12/20/2008

Is Christmas a Pagan holiday?

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Where did Christmas come from? Is Christmas a pagan holiday?

Tuesday Column by Keith Drury

20 comments:

Pastor Al said...

Greetings Keith,

Your book, The Wonder of Worship, was a great primer for me, in exploring worship themes. Thus... this post is no surprise to me...but you you might be considered naughty by Santa and receive a coal in your stocking!

Praying about revisiting your book 'Holiness for Ordinary People' for Sunday school in January. You are a lay person's theologian...prabably the greatest compliment anyone could receive.

On December 25th we will read Luke 2 around the fire. Establishing meaningful traditions is something I have focused upon since reflecting upon creative worship practises.

Merry Christmas.

Pastor Al said...

Question:

Read in one source that the Advent season was utilized by the Early Church for the preparation of baptism candidates. Can you substantiate this from your research?

Thanks in advance.

The AJ Thomas said...

While i can see what you mean by Christmas taking over December 25th but I think it;s a stretch to say it become completely christian. Most Christians I know still include things like christmas trees, mistletoe, and holly in their traditions and decorations and those are all have clear roots in pagan celebrations.

Now if we can just come up with a good reason why the day we celebrate the resurrection is still named after a pagan goddess.

Keith Drury said...

AL.... Thanks for the prop on WOW... BTW there is a new 25th anniversary edition of Holiness for Ordinary People coming out this summer including revisions plus 5 new chapters... I'm excited about it and turning in the final manuscript Jan 9.

AL RE: ADVENT MEMBERSHIP PREP.... that is true of Lent but less common for Advent.

AJ.... You have grasped the issue... the issue-behind-the-issue is the extent to which Christians are free to "sanctify" days, holidays, flags and other secular symbols to become "seeker sensitive" to those they are trying to convert... or should we try to eliminate everything with pagan roots like Christmas Trees, 4th of July celebrations, flags in our worship centers, Super Bowl Sundays, and the name of our Resurrection celebration- "Easter."

::athada:: said...

I think we should boycott all the stores that say "Holidays" instead of "Christmas" and buy our imported electronics and plastic playthings from other big box stores - that is more in the spirit of Christ.

Kris said...

Let's start celebrating Christmas in our churches in direct opposition to the forms and functions the new-paganism carries on the holiday. whether that be by not buying presents or what have you, if our spirit does not change, neither will the meaning of our celebration.

Grateful said...

I personally think of "holidays" as "HOLYdays..." In years past, I've mostly said "Merry Christmas" or "Happy Holidays" but this year I especially "enJOY" watching "Church folk" tilt there heads in wonder when I shout out "JOYful HOLYdays to all y'all!!!" And is it just me, or isn't "Pagan HOLYday" an oxymoron? Kind of like "Vegetarians for meat?" Anyway, "pa rum pa pum pum" to all y'all... ALL JOY!!!

Outside-the-Beltway Drury said...

I think there are good reasons to toss some pagan symbols and rituals and good reasons to keep others. The problem--which ones to toss and which ones to keep.

I suspect things like Christmas trees, holly etc...were not considered dangerous by the church as they came into Christian culture. Why not borrow some things that are beautiful and fun that otherwise appear harmless. Then redefine them in some way that furthers a Christian purpose.

In contrast, I doubt Christians will ever adopt the pagan ritual of summoning spirits and ghosts. While a Coca Cola Santa is fun and apparently harmless, the same would not be said for attempt to summon the little drummer boy as part of a Christmas Eve service or spell out the name of Jesus with a Ouija board.

This makes me think of the nearly resolved dispute over the beat in rock music. Is the beat tied to demonic power? If so, rock music itself is a danger and must be avoided. However, if it is simply how pagan practitioners of rock music use it, why not allow Christians to use for other, Christian purposes...it's fun and the kids seem to like it.

If rock music is any guide, these holiday adaptations may have been generational. With the younger church generation saying someting like, "It's just a tree...lighten up!"

Ken said...

keith, i'd prefer to simply share what we do to capture the season as a family and make it meaningful...

we have family time on Christmas Eve - no phones, ipods, internet, etc - just the four of us and a Bible.

we read the story from Luke 2, and then i hang a 9-inch nail at the bottom of our Christmas tree as a reminder that Christ came to die for us.

we also take time to pray for the joys, progress, and challenges of the previous year, then we each open ONE gift before going to bed.

i know there's always more we could do, but the luke 2/nail on the tree moment has been especially meaningful to us, since Christmas wouldn't matter without a death and resurrection...

No Name said...

