John J. Blanchard
December 22, 2012 (listen to audio)
Good morning, brethren. This is a very, very important weekend for a couple of reasons. We have approached the Christmas weekend, as they call it, the last weekend of the year, and the world did not end yesterday. This is the first reason why this is a wonderful day and a very important day.
They showed some statistics that were rather startling. They said 10% of the people in the United States actually thought the world would end yesterday, according to the Mayan calendar. A very large percentage above that were concerned that something might happen or was about to happen. As a matter of fact, 50% of the people they polled said the end of the world is probably not that far off if it’s not December 21st. That makes today a special day on the weekend, of course the last weekend of the year. We are all still here!
The second reason I call this a very important weekend is it is the last shopping weekend before Christmas. You would think by watching the news that is right up there with anything going on anywhere in the world! They consider it so crucial for retailers that they consider it a “make or break” weekend for many. If you watch the news, every day and sometimes two or three times a day, they will update people’s shopping and spending habits. Are sales up, or are sales down? How is consumer spending doing? Are they using cash, or are they getting out their credit card and using plastic? According to the news that I saw a couple days ago, apparently more people are using credit cards this year. They said that’s good news because that shows people have confidence in the future. I am wondering to myself, isn’t over spending what got us in this situation we’re in right now? It is kind of a convoluted way of thinking, but they are looking at Christmas sales. How much Christmas shopping is going on?
BINGE DRINKING, BINGE EATING, AND BINGE SPENDING
There is a huge spending binge here at the end of the year. It involves everything from gifts to Christmas decorations, to binge eating to binge drinking, and partying, traveling, air fare, and everything else that goes with the Christmas weekend. It is a huge weekend for the economy.
Then we know every year there is a let down that comes. Early the next year all those bills start coming in the mail from those plastic credit cards. Many gifts get returned, so a lot of retailers are smiling at the end of December and frowning in the first two or three weeks of January as a very large percentage of gifts get returned for whatever reason. Also a lot of gifts get wasted. People receive things they will never use. They put them in the basement or up in the attic and there they sit.
This is not to speak of all the other things people have to deal with after this coming holiday season, but there are hang overs. A lot of people across the country and across the world are dealing with hang overs. They have extra pounds to lose from all that binge eating. They have medical issues. A lot of people in the developed world now have diabetes. From what I understand, it is a tremendous challenge to keep your sugar balanced when you are consuming all of these things while binge eating and binge drinking.
Then there is another side that is a darker side so to speak. There is a lot of depression that surrounds the holidays. A lot of people are lonely and don’t have a whole family to get together with. Or perhaps they have had a divorce in their recent past or a death in the family which makes Christmas a very sad time. In the months that follow, there is a lot of depression. On top of that, we are in the dark part of the year. Science has proven that the lack of sunlight if you are in the Northern Hemisphere actually affects the mood as well. There are all these things conspiring to make people feel quite let down in the early part of the next year.
There is another aspect to this because every year we hear religious people with a conscience start to voice concerns and ask questions about this whole thing and how it has gotten to be so materialistic. Christmas has become one big materialistic bash as far as many Christians are concerned. We hear comments like, we need to put Christ back into Christmas. We need to go to Church on December 25th and not just be opening presents and celebrating. We need to get back into real religious symbols and not just gifts. We need the crèche, and we need the Christmas tree. We need the cross, and we need this and that.
CHRIST WAS NOT BORN DECEMBER 25TH
Of course, there is a national debate going on right now about putting up various religious symbols at this time of the year around the country. You have atheists who say that is not right. You have Christians who say we need to do this to keep Christ in Christmas. Then, of course, there is the usual refrain, “remember the reason for the season.”
For these people who mean well, it seems impossible to separate the materialism and the partying from faith because the sheer magnitude of this holiday has overwhelmed faith. Religious people should ask, “why?” How did all of this happen? How did all of this come about? They need to be told, and they need to learn that the birth of Christ has absolutely nothing in common with Christmas! There is absolutely nothing in common with Christmas, notwithstanding the story of His birth in a manger. That is all accurate and it is Scriptural. But as far as that landing on December 25th and becoming the holiday that we see out there called Christmas, Christ’s birth has nothing to do with this holiday. Therefore, it is actually a misguided idea to think we are going to put Christ back into Christmas because He was never there! He was never there.
