| CHRISTMAS AND EASTER - CHRISTIAN OR PAGAN? Zac Poonen|
Men are likened to sheep. And sheep have a tendency to follow the crowd without questioning. Jesus however came and taught us to examine everything by God's word. The Pharisees exalted human traditions. Jesus exalted God's word. Man was to live by every word that proceeded from God's mouth (Matt. 4:4).
The battle that Jesus was constantly engaged in with the Pharisees was the age-long battle of God's Word versus the traditions of men. In the church, we are engaged in the same battle today. God's word is the only light that we have on earth. And when God created light initially, He immediately separated it from the darkness. The darkness is both sin as well as human traditions. We also are called to separate both these from the pure word of God so that there is no mixture in the church.
Consider Christmas, which is celebrated by many as the birthday of Jesus Christ. Shopkeepers of all religions look forward to Christmas, for it is a time when they can make much profit. It is a commercial festival, not a spiritual one. Millions of rupees are spent on Christmas cards and gifts. Sales of alcoholic drinks go up at this time. And the traffic police around the world are kept on their toes, for there are never so many accidents on the roads as during the Christmas season. More people go to hell through road accidents at this time, than any other time of the year.
Is this really then the birthday of the Son of God, or of another 'Jesus'?
Let us look at God's Word first of all. The Bible tells us that there were shepherds with their sheep out in the fields of Judea, on the night that Jesus was born in Bethlehem. The shepherds in Palestine did not keep their flocks out in the open fields at night after October and until February - the weather being both rainy and cold. So the real Jesus must have been born sometime between March and September. December 25 then must be the birthday of another 'Jesus' that has been foisted on an unsuspecting Christendom by Satan!
Further, even if we did know the exact date of Jesus' birth, the question would still be whether God intended His church to celebrate it. Mary, the mother of Jesus, would certainly have known the exact date of birth of Jesus. And she was with the apostles for many years after the day of Pentecost. Yet there is no mention anywhere of Jesus' date of birth. What does this show? Just this - that God deliberately hid the date of Jesus' birth, because He did not want the church to celebrate it.
In the Bible we read of earthly kings celebrating their birthdays publicly - Pharaoh (Gen. 40:20) and Herod (Mk. 6:21). God never intended Jesus to be in that category.
An understanding of the difference between the old and the new covenants will also enable us to understand why God does not want His children to celebrate any special holy days now. Under the old covenant, Israel had been commanded to celebrate certain days as specially holy days. But that was only a shadow. Now that we have Christ, the will of God is that every day of our lives be equally holy. Even the weekly sabbath has been done away with under the new covenant. This is why no holy days are mentioned anywhere in the New Testament (Col.2:16,17).
How then did Christmas and Easter make their entry into Christendom? The answer is: in the same way that infant baptism, priestcraft and a host of other human traditions have made their entry - by the subtle working of Satan.
When the emperor Constantine made Christianity the state religion of Rome in the 4th century, multitudes became Christian 'in name', without any change of heart. But they did not want to give up their two great annual festivals - both connected with their worship of the sun. One was the birthday of the sun-god on December 25, when the sun which had gone down to the southern hemisphere began its return journey (the winter solstice). The other was the spring festival in March/April, when they celebrated the death of the winter and the birth of the warm summer that their sun-god had brought. They renamed their sun-god 'Jesus' and continued to celebrate their two great festivals, now as Christian festivals and called them Christmas and Easter.
The Encyclopaedia Brittanica (an authority in secular history) has the following to state about the origin of Christmas:
"December 25 was the Mithraic feast of the unconquered sun of Philocalus. Christmas customs are an evolution from times that long antedated the Christian period - a descent from seasonal, pagan, religious and national practices, hedged about with legend and tradition. The exact date and year of Christ's birth have never been satisfactorily settled, but when the fathers of the church in A.D. 440 decided upon a date to celebrate the event, they wisely (?) chose the day of the winter solstice which was firmly fixed in the minds of the people and which was their most important festival. As Christianity spread among the people of pagan lands, many of the practices of the winter solstice were blended with those of Christianity" - (1953 edition, Vol. 5, Pages 642A, 643).
