Thursday, January 28, 2016

Abraham's Faith and Works - or Faith and Parachutes, Part 3

Abraham. Just reading the name to myself, I hear it being spoken by someone like James Earl Jones. Imagine trying to stand shoulder-to-shoulder with him in God’s Kingdom. You’d feel about two inches tall by comparison. I know I would.

Abraham is mentioned prominently in the “faith chapter” – Hebrews 11 – and for good reason. There he is lauded for leaving his home for an unknown land and for offering up his son, Isaac.

Wait a minute. Why would Abraham’s works be mentioned in the “faith” chapter? I must be thinking of Romans.

(Romans 4:2-5) For if Abraham was justified by works, he has something to boast about, but not before God. For what does the Scripture say? “Abraham believed God, and it was accounted to him for righteousness.” Now to him who works, the wages are not counted as grace but as debt. But to him who does not work, but believes on Him who justifies the ungodly, his faith is accounted for righteousness.

Ok, that makes more sense. But wait, isn't there another scripture, one that marries the two concepts?

(James 2:21-24) Was not Abraham our father justified by works when he offered Isaac his son on the altar? Do you see that faith was working together with his works, and by works faith was made perfect? And the scripture was fulfilled which says, “Abraham believed God, and it was accounted to him for righteousness. And he was called the friend of God. You see then that a man is justified by works, and not by faith only.

Hmmm. Now what?

The Churches of God love to exploit the seeming contradictions found within these passages to ridicule “so-called” Christianity’s teaching that salvation is by faith alone. Works are a requirement for those who wish to inherit eternal life, they object. Most of  today’s COGs are softer on the “or else” side of the works equation, but their founder, Herbert Armstrong, was known for teaching that believers were comparable to spiritual fetuses, and God would abort believers who did not grow enough or overcome enough sin.

As a result, today’s COGs are populated by a generation of people who know they can’t earn their salvation, but hope they don’t screw up badly enough to lose it. After years of well-meaning, uneducated, and dogmatic messages from a shrinking pool of speakers, they see nothing wrong with the mutually exclusive beliefs that you can’t earn right standing with God, but you must work for the rest of your life to keep your right standing with God. I know. I was one of them. For decades.

So who got it right when it comes to Abraham? James or Paul? Or, since both were inspired by God, is there another explanation? Today and in the coming weeks, as I continue delayed “Faith and Parachutes” posts (see part 1 and part 2), I’d like to look at some key events in the life of Abraham to get a better understanding of the correlation between faith and works, resolving the tension between Paul and James.


ACCOUNTED FOR RIGHTEOUSNESS

The story begins in Genesis 12:1-3, which lists the promises of the Abrahamic Covenant. God tells Abram to leave Haran; promises to make a great nation of him and that he would bless all the families of the earth through him. Abram obeys, then famine and Lot’s captivity temporarily derail the story line.

In chapter 15, we see Abram lamenting that he has no heir. God responds by promising descendants as numerous as the stars in the heavens. In Genesis 15:6, Abram decided to trust God regarding his descendants, and God accounted his faith for righteousness. Simply put, this means that because of Abraham's faith, he found favor with God. God credited Christ's righteousness to Abraham's "sin account" and credited Abraham's sin to Jesus.

The statement made in Genesis 15:6 is so simple, yet so significant. But rather than considering the logical implications of this statement, groups like the Living Church of God try to immediately divert our attention:

“Taking this scripture alone seems to indicate that belief in the Lord is all that is necessary to be considered righteous. But James, the brother of Jesus, forcefully argues that without backing it up with action, belief is simply not enough.” ("Phil Sena, From Belief to Faith, Tomorrow's World , November-December 2015).
I'd like to offer my own follow-up scripture. We already read this passage, but it deserves a second look. Let's allow Paul to start unpacking the implications of this scripture.

(Romans 4:2-5) For if Abraham was justified by works, he has something to boast about, but not before God. For what does the Scripture say? “Abraham believed God, and it was accounted to him for righteousness.” Now to him who works, the wages are not counted as grace, but as debt. But to him who does not work but believes on Him who justifies the ungodly, his faith is accounted for righteousness.

This means that God considered Abraham legally righteous before Him. Abram was now entitled to eternal life (because of God's grace). Let that sink in for a minute. God did not account Christ’s righteousness to Abraham when he left Haran, when Isaac was conceived, or even when he attempted to sacrifice Isaac. He imputed Christ's righteousness to Abraham when the man decided to trust God and was simply staring up at the night sky.

No, God didn’t reward Abraham with salvation because he backed up the claim with action, despite what LCG's Phil Sena claims:

“Abraham believed that God could even resurrect Isaac back to physical life if He so willed.   This faith in God's power and goodness gave him the strength to obey God's command to sacrifice his son. "By faith Abraham, when he was tested, offered up Isaac, and he who had received the promises offered up his only begotten son, of whom it was said, 'In Isaac your seed shall be called,' concluding that God was able to raise him up, even from the dead, from which he also received him in a figurative sense" (Hebrews 11:17–19) Anyone can claim to 'believe God' —but backing up the claim with action is why God accounted Abraham's belief as righteousness."


How can I say that Christ's righteousness wasn't the payoff for obedience? Because that's what Romans 4:10-11 tells us:

How then was it (righteousness) accounted? While he was circumcised, or uncircumcised? Not while circumcised, but while uncircumcised. And he received the sign of circumcision, a seal of the righteousness of the faith which he had while still uncircumcised, that he might be the father of all those who believe, though they are uncircumcised, that righteousness might be imputed to them also.

Abraham was circumcised in Genesis 17.  Simple math tells us that at least 14 years must have passed between Genesis 15:6 and the time God commanded Abraham to circumcise himself and his household (which included 13-year-old Ishmael, who was not yet conceived in Genesis 15:6).

Christ's righteousness was imputed to him before he was circumcised, and was not dependent upon his actions. Thankfully. Since the little bit we know of Abraham's track record during that intermittent period was not amazing. In the intervening verses, Abraham fathered a child with Sarah's maid and laughed in God's face.  Yet folks like LCG's Sena would have us believe that God credited Abraham with righteousness because of his actions.

“Anyone can claim to "believe God"—but backing up the claim with action is why God accounted Abraham's belief as righteousness,” Sena wrote.
If you tried to back Sena or other LCG comrades into a corner, I suppose they could argue that, back in Genesis 15, the omniscient God knew that Abraham would obey Him in Genesis 22 and therefore credited him with righteousness based on that knowledge. But that line of reasoning pushes LCG dangerously close accepting predestination – a doctrine they reject. If predestination were true, then God would know who would remain obedient from the beginning, your salvation would be sealed, and LCG and other COGs couldn't hold your eternal destiny over your head as blackmail for tithes and organizational loyalty. But if you feel your salvation is precarious, your fear makes you more likely to resign yourself to accepting their shenanigans and ultimatums.

This hypothetical desperate rebuttal becomes even more threatening to LCG when you consider how it refutes the false Armstrongist teaching that Jesus had to qualify to replace Satan as the ruler of the world. This false doctrine – which, in short, claims Jesus' victory was uncertain – is not consistent with several scriptures:

(Isaiah 53:4-5) Surely He has borne our griefs and carried our sorrows; yet we esteemed Him stricken, smitten by God, and afflicted. But He was wounded for our transgressions, He was bruised for our iniquities; the chastisement for our peace was upon Him, and by His stripes we are healed. This “suffering servant” passage is prophetic, not speculative. It does not say "by His stripes we might be healed, depending on whether He is successful."

(John 3:14-15) And as Moses lifted up the serpent in the wilderness, even so must the Son of Man be lifted up, that whoever believes in Him should not perish but have eternal life. If this account from the book of Numbers depicted Christ, then surely His victory was assured at that time. Jesus wouldn't use it as an inspired example, then fail to follow through at the actual time this word picture symbolized.

(Revelation 13:8) All who dwell on the earth will worship him, whose names have not been written in the Book of Life of the Lamb slain from the foundation of the world. Jesus was as good as slain from the foundation of the world, and his victory was assured. His sacrifice was not a hastily drawn-up plan B when Israel failed to keep its covenant with God.

Further, if our condition to “qualify” for salvation is based on Jesus' requirement to qualify, then  how solid is the case for either? God's decision to impute Christ's righteousness to Abraham clearly predated the crucifixion. He couldn't have done so if Christ's victory wasn't already certain.

But back to the main topic. Some would argue that Abraham's regeneration  and justification was what enabled his legendary works of obedience in the first place. This would makes sense. If we are to believe that heroes of faith like Abraham, Noah and Rahab were able to overcome their emnity with God on the strength of their own human efforts, then there is no need for Jesus’ death on the cross or the gift of the Holy Spirit. And isn't that really the point of Romans 4?

(Romans 4:2-4) For if Abraham was justified by works, be has something to boast about, but not before God. For what does the scripture say? "Abraham believed God, and it was accounted to him for righteousness." Now to him who works, the wages are not counted as grace but as debt.

Abraham had faith, and the evidence of that faith manifest itself in his actions, as explained in James 2:22.

Do you see that faith was working together with his works, and by works faith was made perfect? 

Like Abraham, God regenerates our hearts and counts us righteous because of our faith, not because of our works. Like Abraham, works of obedience should follow that give evidence of this invisible change. (if they don't, we need to examine where we really have faith, not just dig in and work harder). And like Abraham, we will still make mistakes.

Rather than scoff at the idea of salvation by faith, we should be grateful that we don't need to worry that every misstep will land us in the Lake of Fire. We should be thankful that the blood of Jesus covers our sins; be mindful that our sin is costly; be quick to repent, then go and strive to sin no more. We can rejoice in the knowledge that our works don't maintain our salvation; but instead, they give us the daily opportunity to serve our Father and bring honor and glory to His name.  




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It is important that you understand; Everything on this blog is based on the current understanding of each author. Never take anyone's word for it, always prove it for yourself, it is your responsibility. You cannot ride someone else's coattail into the Kingdom. ; )
Acts 17:11
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Sunday, January 24, 2016

Ron Dart Passes Away

Ron Dart, liberal Armstrongist Minister and founder of Christian Educational Ministries, has passed away. From his Facebook page:
Ronald L. Dart died peacefully in his sleep early this Sabbath morning, January 23rd, from a prolonged battle with cutaneous T-cell lymphoma.
After the WCG exploded in 1995, I remember sitting with my family and listening to Ron Dart's messages (during his CGI days). He tended to be a lot easier to listen to, and softer in his approach. I visited one of his Feast of Tabernacles meetings in Tennessee once. It was actually a lot better than I thought it would be. The music was great.

Our sympathies to his family and friends.

