Are we honoring paganism when we celebrate Christmas? Let’s talk about it on Deeper Waters.
Recently, my ministry partner, J.P. Holding of Tektonics, released a Kindle Ebook called “Christmas is Pagan and Other Myths.” One of the benefits of being the ministry partner is getting to get copies of a book like this so I can personally review them.
Holding does say up front he’s not much of a holiday person. I, on the other hand, happen to love the Christmas season, but I’m also a guy heavily into traditions. Still, my desires have changed over the years. Normally as children we look forward to all we’re getting. Now, I look forward to all that I’m giving. Frankly, I have no real idea of what I’m getting this year. My wife and I went to the mall and looked at several items and took pictures and of course, I have an Amazon wish list, but other than that, no idea. I’m fine with that.
What I’m not fine with is that there are several who wish to hold over the heads of others that Christmas is something pagan. Now I have a great resource that they can all use. That’s the book by Holding on this topic.
A benefit of this book for several of you is that it’s a short read. You might think that this is right before Christmas and you don’t have time to read something like this. You do. I started it one night and had it easily finished the next day and that was even with just reading a little bit here and there.
Holding easily dispenses with much of the hype and hysteria on this issue and one that needs to be addressed considering how many horrible sources I see being cited by the opponents of Christmas. (Alexander Hislop anyone?)
This includes dealing with passages like Jeremiah 10 supposedly being about Christmas trees, Santa being pagan, and when Jesus was born. (Would shepherds really not be in the fields if Jesus was born on December 25th? The answer might surprise you.) He also deals with supposed NT contradictions on the nativity. Now this last section is not exhaustive, but it does deal with important material.
There are a number of reasons why I think this is important for the church today.
First, if the church throws around ideas that are foolish based on a cursory examination even, we show ourselves to be making claims that indicate we have not done the historical homework that we’re supposed to. I’m not talking about something that’s just somewhat controversial as there are no doubt disagreements in history. I’m talking about something that has no historical basis whatsoever.
This includes our use of sources. If we consistently use sources that are not reliable, we show that we have no criteria whatsoever for choosing a source except to say that the source is one that agrees with us. (Personally, I enjoy going through books by non-Christian scholars about the historical Jesus and highlighting points of agreement. Nothing like enemy attestation!)
Second, when we do this, we leave ourselves wide open for the pagan copycat hypothesis. “So you think Christmas is stolen from pagans? It gets worse! The whole system is stolen from pagans? Haven’t you ever heard of Mithras?!” (Holding rightly points to his own work “Shattering the Christ Myth” here where these views get demolished.
Third, we keep having a fear of paganism over and over. Excuse me, but isn’t the church supposed to be spreading the Kingdom of God? Why are we afraid of the enemy? I have been told, as an example, that wedding rings are pagan. If I found out this was true, you know what I’d do? Absolutely nothing. Why? Because I don’t wear a ring to honor a pagan deity. I wear it to honor my wife and show my covenant with her to the world. The God who set about to redeem the world and redeem fallen sinners can just as much redeem pagan customs and such that we still use today. (Anyone stopped saying Wednesday because the days of the week come from paganism?)
Finally, enough Christians struggle with guilt trips from self-righteous types. Why take one of the most joyous times of the year and use it as an excuse to bring about another guilt trip? If someone does not want to celebrate Christmas, fine, but they need to give a good reason why I shouldn’t as well, and so far they haven’t.
I highly recommend this book then in preparation for the Christmas season in dealing with the “Christmas is pagan!” crowd.