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04 December 2008 @ 04:41 pm
The Truth About “The Truth About Christmas”  
Well, after hearing for the so-manieth time that Christmas is of the Devil, I decided to go check it all out. I got an e-mail with this link (http://www.blowthetrumpet.org/thetruthaboutchristmas.htm) and headed over there.

I admit right now that I wasn’t really out to convince myself, but nevertheless I did my best to approach the subject with an open mind and prayed for discernment. In the final analysis, the article failed to convince me. Here I will quote the article in italics and intersperse it with my own comments.

We need to make informed choices about this issue because it affects our worship of God and as such, our very salvation. It is time to follow the Bible’s admonition and "prove all things, and hold fast to that which is good" (1 Thess. 5:21).

This much is completely true, and I agree.

As shocking as this may sound, Jesus Christ was not born on or near December 25.

Why or how is this shocking? I thought everyone knew He wasn’t born in the dead of Winter, the lyrics of one or two Christmas hymns notwithstanding.

Further, the original apostles who knew Jesus personally never celebrated this holiday.

Obviously not. It was not the Jewish custom.

Additionally, the Bible nowhere encourages the celebration of Christmas [...]

What the Bible does not say is irrelevant. It says nothing about any number of things.

[...] but rather condemns such observances.

Well, we shall see.

The celebration of this holiday actually existed centuries before Jesus was born and did not enter Christianity until centuries after His death. [...] It was not until the fifth century that the Roman Catholic church ordered this day to be celebrated.

This much is common knowledge. The Christmas holiday is a retrofit of ancient pre-Christian festivals. The key here is that it’s a retrofit. But that’s an issue that only gets looked at later.

December 25

The article makes numerous references to festivals that occurred at or near this date. Given that this is near the time of the winter solstice (December 20-23) and that the calendar has been changed numerous times before and since, it seems to me to be a logical date to have a festival. The sun’s coming back, after all, at least in the Northern Hemisphere. That this is intertwined with pagan ideas of bringing the sun back by way of sacrifices is unfortunate, but hardly unexpected.

Christmas is so inextricably linked to celebrations practiced by the ancient Roman world that if a Roman citizen of that day were somehow raised from the dead to live in our age, he would immediately recognize Christmas today as the same holiday celebrated so many centuries ago.

Quite probable. He would also recognise the alphabet, plumbing, most hand tools, kitchenware, stylistic devices in design and architecture, a map of Italy, the ruins of the Collosseum, the thumbs-up sign (and its inverse), the trumpet, the military standard, the designation of the mile as a unit of measurement, the names of the months, the names of the Roman provinces (cf. Africa), a significant portion of English vocabulary, medical terminology, etc.

Virtually all pagan practices had their beginnings in the city of Babylon during the time of Nimrod.

Again, this is almost certainly common knowledge, especially among Christians, and definitely among all people who have ever read a Chick tract.

On each anniversary of Nimrod’s birthday, December 25, Semeramis would visit this evergreen tree [which was supposedly Nimrod reincarnated], claiming that Nimrod would leave gifts for her there.

Evergreen tree and gifts. I see the connection. But this ain’t the home stretch yet; let’s see where this leads.

[Nimrod] and his mother [Semeramis] became the chief entities of worship as a Madonna and child.

“The Madonna” is a strange choice of terminology, since I doubt the ancient pagans of Babel spoke medieval Italian. I agree, being Protestant, that mother Mary is not to be prayed to in any way, but there seems to be some gun-jumping in this part of the argument.

Throughout the world we still find the remnants of mother and child worship to this day.

Possibly. Still, this belongs in an article about Catholicism, not Christmas.

It is no surprise that this same system still exists at the end of the age. It is called "Mystery Babylon" (Revelation 17:5).

Pardon my scepticism, but the interpretations of eschatology are as many and as varied as those who have read the Book of Revelation. Besides, neither the cited verse nor the passage it is contained in make any reference to a child, which strikes me as being rather crucial to the argument. Besides, verse 18 says that “[t]he woman you saw is the great city that rules over the kings of the earth”. This could be Rome, of course. Or Washington, D.C. Or London. Or, come 2025, Beijing.

[Quote from another author:] Christianity did not destroy paganism; it adopted it... From Egypt came the idea of a divine trinity...