Thursday, January 7, 2016

Beyond Today magazine, the United Church of God and Herbert W Armstrong

We at As Bereans Did got wind of a new religious magazine - "Beyond Today" - that came off the presses last week. Who is publishing this new magazine? Do they have a church? One you'd like to attend? Are they a new group? What is their history?

Actually, we knew this magazine was coming for a while. And it's not new. Back in 2014, the United Church of God - the church that publishes "Beyond Today" - announced its plans to consolidate its media efforts under this name. UCG already produced a "Beyond Today" television program and featured Internet resources under the same banner. So it's now publishing its magazine, formerly known as the "Good News," under the "Beyond Today" name as well. During the initial announcement, UCG's Darris McNeely stated that UCG hoped that consolidating its different media outlets under one name would give it a greater brand and media recognition.

Our usual aim at ABD is to help questioning members of groups like UCG, the Living Church of God and other splinters of Herbert W Armstrong's Worldwide Church of God. But today, we want to talk to those of you who might be searching for information about Beyond Today.

Perhaps Beyond Today is your first exposure to the doctrines of Herbert W Armstrong.   If so, let us help get you up to speed. Armstrong founded the Worldwide Church of God, from which UCG and other groups splintered. Armstrong claimed to be an apostle who received direct revelation from Jesus Christ, despite the fact that hundreds of prophecies he made in God's name failed. Armstrong died in 1986; and in the years that followed, the cult's new leadership slowly changed WCG's doctrines in efforts to purge Armstrong's doomsday prophecies, false teachings and adopt more orthodox Christian teachings.

But Armstrong's doctrinal legacy legacy lives on in UCG and other WCG splinters, made up of WCG members who disagreed with the "church's" new direction. A group of former WCG ministers created the United Church of God, rather than joining with established splinter groups, in hopes of gathering together the disaffected members. Ironically, this "United" group has only continued to splinter over the past two decades along with other remnant groups from the Worldwide Church of God.

Maybe you've never heard of Armstrong, also known as HWA, or have only heard the COG version of his biography. If so, please consider the other side of HWA's  story.

In the past, UCG has been accused by more hard-core Armstrong devotees of distancing itself from "the apostle" whom God used to restore "the truth." Cynics might wonder whether abandoning the "Good News" title, which it carried over from Armstrong's Worldwide Church of God, is intended to increase that distance.

UCG may try to publicly distance itself from Herbert Armstrong, but they still embrace HWA's debunked theory of British Israelism, which teaches that the United States, Britain and Western Europe are descended from the "lost 10 tribes of Israel." They reject many traditional Christian doctrines and celebrations based on the misguided 1800s-era "research" and conspiracy theories written by Alexander Hislop. Misunderstanding or misleading about traditional Christianity is standard practice among the COG ministers. Perhaps worst of all, UCG diminishes Jesus' sacrifice through the unbiblical doctrine of justification by works, or more accurately, maintenance of grace through their works. And once you accept these doctrines, this group teaches that you that you risk damnation if you ever question or depart from them.

UCG will probably try to position Beyond Today as a resource for Biblical truth and godly living. We at ABD are fans of godly living. There's little doubt that the folks at UCG have good intentions and want to turn people toward God and away from sin. We agree that sin is a bad thing, although we might disagree with them on the definition. And when you take the next step and actually attend a UCG church service, you'll find that UCG largely defines biblical righteousness as how well you follow their checklist - and that often boils down to how well you observe the seventh-day Sabbath and the Holy Days listed in Leviticus 23. Much of the time, instructions on Christian living takes a back seat to prophecy, church government, clean and unclean meats and other cherry-picked tenets of the Sinai Covenant. The veil is thick over their eyes (2 Corinthians 3:14-15). These things are the marks of God's "true church" - in fact, the COGs splinter and divide with ever-increasing frequency as they jostle for bragging rights to this title, based on different interpretations of the "proper" keeping of these doctrines. Apparently the division, slander and selfish ambition Jesus Christ forbade are acceptable as long as they facilitate proper Sabbath-keeping. Or a home office in the "proper" location. Or a righteously-funded media budget. If you still don't get the picture, might I suggest you Google topics like "UCG COGWA split," "Global Living Church of God split" or "Church of God AIC split."

If that wasn't enough, consider that Jesus Christ supposedly revealed these "truths" to Herbert Armstrong - the ones that UCG champions even today - during the same decade that HWA is alleged to have been committing incest with his daughter. That allegation cannot be simply waved away slander or an attack from Satan. That allegation was reported as a fact during Herbert Armstrong's divorce proceedings with with Ramona Martin. UCG's own Gary Antion is reported to have to admitted he knew the incest claim was true. Antion retired in 2015 after serving as a member of the UCG Council of Elders, as a church pastor and a teacher at UCG's Ambassador Bible Center, among other positions.

As recently as November 2014, UCG still featured this HWA-apologist gem of a post: "Be Ready to Give an Answer: Didn't You Follow a False Prophet?" on its web site. After ABD quoted it, the article disappeared from the search results on UCG's site. If you're interested, you can still read the original article by scrolling to page 18 of this PDF copy of the November 2005 United News. The article makes the truth is clear: Until only a year ago, UCG preferred to cast mild aspersions on the Apostle Peter, The Apostle Paul, and even Jesus Himself for fostering a sense of urgency, rather than admit the man who started their religious movement set prophetic dates that failed. Is it likely that decades of devotion have disappeared in the past 14 months?

Armstrong's failed predictions often centered around end-time Bible prophecy. Whether he was a true believer in his doomsday predictions or simply trying to scare people into joining or staying in his "church" is a point of debate. But UCG's Beyond Today magazine clearly continues HWA's tradition. In the first issue alone, we see articles about Babylon and the breakdown of today's society; the Bible's prophetic puzzle; rumors of war in the Middle East; Terrorism; Muslim forays into Europe; attacks on American police officers; speculation about living in the time of the end; and a plug for UCG's Booklet about the United States in Prophecy, which propagates HWA's scientifically-debunked theory about the "lost" 10 tribes of Israel.  There's no doubt Jesus told His followers to watch the signs of the times. But is this a 40-page Christian magazine that is also watching the times, or a 40-page prophecy magazine sprinkled with a few biblical nuggets?

Prophetic bent aside, UCG leaders seem to understand they must distance themselves from HWA if the group is to have any kind of shelf life, as we explained in 2014. But the Bible doesn't tell us simply to distance ourselves from false prophets, or parse the writings of sex offenders for their good points. Scripture makes it clear that we must carefully consider the conduct of our leaders:

(Deuteronomy 18:20-22) But the prophet who presumes to speak a word in My name, which I have not commanded him to speak, or who speaks in the name of other gods, that prophet shall die. And if you say in your heart, "How shall we know the word which the Lord has not spoken?" when a prophet speaks in the name of the Lord, if the thing does not happen or come to pass, that is the thing which the Lord has not spoken; the prophet has spoken it presumptuously; you shall not be afraid of him." Regardless of whether a man officially calls himself a prophet, if he makes predictions in God's name, as Herbert Armstrong did countless times, and they do not come to pass when he says they will, then he is a false prophet.

(Matthew 7:15-20) Beware of false prophets, who come to you in sheep's clothing, but inwardly they are ravenous wolves. You will know them by their fruits. Do men gather grapes from thornbushes or figs from thistles? Even so, every good tree bears good fruit, but a bad tree bears bad fruit. A good tree cannot bear bad fruit, nor can a bad tree bear good fruit. Every tree that does not bear good fruit is cut down and thrown into the fire. Therefore by their fruits you will know them." Was the fruit of HWA's personal lifestyle positive or negative? Was he known for imitating Christ and displaying the fruits of the spirit, or for his famous temper, outrageous lifestyle, and for occasionally comparing members of his church to human waste? What is the fruit of the religious movement he started? Joy, peace and patience or fractious squabbling? By their fruits you will know them.

(1 Corinthians 5:1-2, NIV, section titled "Dealing with a Case of Incest") It is actually reported that there is sexual immorality among you, and of a kind that even pagans do not tolerate: A man is sleeping with his father's wife. And you are proud! Shouldn't you rather have gone into mourning and have put out of your fellowship the man who has been doing this? This speaks for itself, assuming the allegation is true.

(Hebrews 13:7) Remember those who rule over you, who have spoken the word of God to you, whose faith follow, considering the outcome of their conduct. What was the outcome of HWA's conduct? What is the outcome of today's Church of God leaders? Consider the conduct of your leaders. If you like the fruit of their lives and their faith, follow in their footsteps. If not, perhaps you should consider why you do not.

Bottom line -  if "Beyond Today" convicts someone that it's morally wrong to have an affair and keeps him from cheating on his spouse, we applaud that. If it encourages someone to turn to God for help with failing finances or a troubling medical prognosis, that's great. Beyond Today's well-meaning proof-texts are still based in scripture, so it's certainly possible. And if you're committed to attending an Armstrongist group, then UCG is probably one of your better choices. Usually, it allows you more personal freedom than the other WCG-descended groups. As well as a much better chance that your minister will "allow" you to maintain somewhat normal relationships with family and friends outside the organization. (If you're into more ministerial control of your life, perhaps you would prefer some of UCG's sister splinters, like the Philadelphia Church of God (also see this on the PCG) or the Living Church of God).  Newer UCG leaders don't seem to be allergic to the words "Jesus" and "grace," which are huge steps of departure from the Worldwide Church of God. We pray that they properly understand both one day.

In the end, "Beyond Today" and all other COG media efforts can't help but mix New Covenant wine with Sinai Covenant wineskins. It will lead sincere people seeking to obey God and live a righteous lifestyle into a performance trap mentality that robs them of the peace, joy and abundant life Jesus came to offer them. Beyond Today is not a new, cutting-edge Christian magazine. It is repackaged material from Armstrongist apologists who are trying to stir up the ashes of a religious movement founded by a false apostle/prophet - one who slandered mainstream Christianity as immoral while he is alleged to have forced an incestuous relationship on his own daughter for more than 10 years, if court records and one of UCG's own long-time, upper-eschelon leaders can be trusted. Make no mistake. Beyond Today, like its publisher, the United Church of God, is Armstrongist at its core.


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It is important that you understand; Everything on this blog is based on the current understanding of each author. Never take anyone's word for it, always prove it for yourself, it is your responsibility. You cannot ride someone else's coattail into the Kingdom. ; )
Acts 17:11
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Wednesday, December 23, 2015

Unto YOU a Child is Born

Well, the day’s almost here. We've spent a lot of time over the past month defending Christmas as a Christian holiday and many of its traditions as acceptable. But I wanted to write something attempting to explain the “pro” side – why anyone would want to celebrate Christmas. Aside from the gifts, the food and the pretty lights, that is. Why would any conscientious Christian desire to celebrate Christmas? Especially one who was raised to believe that Christmas was wrong, and survived just fine without it for decades?