These pagan customs originated with the Babylonian religion begun by Nimrod (Gen. 10:8-10). After he died, his wife Semiramis had an illegitimate child, which she claimed was Nimrod come back to life again. Thus began the worship of the mother and child, which the Roman Catholics took over centuries later and transferred to 'Mary and Jesus'.
The birthday of this child-god was celebrated by the ancient Babylonians on December 25. Semiramis was the queen of heaven (Jer. 44:19), worshipped centuries later in Ephesus as Diana or Artemis (Acts 19:28).
Semiramis claimed that a full grown evergreen tree grew overnight from a dead tree stump. This symbolised Nimrod's coming back to life, and bringing heaven's gifts to mankind. Thus began the practice of cutting down a fir tree and hanging gifts on it. That is the origin of today's Christmas tree!
Thus says the Lord, "Do not learn the way of the heathen. The customs of the people are futile. One cuts a tree from the forest with the axe. They decorate it with silver and gold; they fasten it with nails so that it will not topple!" (Jer. 10:2-4).
The word 'Easter' comes from one of the titles of the queen of heaven, 'Ishtar' or `Astarte' (see 1 Kin. 11:5) - one of the idols that Solomon worshipped. There were slightly different forms of that name in different countries.
The Encyclopaedia Brittanica states,
"The English word 'Easter' corresponding to the German 'Oster' reveals Christianity's indebtedness (!) to the Teutonic tribes of central Europe. Christianity, when it reached the Teutons, incorporated in its celebration of this great Christian feast day, many of the heathen rites and customs that accompanied their observance of the 'Spring' festival. That the 'festival' of the resurrection occurred in the spring that it celebrated the triumph of life over death, made it easy for the church to identify with this occasion, the most joyous festival of the Teutons, held in honour of the death of winter, the birth of a new year and the return of the sun. Eostre (or Ostera), the goddess of the spring, gave its name to the Christian holy day. The conception of the egg as a symbol of fertility and of renewed life goes back to the ancient Egyptians and Persians who had also the custom of colouring and eating eggs during the spring festival. This ancient idea, of the significance of egg as the symbol of life, readily became the idea of the egg as a symbol of resurrection. According to old superstition, the sun rising on Easter morning dances in the heavens; this belief has been traced to the old heathen festival of spring, when the spectators danced in honour of the sun ... The Protestant churches also followed the custom of holding sunrise services on Easter morning" - (1959 edition, Vol. 7, pages 859, 860).
The Babylonians believed that a great egg fell from heaven into the River Euphrates and that Astarte came out of it. Thus began the distribution of eggs in connection with the worship of the sun in the spring festival. The 4th century Christians took this over, and even today Easter is celebrated with eggs, supposedly symbolising Christ's coming out of the grave as the chick comes out of the egg!!
Sacred bread cakes called `bouns' were offered to the queen of heaven by the heathen, many centuries before Christ (see Jer. 7:18). These became the 'hot cross buns' of Good Friday, when Christians took over these pagan customs!
The death and resurrection of Christ are the central message of the gospel. The only way that Jesus intended us to commemorate this was through the 'breaking of bread' which we are to take part in together as a church. This was certainly not to be just once a year at Good Friday/Easter time, and certainly not with eggs and buns!
When we break bread, we testify not only of Christ's death, but also our death with Him. The emotionalism of Good Friday and sentimentality of Easter turns the attention of men away from the necessity of following Jesus, to empty ritualism.
[b]God's Word Or Man's Tradition?[/b]
Behind the celebration of Christmas and Easter lies the far more deadly principle of following the traditions of men even when they have no foundation in God's Word. So strong is this power of tradition that many believers who follow the Scriptures in other areas still find it difficult to give up celebrating Christmas and Easter.
