25-December-2018 by Timothy Wanjohi
'...and you shall call His name JESUS...' - Matthew 1:21
I want to take a somewhat different approach towards the same end, to what you will hear out there this Christmas in form of preaching. The reason is that my blog is just as much as it is a preaching-teaching-edifying ministry, an Apologetic platform for the Christian faith, as you have seen in my About Us. Therefore it is a major theme of my blog to make a defense of our practices. If they are credible practices, they should be able to stand against all forms of opposition, whether they come from well-meaning seekers, or whether they come from malicious folk. This is for the thinking person like I, who would not just normally let things slide. But in the same way it is for everybody, because we must be ready to give an answer to every man who asks the reason for our hope (1 Peter 3:15).
I remember the first time I discovered that Christmas was a festival that was challenged was when I was watching an episode in the TV series called The Big Bang Theory, a few years ago. In the show, Sheldon was asked by Penny if he was going to put up a Christmas tree. Sheldon replied that he would not because in the pre-Christian era, when the winter solstice was approaching and the plants died, pagans would bring evergreen bowels home, as an act of sympathetic magic, to guard the life essence of the plants until spring. This culture was later appropriated by Northern Europeans, which would eventually be called a Christmas tree. You can listen to it here:
Needless to say, that rocked my boat, especially after finding out that this man was actually saying the truth. I had genuine concerns, not about my faith, but about the festival. What was interesting to me though was that no Christian in my circles ever seemed bothered about it, and Christians of all people were celebrating Christmas as adopted from pagan cultures. In my research, by happenstance I came across Mark Fairley from the Fuel Project, who was of great help to me in reconciling context. In ‘Know Your Enemy Part 9,’ he explains the mother-child cults by addressing the topic from its origin in the birth of Taamuz and polytheism. You can listen to it here:
Many people who debunk Christianity use the argument that this faith is an adoption of the mother-child cults of paganism, which span over numerous generations before Christianity came into the scene. They mock our answers when we say that it was the Devil’s impostures that preceded the real message of Christianity about the virgin birth of Christ. At first glance, they seem to have an argument, until you go deeper and realize that they have nothing. I must say that many Christians’ faith is shuttered at this supposed evidence when it is presented, and many fear that if they asked questions, they would be faced with the inevitable choice but to convert from Christianity. As a result, many live in denial. The problem is people do not know that the answer to these aspersions is quite simple.
When we go all the way to the beginning of all mother-child cults, we meet Nimrod, Semiramis and Taamuz. Nimrod was the culprit who was behind the erection of the Tower of Babel in Genesis 11. He was the first man to build weapons after the flood of Noah. He was a great warrior. Semiramis was a prostitute who got married to Nimrod. She then had an affair and was with child but not by her husband. Upon inspection of earlier extra-biblical historical texts concerning them, the death of Nimrod is blamed on Semiramis his wife. He had threatened to expose that she had been a whore after he had found out about the affair and the pregnancy she had. She conspired to have him murdered.
After his death, she gave birth to Taamuz. She then proceeded to claim that she was impregnated by her husband Nimrod who had become a god after his death and came into her. Apparently he had become the sun and it was by its rays that she got pregnant. Consequently, her son Taamuz was deity, being the son of a god. Semiramis kept power by insisting that she was the ‘mother of god,’ the ‘queen of heaven.’ Other names she received included the ‘moon goddess’ and the ‘virgin mother.’ She is often depicted as a woman with a halo around her head, with stars in it. She continued to be worshipped as Astarte or Asherah or Ashteroth and so on so forth, in ancient Babylon. All these titles were treated as different deities. Hence, polytheism began.
Semiramis claimed that Taamuz was the seed of the woman spoken of in Genesis 3:15. Of course Genesis had not been written down yet. But it was information passed down through oral tradition. At this point you should begin to see the response we should give to claims that Christianity was an adoption of pagan religions under different names. Nothing could be further from the truth. Instead, it was the pagans whose impostures masqueraded as the woman and her seed, who were to be Mary and Christ in reality. Pagans borrowed their faith from the Christian lineage to corrupt it, and not vice versa.