Hold hard! So the Holy Trinity is pagan? That’s quite the assertion to make, especially by way of a passing remark. Since the rest of the quote is in the same vein, I’ll skip it and carry on.

The church eventually adopted and merged several different pagan ceremonies to eventually end up with the modern day practice of Christmas and the New Year celebrations we witness today.

Yes, of course. People like their festivals, so the Church gave it back to them with the Good News included. The symbology was re-applied. Keep in mind that in most cases, we’re dealing with folk of the more simple-minded persuasion here. The existing traditions would resonate with these people whom the Church was attempting to woo, and the Gospel would be easier to accept when sugar-coated. Since the pagan gods are no longer the objects of worship, how is this at all relevant to us today?

The article then goes on to describe the history of the legalisation of Christianity by Constantine at length. This sentence sums it up pretty well:

Legalizing Christianity solved one problem for the church, but it caused another.

I agree. The Church was beset by people using its organisation to play politics. This situation kept going and getting worse until the Reformation. That’s why there was one. Again, however, this has more to do with the politics between Catholics and Protestant hard-liners than the issue at hand.

While many professing Christians welcomed the liberty to celebrate these pagan practices, others objected.

Many people still refuse to eat pork. That’s fine, I suppose; they must follow their own conscience. But as for the rest of us...

The section concludes:

Most people today know little or nothing of the pagan origin of Christmas.

Citation needed.

They are unaware that faithful Christians first opposed these heretical practices.

Probable, but irrelevant.

Additionally, most Christians today don’t understand that believers dedicated to keeping the truth of God were forced to go underground, some suffering martyrdom rather than allowing themselves to participate in such things.

Again, I’d like to see a citation. And if it’s true, it is sad and needless, but hardly has bearing on whether it was the truth. I don’t want to come across as emotionless or uncaring, but even if someone would die for something, that does not make it true.

The Christmas Tree

This is an interesting section, historically speaking.

The story is told of Saint Bernice chopping down the Great Oak which was worshipped in some part of Europe. The article mentions that this was in “Germany”, which is nonsense, since Germany did not exist at the time; the closest I get is the Roman province of Germania, which is not the same thing. This sloppiness with terms and concepts is carried through the entire article, and it bothers me. In any event, Saint Bernice apparently chopped down this tree (and rightfully so); and then a fir tree sprang up instead. He proclaimed this to be the tree of Christ, by way of analogy to Christ’s birth and new life, and to replace the old pagan ways with the new Christian ones.

This, the article tells us, is similar to the story of Semeramis and Nimrod. It seems to be so, indeed, but then, the whole idea of rebirth out of death pre-exists Christ’s resurrection by several centuries, if not millennia; cf. ancient Egyptian legends, several of which are strikingly similar to Christ’s death and resurrection. Precedence does not imply that one thing equates to another; the Enemy, having some inkling as to the plan, is quite capable of creating parodies. Also, there is such a thing, humanly speaking, as coincidence.

History reveals that the worship of trees ...

Stop right there. We do not worship the tree. We decorate it and put it in the living room as decoration. That it is a carry-over from pagan festivals is by now well (and repetitively) established. That is not the point; or at any rate, that is only half of the argument.

The article then refers to Jeremiah 10, which it addresses in this manner:

He then goes into great detail describing a tradition in which the heathen cut a tree out of the forest and decorate it.

That much is rubbish. What the Book of Jeremiah, Chapter 10, says about idolatry is this:

3 For the customs of the peoples are worthless;
       they cut a tree out of the forest,
       and a craftsman shapes it with his chisel.

 4 They adorn it with silver and gold;
       they fasten it with hammer and nails
       so it will not totter.

This is not a Christmas tree; it’s a gold- and silver-plated wooden idol. There is a difference. Lo and behold, the article then goes on to say that:

Although many argue that Jeremiah is not referring to the Christmas tree, that argument misses the point.

One is led to wonder, then, why it was mentioned in the first place. It seems to me that the Jeremiah passage is mentioned on the basis of the book referring to Christmas trees (note that the article omits the part where the craftsman shapes the wood into an idol); counter-arguments are then rejected out of hand because Jeremiah does not refer to Christmas trees (which is true); and the main argument is then advanced on the basis that Jeremiah was referring to all idols, to which Christmas trees are now equated. To put it simply, this is a bait-and-switch tactic, which might be nice for open-air debating, but is hardly appropriate for this kind of article.