I was trying to find the words to explain. But when I sat down to write, my children kept on practicing their choir music. Over. And over. AND. OVER. After my migraine subsided, I realized one of the songs they were singing did a much better job of explaining why anyone would want to mark Christ’s birth than I ever could. And no, I’m not just being spiteful because I will have this song stuck in my head until at least March. Remember, I’m sparing you the electric guitars and the off-key voices:

Hey, don’t be afraid, I’ve got some great news!
Christ was born today in Bethlehem.
I said hey, don’t be afraid, I’ve got some great news!
We have come to show the way to Him. (Luke 2:9-12)
Unto you a child is born
Unto you a Son is given
Unto you a Holy Child has come.
Unto you a mighty Lord (Isaiah 9:6)
Unto you a Light from Heaven (Isaiah 9:1-2)
We are here to celebrate the world’s greatest news!

So pretty much everything but “Hey” and “we are here to celebrate the world’s greatest news” is directly from Scripture.

Ok, so maybe the “world's greatest news” part is not quite accurate. The resurrection truly was the greatest news ever, because it confirmed that Jesus was Who He said He was, and that what He taught about forgiveness of sin and eternal life were true. But you can't have a death and resurrection without a birth, and it was the greatest news up until that point, chronologically speaking.

In keeping with that line of thinking, I'll admit that Christmas isn't my favorite Christian holiday. I wish Easter got half the attention that Christmas did (although, really, it would be distasteful to further commercialize an observance that involves the death of our Savior). But I'm not much for arguing with the heavenly host, and if the angels, who had no stake in the resurrection, sang and celebrated at his birth, why shouldn't we, the redeemed?

But then, that's the difference, isn't it? Even if those in the Churches of God could bring themselves to accept that they'd been lied to about Christmas, Christ's birth didn't really accomplish much, according to their theology. Herbert Armstrong, founder of the COG religious movement, taught that Jesus had to qualify to replace Satan as the ruler of this world. In his writings, the outcome of the incarnation was a history's greatest gamble up until the moment Jesus took His last breath. Most of today's COGs don't state this as explicitly, but still believe HWA spoke for God and continue to teach variations of his doctrines, including this one.

More to the point, Herbert Armstrong taught that Christians had to qualify for eternal life, just as he taught Jesus did, by overcoming Satan and sin. And if we didn't do a good enough job, God would abort us, as page 45 of HWA's booklet, Just what Do You Mean Born Again, tells us. So really, according to Armstrong’s theology, Christ's birth didn't accomplish much. It was the first step in an uncertain nail-biter, that gave humanity the chance to qualify for salvation, kinda, sorta maybe, if they just try hard enough. 

Thankfully for us, Scripture tells us these doctrines simply aren't true. From the Passover Lamb to the Snake on the Pole, we see Scriptural foreshadowing that indicates Christ's victory was certain:

(Numbers 21:8-9) Then the Lord said to Moses, “Make a fiery serpent, and set it on a pole; and it shall be that everyone who is bitten, when he looks at it, shall live.” So Moses made a bronze serpent, and put it on a pole; and so it was, if a serpent had bitten anyone, when he looked at the bronze serpent, he lived.

(John 3:14-15) And as Moses lifted up the serpent in the wilderness, even so the must the Son of Man be lifted up, that whoever believes in Him should not perish but have eternal life.”

(Isaiah 53:5) But He was wounded for our transgressions, He was bruised for our iniquities; the chastisement for our peace was upon Him, and by His stripes we are healed.

(Luke 2:29-31) "Lord, now You are letting Your servant depart in peace, according to your word, for my eyes have seen Your salvation which you have prepared before the face of all peoples." 

(Revelation 13:8) All who dwell on the earth will worship him, whose names have not been written in the Book of Life of the Lamb slain from the foundation of the world.

And that our victory comes through our trust in Jesus' finished work on the cross, not in our personal righteousness quotient:

(John 6:28-29) Then they said to Him, “What shall we do, that we may work the works of God?” Jesus answered and said to them, “This is the work of God, that you believe in Him whom He sent.”

(John 3:16-18) For God so loved the world that He gave His only begotten Son, that whoever believes in Him should not perish but have everlasting life. For God did not send His Son into the world to condemn the world, but that the world through Him might be saved. He who believes in Him is not condemned; but he who does not believe is condemned already because he has not believed in the name of the only begotten Son of God.

(Revelation 12:11) And they overcame him (the accuser of the brethren) by the blood of the Lamb and by the word of their testimony, and they did not love their lives to the death.

(Galatians 2:21) I do not set aside the grace of God; for if righteousness comes through the law, then Christ died in vain.

(Ephesians 2:8-9) For by grace you have been saved through faith, and that not of yourselves; it is the gift of God, not of works, lest anyone should boast.

Why would a sincere, God-fearing Christian want to celebrate Christmas? Because Jesus' birth, and subsequent death, bridged the gap between sinful man and perfect God. Because my standing before God on any given day does not depend upon my mixed bag of successes and failures. Because it is through His blood and my testimony of faith in Him that I can have eternal life. Because when I am discouraged with myself, my life and the dirty rags of my human efforts, I can know that my victory was assured since the foundation of the world. And as Luke 2:11 tells us, he was born “unto you” - unto the shepherds, unto Mary, until you, unto me, unto anyone and everyone who needed a Savior.

Now THAT is something to celebrate. Give thanks for your Savior this week, or in August, or whenever you feel comfortable. But make sure you do it. It's not a Catholic thing to do. It's not a Protestant thing to do. It's a Christian thing to thank God for the coming of the Christ. Merry Christmas, and God bless.




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It is important that you understand; Everything on this blog is based on the current understanding of each author. Never take anyone's word for it, always prove it for yourself, it is your responsibility. You cannot ride someone else's coattail into the Kingdom. ; )
Acts 17:11
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Friday, December 18, 2015

COGWA's Christmas on Trial - The Defense's Closing Statement

December is a time that As Bereans Did really outdoes itself, and I feel free to say that because I have contributed very little to the blog's Christmas research. xHWA published an excellent Christmas FAQ last week that addressed every objection to Christmas that I've ever heard and a few I hadn't heard. The FAQ condenses his larger study, “The Plain Truth about December 25th. After reading them, I figured I'd just pour some cocoa and settle in for a long winter's nap.

But then I got the latest issue of COGWA's Discern magazine and read its cover story, “Christmas on Trial.” It's pretty creative, for a rehash of outdated material that's more than 60 years old:
“Imagine a courtroom where Christmas is on trial, charged with false impersonation of legitimate, godly worship," author Clyde Kilough writes. "Now it’s the prosecutor’s turn to make his closing argument.”
I'm sure the author was trying to be clever. But in reality, his approach was comically ironic. Why? Because for decades, the Churches of God HAVE put Christmas on trial  - in a kangaroo court. They've acted as the both the prosecution and the defense, putting forth only the arguments and evidence THEY choose to present. They’ve called confused witnesses - even false witnesses - and elevated their testimony to gospel truth. They’ve shouted out rebuttals, maligned innocent practices and slandered honest men. I know, because I did it, too.

Just like Kilough's article, they HAVE skipped ahead to the prosecutor's closing argument when it comes to Christmas. They've snatched the gavel and slammed it down, declaring the trial over without any chance for rebuttal. They are prosecution, defense, judge and jury. And they've used courtroom theatrics to bully us into accepting some pretty outrageous claims over the years, like ornaments originating from Nimrod’s private parts. Where are we, in a middle school boys locker room? Dear reader, you deserve better, more honest treatment than this!

If the defense were able to get a word in edgewise, it might sound something like this:

Ladies and gentlemen of the jury, it’s true that many ancient pagan holidays do fall near December 25th. No one denies that. But do proximal dates always indicate two events are related?  In 2016, Pentecost will fall during the Muslim Ramadan holiday. Does this mean that, next year, those who celebrate Pentecost will simultaneously be observing Ramadan? And would Muslims agree that they are celebrating Pentecost, even incidentally? More to the point, Easter always falls just days after Passover. Mainstream Christians would readily assert that the two are related. But would you?

Many COG objections to Christmas present a chicken-and-egg scenario. Some pagan celebrations the COGs try to link to Christmas can be traced back to centuries BC. Others, however, are dated much later than we were originally led to believe. Consider that Herbert Armstrong, the founder of today’s COG movement, wrote his first anti-Christmas booklet in 1952. The material today’s COGs put out is largely the same, graphics excluded.

Much has happened in the worlds of archaeology and anthropology since 1952. A lot of what has been found exonerates December 25th from its alleged pagan ties. Why do the COGs cling to outdated information?  Why hit “pause” on understanding simply because of information included in a 1950 edition encyclopedia? A resource is only as good as the information available at the time it is published. The same encyclopedia would list East and West Germany as two separate countries.  It wouldn't even include entries on space travel. If we stuck to 1950's research in technology, computers would still have 512 bytes of memory and weigh 13 tons. Would we make this trade because of mere emotion, tradition and superstition?

Still, much of HWA’s material was even more outdated than this. His assertions were largely based on the writings of Alexander Hislop, a minister in the Free Church of Scotland best known for his criticism of the Roman Catholic Church. Hislop's highly speculative pamphlet, The Two Babylons, was largely based in anti-Catholic conspiracy theory and was first released in 1853. Excavation of the ancient city of Babylon did not even begin until 1899.

So what? We're not just talking about antiquated writings, the prosecution might say. Did any of the jurors see the TV special on the pagan roots of Christmas that aired last week?  May I suggest the strong possibility that they are using many of the same outdated sources as HWA and today’s COGs. Which begs the question: what's their motivation? The media does little in a vacuum. When was the last time you found yourself on the same side of ANY argument as the media? You complain about the liberal, biased propaganda the media spews for  11 months of the year. But now, suddenly in December, they’re fair-minded and reliable, telling the gospel truth?

Here is something the prosecutor isn't telling you. Ancient church records show us that many Christians were trying to deduce the dates of Christ’s birth and death in the 100s and 200s AD – more than 100 years before the first mention of the “Sol Invictus” the COGs like to throw around. You can criticize them for concerning themselves with a birthday if you like, although there's no biblical prohibition for doing so. I suspect Christmas is one of the main reasons HWA originally damned birthday celebrations.

But anyway, many concluded Christ’s birth took place late in the year. For example, records from Clement of Alexandria (dated to roughly 198 AD) indicated Egyptian churches calculated Christ was born 194 years, 1 month and 13 days before the death of Commodus. Reliable sources tell us Commodus died December 31, 194 AD. Whether or not Clement is correct, it shows that early churches based their conclusions on calculations rather than just picking a pagan feast.

