Of Christmas and Paganism

Birth of Jesus Nativity Scene, Unsplash / Walter Chávez

It is that time of year again where people are busy buying presents, playing Christmas music, getting stressed, and being judged for using pagan elements.

Wait, what?

Near as I can figure it, there are three sources for accusations of Christmas having a pagan origin or incorporating those elements: atheists, sanctimonious Christians, and pagans themselves. If a pagan had accused me of using elements of their religious activities, I didn’t know it. Normally, it’s the other two groups of tinhorns.

Professing atheists frequently exhibit both ignorance and bigotry when making accusations — which is both annoying and amusing when they do so on an article they refused to read that debunks their claims. Ironic, huh?

Self-righteous Christians also show ignorance, often acting like atheists in their caustic remarks. They, too, refuse to read/watch material that has a proper historical perspective, preferring instead erroneous traditions. Then they show that they have the “right” beliefs by bashing Christians who do celebrate, violating Colossians 2:16-17 and others. Pastor Sourjowels would be pleased.

What we do not experience is scorn from people who have some historical knowledge.

There are many myths about Christmas, such as Joseph and Mary being turned away from a hotel, the Magi showing up at the time of Jesus’ birth, and others. A few minor errors that most folks don’t know about are not reasons to reject celebrating Christmas.

We also give each other gifts to celebrate the ultimate gift of God, the incarnation of God the Son, the Creator, as Jesus. Also, because the real Nicholas was a gift-giver.

Some Christians say that we shouldn’t celebrate because we’re not commanded to. So? God gave us holidays (holy days), and people have instituted holidays and observances as well. Indeed, Hanukkah was not one of the original holidays that God commanded the Jews to keep, but Jesus participated (Christians can do it as well). There are a couple of Black Cat Appreciation days. Governments set up holidays. This child has set up Question Evolution Day on 12 February. Holidays and observances happen.

The early church was arguing about when to celebrate Easter back in the 2nd century, not if it should be observed. Similarly, Christmas was celebrated in secret (because of Roman persecution) at about the same time as Easter, and has also been celebrated ever since. Naysayers don’t have church history in support of their views.

25 December for the birth of Jesus has supporters and detractors, and unfortunately some get dogmatic about it. A popular belief is that this date was established to Christianize a pagan festival. Studying the Roman calendar, Saturnalia was over by the 25th. Another candidate was Sol Invictus for sun god worship, but that was established long after Christians were celebrating Christmas.

If y’all choose to not celebrate, great. But don’t pass judgment on those of us who do. In the same way, those of us who do celebrate should not look down on those who give it a hard pass. Both groups have freedom of Christian liberty. You savvy that, pilgrim?

The article linked below covers much of what I’ve touched on in detail, and some other items as well. The history is enlightening, to say the least.

Every year I get “love letters”—can I call them that? You know, those letters blasting me with the same old claims that “Christmas was pagan.” For some reason, I’m supposed to repent of not believing the pagans when they insist that their “holiday” is the true one. I’m chastised for not giving Christmas back to the pagans and locking myself in my house from the four Advent Sundays to the end of the Twelve Days of Christmas.

Don’t get me wrong, I’m not criticizing or poking fun at people for not celebrating Christmas, the resurrection, or their own birthdays. But I think it is wise to refute these claims from time to time as a reminder that pagans usually don’t get it right. Polytheistic and pantheistic pagans—including believers in evolution, Roman and Greek mythology, ancestor worship, Wicca, etc.—attack Christianity with fervor.

I hope you’ll see fit to read the rest and learn, just click on “Was Christmas Pagan? — And Other Attacks on Christmas.” You may also be interested in “The War on Christmas — Book Review.”

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The Crucifixion and Counting to Three

Jesus was crucified between two thieves, buried, and bodily arose after three days. Credit: RGBStock / Bartek Ambrozik

Most Christians around the world celebrate the bodily Resurrection of Jesus from the dead on a day that is commonly called Easter. (And no, it is not a “pagan holiday”, nor is it wrong for us to celebrate. Read the material at the links here so you can savvy that, Sam.) Obviously, before he could rise again, he had to die. That day is usually called Good Friday, and many of us observe that day as well.

It seems strange that the day Jesus suffered the most horrible death known is called “good.” It was good for us, as this B.C. comic succinctly puts it. Got Questions explains:

Why is Good Friday referred to as “good”? What the Jewish authorities and Romans did to Jesus was definitely not good (see Matthew chapters 26-27). However, the results of Christ’s death are very good! Romans 5:8, “But God demonstrates his own love for us in this: While we were still sinners, Christ died for us.” First Peter 3:18 tells us, “For Christ died for sins once for all, the righteous for the unrighteous, to bring you to God. He was put to death in the body but made alive by the Spirit.”

https://www.gotquestions.org/Good-Friday.html

Although mockers try to say that if the Crucifixion was on Friday and the Resurrection was on Sunday, that’s not three days. Cults also do this for some reason. I remember seeing a television show from one that made this claim. There are honest people who also have puzzled about how three days can be reconciled with Friday afternoon through Sunday morning.

It takes a little bit of homework. Hebrews had a different way of reckoning time. We use the Roman system where a day is split into two halves, but you may have noticed in your Bible that certain things happened at a certain hour, such as when Peter and John went up to the temple at the ninth hour (Acts 3:1), which was about three in the afternoon. Some Bibles render that as “three in the afternoon.”

I say about because they didn’t exactly have digital watches, or even grandfather clocks using weights and pendulums. So, an hour wasn’t. Not really, because hours were based on the amount of sunlight in the day. There were twelve hours in a Jewish day, but as for night, it seems that nobody cared very much; there were watches in the night.

With these things in mind, it should come as no surprise to learn that the Jews counted days differently as well. Modern tend to impose their own cultures, experiences, and opinions on texts of ancient cultures. Someone today, 15 April, could say, “I’ll see you in three days”, and the other person says, “Okay, this is Friday at noon. So I’ll see you…let’s see…Saturday, Sunday, Monday. We’ll meet here at noon on Monday. Bring burgers.”

By letting the ancient culture “say” what it means and not forcing our own views on it, we see there is neither problem nor contradiction. To read an explanation, saddle up and ride over to “Three Days and Nights.” Also, you may be interested in a free digital download pack of “The 10 Minute Bible Journey Easter Accounts.” Go through the purchase process at the Answers in Genesis online bookstore, but it really is free.