It is common knowledge that Christ was not born on December 25th. I could spend a whole sermon proving that, but rather than do so, I would just like to quote the World Book Encyclopedia 1983 Edition which says: “Christmas is a Christian holiday that celebrates the birth of Christ. No one knows the exact date of Christ’s birth, but most Christians observe Christmas on December 25th.”
This is the very start of the article on Christmas, and the World Book Encyclopedia says no one knows the date of Christ’s birth. As a matter of fact, you can prove from the Bible by a process of deduction, so to speak, that Christ was born in the fall. He was probably born in September and no later than the middle of October or so. He was born in the fall because that’s when the shepherds would tend their flocks and bring them down from the hills in Judea. Obviously, if you read the story in the Bible, they were tending their flocks when Christ was born. They do not tend their flocks up in the hills at Christmas time.
There are many proofs that we could go through that would actually prove from the Bible that Christ was not born in December, but we could not prove the day. We do not know the exact day. It would seem that it would correspond with a certain holy day called the Feast of Trumpets, but even that day can land on a couple of different days. No one can prove with absolute certainty the date of Christ’s birth. Obviously, that was the way God wanted it. If He wanted us celebrating His birth, He would have certainly told us to do so and put that date in the Bible. It is obviously and positively not December 25th.
CHRISTMAS AND A ROMAN EMPEROR
Let’s go over a brief history of how Christmas became part of the Christian faith. How did this happen? Once again I am turning to the World Book Encyclopedia, the same edition, and I am going to be paraphrasing different facts from there.
Constantine the Great was born about 275 A.D. He was the first Roman emperor to become Christian. He was a very famous emperor, but he did a number of things after a famous battle that he partook in and was victorious in. He had a dream or a vision that if he were to fight this battle underneath the sign of the cross, he would win. When that happened, he became convinced that Christianity was the religion of choice.
It was a very pagan empire, and Constantine knew it was extremely pagan. As a matter of fact, at this point in time for 300 years they had been persecuting Christians, starting of course with the Roman soldiers who put Jesus Christ to death. In 313 he issued the Edict of Milan. In the Edict of Milan he gave religious freedom to all religions including Christianity. He was moving forward with the concept that they needed to accept Christianity into the pantheon of religions. He was not at that point in time Christian indeed. He was not baptized. He was not baptized until shortly before he died, but he tried to end the persecution. He tried to reunite an empire that was falling apart. He wanted religion on his side, and he wanted to ultimately have one state religion.
Constantine had negotiations and talks with church authorities. Some of them were followers of Christ. They were not the very disciples of Christ but a couple hundred years removed from apostolic Christianity. He had these followers, and he had followers who were changing doctrines. There was a large dispute in the church about the Sabbath, about the Trinity, and about various Christian doctrines. The last thing Constantine needed was a state religion that was divided, so he brought together the Council of Nicea in 325 A.D. At that council they settled a number of very serious doctrinal disputes.
Constantine began pushing the church authorities in a direction that he wanted and then sanctioning the decision once it was the decision he wanted. It was at that point that Christianity became a state religion accepted by the Roman Empire. It sought to meld pagan Roman beliefs with Christian doctrines, but they did not want the Christian doctrines to look anything like Jewish doctrines. If you remember, the Roman government had had problems with the Jews. There were several uprisings and different problems they had had from the Jews including the fact that they were afraid at one point that Jesus Christ might bring about a rebellion because He was called King of the Jews. They had a bad blood relationship with the Jews, so they pushed for a Christian religion that would be acceptable to all the various cultures and customs scattered throughout the Roman Empire. They did this in a very, very subtle way.
At first Constantine in 313 allowed Christianity to become part of the accepted religion, and then in the 320’s they came up with certain doctrines. In these doctrines we saw that various pagan worship practices were allowed into the church. We saw that Christ’s mass—Christmas—was introduced as part of the Christian doctrine and that December 25th was accepted as the birthday of Christ. This coincided with two Roman holidays: Brumalia which was the season of partying, and Saturnalia which was the worship of the sun god near the solstice. This brought these two Roman celebrations into the Christian realm.
So many cultures and nations within the empire had various forms of these two days. They called them different things in different cultures. Up in Norway and in Germany they had different names for these celebrations, but throughout the empire they were doing them. What that did for Constantine is when he said this is going to be part of Christianity, it solved a lot of problems for him. It made Christianity more acceptable and more palatable to various regions in the empire, therefore, unifying the empire.