Hippolytus of Rome – one of Clement’s students - came to the December 25th date a different way in the first decade of the 200s AD. He was focused on determining the date of Christ’s death. He determined the year Jesus died (did you know when the COGs “determined” the year, they went on nothing more than examining days of the week to see which year fit their resurrection narrative?). Hippolytus calculated that Christ was crucified on Friday, March 25th, 33 AD, then added 9 months. Why nine months? Because Hippolytus held to the Jewish tradition that one’s date of conception or birth is tied to the date of one’s death.  Extrabiblical? Absolutely. Pagan? No. In fact, it directly ties Christmas to the date of Passover the year Jesus was crucified, not a pagan celebration. What else does this indicate? Christian scholars were zeroing in on December 25th before Sol was even introduced to Rome, by Emperor Elagabalus (218-222 AD).

For more information on a Roman almanac that dated Christ's birth, as well as research showing that Christmas is NOT an iteration of Brumalia, Saturnalia, Yule or Winter Solstice celebrations, please see Exhibit A, Christmas FAQ and Exhibit B, The Plain Truth about December 25th, which have been submitted into evidence. We'll throw in Jeremiah 10 and Christmas Trees and On Nimrod and Christmas Trees, including parts 2 and 3 as a bonus.

Since we're feeling generous and don't want COGWA's rival, the United Church of God to feel slighted, let's address the claim that Palestinians kept their sheep indoors during the winter months, debunking a winter birth for Christ (from UCGs recent article, "Wait! You Just said: Jesus was not Born on December 25!"). There are so many sources contradicting this claim it's impossible to choose just one.  In reality, it is in the winter months that the sheep are kept in the fields. The winter rains began in October and November, causing the lush grass to grow in these fields, which were barren during the dry summer.

But wasn't it too cold for sheep? The latitude for Jerusalem corresponds to somewhere between Valdosta, Georgia and Lake City, Florida. It's hardly Siberia. A simple search on Weather.com shows that the average low for Jerusalem in December is 42 degrees. And Jerusalem's altitude is significantly higher than the valleys outside Bethlehem, meaning temperatures would be even higher down in the valleys. And what can the good people of Bethlehem, Valdosta and Lake City put on during the cool evenings? Wool clothing. You know, the stuff that comes from sheep.

So, ladies and gentlemen of the jury, you can still reject Christmas if you so choose. Your freedom in Christ affords you the right to abstain from religious holidays. But let’s be clear as to why you’re abstaining:

You can choose not to like Christmas because it started out as a Catholic observance, or at least as an observance of what would come to be known as the Catholic church. That’s what the Puritans in colonial America did. No, the Sunday-keeping Puritans didn’t ban Christmas because they were a hairsbreadth away from the COG gospel truth. They left England to escape from a bitter feud with Catholics. It was ugly. It was like  the UCG-COGWA split that our prosecuting attorney and his cronies fomented. On steroids. Lasting for decades. Centuries, really. And instead of just a few million in tithes, this feud included control of European treasures, monarchies and parliaments. Oh no. The Puritans did not ban Christmas to keep the holy days. They banned Christmas because they banned all things Catholic.

You can sidestep Hislop if you like and instead reject Christmas based "research" in The Golden Bough, a resource more commonly embraced by the Living Church of God. This book, published in 1890, explores themes shared among ancient mythologies, pagan religions and the Bible. You can accept these arguments if you like, but doing so leaves you with little reason to accept the Bible as anything more than mythology.

You can still choose not to like Christmas because it isn’t listed in Leviticus 23 or other parallel passages. That’s also fine. But then you need to get rid of the Night to Be Much Observed. And give up Thanksgiving. And ponder why the Bible condones Purim, a totally man-made holiday. But that commemorated a miracle from God, you say. What on earth do you think Christmas celebrates?
Our prosecutor reveals his hand, his motivation and his flawed theology at the end of his closing statement.
“I urge you to remember that it's not really Christmas that is on trial – we are.” 
Try as he might to argue COGWA doesn't teach salvation by works, Kilough betrays himself here. For once, the message is clear: we are on trial for our actions. Celebrate Christmas, and God will judge you. Break the Sabbath, and God will judge you. I hear from COGWA members who fear that every misstep, every sin could land them in the Lake of Fire. COGWA, like its predecessor, Herbert Armstrong's Worldwide Church of God, teaches that, once one accepts Christ's sacrifice, his or her salvation is maintained through works.

It's like God offering you a strong 50-foot rope to cross a 100-foot chasm that spans the Lake of Fire. Would tying on a thread from your sweater get you safely across the remaining 50 feet? What if it were a 90-foot rope and a 10-foot thread? What if you only had to depend upon a foot of that thread? Would it keep you safe? The result is no different when we depend upon our own filthy garments to establish our righteousness. And though I've asked, no COG minister has been able to tell me the magic percentage of thread I need to hit to propel myself safely over the flames.

Yes, the Bible does teach that we are on trial. But we could never be found "not guilty." Not if we abstain from Christmas. Not if we perfectly obey Sinai Covenant provisions regarding the Sabbath. Not if we put out our eyes to avoid images that inspire lust, or become vegan to avoid any possible contact with unclean foods. No matter how strictly we follow any checklist we adopt, we are doomed to fail. We have a heart problem, and there's nothing we can do to fix it. Great news, right?

But there is good news! Our trial is over when we stop placing our faith in our own efforts and instead trust in God's promise to save us through the shed blood of Jesus Christ. When we enter the New Covenant, our sin is imputed to Christ and His righteousness imputed to us. After that point, no condemnation remains for us.

(Romans 8:1-4) There is therefore now no condemnation to those who are in Christ Jesus, who do not walk according to the flesh, but according to the Spirit. For the law of the Spirit of life in Christ Jesus has made me free from the law of sin and death. For what the law could not do in that it was weak through the flesh, God did by sending His own Son in the likeness of sinful flesh, on account of sin: He condemned sin in the flesh, that the righteous requirement of the law might be fulfilled in us who do not walk according to the flesh, but who live according to the Spirit, the things of the Spirit.

Obedience is still commanded; it is our reasonable expectation (Romans 12:1) and more given what was given up for us. But there's even more good news! Perfect God, not imperfect man, leads this process; regenerating our hearts, then molding us like pottery in His hands. We have our part to play, but it is cooperative, not sitting in the driver's seat. We should carefully follow the commands that are binding upon Christians as we work out our own salvation. We must make our own judgments and not allow others to bully us into adopting OR rejecting practices based on their superstition or misinformation. At the same time, we must conduct ourselves with speech with grace, gentleness, kindness and patience as ambassadors of Christ. After all, we will give account to God for every idle word we speak.

Over time, a true Christian's works will give evidence that he has been regenerated and has placed his faith in Jesus. If he doesn't, it indicates that he needs to try harder. It indicates that his faith was false and no change has taken place, as discussed in the second chapter of James. Even James and Paul agree that there is work for us to do:

(James 2:18) But someone will say, "You have faith and I have works. Show me your faith without your works, and I will show you my faith by my works."

(Ephesians 2:10) For we are His workmanship, created in Christ Jesus for good works, which God prepared beforehand that we should walk in them."

We are God's workmanship. He created us to do His will. He calls us to Him. He gives us right legal standing before Him; the only standing in the universe that truly matters. He cleans up our dirty, sinful hearts. He removes our filthy rags and clothes us in garments of righteousness. He Himself guides our steps by indwelling our hearts. He promises that He will complete the good work that He began in us (Philippians 1:6). And it was all made possible by the birth of a baby, the Son of God, who was born to die for your sins and mine. If that isn't reason to celebrate, any day and every day, then I don't know what is.

Ladies and gentlemen of the jury, I rest my case.



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It is important that you understand; Everything on this blog is based on the current understanding of each author. Never take anyone's word for it, always prove it for yourself, it is your responsibility. You cannot ride someone else's coattail into the Kingdom. ; )
Acts 17:11
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Tuesday, December 8, 2015

Christmas FAQ

CHRISTMAS FAQ

AsBereansDid has been studying and writing about Christmas since 2010. Over the years one thing has become apparent – the need for a condensed FAQ on the topic.

When we first began writing about Christmas it was not apparent how very large a topic it is, nor how very wrong so many people were on the details, including ourselves. Most of the research on Christmas on the Internet in general is nothing but a great cloud of utterly baseless and false claims. A full-length and comprehensive study is absolutely necessary to root out the bad information. We have one! And more than just one or two articles on the topic. But comprehensive studies suffer from an inherent weakness in their length and dry, academic makeup. Everything you need is there but most people simply won't read them. A condensed FAQ is needed as a companion piece to give all of the most popular details in a summary “sound bite” fashion. A FAQ addresses the weakness of the comprehensive study. But FAQs have their own weaknesses. So we apologize in advance.

This FAQ represents our effort to summarize the highlights of several years of research done in the most thorough, unbiased and honest way we could.


ORIGINS


Did the early church ignore the birth of Jesus?

No. The early church did not ignore the birth of Jesus by any means. The Gospel of Matthew and the Gospel of Mark (and to a very lesser degree the Gospel of John) spend time discussing the incarnation of our Savior. I've heard people say "Christmas isn't in the Bible" but these ones might want to go back and re-read a few chapters. Matthew and Mark go into great detail regarding the circumstances of Jesus' birth. There was interest in Jesus' birth since the start. By no means was it ignored. The fact that it is written about demonstrates that the earliest Christians were curious about and honored Jesus' birth. They may not have set aside a feast day, but they did honor the miracle. Many details surrounding the birth demonstrate that Jesus is the Messiah. Consider before you move on how the timing is far, far less important than the fact that our God took on flesh and became like us. This is arguably the second greatest miracle in the history of mankind - second only to the death and resurrection. The birth is nothing without the resurrection, but without the birth there could be no resurrection. The birth points to the resurrection. The birth brings God to man; the cross brings man to God. Jesus was laid in a manger - a place where the sheep eat - which points to Jesus being spiritual food for us His sheep. Is the vague timing really enough to cause us not to pause and honor God for such a wondrous thing as the Incarnation?


Did the gospel writers tell us when Jesus was born?

Yes. They did! Both Matthew and Mark leave details on when Jesus was born. The details are in the style of writers of that century and would have been understandable to the people of that place and time. We have unfortunately lost most ability to interpret them since. Just because those details aren't exactingly specific in the way our modern minds would like to see them doesn't mean that they didn't exist. The Bible does not leave us the day, however (it doesn't give us the day for most things). By the next century, many began attempting to pin down those exacting details. 


Does the name Christmas come from a Roman phrase meaning, roughly, “The Death of Christ?”