The Scripture does not mention celebrating Jesus’ birth, but only those holy festivals that were appointed and established under the covenant between God and Israel. And as you pointed out, this celebration was rooted and sprang from paganism in past and now is being reverted back to one…what comes to mind is what Jesus said, "Give to Caesar what is Caesar's, and to God what is God's." – Matthews 22:21
So, do we believers celebrate a holiday steeps in pagan traditions or do we walk away from it? Do we mix paganism with our best intention to honor and glorifying Jesus? Do we hold true to holy and unholy with the same gustoes in one celebration?
I say that we celebrate Christmas as a worldly holiday and do it once a year with mistletoe, tree, gifts, eggnog, fruit cake, Santa, Elf, reindeers and family, but make it our utmost commitment to lift up Christ in our daily walk, teaching and modeling to our children the awesome meaning of Christ’s birth, the ultimate sacrifice God has given on a daily and year round vigil, not just once a year, not just one weekend, not just one season, but always, in and out of season, lifting Him up, after all, isn’t Christ the Life and source of our being?

Dan said...

What about Halloween?

Schuyler Avenue Wesleyan said...

Merry Christmas Everyone.

Keith Drury said...

Alert reader Wes McCallum found this related piece
in Christianty Today

No Name said...

Dan said: What about Halloween...

http://www.history.com/minisite.do?content_type=Minisite_Generic&content_type_id=713&display_order=1&mini_id=1076

After you read the link, please read these:

Isaiah 14
9 The grave below is all astir to meet you (Satan) at your coming; it rouses the spirits of the departed to greet you—
all those who were leaders in the world; it makes them rise from their thrones—
all those who were kings over the nations.
10 They will all respond,
they will say to you, "You also have become weak, as we are; you have become like us."

Isaiah 19:3 They will consult the idols and the spirits of the dead, the mediums and the spiritists.

Proverbs 2:18…her paths to the spirits of the dead.

Matthew 10:1 Jesus Sends Out the Twelve ] He called his twelve disciples to him and gave them authority to drive out evil spirits..

Halloween has become a social events like any other holidays, holidays are the best avenue for the merchants to make a good profit.

Who are WE? 1 John 4:17 ~...because as He is, so are we in this world.

What about Halloween?

G.R. ''Scott'' Cundiff said...

I don't know where else to post this, so I'll post it under this Christmas thread....

I had a Keith Drury Christmas.

I already have "The Wonder of Worship" and "There is No I in Church."

Since I like these books, I put three more on my Christmas list...and I got all three!

I now have:
"With Unveiled Faces"
"Spiritual Disciplines for Ordinary People"
"Common Ground" (very interesting - a book on the Apostle's Creed)

So, I have plenty of devotional reading for awhile.

Keith Drury said...

Merry Christmas to all you faithful readers--THANKS for coming by to read from time to time. Can a writer be a writer without readers? Maybe, but I prefer it when a tree falls in the woods and somebody is there to hear it ;-)

And double thanks to those of you who post comments. Between 800-1000 people visit the Drurywriting.com pages each day according to our web counters, but a few of you are faithful to go a second mile and take the time to post comments that make a "discussion" possible--thanks for lending your minds to the other readers--I appreciate your faithfulness.

Merry Christmas to all of you--readers and commenters alike!

Keith

Dan said...

Darn, I guess Halloween is out.

As for this holiday season maybe we should go the American Family Association one better. Rather than insisting on "Merry Christmas" why not insist on something with "Advent" in it?

A Happy and Prosperous New Year to all!

Dan

Rudy said...

coach -

thanks for this. i always love reading what you write.

Merry Christmas and Happy New Year.

Can't wait for the new revision of Holiness.

miss you.

- rudy

A. Monk said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
A. Monk said...

Sorry, deleted post inadvertently...

I was just reading a post on Fr. Stephen's blog (http://fatherstephen.wordpress.com/2009/09/24/icons-and-the-smashing-of-images/) which touched on many of the themes interwoven in this post but from an Eastern Orthodox perspective. Goodness knows how I go over to this post from several months past!

The Armenian Orthodox Church still to this day maintains Epiphany and Christmas on the same day (January 6th) with many Eastern Orthodox who follow the Julian Calendar joining them for the Christmas part b/c December 25th becomes January 6th in that reckoning :^)

And regarding the use of a pagan name like "Easter", it has always been called "Pascha" in the East to reflect it's origins in the Passover. And if you want another name for Christmas, how about "Feast of the Nativity" (also Eastern in origin)?

Happy Holidays to all!
whichever may be approaching)

Aaron