Is it wrong to celebrate Christmas, knowing that the celebration itself originated as a festival to placate pagans; a festival of Saturnalia “Christianized” but kept on the same day? Does the origin of a celebration pollute the current reason for a celebration? Is even the use of the name “Christmas” joining with pagans?
In Exodus 11, God said to Moses that he is to tell the Israelites to ask their Egyptian neighbors for gold and silver jewelry when they are finally driven from Egypt after the 10th plague. In the middle of the next chapter we are told the Israelites did as they were instructed and the Egyptians gave them silver and gold jewelry, as well as clothing. Verse 36b says, In this way they plundered the Egyptians. Later, in Exodus 25, God has the Israelites giving gold and silver as part of the offerings for building the tabernacle. Gold was used for the Ark of the Covenant, the Table of the Presence, the lampstand and other furnishings.
From where did this gold come? Obviously it came from the plunder of the Egyptians’. Here is a case of things taken from pagans, and perhaps even used in their worship, and then used for God’s honor and glory.
Let’s look at Romans 14, often known as “the Law of Liberty.” It discusses how to handle “doubtful issues,” i.e., issues about which the Scripture doesn’t address. What Paul is saying here is that, although we have the Christian liberty to eat or drink, celebrate one day over another - or do anything else - if when we do it we cause a brother to stumble in his faith, then we should not do it. A brother or sister may be weaker in the faith and not understand Christian liberty in such matters, and if they see us exercising our liberty but think we are doing something sinful, it may cause them to do the same action but leave them with guilt as if they sinned. And even if no one is caused to stumble in that way, there is still stumbling into sin if those who exercise their liberty denigrate those who are weak, or if those who are weak denigrate those who exercise their liberty.
Paul reminds the Romans that there is nothing unclean in and of itself (vs. 14) but that if someone thinks it is, then it is to that person because he lacks faith in that area, and if he lacks faith in what he is doing, then to him it is sin.
Simply put, when we either exercise our liberty or are too weak to do so, our actions are to the Lord and therefore we are not to judge another person by our personal standards; it is before the Lord that we stand, and it is to the Lord we eat, drink, celebrate a day or not.
Lastly, let’s look at 1 Corinthians 8, where Paul is addressing the issue of eating food sacrificed to idols. Paul points out that an idol is nothing - that only God is a true God. But, he says, not everyone has this knowledge, and that they have been eating such food for so long as an idolater that their weak conscience is defiled. Paul says that doesn’t make us inferior if we choose not to eat such meat, but at the same time he says neither does it make us superior if we eat it. However, as with Romans 14, he challenges the Corinthians to refrain from eating such meat if it will cause a weaker brother to stumble: Then the weak person, the brother for whom Christ died, is ruined by your knowledge. And Paul then makes the very strong warning that you are sinning when you cause that brother to stumble, and when you do that you are sinning against Christ.
As with Romans 14, Paul is not saying it is wrong to eat meat which has been sacrificed to idols because we know an idol is nothing. What he IS saying is that if by doing so you will cause a weaker brother to stumble in his conscience, then you have sinned against that brother and against Christ.
In Romans 14 and 1 Corinthians 8 we see that, according to God, everything is clean to eat, no matter who may say otherwise. Eat, drink, celebrate a day no matter what you know about its previous use for pagan idolatry because we know that idols are nothing in reality. HOWEVER, when exercising such freedom in Christian liberty, be sure you are not causing someone to stumble in his faith because of his weak conscience, not having the mature knowledge you have; if you do so, it is sinning.
The Israelis plundered the Egyptian gold and silver - pagan items for certain - and used them for God’s glory. We can plunder meat from pagans and eat it to God’s glory, and we can plunder a celebration originated by pagans and celebrate it to God’s glory.
Back to Christmas. The celebration of the birth of Christ did in fact originate in pagan beliefs which were “Christianized,” but since I know everything, including days, belong to the Lord because idols are nothing, then my Christian liberty allows me to celebrate such a day in a way that glorifies God. We can “plunder the Egyptians” of their “gold and silver” and use it for God.
A last thought: What about the claim that we shouldn’t even use the title “Christmas” to denote the day because of its pagan origins? If it is important to God that we not use this title because of its pagan origins, then what do we as Christian use to name the days of the week? Or even the months?
Sunday is the Day of the Sun
Monday is the Day of the Moon
Tuesday is the Day of Mars
Wednesday is the god Woden’s Day (Mercury)
Thursday is the god Thor’s Day (Jupiter)
Friday is the god Freya’s Day (Venus)
Saturday is Saturn’s Day
January belongs to the god Janus
February comes from the Roman februa purification ceremonies conducted that month
March belongs to the god Mars
April probably comes from Apru, an Etruscan version of Aphrodite.
May is the month of the goddess Maius/Maia
June is named for the goddess Juno
July is named for Julius Caesar, who considered himself to be a god
August is named for Augustus Caesar
Notice how many of the names for these days and months come from pagan astrology which names planets after their gods, while the rest are names of gods or pagan ceremonies.
All the names of the week, and eight of the names of months, are of pagan origin, just as the name of Christmas is of “Christianized” pagan origin. What is a Christian to do?!?!
Plunder the Egyptians, but don’t be unloving and cause a brother to stumble when you do so.