No. That grossly misrepresents both the Mass and the phrase. Christmas comes from the phrase “Christ Misse” or Mass of Christ. The word mass is derived from the final words of the liturgy: "Ite, Missa Est". Literally, "Go, it is dismissed." Some may say, “Mass means dismissed.” Except the word is an idiom and that purposefully literal reading is not intellectually honest to the meaning of the idiom. Long story short, mass is just a nickname for the liturgy. Liturgy and mass are synonyms. And liturgy does not mean “death” or any such thing. The word mass first came into common use in the 600s AD, far too late to have anything to do with anything. An early name for Christmas was “Deis Natalis” or Birthday [of Christ]. Not to be confused with Natalis Invicti.
No, mass does not mean death. The singular focus of every mass is the Eucharist, and that remembers the death of Jesus, but it celebrates the death of our Savior because of grace, not death. If anyone has a problem with remembering Jesus' death then they really have a problem with Christianity. The word Eucharist comes from the Greek word for grace: "charis." So the word Eucharist has everything to do with grace, not death. We should ask, do any Catholics see Christmas as being “the death of Christ?” The answer is no.

http://www.newadvent.org/cathen/10006a.htm


Did Christmas begin in deep-ancient Mesopotamia?

No. There is no evidence for this in ancient primary source documents. There is no evidence for this in trustworthy secondary source documents. There is no valid evidence for this at all. All evidence in support of this claim has turned out to be fabricated. At the very best, such claims are strung together by preconceptions, amateurish methodology, and breathtaking violations of logic. The history of Christmas can be traced back no farther than the mid-to-late second century AD.


Was Christmas started by Nimrod?

No. The claim is not that Nimrod founded the holiday but that Semiramis founded it in honor of Nimrod. But the answer is no to both. These claims were invented out of thin air in the 1800s.

Nimrod is a character about which we know next to nothing for certain. The KJV Bible mentions Nimrod by name in four verses, with one additional verse speaking of him without naming him. Both Genesis 10: 8 and I Chronicles 1: 10 speak to his lineage from Cush and are basically duplicate information so we can discount one of those, while Micah 5: 6 is really a place name. So of the five verses there are really only three with any unique information about Nimrod. The long and short of it is that there are only a very few verses about Nimrod. There is no genuine, verifiable, unmistakable information outside of the Bible that clearly refers to Nimrod. Speculations abound. Is he Gilgamesh? Is he Marduk? Is he the Scorpion King? Is Nimrod even his real name? “Nimrod” has the feel of being a title rather than a proper name. The Hebrews had a habit of changing names like this. There currently exists no strong record of the person Nimrod outside of the Bible. Cities exist which the Bible says Nimrod founded, but no information on the person of Nimrod has been found in any of them. Note that I am not claiming there was no Nimrod. I believe there was. However, there simply is not enough extant information anywhere to make the highly detailed claims that float around the Internet about him. We do have some records of Semiramis, though. The difficulty is, the information we have tells us Semiramis lived and died hundreds of years after the time when Nimrod would have lived. What can we conclude besides all claims about Semiramis inventing Christmas to honor Nimrod are patently false. Baseless. Invented. The inventor of these tales is known, and that is Alexander Hislop, author of the thoroughly debunked book “Two Babylons.” Herbert Armstrong simply fell for a lie and plagiarized it as God's truth. The lie propagates to this day.

http://www.ralphwoodrow.org/books/pages/babylon-connection.html


Was Nimrod's birthday on the 25th of December?

Who knows? The fact is no one on earth has sufficient information about Nimrod to even tell us what his name really is, let alone such small details as on what day he was born. December is a construct of the Roman calendar. There was no Rome in Nimrod's day. At that time, in such ancient antiquity, most cultures used a 360-day lunar calendar. Could it really be that the year once had 360 days? If that is the case, then there are 5 days now that could not have been Nimrod's birthday because they didn't exist. Consider this. December 25th could be one of those. No one knows. But this we do know - Herman Hoeh said Nimrod was born on January 6th. So, Armstrongism can't even make up its own mind. And why did he say that? Because he mistakenly tried to use the error of the Julian calendar, back-dating some 1,700+ years before the calendar was invented, in order to put the winter solstice on January 6th. It isn't and never was in January. There would be a solid answer to Nimrod's birthday if there was any documented proof. There isn't. There is just pseudo-history, baseless conjecture, and spurious claims.

http://asbereansdid.blogspot.com/2013/12/nimrods-birthday-was-january-6.html


Was Isis, Horis, or Osiris' birthday on the 25th of December?

No. Egypt had no month of December, and before 450 BC December was in autumn. The Egyptian calendar did not correlate to the Roman calendar that we could match them up like this and say such and such was always on December 25th. The Egyptian calendar was reset every year in summer. The ancient record of the birthday for these Egyptian gods is not in December but in the summer. Why all the confusion? In the late 1800's to mid-1900's, German religious historians assigned almost every aspect of Christianity, including the Jesus Himself, to theft from pagan religions. Horus was a popular target. Armstrongism built its case against Christmas on such claims as these. Since then, the theories have switched places. Now, evidence leads us to see that pagan religions copied from Christianity. Myths of Horus and other gods being born on December 25th do not crop up until after Jesus was associated with the date.


Were Cybele and Attis worshiped on December 25th?

No. The major celebration days for Cybele and Attis (called “Hilaria”) were in the Spring, in March.


Were the claims of Alexander Hislop and his book The Two Babylons trustworthy?

No. They are fallacious. The entire book is a hateful anti-Catholic screed. Anyone who so much as hints that t is bearing false witness to celebrate Christmas not knowing what date Jesus was born on should be ashamed of themselves if they propagate Hislop's material or belong to an organization that does. Hislop wrote his book decades before Babylon was excavated. Chaldean was barely even deciphered. Where did he get his final conclusions, then? His claims were made up by stringing together pictures and utterly unrelated information into a pseudo-history the details of which turn out to be literally impossible. This FAQ is too brief for the details, so I refer you to Ralph Woodrow's thorough review of Hislop entitled "The Babylon Connection?" A quote from ‘The Saturday Review’ printed September 17th, 1859 about Hislop's work: "We take leave of Mr. Hislop and his work with the remark that we never before quite knew the folly of which ignorant or half-learned bigotry is capable."

http://www.ralphwoodrow.org/books/pages/babylon-connection.html
http://xhwa.blogspot.com/2008/12/babylon-connection.html


Has December 25th been the focus of sun worship for millennia?

No. That claim doesn't even make sense. It would be closer to the truth that the winter solstice was the focus of sun worship for millennia. However, December 25 was not and is not the date of the winter solstice. Other cultures didn't have a December, so December 25th couldn't be the focus for those cultures. One may ask, "Then what of date on the other culture's calendar that matched December 25th?" The calendars of other cultures didn't align with the Roman calendar. At first, Rome had no winter months. Before about 450 BC, December was a autumn month. For the next several hundred years, the Roman calendar was unreliable. When Julius Caesar reformed the Roman calendar in 46 BC, he finally declared December 25th to be the date of the solstice. However, we have two problems: 1) It didn't stay that way but for a few short years, and 2) Rome had no solstice holiday. Rome had no solstice holiday when the Christian scholars arrived at December 25 as the birth of Jesus. The first mention of any Roman holiday on December 25 is in a calendar made in 336 AD, and the precise nature of that holiday remains a mystery to this day. There is no truth to this claim.


Q: Was Mithra's birthday on December 25th?

No. There is more than one Mithra – the original Persian Mithra and the Roman mystery religion Mithra. The Persian version had no such birthday. The Roman version also had no such birthday. Then Mithra pretty much died out in the 400's. Mithra only became associated with December 25th after Sol became associated with it in the mid 300s. And even this is speculation since nothing at all links Mithra to December 25th but a since abandoned claim by Franz Cumont. Cumont was wrong that Jesus came from Mithra and Christianity borrowed from Mithraism. The reality it would appear is quite the opposite.

http://www.tertullian.org/rpearse/mithras/display.php?page=mithras_and_christianity


Q: Was Sol's birthday on December 25th?

A: Yes and no. Sol was imported into Rome in the early 200's AD. Sol was not originally associated with December 25th. There is no solid record that Sol was honored on December 25th before the year 363 AD. There is one earlier reference, but that it referred to Sol at all is highly disputed. It all comes down to what Filocalus meant in his famous Chronography by the phrase “Natalis Invicti.” Filocalus wrote his Chronography in 336 AD. It consisted of several different parts, one of which was a calendar and another a list of martyrs and the dates of their deaths. In the calendar, Filocalus marked December 25th with the words “Natalis Invicti.” Did he mean Sol Invictus or Jesus or just the sun in general? None of the other dates in the calendar were Christian holidays, so why would this one be? Yet in the section called Commemoration of the Martyrs, Filocalus specifically states that Jesus was born on December 25th. One document, two mentions of December 25th, one directly associated with Jesus. So maybe this one reference in the calendar is Christian? Most scholars do not think Filocalus' mention of Natalis Invicti in his calendar was in reference to a Christian holiday. Even so there is no strong reason to associate it with Sol. So when did Sol become associated with December 25th? No one knows for sure but it could very well be in 363 AD when Emperor Julian tried to return Rome to paganism. So we will say in this case the answer is yes and no. But when did Jesus become associated with the day? Decades earlier!


Is Christmas a solstice holiday?

No. December 25th is not on the solstice. December 25th was not on the solstice when Jesus' birth became associated with that date. It could not have been the solstice prior to Julius' Caesar's calendar reforms. Caesar ordered December 25th to fall on the solstice in his reforms, but it only remained that way for a few short years. The Romans - after Julius Caesar reformed the calendar - did consider December 25th to be the solstice but only as a matter of tradition, not fact. Regardless of any of this, the Romans didn't celebrate the winter solstice until somewhere around 300 AD. There simply was no major Roman solstice holiday.


What of “Deis Natalis Solis Invicti”?

There is no such thing. The name is made up. There is no ancient day of that name. There is only Natalis Invicti, and that doesn't necessarily have anything in particular to do with Sol as we've explained elsewhere.


Did Emperor Aurelian set up Natalis Invicti to honor the sun on December 25th in 274 AD?

Unlikely. That there is something called Natalis Invicti on December 25th is true. What it honored or when it began is not known. Many speculate that since Aurelian set up a birthday to the sun or dedicated a temple to the sun on this day. But that is mere conjecture not at all based in the best evidence. German scholar Hermann Usener got this ball rolling a century ago. Steven Ernst Hijmans is currently a faculty member at the University of Alberta’s History and Classics department, and he disagrees with Usener. He wrote a book titled “Sol – the Sun in the Art and Religions of Rome”. In Volume I, chapter 9, page 588, he has this to say:
"...that there is no evidence that Aurelian instituted a celebration of Sol on that day. A feast day for Sol on December 25th is not mentioned until eighty years later..."