It is amazing that many believers are not willing to accept what even secular writers (like the authors of Encyclopaedia Brittanica) have understood clearly - that Christmas and Easter are basically pagan festivals. You can call an ass a lion, but it is still an ass. Changing the names has not made these festivals Christian! There is no difference between Christmas and Easter and Ganesh Puja and Dussera.
It becomes clear from what we have seen that what Christians are celebrating on Christmas day is the birthday of another 'Jesus' - Nimrod of Babylon. And at Easter time they are actually celebrating the resurrection of another 'Jesus' too - the sun-god that has brought summer to the northern hemisphere! Behind Nimrod and the sun-god stand Satan who actually receives that worship. The Israelites called their golden calf 'Jehovah', but it was Satan who received that worship (Ex. 32:4,5). Let all those who celebrate Christmas and Easter remember that and beware!
As we said at the beginning, Jesus was engaged in a constant battle with the Pharisees over this very issue - man's traditions versus God's Word. He faced more opposition for opposing the empty traditions of 'the fathers' than for preaching against sin. We shall find our experience to be the same, if we are just as faithful as He was.
It is the calling of the church today to expose these empty Babylonian celebrations that Satan has promoted in Christendom and to refuse everything (however innocent looking) that has no foundation in God's Word.
Some may quote Rom. 14:5,6 about those who keep a day as unto the Lord. This is referring to the sabbath-day, which some converted Jews still did not have light on to give up. Paul exhorted those who had the light of the new covenant to bear with these weaker Jewish brethren. But this certainly cannot be applied to the celebration of Ganesh Puja or Christmas or Diwali or Easter by Christians today!
God's Word alone is our guide and not the example of even godly men in those areas where they do not follow the Word of God. "Let God be found true even though every man be found a liar" (Rom. 3:4). "Check (their) words against the Word of God, says the Lord. If their messages (teachings) are different from Mine, it is because they have no light" (Isa. 8:20 LB). The Bereans searched the Scriptures to check up even on Paul's teaching, and the Holy Spirit commends them for it (Acts 17:11). That is a good example for all of us to follow.
David was a man after God's own heart. Yet, for forty years, he permitted the Israelites to worship Moses' bronze serpent without realising that this was an abomination to God. He did not have light even on such obvious idolatry. It was a much lesser king, Hezekiah, who was given light to expose and destroy this idolatrous practice (2 Kin. 18:1-4). We can follow godly men in the saintliness of their lives and not in their lack of light on human traditions. Our safety lies in simply following the teaching of God's Word and not in adding to or subtracting from it.
True spirituality is to follow Jesus in all aspects of life. This involves primarily a taking up of the cross and obeying God's word in the power of the Holy Spirit in daily life. It also involves a forsaking of all human traditions that are not found in the New Testament. God desires a pure testimony in every place - a church that is not only free from all sin, but also free from Babylonian traditions.
Taken from [b]New Wine In New Wineskins by Zac Poonen[/b]
| 2005/12/11 23:35||Profile|
| Re: CHRISTMAS AND EASTER - CHRISTIAN OR PAGAN?|
While I think tracing some of the pagan roots of our modern Christmas is interesting, I don't believe it invalidates the regard that modern Christians have for it. Christmas traditions, like most symbols have cultural and even personal meanings.
Zac Poonen said, "
True spirituality is to follow Jesus in all aspects of life. This involves primarily a taking up of the cross...
Note that the cross was originally a pagan thing before it became a Christian symbol.
When the emperor Constantine made Christianity the state religion of Rome in the 4th century...
It is interesting to note that our cherished symbol of the cross may not have been the preferred symbol of the Christians before Constantine. While the first three centuries of Christian art and wall markings show fish and even anchor symbology...there are virtually no crosses. The cross, as a visual symbol, came to prominance under Constantine...perhaps in homage to his famous (or fabled) victory under the sign. Ironically Constantine, who taught his soldiers to make the sign of the cross using two spears, also abolished crucifixion.
