© 1998, 2006 by T.L. Hubeart Jr.
Here are two responses I wrote in answer to e-mails people sent me about my essay "Is Christmas Christian?"
I received a letter challenging my essay and asserting that Christmas is indeed a pagan and "evil" holiday. The following response shows how I answered the letter writer's concerns. I have added some formatting and emphasis here to enhance readability.
Re: Is Christmas Christian?
Date: 98-12-13 18:17:32 EST
To: [screen name omitted here to protect recipient's privacy]
In a message dated 98-12-13 10:33:25 EST, ------------ writes:
I call you brother because I am assuming that you are a Christian as well as scholar. However I have somewhat against the argument of which you support as being Christian. First of all, the Bible is unclear as to the birth of our Lord. Lets just stick with this issue. And if the birth of Christ was to be celebrated surely the Lord would have given us an ordinance as he did with Baptism and Communion. The Communion which symbolizes his death (I Corinthians 11:26) and Baptism which symbolizes the sinner enjoining himself to the death, burial, and resurrection (Romans 6:3-5) of Christ are the only ordinances that the Christian has to observe.
Dear Brother (for I will make the same assumption on your behalf you make on mine):
Thank you for your letter. I cannot accept the designation "scholar," but I hope I can claim to be a reasonably well-informed layman.
I find it as difficult to agree with your arguments as you seem to find it to agree with mine. You say, "the Bible is unclear as to the birth of our Lord." I have no dispute with this, so to "stick with this issue" does not advance the discussion very much. You write that "if the birth of Christ was to be celebrated surely the Lord would have given us an ordinance as he did with Baptism and Communion," which seems a gratuitous assumption, in my opinion. One could make the same kind of arguments against church organs, Sunday bulletins, and even pews ("if Christians were to sit in cushioned pews on Sunday morning, surely the Lord would have told us").
One could even point to the fact that we do not necessarily follow even the "ordinances" the way the apostles did; baptism itself has been divided between the "sprinklers" and "dippers" for centuries, with both sides making good arguments against each other. (For example, say the "sprinklers" [John Wesley for one], where would you find enough water in 1st century Palestine to immerse all at once the multitudes of believers baptized in the Book of Acts? Then again, as the "dippers" say, how do you adequately symbolize death, burial, and resurrection with a few drops of water on the baptized person's head?) And the scripture leaves it plain that the Lord's Supper as Paul knew it involved a full meal (cf. 1 Cor. 11:21-22: "For in eating every one taketh before other his own supper: and one is hungry, and another is drunken. What? have ye not houses to eat and to drink in? or despise ye the church of God, and shame them that have not? . . ."), but certainly not today in any church of which I, at least, have ever heard.
I say this to emphasize the fact that Christians have liberty in such doubtful things and that using this liberty does not transgress the word of God--a point Paul makes quite clear in his discussion of days in Romans ch. 14.
You further state that baptism and the Lord's Supper are "the only ordinances that the Christian has to observe." I quite agree with you. In fact, brother, exactly where in my article do you find me stating that Christians are required to observe Christmas? I am sure many good Christians, such as the Puritans in 17th century England, did not. This is exactly the point of Paul's comment "He that regardeth the day, regardeth it unto the Lord; and he that regardeth not the day, to the Lord he doth not regard it" (Rom. 14:6). In neither case does Paul say "He that regardeth/regardeth not the day sinneth against the Lord," which surely would have been said if one or the other option were displeasing to God.
You further say that
I John 2:21 states that: I have not written unto you because ye know not the truth, but because ye know it and that no lie is of the truth. You said it yourself that Jesus was not born on December the 25th, so how is it then that we can celebrate it?
I am not sure of the issue you mean to raise here. Is it your view that the church of Christ teaches that the 25th of December is the true date of Christ's birth? If so, we would seem to have an issue of "deception" here that would justify your comment "The devil is so very cunning." Since it is otherwise--since most informed Christians, and indeed most informed non-Christians as well, know that the 25th is not understood to be Christ's literal birthday--, this seems a non-issue. And regarding your claim of the "institution of sin and idolatry into the Christian liturgy," where is this to be found? It seems rather to be begging the question to assume that anyone celebrating Christmas participates in the "institution of sin and idolatry" unless you can show this from scripture. Otherwise, this "guilt-by-association" tactic would have to also be true in reverse: one would have to assume that the Jehovah's Witnesses, whose religious doctrine mandates abstention from Christmas and other holidays, are singularly in tune with the will of God. (As a matter of fact, many of the JWs' arguments against Christmas agree with those of Hislop in The Two Babylons--as do the ones you make presently--and presumably are derived from him. But I doubt that you would want to associate yourself with the rest of their cultic doctrines just because you agree with them on Christmas!)
It never ceases to amaze me that around this time of year that you will have Christians yelling how evil Halloween is but yet they in two months observe one of the most evil of all Pagan holidays, Christmas.