The article then quotes another author:

In Egypt that tree was the palm tree [...] the palm tree denoting the Pagan Messiah

So what does this make of the Entry into Jerusalem? Is Jesus Christ a false Messiah? I, for one, hope not! Of course, the obvious retort to this is that palm trees are common in that region and would be a logical choice both for a heathen festival and for association with Christ; but, by the same token, the fir tree is a logical choice in parts of the world where it is common. What’s good for the goose, and all that.

It is clear that the Christmas tree is a powerful symbol and conjures many images concerning the celebration it pictures. However, there is one thing the Christmas tree is NOT – it is not Christian.

Is that a fact? How curious. I was under the impression that the Christmas festival had been around as a celebration of Christ’s birth for many centuries.

The article then cites 2 Kings 17:9-12, which says that the Israelites secretly worshipped idols “under every green tree”. That makes sense: where else would they worship, in the blazing noonday sun? To tell the truth, in the same passage, the hills and heights are mentioned even more often as places of pagan worship. So why are we not demolishing the Alps?

As for the meaning of the tree, an elementary understanding of semantics, an aspect of semiotics (the science of signs and sign systems) is useful here. According to Pierce’s triadic model of the sign, any sign consists of three parts: the sign-vehicle (that which you see and the only explicit part of the sign); that which the sign-vehicle refers to (in the case of the Christmas tree, a dead green branch refers to a living, growing tree); and that which is implied or symbolised (in the case of the Christmas tree in the Christian tradition, it refers to new life; in context, Christ’s birth). The sign-vehicle is only one-third of the problem; it is the current usage which determines the meaning. The device of an inverted pentagram within a circle, for example, is a Satanic symbol because of its currently most widespread usage. The Swastika is a good-luck sign in Hinduism, but a sign denoting Nazism in various other cultures. Many common words in some languages are terrible curse words in others. There is no one-to-one relationship between sign-vehicle and the meaning conveyed by the entire sign, not in either direction.

Here’s the crux of the matter of the Christmas tree. That which is forbidden by the Bible is the festival surrounding the tree. Trees are not evil, only the evil rituals (centred, incidentally, on trees) are. To continue the analogy: the New Testament allows us to eat meat that has been sacrificed to idols or dedicated to other gods, provided we bless it in God’s Name (i.e., say grace and you can eat it even if it is Halaal, as almost everything here in South Africa is). We are not, however, allowed to bring sacrifices to idols, for obvious reasons. For the same reason, what we are not allowed to do is to congregate around fir trees and sacrifice virgins to Beelzebub; trees, however, are neutral.

Santa Claus

This section is vaguely ridiculous, but here goes anyway. Straight off the bat, the article quotes someone as saying that Santa is

none other than Satan the Dark One, symbolic of all evil...

Right. Moving on, we see that in Holland, Santa’s “Dark Helper” is known as “Zwarte Pier”. This does not make me very enthusiastic about the research, because the actual name of this character is Zwarte Piet, with a t, as in PAPA-INDIA-ECHO-TANGO.

After carrying on for a while about other things which are vaguely similar between ancient traditions and the character of Santa Claus, the article says:

It is interesting that by rearranging the letters in the name "Santa," the name becomes "Satan."

And there the integrity of the entire article goes down the WC. The so-called argument that Santa is an anagram of Satan is actually a parody of paranoid religious conspiracy theorists. Perhaps we should ring these ones up and tell them. Let me spell it out even more clearly: the fact that the name of Santa is an anagram of Satan, in English, and that this somehow proves something, is so... so Anglocentric that it’s just not funny. How about Santa’s Afrikaans name of Kersvader? Ja, “vader” is in there. Like Darth Vader. Someone, call Luke Skywalker, there’s a Dark Lord in my chimney.

Excuse my highly unprofessional attitude for a moment, but the Santa => Satan anagram idea is ... all right. I’ll move on now.

Most people believe the tradition of giving Christmas presents comes from the Bible.

Well, we commemorate the fact that Christ being born to us is a good thing. It’s the season of goodwill, no matter what our differences. So giving presents is just one of the things you could do, though some people prefer not to, so as not to get the kids focused on the presents instead of the real Reason for the season.