Therefore, the fact as brought out in The World Book Encyclopedia that ‘the early Christians did not celebrate Jesus’ birth because they considered the celebration of anyone’s birth to be a pagan custom,’ should not worry us because it was their custom, and not an instruction given for the practice of our faith in the Scripture. We do not celebrate the birth of Jesus as unto a pagan custom. We who hold to the true Christian faith celebrate it in fact as unto against the pagan customs. Christmas was forever since the beginning of time, meant to be a Christian, and not a pagan holiday.
However, there are those whose concern is about consistency with Jewish festivals. Christmas was not instituted in the Bible we agree. The Bible does not give the date of Jesus’ birth, nor does it say that we should celebrate His birthday. According to McClintock and Strong’s Cyclopedia, ‘The observance of Christmas is not of divine appointment, nor is it of New Testament origin.’ There are many things that are not instituted in the Bible that we have no problem with. For example, we use the word ‘Trinity,’ which is not in the Bible. This does not equate to its usage being contradictory to Scripture. Likewise, the celebration of Jesus’ birthday does not have to contradict the celebration of the Jewish festivals dictated by God.
For some who would allow that we celebrate His birthday, there would still be that concern that there is no proof that Jesus was born on that date. Church leaders likely chose this date to coincide with pagan festivals held on or around the winter solstice. To this I would be in agreement, for all pagan gods were born on 25th December. Remember the point I made earlier, that they were the same gods Nimrod, Semiramis and Taamuz under different guises spread throughout many pagan cultures. The real birthday of Jesus would be sometime around September. This concern should apply, but only to Roman Catholicism. Their adoption of 25th December as Jesus’ day of birth was a compromise between the Church and pagan religions. But we Protestants do not observe it in the way Roman Catholicism instituted it, even if we hold to the same dates.
According to The Encyclopedia Americana, ‘Saturnalia, a Roman feast celebrated in mid-December, provided the model for many of the merry-making customs of Christmas. From this celebration, for example, were derived the elaborate feasting, the giving of gifts, and the burning of candles.’ My concern would not be the exchange of gifts. It is no more paganism than it is the nature of a celebration that merry-making is made. Even in other celebration which are not necessarily birthday celebrations, this is a common occurrence. The only issue would be the loss of focus from the main goal. We celebrate Christmas not so much because we are to exchange gifts, but more-so to receive the Gift of God.
According to The Encyclopedia of Religion, Europeans decorated their homes with lights and evergreens of all kinds to celebrate the winter solstice and to combat evil spirits. The similitude between the observance of many lighted homes and places does not have to mean that lights are a pagan invention all the same. In (Part 1: Does God Exist), I quoted Dr. Jeffrey Khoo’s anthropological reason for the argument that there is a God. Man has vestiges of godliness even in his fallen state. If he has the idea that God is light and evil is dark, archetypally he is showing the understanding that there is a standard of good and bad, and there is a Moral Being who exposes evil. The idea is a very powerful idea, for all that is required for darkness to flee is light. Jesus has been depicted as the Light so many times by John and the Scriptures. The fact that pagans do it does not mean that light belongs to paganism. We can use light any time we want to, including on this date.
Tree worship was common among the pagan Europeans. The practice remained in a syncretistic form after their conversion to the Christian faith. According to Encyclopædia Britannica, they ‘placed a Yule tree at an entrance or inside the house in the midwinter holidays.’ If an argument could be made for the opposing view, I personally hold this to be the most potent. First, the idea of Groves comes in here as a representation of ‘high places,’ which the Scriptures sternly warn against. Second, this was a corruption of the original message from Adam and Eve in the Garden of Eden, concerning the tree of life, which the Book of Revelation identifies as the life-giving source of eternity (Revelation 22:1-3). But it was not the tree but the Throne of God and the Lamb in it that gives life therefore there is no excuse for it. Furthermore, God explicitly commanded not to make any graven images in heaven or on earth to worship them (Exodus 20:4). With that said, this adoption could cease, but not necessarily the festival itself. Do not forget that Jesus was actually born.
