Every day is the day to share the gospel with the world, and it is never the right day to trust in craftiness rather than the Holy Ghost to save souls. Christmas is rather the most heart-hardening time of the year when multitudes of pagans become "Christians" for a day, and most go home feeling justified that they have honored their Creator by sitting in church for a brief time or suffering a Christian relative to say grace before the Christmas feast. 

Let us remember, Christmas is not the Fourth of July or Veterans Day. Christians hold Christmas to be a day set apart and holy unto the Lord—which brings me to another point. I have spoken very briefly on the reality that there is no biblical foundation for a holy day called Christmas and that its foundation—root and branch—is pagan. I have touched on the benefit which Christmas provides for the devil's false church and the dangerous presuppositions which Christians celebrating it plant in the minds of unbelievers. Now, for just a moment, I want to address Christian parents. You may have taken a "stand" on Christmas in your home. Santa has been exposed, the mistletoe is gone, and perhaps even the Christmas tree which would have graced your home has been pardoned. You have given a lofty speech to your children about how Christmas is the day Jesus was born; and as for you and your house, you will glorify and honor the Savior because that is what Christmas is really all about. Naturally, unless your pastor preaches otherwise, children will buy the story that pagans have paganized a Christian holiday even though the reality is the reverse. Indeed, if neither pastor nor parents will tell children the truth about Christmas, the little ones who are to be brought up "in the nurture and admonition of the Lord" (Ephesians 6:4) will be more than happy to believe that it is imperative that Christians keep Christ in Christ-mass and that pagans are trying to steal our high holy day which we reverently observe as befits a holy people on such a holy day.

So as the big day approaches, your whole family really zeros in on the birth of Jesus and its significance—that is, when they are not thinking about frantic Christmas preparations, shopping, and what gifts they are going to receive. But of course, the gift giving and receiving is a way to show our love for Christ, as if that makes any sense! Surely it has nothing to do with personal gratification or pagan tradition, and surely it does nothing to take the children's minds and hearts off of Jesus on the high holy day which celebrates His "birthday."

In reality, Christmas creates little hypocrites who are taught hollow, superficial, man-centered religion. They are trained to use holy things to achieve selfish ends. The children are taught that it is permissible, even desirable to pretend Christmas is an annual holy day, one of two holiest days of the year, to worship, praise, and focus on the Lord. They are told that it is a day set aside to reverently celebrate the birth of the Messiah. They are verbally instructed to dwell on this blessed, holy event. But practically speaking, children are taught to eagerly, greedily look forward to gifts being showered on them that holy day. They are discipled in a shallow, man-centered, syncretistic Christianity by grownups who boldly claim to set aside a holy day—yea, even a season—to honor the Lord Jesus Christ but, when all is said and done, spend the vast majority of that special time pleasuring themselves. Children are taught that it is right and good to join the world in setting aside a day as special and holy when the Bible does neither. They are taught to compartmentalize their faith and are discipled in the fine art of spiritual paper hanging. A structurally unsound house on a foundation of sand cannot be made sound by covering its walls with pretty wallpaper. An unbiblical, artificial holy day instituted by pagans steeped in pagan traditions cannot be made holy by singing some hymns and reciting some prayers amidst an orgy of feasting; fussing; dreaming; shopping; gift giving; socializing; and in all too many cases, football games. In reality, such worship of God interjected into the worldly, pagan holiday known as Christmas is akin to putting a golden calf alongside the altar of God. It is like dressing up a hog's snout with a gold ring. The nature of the beast remains the same, even if one focuses on the beauty of the ring.

It is dangerous to train children to indulge in the sort of spiritual sophistry in which Christian adults engage to justify Christmas. It is wrong to teach them to strike pious poses for a designated time on Christmas Eve or Christmas Day and pretend that they are focusing on Jesus when all the while their minds are given to thoughts of presents and partying. In addition to the harm this does to children, it cannot help but offend the Lord. "I am the LORD: that is my name: and my glory will I not give to another, neither my praise to graven images" (Isaiah 42:8). The Scriptures teach us that "God is a Spirit: and they that worship him must worship him in spirit and in truth" (John 4:24). Celebrating Christmas is hardly the way to teach children to worship God in spirit and in truth. It certainly is a good way to teach them to put man-made traditions and emotionally driven desires ahead of the Word of God.

Christmas is a holiday for popes and pagans. Why do Christian churches treat that day as holy unto the Lord? Certainly in many cases, it is because the celebrants have not been taught well on the issue. But in the case of the fully informed, is it not possible that, when push comes to shove, Christians do not want to give up something which so pleasured their flesh as children and continues to do so now that they are adults? Never mind that we can give each other presents other times without the hollow, hypocritical pretense of doing so to honor the Lord Jesus Christ. Forget about the reality that we can plan warm family gatherings and special church events for other times for other reasons which do honor God and bless His people. Most Christians, even after hearing the truth about Christmas, refuse to let go of that day. Most cannot even conceive of making such a "sacrifice."