Some believe, that before Constantines elevation of the cross to the sacred, most Jewish Christians would have regarded such a visual recall of Christ's suffering as almost a graven image. Of course, what to Paul was a symbol of suffering, had become, under the Christian emperor, a symbol of power and empire. Still, the visual representation of the Cross became so common place in early Christendom that even the Byzantines, who were against Icons, still kepts the cross as their central symbol for the Christian faith.
I guess my point is that symbols help us to express the invisible elements in our faith. We shouldn't allow men to place yokes of concern on us that are sidelines to the deeper reality of that spiritual life. Of course, if Christmas has indeed become a symbol of Babylonian cult or Roman paganism in the mind of any Christian, then I can certainly understand why they could not embrace it. Just realize it takes some long forgotten historical context to arrive at that position.
Just my thoughts on this ,
| 2005/12/12 0:48||Profile|
Los Angeles, California
I think you may be blurring two distinctly different subjects together.
1. One would be the use of Christian symbols - of which I am and also think Zac is against - I am identified by my love and the Spirit of God that dwells within me - not by a symbol of a cross or anything else - of which I would never wear. ( I don't care if you or anyone else wears a cross or some Christian symbol and wouldn't call you un-Christian for doing so - but I might point out to you that it is un-Biblical and let the Holy Spirit do the rest)
2. The second is using pagan festival, holidays or methods to worship God, which is expressly forbidden in Scripture. As far as I know there is not one Scripture in the Bible that even slightly condones such behavior. Now I have never been dogmatic on the issue, but am slowly becoming more certain the Lord wants us to give up the tradition of man we so desperately cling to.
But these are two separate issues and should be discussed separately. The issues of using Christian symbols in my humble and meek opinion has nothing at all to do with using pagan holidays and festivals to worship God. Apples and oranges in my mind. I could be wrong, but that's the way I see it.
| 2005/12/12 1:38||Profile|
...these are two separate issues and should be discussed separately. The issues of using Christian symbols in my humble and meek opinion has nothing at all to do with using pagan holidays and festivals to worship God.
If there is a distinction, I can agree it might be at this juncture Patrick. However, that is my point exactly...I think we are indeed talking about symbolic apples and apples, because modern Christian Christmas traditions have become mere symbols and family traditions that have Christian reference...not Babylonian. Is there a resurgence of ancient mystery paganism today ? Yes, but it is not in Christmas anymore. No one knows anything about this Babylonian junk untill we start digging it up for them. I say leave it buried where dead things belong! Who really observes Christmas with the attitude of ancient mystery ritual, or secret society as a sacrifice to some pagan entity? It's a strawman...er I mean snowman argument :-) to suggest that setting up a plastic evergreen tree is something other then what it is... If anything can be said negative about this tradition, it is that it is hollow and materialistic ...if we allow it to be.
Now, I have a child that attends public school and this year they will perform some Christmas music that is Christ centered. :-o Perhaps, I should notify the ACLU that our school is celebrating a pagan festival and as a Christian I am offended. ;-) Some purists may call our local school Christmas program the legacy of Constantine or worse. I call it a blessing.
Now I have to admit I am largely indifferent about Christmas as a holiday. And I really dont' give a chestnut about some ancient ritual from some extinct civilization buried in the sand 3000 years ago. I only care about our present civilization, which is losing it's memory of the story "For God so loved the World that He sent His only Son." (I know you feel the same way!)
This is what Christianity does brother! Faith in Jesus redeems fallen man! Consider your Irish name sake St. Patrick, who employed imagry and symbols native to Ireland and began an authentic branch of Christianity that was niether Jewish nor Roman nor Greek. is the circle around the Celtic cross a simple depiction of eternity or is it homage to druid sun worship?