While the pagan representations were borne of false narratives, the birth of Jesus was declared by an actual angel sent of God. Gabriel went to Mary and proved that all the efforts of the pagans throughout history, to thwart the plans of God, were insufficient. He declared to her the Good News that she would be with child of the Holy Spirit, being a virgin. While it was superstition in pagan culture, in Christianity it was reality. Therefore when people walk up to me and ask why you are confident of your practice, similar as it may be to the dark religions of the world? Can’t you see that this was just plagiarism of faiths? What about Mithra and all the rest? Satan knew what God was intending to do, and brought about anti-Christs. God had not placed it as a secret. Therefore Satan had all the time to scheme. The only secret God has placed concerning this present world is the ‘Rapture’ as Dr. Chuck Missler would put it in Virgin Birth in Space.
The word Anti-Christ means another or against Christ. It was derived from the Latin equivalent ‘Vicar,’ meaning another. In all cases it meant both. These were false fulfillments from the start. Nimrod’s trio was never deity. But in Christ, it actually really happened! That is the difference! He came as a fulfilment of prophecy from numerous Old Testament prophets and not from pagan adoptions, and fulfilled over three hundred prophecies in one man. Our faith is based on Scripture from the beginning of time, not from inventions of Roman Catholicism in 312 AD, under Constantine.
‘I shall see Him, but not now: I shall behold Him, but not nigh: there shall come a Star out of Jacob, and a Sceptre shall rise out of Israel…’ (Numbers 24:17). 'Therefore the Lord Himself shall give you a sign; Behold, a virgin shall conceive, and bear a son, and shall call his name Immanuel' (Isaiah 7:14). ‘For unto us a child is born, unto us a Son is given: and the government shall be upon His shoulder: and His name shall be called Wonderful, Counsellor, The mighty God, The everlasting Father, The Prince of Peace’ (Isaiah 9:6). ‘But thou, Bethlehem Ephratah, though thou be little among the thousands of Judah, yet out of thee shall He come forth unto Me that is to be Ruler in Israel; whose goings forth have been from of old, from everlasting’ (Micah 5:2). When Gabriel was introducing Him, he said to Mary that He shall be called JESUS (Luke 2:31), the Son of God (Luke 2:35). He said to Joseph that He would be called JESUS, for He shall save His people from their sins (Matthew 1:21).
‘And there were in the same country shepherds abiding in the field, keeping watch over their flock by night. And, lo, the angel of the Lord came upon them, and the glory of the Lord shone round about them: and they were sore afraid. And the angel said unto them, Fear not: for, behold, I bring you good tidings of great joy, which shall be to all people. For unto you is born this day in the city of David a Saviour, which is Christ the Lord. And this shall be a sign unto you; Ye shall find the babe wrapped in swaddling clothes, lying in a manger. And suddenly there was with the angel a multitude of the heavenly host praising God, and saying, Glory to God in the highest, and on earth peace, good will toward men. And it came to pass, as the angels were gone away from them into heaven, the shepherds said one to another, Let us now go even unto Bethlehem, and see this thing which is come to pass, which the Lord hath made known unto us. And they came with haste, and found Mary, and Joseph, and the babe lying in a manger. And when they had seen it, they made known abroad the saying which was told them concerning this child. And all they that heard it wondered at those things which were told them by the shepherds. But Mary kept all these things, and pondered them in her heart. And the shepherds returned, glorifying and praising God for all the things that they had heard and seen, as it was told unto them’ (Luke 2:8-20).
‘Now when Jesus was born in Bethlehem of Judaea in the days of Herod the king, behold, there came wise men from the east to Jerusalem, Saying, Where is He that is born King of the Jews? For we have seen His star in the east, and are come to worship Him’ (Matthew 2:1-2). We accept His birth not as a myth but as a fact of history. There is cause for celebration as we look toward the past and toward the future! All hail!
John MacArthur in The Mystery of Christmas said referring to texts of Scripture:
“The first time He came the stars marked His arrival. The next time He comes all the stars in heaven will fall. First time He came the shepherds and wise men brought Him honour. Next time He comes He will bring honour to His people. First time He came there was no room enough for Him in the Inn. Next time He comes His glory will not be able to be contained in the universe. First time He came only a few saw Him at His arrival. The next time He comes everyone will see Him. First time He came as a lamb. The next time He comes He will come as a lion.”
To God be the glory.
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