The truth is that gift giving at this time of year is not scriptural and has no basis in the story of the wise men.

Excuse me, but so what? Does it have to be in the Bible in black and white before these people will do something nice for someone else?

And of course, people gave gifts for the pagan festival of Saturnalia, et cetera ad infinitum et ad nauseam. Refer back to my argument about the Christmas tree.

Commercialism, Not Christianity

I’m skipping this, because we all know about that, don’t we?

The Yule Log, Holly, Wreaths, and Mistletoe

All my previous arguments apply. This is getting repetitive.

The article then handwaves on about the date of Jesus’ birth. The exact date of Christ’s birth is not known. The early Christians did not celebrate His birth, because they considered the celebration of anyone’s birth to be a pagan custom.

And these days we don’t. The medieval Church considered Arabic numerals to be a heathen invention and therefore didn’t use them, but I don’t see how this applies to us alive today. And lest we forget, a symbol similar to the numeral 2 occurs in some alphabets used by the occult. But I’m not going back to Roman numerals, thank you.

Jesus Was Not Born in Winter

Irrelevant, for the nth time. Jesus was not born in winter. We know this.

The Wise Men

We know. We know this. Everyone does. There were more than three. Cry me a river, and we’ll float downstream. Is there nothing so insignificant in the Christmas traditions that the authors of this article will not wag their judgmental finger at it?!

The First Noel

Apparently, the word “noel” derives from Celtic, and means “new sun”, which makes sense, considering the time of year. This, of course, is irrevocably Satanic. Let’s move on, shall we?

Peace On Earth, Good Will Toward Men

This also is evil and unBiblical, contrary to what the angels said. Very well, remind me to be extra vengeful and vindictive on Christmas Day.

Should Christians Celebrate Christmas?

Obviously, their answer is... no, I won’t tell you. You figure it out. You seem to be clever enough. After all, you can read.

Now they start quoting again, but for a change, they’re quoting the Bible. Here is the passage:

Take heed to thyself that thou be not snared by following them, after that they be destroyed from before thee; and that thou enquire not after their gods, saying, "How did these nations serve their gods? Even so will I do likewise."

Once and for all, Christians celebrating Christmas do not serve the pagan gods, nor are they enquiring after how to serve Satan. The key point here is, enquire not after their gods. Which is what none of us are doing.

Aaron then made a proclamation that seems unimaginable in light of the great miracles Israel witnessed in their deliverance. After making this idol [i.e., the golden calf], Aaron proclaimed "a feast to the Eternal." God was so angry at this behavior that He actually suggested to Moses that the children of Israel be wiped out.

Yes, because the Israelites actually worshipped the thing and sacrificed their children to it. We do not worship the trees or sacrifice the kiddies. End. Of. Discussion.

And what about you? Will you accept the teachings of a world that embraces pagan practices and dresses them up as Christianity, or will you worship Him in spirit and in truth?

And what about you? Will you jump at every shadow, confine the other Christian to barracks whenever he twitches involuntarily as he stands at attention for your inspection, shoot your fellow Christian soldier in the trenches while ignoring the enemy marching on your position, and remain forever ineffective, ...

... or will you lighten up, get a life, and serve God with it?
Current Location: Pretoria
Current Mood: amusedamused
Current Music: O, Tannenbaum
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WolfieInuwolfieinu on December 4th, 2008 07:41 pm (UTC)
Exactly! Jesus has fulfilled the Law, He hasn't replaced it with a new set of laws. And He sees the heart.

So you're right, this guy is on about a lot of legalism. If I were clever, I would have summed it up that way and saved myself a lot of time, but hey, that's what you're here for ^^
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WolfieInuwolfieinu on December 6th, 2008 09:17 am (UTC)
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WolfieInuwolfieinu on December 4th, 2008 07:51 pm (UTC)
Well, Satan is "Shaitan", I think... and "Santa" is Italian or something, which did not exist at the time (and neither did English when they started writing the Bible, or probably even Latin for that matter).

So ja, it's a total coincidence that they're anagrams in English. Except if God arranged it that way to guide these people specifically, for as we all know, the Americans are the Chosen People.

OK, forgive the snark. But, seriously...
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WolfieInuwolfieinu on December 6th, 2008 09:17 am (UTC)
Or me, either! Nee sjoe ek meen, wees ernstig, mense...