How Did Christmas Get Into The Christian Church?

How Did Christmas Get Into The Christian Church? — In one brief paragraph, the New Schaff-Herzog Encyclopedia of Religious Knowledge tells us how the December 25 holiday entered the Christian church:

“How much the date of the festival depended upon the pagan Brumalia [The December 25 celebration], following the Saturnalia [an eight-day December 17- 24 festival preceding it], and celebrating the shortest day of the year and the ‘new sun’ . . cannot be accurately determined. The pagan Saturnalia and Brumalia were too deeply entrenched in popular custom to be set aside by Christian influence . . The pagan festival with its riot and merrymaking was so popular that Christians were glad of an excuse to continue its celebration with little change in spirit and in manner. Christian preachers of the West and the Near East protested against the unseemly frivolity with which Christ’s birthday was celebrated, while Christians of Mesopotamia accused their Western brethren of idolatry and sun worship for adopting as Christian this pagan festival.”— New Schaff-Herzog Encyclopedia of Religious Knowledge, “Christmas.”

Church leaders adopted a pagan holiday, in spite of the protests of some godly local pastors. It was considered idolatry to do this, since it was nothing more than a heathen day of worship. In addition, the day for this worship had been selected in honor of Mithra, the sun god. December 25 was dedicated to the keeping of his birthday. Therefore sincere Christians considered it to be a form of sun worship. The sun had reached its lowest angle in the sky on December 21 (the winter solstice), and the 25th was the first observable day in which it began rising in the noon sky. So December 25 had, for centuries, been celebrated as the “birth of the sun god.”

But, back in those earlier centuries, earnest believers recognized that Christians dare not accept pagan practices or pagan holidays. These heathen customs are not found in the Bible as being used by Christians, so they ought to be shunned by conscientious Christians. The Roman world was essentially pagan. Many converts to Christianity had come to enjoy those festivities and did not want to forsake them after baptism into the Christian church. But when half-converted church members rose to positions of leadership in the Church, they made policy changes in agreement with contemporary heathen customs. And that is how we got Christmas.

“A feast was established in memory of this event [Christ’s birth] in the fourth century. In the fifth century the Western Church ordered it to be celebrated forever on the day of the old Roman feast of the birth of Sol [the Latin word for ‘sun’], as no certain knowledge of the day of Christ’s birth existed.”Encyclopedia Americana (1944 edition), “Christmas.”

If the Bible contained no certain knowledge of when Christ was born, then we should not try to select a definite day on which to worship Him. Instead, we should remain with the only weekly worship day God ever gave us, the seventh-day Sabbath (Genesis 2:1-3, Exodus 20:8-11).

The above quotation spoke about a pagan feast back then, in honor of the yearly birth of Sol. That word means “sun” in Latin and was another name for Mithra, the sun god. A strong controversy arose in the Christian church over this apostasy by Western church leaders:

“Certain Latins, as early as [A.D.] 354, may have transferred the birthday from January 6th to Decem- ber 25, which was then a Mithraic feast . . or birthday of the unconquered sun . . The Syrians and Armenians accused the Romans of sun worship and idolatry.”—Encyclopedia Britannica, 1946 ed.

It was clearly understood by the faithful Christians that this pagan holiday should not be adopted as the memorial day of the birth of Christ.

Christmas, Easter, and Halloween by Vance Ferrell



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