"In short, while the winter solstice on or around the 25th of December was well established in the Roman imperial calendar, there is no evidence that a religious celebration of Sol on that day antedated the celebration of Christmas, and none that indicates that Aurelian had a hand in its institution. One might think that celebrating the sun on the winter solstice is so self-evident that we need hardly doubt that such a festival had a long tradition, but what evidence we have actually belies that notion."
Hijmans lists the known festivals of Sol as August 8 and/or 9, August 28, October 19 and 22, and December 11. Aurelian is suspected in this affair because from 274 AD onward, games were held every four years to honor Sol. However, these games were not in December but on the Ludi Solis from October 19-22. Sol was not honored on any solstice or equinox. Nothing appears to tie Aurelian to December 25th.

http://www.rug.nl/research/portal/files/14650347/09_c9.pdf


Was Christmas stolen from pagans in ancient Rome?

No. Christmas is and always was a memorial of the birth of Jesus. Regardless of whatever else may or may not have happened on that day or where a decoration tradition may have come from. As we have demonstrated in our articles Christians calculated the birth date of Christmas from the March 25th date which was believed to be the date of His death, and they did so decades before there was a Roman holiday on December 25th. In the early-to-mid 200's AD there were no other deities said to have been born on December 25th. Not Mithra. Not Horus. None. There was no holiday on December 25th at that time to borrow from.

Another thing we need to consider here is that it doesn't make any sense that Christians in that time period were borrowing from pagans. At that formative time, Christians all but ignored paganism and were much more interested in Jewish thinking. The pagans had just spent hundreds of years trying to exterminate Christians. A main test given to identify Christians was to ask a person to put a pinch of incense in a bowl to Caesar. If they refused, then they were Christian and they were executed. Are a people who would die for refusing a pinch of incense going to be the people who adopt a pagan holiday? In Constantine's day, Christianity had finally become legal. By the end of the 300's, Emperor Theodosius I made Christianity the official religion of the empire. Paganism was then outlawed. Doesn't sound very conciliatory to me. Only at this time did pagans begin pouring into Christian churches. Yet Christians remained vigilant. In the 400's, Senator Andromachus petitioned Pope Gelasius I to reinstate the pagan festival of Lupercalia but the Pope refused, saying he had the authority to suppress the heathen observance and he would exercise his power to do so. He mentioned that if earlier Popes would have had the power, they would have done the same. Again, this doesn't sound conciliatory in the least. The Quinisext Ecumenical Council (aka “Council in Trullo”) in 692, in Canon 62, expressed its desire to banish heathen festivals in the East with these words, “The so-called Calends, and what are called Bota and Brumalia, and the full assembly which takes place on the first of March, we wish to be abolished from the life of the faithful.” It just doesn't make any sense that Christians were so busy absorbing the pagan holidays at a time when they were very much opposed to them and working to abolish them. Ask yourself where are all of the other Roman holidays? Gone. All gone. If the Christians were absorbing all of these days, then they should all still be here. Yet they are not.

http://asbereansdid.blogspot.com/2010/12/plain-truth-about-december-25th.html
http://asbereansdid.blogspot.com/2011/01/is-valentines-day-lupercalia.html


Did Christmas come from Yule?

No. Yule comes from Germania. Christmas and Epiphany come from Rome before Christianity spread into Germany/Scandinavia. Yule was likely not a single day. It was a winter festival named after the two-month season in which it fell, but could have possibly lasted for several days and fell anywhere from November to January. Before the Romans invaded, the ancient Germans didn't notice equinoxes or solstices. (Even if they had, Yule still would not align with Christmas as December 25th was/is not the solstice except in Roman tradition.) Before Charlemagne, the German calendar was lunar and did not match up with the Roman solar calendar very at all. German years were counted as winter and summer (not summer and winter as we do now) therefore their year most likely began at the start of winter, likely in November. The year was divided into sixths, with several double-months in the year. German months followed the moon. They had no weeks prior to the invasions of the Romans, but observed moon phases. An ancient tomb found in the region was created to track the moon phases. German days began at night. There is little real reason whatsoever to suspect that the Germans observed the winter solstice or that the Yule celebration had anything whatsoever to do with the winter solstice. The most likely reason why Christmas was so important in Germania is not because of Yule at all but because Charlemagne, William the Conqueror, and others were crowned on Christmas day.

https://books.google.com/books?id=25QSAAAAYAAJ&printsec=frontcover#v=onepage&q&f=false


Was Yule on December 25th?

No. Not originally. Originally, Yule fell anywhere from mid-November to mid-January.
"Modern research has tended to disprove the idea that the old Germans held a Yule feast at the winter solstice, and it is probable, as we shall see, that the specifically Teutonic Christmas customs come from a New Year and beginning-of-winter festival kept about the middle of November."-Miles, Clement A., "Christmas in Ritual and Tradition", chapter 1 section IV, p.25
After Charlemagne that changed. There were many attempts by kings and emperors to Christianize the pagans of northern Europe. Charlemagne (768-814) was one. Charlemagne was a scourge of German paganism and fought bitterly to wipe it out. He changed their entire method of reckoning time, renamed months, altered the beginning and ending points of months, and otherwise “Romanized” their reckoning of time. Haakon I of Norway (934-961) is another. Haakon rearranged pagan holidays to make them more like Christian holidays, in order to make Christianity more acceptable to pagans in the hopes of converting them in time. He had to balance his desire to introduce Christianity to Norway with the political expediency necessary to unite the realm. The following is a quote from the Saga of Haakon the Good:
King Haakon was a good Christian when he came to Norway; but as the whole country was heathen, with much heathenish sacrifice, and as many great people, as well as the favor of the common people, were to be conciliated, he resolved to practice his Christianity in private. But he kept Sundays, and the Friday fasts, and some token of the greatest holy-days. He made a law that the festival of Yule should begin at the same time as Christian people held it, and that every man, under penalty, should brew a meal of malt into ale, and therewith keep the Yule holy as long as it lasted. Before him, the beginning of Yule, or the slaughter night, was the night of mid-winter, and Yule was kept for three days thereafter. It was his intent, as soon as he had set himself fast in the land, and had subjected the whole to his power, to introduce Christianity.”
The point of this quote is to show that an effort was made to bring the timing of Yule into line with Christmas in order to make Christianity more palatable to the pagan Norse.

http://www.sacred-texts.com/neu/heim/05hakon.htm


Do the Twelve Days of Christmas come from Yule?

No. This can be demonstrated by a little math. Yule comes from the Germans and Norse. St. Boniface was the first Christian missionary to establish Christian churches in many parts of Germania. He did this in the 700's AD. The Christianization of the Norse happened over the next 300-400 years. So, the Germans and Norse were evangelized beginning in the 700's. When did the Twelve Days of Christmas start? Well before the 500's AD. The Second Council of Tours (566-567 AD), cannons xi and xvii, proclaimed the importance of the fasts of Advent and the days between Christmas and Epiphany (Twelve Days of Christmas). If the Council of Tours declared the sanctity of these practices in 567, we can be assured the practices long predated the declaration by the council. Therefore, the Twelve Days of Christmas originated in Christendom more than 200+ years before missionaries were sent to Germany and Scandinavia. Therefore, it is simply not probable that the Twelve Days of Christmas was adopted from Yule.

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Christmastide


Doesn't the name "Yuletide" mean Christmas mixed with Yule?

No ...odd as that may sound. We need to know something about the Germans to understand why not. The Germans of that time had a peculiar habit of naming things after the month in which they fell. This is exactly the same thing that caused the Passover season to be named "Eastertide." The name Easter does not come from the name of any goddess. The name comes from the month in which the holiday fell - Ostarmonath. So it is with Christmas. Christmas falls in the two months named Yule so it got the name Yuletide. Since Christianity gained the forefront in the region, the name Yuletide has not referred to Yule at all. (It would be difficult to demonstrate that it ever did.) For example, see the Schaff-Herzog Encyclopedia of Religious Knowledge (1912) article on "Yuletide." The article has almost nothing to do with Yule at all but is entirely about Christmas. Yule as it was used long ago often simply meant a time of celebrating. Or for another example, the earliest written record of a Yule Log in Britain is from the 1620-30s by a man named Robert Herrick, but he used the term "Christmas Log." It seems apparent that the terms Yule and Christmas were simply interchangeable, not because of the celebrations but because the English language is heavily influenced by the German. These German names made their way west into the British Isles and on into the Americas. When we hear the name Yuletide, our natural reaction is to think of Yule, not Christmas. This simply betrays our lack of familiarity with the oddities of the old German culture. So, the next time you hear the word Yule in the carol "Deck the Halls" try to resist the improper urge to assign a pagan connotation to the reference.

http://asbereansdid.blogspot.com/2013/04/easter-faq.html
http://asbereansdid.blogspot.com/2012/11/history-of-easter-part-i.html
http://asbereansdid.blogspot.com/2010/04/easter-history-part-ii.html


Aren't there many encyclopedias and sources that say Christmas is pagan origin?

A: Yes. This much is quite true. However, mind your source material! When we dig into the facts, we find that most of these encyclopedias and etc pull such claims from outdated information. Take for example the oft-quoted New Schaff-Herzog Encyclopedia of Religious Knowledge (1952) article on “Christmas.” Not only is the article vague and speculative, but the dates of Saturnalia and Brumalia are simply incorrect, and some of its information is contradicted by the Schaff-Herzog Encyclopedia of Religious Knowledge (1911) article on “Yuletide.” An encyclopedia can only tell us what current learning is. If future evidence proves current thinking wrong, the wrong information cannot be un-published from encyclopedias past. This is the danger of old encyclopedias (and old encyclopedias are a mainstay of anti-Christmas enthusiasts.) For example, most older encyclopedia articles on Christmas, including the New Catholic Encyclopedia, relied heavily on the research of Franz Cumont. Since the 1970s Franz Cumont's conclusions about Mithras have since been proven false. What do we do with those old encyclopedias? They are good for knowing where learning used to be but not good for knowing where learning currently is. If one wants accurate, reliable information, one should not go to old encyclopedias. If that isn't bad enough, I have seen several cases of people simply misquoting the encyclopedia altogether. When modern Armstrongist material perpetuates Herbert Armtrong's errors, I see no reason to believe they are interested in the truth at all.

http://asbereansdid.blogspot.com/2014/12/the-quotes-before-christmas.html
http://www.kingdavid8.com/


Does Christmas come from Hanukkah?