The issue seems to boil down to this: most Christians love Christ-mass. They just cannot loose their grip on a tradition which they acquired as children and have nurtured as adults. I am talking about those Christians who have been told the truth but have turned away from it and back to the Christmas tradition handed down to them from their parents. I do not deny that this Christmas issue is not an easy one in every sense; and it has its nuances, no doubt. I do not question the sincerity in the hearts of all Christians who celebrate Christmas. This is not a question of sincerity but of seeking to honor the Lord in all things and live by every word which proceeds from Him (Matthew 4:4). I do not expect our elderly parents in their last days to necessarily see the light on this issue; and I, for one, am not going to make it my goal to pound on them until they do! But I do believe that it is incumbent upon us, the next two generations of adults, to turn this situation around, for the glory of God and the good of His people. To know the good we ought to do in this situation and not do it is simply sin (James 4:17).

So what is a Christian to do about "Christmas"? Surely Christ's churches should—and easily could—stop observing Christmas as a body. I believe that most important step should not be difficult and should be immediate. Certainly those Christian families who are convicted that Christmas does not honor Christ or advance His cause should cease to celebrate that day in their own homes. Those two steps are relatively easy and painless; but of course, there are difficult family situations which exist outside the home during the Christmas season. The aged parents of whom I previously spoke is one example. I am not saying that we should abandon them, crush their spirits, confuse their minds, or break their hearts at this time of year. Depending on the nature of the gathering and what takes place, I personally would not speak against grown children for going to see their parents on "Christmas" when invited. Likewise, I would not counsel any Christian who has had a change of mind concerning that day to suddenly turn his back on an elderly parent, leaving him or her bewildered and alone on a day which had always been such a special family time.

I also do not believe this question of Christmas is one which should provoke bitterness and division among God's people any more than it should stir up contempt or pride. We surely should not use it as the measure of a brother's righteousness or commitment to Christ. The celebration of Christmas by a Christian is not equivalent to attending a Catholic mass or committing those sins that the law of God written on the heart condemns and the Word of God specifically prohibits. A sincere Christian striving to honor Christ on Christmas, not understanding the things previously written of here, is not a criminal to be shunned but rather a brother to be gently, patiently enlightened. The Christmas season should not be seen as a time to mock those sincere Christians who are clinging to that holiday anymore than it is the time to try to convince unbelievers regarding matters not yet seen by many believers.

But brethren, is it not time to break from the pagan tradition of Christmas handed down from our ancestors, even though it is a pleasant tradition? Is it not time that a generation be raised up unpolluted by that tradition and more than "content to let the world go by" in that regard? If Christian parents will do what is right now, even those difficult family situations which I mentioned earlier will someday be a thing of the past with the passing of that oldest of the generations among us. Quite frankly, I believe that it is important for parents to deal with this issue now because, for all the reasons I previously listed, the greatest spiritual damage done to individuals by Christmas is done to children.

I would encourage those brothers and sisters who are still clinging to Christmas to consider what Paul wrote to the Thessalonians: "Furthermore then we beseech you, brethren, and exhort you by the Lord Jesus, that as ye have received of us how ye ought to walk and to please God, so ye would abound more and more" (1 Thessalonians 4:1). Please reconsider this important issue of Christmas. Then ask yourself, Does it please the Lord that His Church joins with the world and the false church in celebrating "the mass of Christ" as holy unto Him?

"I hold it to be one of the greatest absurdities under heaven to think that there is any religion in keeping Christmas day . . . the observance of it is purely of Popish origin." Charles Haddon Spurgeon

"The celebration of Christmas has sometimes been opposed as pagan by religious leaders. New England Puritans considered Christmas 'popish' idolatry, and the Massachusetts General Court in 1659 passed an act against its celebration, though the law was repealed in 1681." "Christmas," Dictionary of Christianity in America, 1990

". . . The suppression of the Mass during the Reformation led to a sharp change in the observance of Christmas in some countries. In England, the Puritans condemned the celebration and, from 1642 to 1652, issued a series of ordinances forbidding all church services and festivities. This feeling was carried over to America by the Pilgrims and it was not until the nineteenth-century wave of Irish and German immigration that enthusiasm for the feast began to spread throughout the country." "Christmas," Collier's Encyclopedia, Vol. 6, 1992

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This web site contains references to Wisconsin Christians United (WCU). That ministry, which was founded by Ralph Ovadal in 1993, has been included as a ministry of Pilgrims Covenant Church since April 1, 2005. 

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