My brother, do you really consider Christmas to be more "evil" than Halloween? I think the difference in attitude among Christians is to be accounted for by the differing emphases of these two holidays. In Halloween, we find many things celebrated which seem to run against the grain of Christian doctrine: witches, spirits, and so forth (cf. Deut. 18:10-12). In fact, these have become the essence of the holiday. In Christmas, we instead find Christ celebrated, at least by Christians; the secular world and the world of commerce have tried to drown this out with Santa Claus and merchandising, but have not done so in the hearts of those who love Christ and celebrate Christmas in honor of Him. There is a very clear difference between the two holidays, a difference dependent upon the heart-intentions of those celebrating them. And is it not true that "man looketh on the outward appearance, but the LORD looketh on the heart" (1 Sam. 16:7)?
Now if you could show me that the worship of Tammuz or the sun were being practiced by Christians at Christmas-time today, I would have to agree with you that "it is a sin to participate in the decorating and assignment of the birth of Christ on December the 25th." But the average Christian who celebrates Christmas doesn't know or care anything for Tammuz, Osiris, or any of the other heathen gods venerated by long-dead heathens. Instead, "He that regardeth the day, regardeth it unto the Lord"--or so it says in my Bible. The fact that some pagan a couple of millenia ago raised a tree in honor of Tammuz is not really germane to a Christian man or woman decorating a Christmas tree in honor of Christ. "For whether we live, we live unto the Lord; and whether we die, we die unto the Lord: whether we live therefore, or die, we are the Lord's"--not Tammuz's or Baal's.
But you say that it is okay to accept the day as Christian because as it is written in scripture that we consider only One Lord and One God and there are no others. Again the issue at this time was "foods offered to idols" and not the idol itself!
In this case I'd recommend to you a closer reading of Romans ch. 14, where both "foods" AND "days" are addressed. Perhaps it seems more pious to you to abstain from Christmas, in which case you are "not regard(ing)" the day "unto the Lord," and certainly compliant with scripture. But I still find no substance to your charges that those who "regard" the day are guilty of "sin."
I want to be able to continue to talk with you but I don't have enough space to give my reasons. Perhaps if you would like I would like to e-mail you a sermon that I believe was given me by God to show his disfavor with the so-called Christian holiday.
I am not sure that a "sermon" arguing on the same grounds that you have just used would be any more convincing, but if you feel led to send this sermon to me, you may certainly do so and I will look at it as time permits. (Time is often in short supply with me these days due to work, so I hope you will understand if I do not get right back to you.) I did find your letter interesting, however, even though I did not agree with your reasoning. In fact, I think it might be of benefit to others if I make this response I am sending you (with your quotations and my answers) available as an addendum to my internet essay on Christmas. (Naturally, I will delete your e-mail address and name to protect your privacy before posting my reply.) I think your questions and concerns are probably shared by other Christians, and it may be useful for other interested readers to see how I address them.
Thank you for writing.
This response appeared in the following form on my blog “Right as Rain,” under the title “How to fit a Christmas tree where it will not go....” Note that for some pages that have apparently been taken down since I completed the text below, I have substituted links using the "Wayback Machine" feature found at archive.org.
A few days ago I
mentioned referring a friend to my website piece "Is Christmas Christian?"
I had thought this would provide enough information for him, but I was then
asked to comment on two articles he had found attacking Christmas as pagan and
asserting that Christians should have nothing to do with it.
One of these was particularly interesting with regard to its attempt to force the Bible to say something that it would not say in a passage where the article's author wanted to condemn Christmas trees. When I looked at this article for my friend, one red flag that I saw early on was its frequent references to one “Bro. Branham,” previously unknown to me but who is described on another page in what struck me as almost idolatrous terms:
“Allow us to introduce you to A Prophet To The Gentiles. One who God has used in this century in a ministry which has been unparalleled since the days of our Lord Jesus Christ. Many have referred to William Branham as a Twentieth Century Prophet. Others have called him, A Man Sent From God.”
Another page devoted to him asserts that “For twenty years, and before millions of people, William Branham demonstrated the Gift of Discernment and the Word of Knowledge (knowing the secrets of a person’s heart) with an unerring accuracy that had never before been seen, and has never since been duplicated” and strongly implies that he was a biblically-promised prophet (“The promise of Matthew 17:11 was being fulfilled: ‘And Jesus answered and said unto them, Elias truly shall first come, and restore all things’”).
I am not clear how anyone can spend so much time worrying about Christmas becoming an idol and then think themselves logically consistent when they exalt a mere man—-no matter how spiritually gifted—-to a rank with the biblical prophets!