Inconclusive. Some people think the dating of Christmas was influenced by the Jews keeping Hanukkah on the 25th of the month of Kislev, and Kislev usually falls in December. So when the Gentile Christians moved towards December as the date of Christ's birth (doing so based heavily on Jewish folklore), the 25th as a date may have been a natural choice as it already held significance. But whether or not this genuinely influenced the early Christians is inconclusive.

http://www.freerepublic.com/focus/religion/2971709/posts


So how did Christmas start, then?

By mid-first century, heresies arose concerning the nature of Jesus' humanity. Gnostics were claiming that human flesh is evil; some were denying that Jesus was truly a human being. So a great interest arose in the church regarding the details of Jesus early life. The Gospels, especially John's, contained many details in answer to these heresies. But they never said precisely when Jesus was born. In the 100's AD, Christians began wondering when Jesus was born. Some in Egypt calculated Jesus' birth in May. Birthday celebrations arose by mid-second century. The Eastern churches eventually accepted January 6th as the birth date. This celebration is known as Epiphany. In about 198, Clement of Alexandria calculated Jesus' birth to late November. In 200-211 AD, Clement's student, Hippolytus, calculated Jesus' death to March 25th and then added 9 months. March 25th + 9 months = December 25th. To make this leap Hippolytus employed an old Jewish tradition that said important people die on the day they were conceived. Julius Africanus (160-240 AD) agreed with Hippolytus' calculation. As did John Chrysostom (349-407) and Augustine (354-430). The calculation of March 25th as the conception date it still celebrated to this day as the Feast of the Annunciation. For several years, the churches of the East preferred Epiphany over Christmas. Eventually it was settled that Christmas would be held in honor of the birth and Epiphany in honor of early events of Jesus' life such as the presentation at the temple and the visit of the Magi. The time between Christmas and Epiphany has come to be known as the Twelve Days of Christmas.


Here is a quick timeline of events to help put things in perspective:

·150-190 AD - Christians begin celebrating Jesus' birth, eventually as Epiphany.
·190-200 AD - Clement of Alexandria calculates Jesus' birth to late in the year.
·200 AD - Tertullian sets Jesus' crucifixion on March 25.
·202-211 AD - Hippolytus uses the March 25 date to calculate Jesus’ birth as December 25.
·218 AD - Elagabalus becomes Emperor at age 14. Introduces Sol to Rome.
·220 AD - Elagabalus is killed. Sol worship is suppressed.
·221 AD - Sextus Julius Africanus agrees with December 25 date.
·243 AD - Pseudo-Cyprian concludes the birth and the death are linked (demonstrating the idea really was popular in Christian scholarly thinking in that time).
·245 AD - Origen takes a stand against birthdays.
·274 AD - Aurelian elevates Sol worship. Dies the next year.
·336 AD - The first mention of "Natalis Invicti" on December 25th. Same document mentions Jesus born on December 25.
·363 AD - Emperor Julian “the Apostate”, who despised Christianity and tried to replace Christianity with paganism, gives us the first explicit reference to a celebration of Sol on December 25th.


CHRISTMAS TREE

Are all evergreens now forbidden by God?

No. Absolutely not. God delights in the use of trees and greenery in His worship.

(ISA. 41: 19) I will plant in the wilderness the cedar and the acacia tree, the myrtle and the oil tree; I will set in the desert the cypress tree and the pine and the box tree together
(ISA. 60: 13) The glory of Lebanon shall come to you, the cypress, the pine, and the box tree together, to beautify the place of My sanctuary; and I will make the place of My feet glorious.

Note -- Isaiah 60: 13 is AFTER Isaiah 44: 14-17! Verses about these same trees being used to craft pagan idols. In Isaiah 41, God plants the trees. In Isaiah 44, man uses them as false gods. In Isaiah 60, God redeems them for His worship. It's a picture of our own redemption. Very much a Christmas lesson.

Evergreen trees (Cyprus) were used to build and finish the Temple. Evergreen branches (myrtle, palm) were used to build booths during the Feast of Booths. The tree is innocent! It is the quite specific use of the tree that makes the difference. If used to worship God, He is pleased. If used to make an idol god, He is displeased. More accurately, it's the heart that makes the difference.


Did the Christmas Tree originate in worship of Semiramis and Nimrod?

No. As stated earlier, there is no evidence whatsoever for this. None. In fact, there is ample evidence to disprove it. Ancient Mesopotamia has no such tradition. Not only is there no evidence for the tradition in the first place, but there is no evidence linking the tradition to Germany in the 1500s. It is not sufficient to claim that a certain ancient people found symbolism in trees. It is also necessary to prove a link to the modern Christmas Tree. We can no more say the Christmas Tree comes from ancient Mesopotamia than we can say evergreen swags come from the Feast of Booths. As it stands, there is no similar ancient tradition and there is no clear link to the modern tradition. Until we see real evidence we must conclude all such tales are fabrications.


Did the Christmas Tree originate in worship of Isis and Osiris?

No. There is no evidence for this whatsoever. There was a tree involved in the myth of Osiris, but exactly what kind of tree is in dispute. Most candidates were not even evergreen. None were pine. Even so, the Egyptians did not decorate with trees in response to the myth. The details surrounding this myth have absolutely nothing in common with the Christmas Tree. They are unrelated. Once again, it is not enough to claim a tree existed in a myth ergo Christmas Tree. We have to prove that they truly correlate. These do not.

http://asbereansdid.blogspot.com/2011/01/on-nimrod-and-christmas-trees-part-ii.html


Did Egyptians decorate their homes with evergreen trees in December?

No. Egypt isn't Germany. Egypt doesn't have a “winter.” Ancient Egypt recognized three seasons which were tied to the flooding of the Nile. December is in the rainy season, when the world is at its greenest. There is no psychological reason why anyone would bring evergreen into their homes in Egypt in the rainy season.


Did the Christmas Tree originate in worship of Cybele and Attis?

No. There is no evidence for this whatsoever. The cult of Cybele would decorate a tree with violets at the Spring “Hilaria” festival. On March 22nd, the tree was then brought to the temple, the next day the tree was mourned for, then the next day the tree was given a funeral and sometimes even buried. This is a far cry from the Christmas Tree. These people did not bring trees into their homes to decorate. Correlation does not prove causality. There has to be an actual line of evidence leading from one place (Hilaria, Rome, 100 AD) to another place (Christmas, Germany, 1500's AD). What people seem to forget when they dig for things like this is that the Romans did not invent the Christmas Tree, the Germans did.

http://asbereansdid.blogspot.com/2011/01/on-nimrod-and-christmas-trees-part-i.html


Did Virgil speak of decorating trees for the Bacchus festival?

Yes. Virgil said that they hung images of Bacchus on trees. And that is all that he said. The tradition apparently was one where people would tie ropes to trees and swing from them. However, to prevent from getting hurt they started tying images of Bacchus to the tree so he could hang there. I see no correlation between that and the Christmas tree. What's more, if this is the true origin, then it cannot be any of the other things people claim. Correlation does not prove causality. We require a lot more than merely what barely even seems to be surface similarity. That a tree was involved is insufficient. There were several instances of trees being decorated in ancient times. There also has to be an actual line of evidence leading from one place (Bacchus, Rome, 100 BC) to another place (Christmas, Germany, 1500's AD).


Did Romans decorate their homes with evergreen trees in December?

No. Rome had no such tradition of decorating with evergreen trees. One would think if the tradition were really unbroken to the time of Nimrod that somebody in the Mediterranean would observe it. Rome did have a tradition of decorating with evergreen swags for the New Year. Tertullian specifically stated that the Romans decorated with Laurels (a fragrant evergreen). It wasn't a pagan religious thing necessarily but more a national event, it was swags not trees, it was laurels not pine, and it was at New Year's not December 25th. The claim implies that all of these things happened anciently on December 25th but that simply is not the case. The Christmas garlands of evergreen may have originated from this Roman practice as best as anyone can tell. But don't be too quick to condemn garlands. The Temple in Jerusalem was decorated in garlands of silver.


Does Jeremiah 10 condemn Christmas Trees?

No. Jeremiah 10 is neither for nor against Christmas Trees. Jeremiah 10 is not talking about Christmas Trees or any precursor to the Christmas Tree. There simply was no such tradition in that place at that time for Jeremiah to talk about, let alone one so pervasive that Jeremiah should actively warn against it. Jeremiah 10, just like Isaiah 40, talks about chopping down a tree then carving it into an idol to worship. Jeremiah and Isaiah speak about the useless futility of a hand-made god in comparison to the One Living God. What was Jeremiah talking about? Something much more like this, an Asherah:




Our article on Jeremiah 10 and Christmas Trees goes into far greater depth on this than we can do here (http://asbereansdid.blogspot.com/2010/12/jeremiah-10-and-christmas-trees.html). The entire issue here is that one must read Christmas Trees into Jeremiah 10. One never reads Christmas Trees out of Jeremiah 10. We prefer to let the Bible interpret the Bible.


Where did the Christmas Tree tradition come from, then?

The origin of Christmas Tree is not perfectly clear. The traditional story of Martin Luther is certainly just a legend. But the origin is without a doubt Germanic and from around Luther's time. Most likely, the Christmas Tree tradition comes from another peculiar German tradition. From the eleventh century to the fifteenth century, the medieval Germans had a tradition of putting on Biblically-themed plays. One of them, the “Paradise Play” which was held on the Feast of Adam and Eve on December 24th, had a prop called the “Paradise Tree.” This tree mimicked the Tree of Life and the Tree of the Knowledge of Good and Evil. Apples, Communion wafers, and other items decorated the tree. By the time the plays were finally shut down, the people had already begun to copy the Paradise Tree in their own homes. The earliest known record of a decorated Christmas Tree is from the year 1521. The decorated tree caught on slowly and only began to gain real popularity in Germany in the late 1600's. This tradition made its way into England in 1800 when the German wife of King George III imported the tradition. This is generally recognized as when the tradition truly caught on.

https://web.archive.org/web/20150131041720/http://www.orlutheran.com/html/chrtree.html


OTHER TRADTIONS



Aren't some Christmas traditions from pagan origin?

Yes. That much is not in dispute. But not the majority by any means. A few - mistletoe, holly, swags of greenery - all of these definitely appear to have been borrowed from non-Christian sources. I say appear because the history is somewhat spotty. Some historians claim these items are not nearly as pagan as they are accused of being. For example, according to Ronald Hutton:
"...there seems to be no reference to the use of mistletoe in medieval or Tudor English Christmases" p.73
"The custom of kissing under a bunch of foliage appears to have commenced in the late eighteenth century..." p.75
Hutton, Ronald. Stations of the Sun: A History of the Ritual Year in Britain. ch.4. Oxford Press, 2001.
So, even though mistletoe was without a doubt part of ancient Druidic ritual, its presence in recent Christmas is so far removed from the extinction of the Druids that it is highly improbable that one is a continuation of the other. Even the way the Druids used mistletoe bears no resemblance to its use at Christmas. So, what at first appears to be pagan isn't so simple on closer inspection.