Various ancient cultures celebrated these holidays in different ways. I am going to mention a few of the traditions. The putting up of evergreen trees eventually became a Christmas tree. They were decorated with supposedly the souls of the dead, which were the little candles and lights they put on them. Yule logs and eternal wreaths were to show that life would continue after the dead of winter. There was mistletoe and of course partying that was involved with orgies and that sort of thing. There was a lot of gift giving.
All of these pagan ideas were dealt with by bringing them into Christianity. Of course, Christianity was trying to tone down the more obviously evil aspects but trying to make the religion acceptable to others. This made the division in Christianity even worse because those people in the church who wanted to maintain the doctrines and beliefs that Jesus Christ taught the disciples became very different. The persecution on them continued because at this Council of Nicea the Sabbath was rejected. God’s holy days were rejected because they all looked Jewish. Any Christians who wanted to keep them were continually persecuted for many, many years.
THE CHRISTMAS TREE
Let’s turn to Jeremiah 10 to examine some of these traditions a little bit. It should become obvious what is being talked about here. It is the Christmas tree, and you could say anything idolatrous that comes from a tree. Jeremiah chapter 10, beginning in verse 1: “Hear the word which the Lord speaks to you, O house of Israel. Thus says the Lord: ‘Do not learn the way of the Gentiles; do not be dismayed at the signs of heaven, for the Gentiles are dismayed at them. For the customs of the peoples are futile; for one cuts a tree from the forest, the work of the hands of the workman, with the ax. They decorate it with silver and gold; they fasten it with nails and hammers so that it will not topple. They are upright, like a palm tree, and they cannot speak; they must be carried, because they cannot go by themselves. Do not be afraid of them, for they cannot do evil, nor can they do any good.’”
Obviously this is like a forerunner of the Christmas tree or any idolatrous thing shaped from a tree. God tells the people to stay away from these things. They are futile and they are pagan. Stay away from them. They are not what I want. Yet this and many other traditions found their way into Christianity. Christ is not part of any of it! He is not part of any of those things and does not like them. There again, we could have a whole sermon on idolatrous worship, on statuaries, and on idols, but that’s not what we want to focus on today. We are focusing on this idea of the world coming to celebrate Christmas and keeping Christ in it when He was never there in the first place. What we do know is that a powerful being has deceived the world to accept these things.
DECEIVING THE WORLD
Turn to Revelation chapter 12. We will start in verse 7 to get the context. “And war broke out in heaven: Michael and his angels fought with the dragon; and the dragon and his angels fought, but they did not prevail, nor was a place found for them in heaven any longer. So the great dragon was cast out, that serpent of old, called the Devil and Satan, who deceives the whole world; he was cast to the earth, and his angels were cast out with him.”
We see that Satan was cast to this earth and manages to deceive all of mankind! That explains the foundational way that these doctrines and practices that are obviously pagan entered Christianity. It was by deception. Satan is the master deceiver. He is so tricky that he can come looking as an angel of light.
Let’s turn to II Corinthians chapter 11. We are going to start in II Corinthians 11, verse 9 where Paul is speaking: “And when I was present with you, and in need, I was a burden to no one, for what I lacked the brethren who came from Macedonia supplied. And in everything I kept myself from being burdensome to you, and so I will keep myself.”
Paul is saying, I worked in every way to not be a burden to you.
Then he goes on to say in verse 10: “As the truth of Christ is in me, no one shall stop me from this boasting in the regions of Achaia. Why? Because I do not love you? God knows! But what I do, I will also continue to do…”
He says, I love you, and I want to teach you. I am willing to sacrifice to do that.
Continuing in verse 12 of II Corinthians 11: “But what I do, I will also continue to do, that I may cut off the opportunity from those who desire an opportunity to be regarded just as we are in the things of which they boast. For such are false apostles, deceitful workers, transforming themselves into apostles of Christ. And no wonder! For Satan himself transforms himself into an angel of light. Therefore it is no great thing if his ministers also transform themselves into ministers of righteousness, whose end will be according to their works.”
That explains a lot. When the church was having these arguments and these divisions back in the 300’s, obviously there were certain ministers who went along with these pagan practices. They had the power of a Roman emperor behind them.
These ministers were putting forth error as light. Paul says that is not a crazy thought to say that, because Satan himself can present himself as an angel of light. Doesn’t that explain something that we need to understand about Christmas? At the darkest time of the year when there are no Godly prescribed holy days, part of the Christmas celebration is this massive display of lights everywhere. It does make things look beautiful. There is no denying that these lights and Christmas lights and decorations all over are beautiful, but they are not to be in the name of Jesus Christ. That’s what Satan deceived mankind to do.