If Christmas represents something unclean to others, then certainly they shouldn't touch it. If my church community felt that Christmas was pagan as a whole I would probably honor their convictions. It's not much of a big deal to me either way...Christmas as a home tradition for me has been reduced to playing music such as Come all ye faithful, Joy to the World, and What Child is This. We don't really deck the halls anymore like we used to.
Edit: I was considering...that perhaps in places like India where there may be more of contemporary and cultural connection with ancient religion, Zac Poonen's concern has more warrant. My attitude is distinctly protestant American, in that I don't feel a vital cultural connection to anything over 500 years old and European. For better or worse I can't help but see things with the modernity and pragmatism of the Reformers. Here I stand; I can do no other. God help me. Amen! :-(
| 2005/12/12 3:40||Profile|
Ganesh Puja, Diwali and Dussera are few of hindu festivals in India. Zac Poonen used these parlance in his book "New Wine In New Wineskins."
Often what had been started as paganism many century ago, end up as nice home/church community tradition.
In the midst of burning topic "Should we celebrate Christmas?" started by Brother Nasher. Let us not forgot the fact millions are moving towards eternal destruction without God. Even in India many Christians celebrate "Christmas" without having any personal relationship with Him. To them it has become mere religious tradition passed by their forefathers. May God give us more burden to reach the unsaved with "Good News" during Christmas season. Though we don't celebrate Christmas, we utilize this opportunity to share the gospel with our hindu neighbors and friends by inviting them for a dinner or a cup of coffee with cake. So I beg all believers not to fight over this matter rather let us seek God with weeping and moaning for more burden to reach the unreached. Major part of India is still under darkness, sadly most of the pious hindus got a better righteousness (though self made) and family life than so-called Christians. This all the more make my head hang down with shame.
As it is written "For Christ did not please Himself" (Romans 15:3). Rather than spending lavishly on us and having fun time, let us become little more concerned about lost ones and give more for God's work by cutting down things which feed our selfish appetite.
| 2005/12/12 8:51||Profile|
rather than spending lavishly on us and having fun time, let us become little more concerned about lost ones and give more for God's work by cutting down things which feed our selfish appetite.
Amen, brother. Christ said, "If your right hand causes you to sin, cut it off, if your eye causes you to sin, cut it out." Christ did not say: Abolish the thing that you are drawn to, that tempts you... and make others also abolish it too."
We must cut out something within OURSELVES, not the thing outside of ourselves if we recognize that it causes us to lose our saltiness, and dull the light of Christ within us.
It is not our duty to force others to cut out traditions or symbols. We can't force our convictions on others (like the Puritans did) But we can choose to sacrifice whatever weakens us (personally) ie: our own craving to satisfy and delight our natural senses and our activities. When we are willing to do that, then we will be salt and light in the world.
I've been saying that Christmas gives us a great opportunity to draw our pagan world to Christ. But I ask myself, has this worked? Does diluting the faith with pagan culture help us?????? We must be careful about how we reason through things - and let God exame OUR OWN HEARTS. Holy Spirit conviction is still the best way to go.
| 2005/12/12 9:49||Profile|
Does diluting the faith with pagan culture help us??????
I had rather thought Christmas was an example of the reverse...diluting pagan culture with Christian faith. Christmas to the Christian is neither the powerless superstition of the ancient Babylons or the credit card materialism of the modern hedonist unless you make it so...
We must be careful about how we reason through things
I remember moving from Ohio as a little boy to Virginia where I learned about a new way to see other people: racism. I had never thought twice about race problems, or fear of race, untill these things were talked about by my new friends in the south! Now I'm being taught to think about Babylonian cults every winter and spring. I suppose that's the way it is in these matters of perception; to the pure these things were pure untill we defiled our mind and conscience with the evil we've learned about them.
and let God exame OUR OWN HEARTS. Holy Spirit conviction is still the best way to go.
| 2005/12/12 13:27||Profile|