Anyway, I found an intriguing passage where the author--one would hope unknowingly--forced a Christmas tree into a biblical passage where it does not fit. My comments analyzing this, excerpted from my e-mail to my friend, appear below:
this article is some
twenty pages long in printed form, I don’t see much reason to examine it
in full detail, which would be tedious for me to write and you to read. But I
want to deal with one more section that I think is significant. In the part
headed “O Christmas Tree, O Christmas Tree!”,
there is a lengthy discussion of Jeremiah 10:2-5. Conveniently for the author,
this happens to refer to “a tree out of the forest,” which would be
useful to give a seeming biblical basis to his diatribe against Christmas
trees; unfortunately for him, though, the plain and obvious meaning is that the
tree is being made into an image that is to be worshipped as an idol,
not into a Christmas tree. That is in fact the only way that verse 5 makes
sense, since they “speak not” and “must needs be borne,
because they cannot go”; this would have point if the “tree”
had been fashioned into the likeness of a man but would be pointless if
spoken of a Christmas tree (since reasonable people do not expect such a tree
to either speak or walk). Hence if people are going to deal faithfully with the
scriptures, and not “wrest” them “unto their own destruction”
(2 Peter 3:16), they have to go with a logical interpretation of the
“tree” as a man-like image.
But this is not good enough for the author of “Christmas - Christian or Pagan?” who must somehow get Jeremiah to say something about Christmas trees that will help condemn them. The author first makes a leap to Matthew Henry’s commentary on these verses. And Henry does denounce the idols of the passage as “not what they pretend to be, but a great cheat put upon the world”—though in other comments which our author does not quote (such as “it looks stately, and stands up as if it were going to speak to you, but it cannot speak; it is a poor dumb creature; nor can it take one step towards your relief”), it is clear that Henry is speaking of an image in the likeness of a man, not a Christmas tree. So this does not get us to where our author wants us to go, but no matter, for the author continues:
"Matthew Henry does not mention the 'Christmas Tree' because his commentary was not published until 1712 - many years before the 'Tree' was introduced into England. But with 'historical hind-sight' and 'spiritual insight' we can unquestionably place the 'Christmas Tree' in Jeremiah 10. One thing is certain, True Prophets will not disagree with one another on the Word of God. The end-time Prophet to the Geniltes [sic] (Malachi 4:5-6) clearly stated that the 'Christmas Tree' is an 'idol'."
This deserves to be analyzed so its errors of both “spiritual insight” and reasoning can be demonstrated:
1. First, the author essentially concedes that Henry does not say what he needs Henry to say—which begs the question of why his comments were introduced at all.
2. The author excuses this on the basis of Henry writing before Christmas trees were “introduced into England”—with some implication that Henry would have done so aside from this inconvenient historical circumstance.
3. The author then appeals to “historical hind-sight” and “spiritual insight” (as defined by himself, apparently) in order to “unquestionably place the ‘Christmas Tree’ in Jeremiah 10”—which effectively dismisses Henry’s interpretation, which as we saw indicated man-like images rather than Christmas trees.
4. Since he apparently realizes that these self-defined “hind-sight” and “insight” qualities are still not quite enough to twist the passage to speak of Christmas trees, the author’s final trump card is to go ex cathedra: because the “end-time Prophet to the Gen[tiles],” evidently meaning William Branham, called the Christmas tree an idol, that settles the question. The astute reader will see that the clear implication is that Jeremiah is on the same plane with Branham, the sequence of thought apparently being that a) Branham was a prophet; b) he said the Christmas tree is an idol; c) “True Prophets will not disagree with each other on the Word of God,” so d) Jeremiah would have happily acquiesced in Branham’s interpretation of his prophecy.
Since I know that you are a biblically-minded reader, I am sure you will share my opinion that this is nothing less than an example of “wresting” the scriptures as described in 2 Peter 3:16. The author may not have meant to pervert the text; he may in fact be right in believing Branham to have been a good man (although from what I found at Wikipedia’s article on him, which quotes him denying the doctrine of the Trinity, I have to think Branham was seriously mistaken in some critical ways). But in elevating a mere man to “Prophet” status, so that said man’s words cancel out the clear meaning of this Scripture, the author is guilty of a kind of idolatry far more serious than that of the “Christmas tree” and “Santa Claus” he attacks. The following section in this paper lists several “Quotes from the Message of God's Servant and prophet, Bro. William Branham,” subsequently asking the reader to “keep in mind the ‘progressive revelation’ of the Ministry and Message of Malachi 4:5-6”—further ex cathedra appeals to the pronouncements of a man to take the reader where the author of this piece cannot take him biblically. But no further time needs to be spent on this, I trust, to show that the article is unsound scripturally.
I do not want to be unduly harsh with the author of this piece, but when you make the Bible say what it clearly does not say, just so that you can bolster your own opinion on Christmas being wrong for anyone to celebrate, and when you exalt the teachings of a man over the Bible, all I can say is may God enlighten your very erring and very self-willed soul.