If they wanted to call December 25th the national celebration of snow and put Christmas lights up but call them snow lights, there would be absolutely nothing wrong with it. But it is the fact that they brought Christ into it and made it a holy day by man’s decree—which no man can do, only God can name something holy—that’s where mankind went off the track. Satan deceived ministers at that time who were working with the Roman government to allow that into Christianity and persecuted people who resisted it.
BIBLICAL HOLY DAYS
Now let’s turn to Leviticus chapter 23 where God really does outline His holy days. We will just read Leviticus 23, verses 1-3. You can read the whole chapter on your own because it delineates the holy days and has a lot of information about them. It says how to keep them.
Leviticus 23, beginning in verse 1: “And the Lord spoke to Moses, saying, ‘Speak to the children of Israel, and say to them: “The feasts of the Lord, which you shall proclaim to be holy convocations, these are My feasts. Six days shall work be done, but the seventh day is a Sabbath of solemn rest, a holy convocation. You shall do not work on it; it is the Sabbath of the Lord in all your dwellings.”’”
Let’s read that again because God is saying something incredibly important here. Verse 2: “Speak to the children of Israel, and say to them: ‘The feasts of the Lord [in other words, the holy days of the Lord], which you shall proclaim to be holy convocations [the times to get together], these are My feasts.’”
He starts with the Sabbath day here in verse 3: “Six days shall work be done, but the seventh day is a Sabbath of solemn rest, a holy convocation. You shall do no work on it; it is the Sabbath of the Lord in all your dwellings.”
Then the rest of the chapter deals with seven holy days that are prescribed throughout the year concluding in the months of September and October when we know that Jesus Christ actually did come as that babe in a manger. It was not in December. All of God’s annual holy days are completed far before the darkest night of the year in December.
We can see that God has set apart certain days and called them holy. Only God can proclaim something holy. Man got off the track under the deceptions of Satan and brought days prescribed as holy that were not, and pagan celebrations that should have nothing to do with Christ or His birth. We can understand the idea that we are doing something today with this materialistic holiday we call Christmas and trying to force Christ into it when He was never there. He was never there.
There was a recent article in the USA Today just a couple of days ago that was giving some interesting tidbits about the Christmas tree. Did you know that early Protestants, especially the Puritans who came to America, were against the Christmas tree? For much of our early history the Christmas tree was really frowned on as a pagan symbol! This was a fact. Gradually it took hold and spread throughout the country. It built up momentum at the turn of the last century until it became this huge thing that we see out there now, that is part of a tremendously materialistic celebration called Christmas which is so important to our economy! It is now interwoven into the very fabric of Western life. It seems like in America we take it to extremes. It is one of these things that our economy depends on, and it was all based on a false premise that Jesus Christ was born on December 25th.
Christ is still in His holy days, starting with the Passover season each year. We can understand that Passover represents Christ’s death. That was the big thing He wanted us to recognize. When He died and shed His blood for us and for our sins, that is to be recognized as the beginning of His holy day cycle. Each of the holy days that follow throughout the year has specific importance to Jesus Christ’s relationship to His people and eventually the whole world.
If we want to get along with God and get involved with His program, so to speak, we have to drop not just the materialism of Christmas, but the fact that Christ is not there. We need to take Him back out of Christmas and put Him back into His own holy days so that we can get in concert with His will. Some Christians who want to put Christ back into Christmas mean well, and they also believe that Christ is soon going to return to this earth. That is correct. But when He returns, He will not want us celebrating Christmas as His birthday. He will not want us putting up pagan symbols in His name. He will not want anything like that. He will want us to stay as far from paganism as possible, as we read in Jeremiah.
Since Christianity understands Christ is going to return—and much of Christianity understands that will be soon—we should get in concert with His will as soon as possible, so when He returns He does not find us celebrating all of these pagan things in His name. We will want to observe His holy days. We, as a small flock who keep God’s holy days, are very happy to share as much knowledge as we have about them with anyone who would request literature we have on the subject, CD’s, or DVD’s. We have a lot of study aids to help you learn that your Bible is important to Jesus Christ, and the doctrines and the holy days He prescribes in there are the ones He wants us to keep, so that we can come to know Him better. We can grow with Him and prepare for His soon-coming return and the marvelous Millennium that will follow.