Let's take a moment to understand the people who did this. In a culture where most people are uneducated and illiterate, images and symbols hold a far greater place than what we now may be used to. These items were useful as symbols to teach about Jesus. Such things as these were all the learning tools many people had. If holly could be used to teach about the crown of thorns and the blood, then why not use it? Because it was also used by pagans? That is hardly a Biblical objection!


Does God condemn Christmas traditions?

No. We find that people condemn these things ...despite what is in the Bible or Christian practice. Most of the traditions associated with modern Christmas can be found in the Bible. In addition to novel holidays (EST. 9: 20-28; JON. 10: 22-23), and gift-giving (EST. 9: 22), God also lists the use of statues in His worship (EXO. 25: 17-19), garland, bells and fruit (EXO. 28: 33-34; 39: 25-26; II COR. 3: 16), lights, flowers and ornamentation (EXO. 25: 31-37), greenery (LEV. 23: 40; NEH. 8: 13-15), and other things I could list but won't. It doesn't appear to matter if things are in the Bible. Some people just don't seem to care. Sadly, it seems all some people want is to maintain the narrative of condemnation. I get email and comments from people regularly who stretch beyond limit to condemn Christmas. One even claimed if there were any pagan holidays in December or the neighboring months then Christmas was pagan. By that standard, all things whatsoever are pagan!


Is "once pagan always pagan" a valid, Biblical position to take?

Unlikely. God Himself used many things that were previously pagan in order to teach us about Him. Temples, priests, days of rest, feast days, harvest festivals, circumcision, sacrifices, prayers, music, incense, sacred documents, tithes, and many more things were all of pagan employ long before Moses wrote the Torah. We can see that "once pagan always pagan" is not something we get from the Bible. The phrase isn't in there; the implication isn't in there. Now consider the many inane claims that even Jesus himself came from pagan myths and you will see that pagan similarities do exist, and that some people take this line of thinking to a wild extreme. So we are left with some choices: 1) throw out the entire day because of a handful of incidentals, 2) enjoy the day but abstain from the particular traditions that make us uncomfortable, 3) enjoy the day and all of the traditions in their new, redeemed meanings.

Now consider I Corinthians 8, where Paul attempts to sooth the conscience of people who make the claim we address in this question, regarding "once pagan always pagan." Some people know Christmas decorations are nothing, while others are terribly afraid of these things defiling their conscience. Neither group is condemned by Paul, but both are commanded to live in peace and patience with one another. Paul goes through it again in I Corinthians 10: 23-33, and again in Romans 14: 5-13. Therefore, it is crystal clear that calling people "pagan" or "Nimrod worshipers" or whatever epithet is thrown around - from either side - is against the law of love and contrary to the Bible both in word and in Spirit.


Doesn't Deuteronomy 12:2-4 condemn anything of pagan origin?

No. That is an attempt to proof-text a few verses and craft a new context for them.

(DEU: 12: 2-4) 2 You shall utterly destroy all the places where the nations which you shall dispossess served their gods, on the high mountains and on the hills and under every green tree. 3 And you shall destroy their altars, break their sacred pillars, and burn their wooden images with fire; you shall cut down the carved images of their gods and destroy their names from that place. 4 You shall not worship the Lord your God with such things.

In verses 2-4 God says to destroy the places where the heathen nations worshiped their gods. He did not want to be worshiped that way. In verses 5 to the end of the chapter, God speaks of a place where He will be worshiped. The focus in this chapter is the place. But why did God do this? The point of the matter is to keep Israel separate and prevent them from turning to idolatry. Other laws were enacted for this very same reason - to keep Israel separate - such as meats laws, circumcision, and marriage prohibitions. This chapter has nothing to do with "once pagan always pagan." For evidence, consider God commands Israel to destroy temples and altars and images ... and then He turns right around and commands them to build a temple with altars and images [Yes, images! (EXO. 25: 18-22)]. If this chapter was about once pagan always pagan, God would not have done this. Once pagan always pagan does not factor in. Yet when the time came, Jesus obsoleted this chapter about place, explaining to the Samaritan woman that true worship would not be this way any longer (JON. 4: 20-24).



Doesn't Deuteronomy 12: 29-32 condemn making new Christian traditions?

No. That is an attempt to proof-text a few verses and craft a new context for them.

(DEU. 12: 29-31) 29 “When the Lord your God cuts off from before you the nations which you go to dispossess, and you displace them and dwell in their land, 30 take heed to yourself that you are not ensnared to follow them, after they are destroyed from before you, and that you do not inquire after their gods, saying, ‘How did these nations serve their gods? I also will do likewise.’ 31 You shall not worship the Lord your God in that way; for every abomination to the Lord which He hates they have done to their gods; for they burn even their sons and daughters in the fire to their gods.

This particular topic is far more complicated than we can cover here, but let's touch on some basics. First, these verses must be taken in the context of the chapter (also see the section about verses 2-4 above) which this claim completely ignores. The chapter is about Israel displacing the heathen nations in Palestine, it is about keeping Israel separate and distinct, it is regarding the practices of the abrogated Old Covenant, and it is directly about abominable practices that would draw Israel away from God. Second, neither the Jews nor the overwhelming Christian community in their combined history have taken these verses as a ban on new traditions. Third, the idea of banning novel traditions does not come from this chapter, it is read into this chapter. People who proof-text this selection of verses have already come to their conclusion regarding traditions and are looking for some form of justification. Fourth, the people who make stands on this proof-texted selection of verses are generally violating it themselves. Not a single one of them keep the tenets of the Old Covenant as written; legion are the excuses why not. All of them have their own novelties, quite a few borrowed from other religious groups. And lastly, this objection assumes Christmas in general comes from paganism, which we have and many others have demonstrated it does not.


Do Matthew 15: 9 and Mark 7: 7 condemn Christmas and its traditions?

No. That is an attempt to proof-text a few verses and craft a new context for them.

(MAT. 15: 9) And in vain they worship Me, teaching as doctrines the commandments of men.
(MAR. 7: 7-8) And in vain they worship Me, teaching as doctrines the commandments of men.’ 8 For laying aside the commandment of God, you hold the tradition of men —the washing of pitchers and cups, and many other such things you do.”

What is the context of these verses? Jesus was accused of violating the law, so He turned the tables and accused the religious establishment in Israel of putting minutiae of law over and above the weightier matters of the law - love and the value of human life. Turns out it was not He but their legalism that had actually nullified the law - to the point where a person could give money to the temple and justify ignoring their elderly parents and thus violating the commandment to honor father and mother. Jesus was telling the Pharisees that their hands and cups were clean but their hearts were filthy. Jesus ultimately undoes the very point of the people who look to these proof-texted verses for aid against Christmas tradition. Nothing from the outside defiles a person, but what comes from inside can.

(MAR. 7: 14-16) 14 When He had called all the multitude to Himself, He said to them, “Hear Me, everyone, and understand: 15 There is nothing that enters a man from outside which can defile him; but the things which come out of him, those are the things that defile a man. 16 If anyone has ears to hear, let him hear!”

Christmas trees and holly cannot defile you, but a heart of false accusation and condemnation against your brother can. In the words of Jacob Marley:
"Business!" cried the Ghost, wringing its hands again. "Mankind was my business; charity, mercy, forbearance, and benevolence, were, all, my business. The deals of my trade were but a drop of water in the comprehensive ocean of my business!”

Can I accidentally commit idolatry?


No. I am shocked by how often I have been asked this over the years. It is impossible to accidentally commit idolatry. Idolatry cannot come from outside of you. Idolatry must come from inside, from the heart. Idolatry is not a thing or a thoughtless act (such as stooping down to pick up a gift from under a tree). Idolatry is an act of worship. Learn from the story of Naaman the Syrian who was healed of his leprocy by Elisha the prophet (II KIN. 5: 1-19). Naaman was obligated to kneel to the idol at the temple of Rimmon but his heart did not worship there (v. 18), and God pardoned him (v. 19).
My heart goes out to people who seriously ask questions such as this. The fear; the uncertainty in their Lord to love and keep them! False teachers have done this to people. But no incidental act is more powerful than God. No trinket can undo the victory Jesus gained on the cross. Listen to Him:

(JON. 10: 27-30) 27 My sheep hear My voice, and I know them, and they follow Me. 28 And I give them eternal life, and they shall never perish; neither shall anyone snatch them out of My hand. 29 My Father, who has given them to Me, is greater than all; and no one is able to snatch them out of My Father’s hand. 30 I and My Father are one.


TIMING


Was Jesus born on December 25th?

No one knows. He could have been born on this day. He could have been born on another day. There is no definite answer. There are plenty of reasons both for and against. Some people say that astronomy proves Jesus was born on or near December 25th. The evidence is interesting, but ultimately inconclusive.

http://www.bethlehemstar.com


Was Jesus born at the Feast of Tabernacles?

Unlikely. No one knows, but with this one there is valid reason to conclude the likeliest answer is no. If the time of year was Tabernacles, or Passover or Pentecost for that matter, every male should have been in Jerusalem. Luke doesn't say a thing about Tabernacles at all. Luke tells us why Joseph was in Bethlehem – he was there for the census. All people went to their homes for the census (LUK. 2: 3). If all people were in their home towns then many people were not in Jerusalem. Hence why the Inn in Bethlehem was full. Joseph's ancestral home was Bethlehem. That is why he and others there. Joseph should not have stayed in Bethlehem for the Feast, nor either should the other people who had filled the Inn before he got there, nor either should the people whose stable Joseph stayed in, nor either should the shepherds who were in the fields. None of them should have been in Bethlehem. They would have missed the Feast contrary to the law. If this were at Tabernacles then those people would be building Tabernacles in and around Jerusalem. To put Jesus' birth at Tabernacles is too problematic to be workable.


Do shepherds outside at night mean Jesus' birth could not be in the winter?

No. Bethlehem produced sheep for the sacrifices in Jerusalem. They had shepherds outside all year round. December is the rainy season, a prime time for feeding in the arid Israeli climate. That time period wasn't far from the peak of the Roman Warm Period. Their climate was warmer than we see it today.


Doesn't the Course of Abijah rule out December 25th?

No. There are so very many interpretations for when the Course of Abijah served that it is nearly impossible to tell which is the correct one. The courses also served twice per year. Which one was Luke referring to – the first or the second? I can't tell you how many websites I've read that say the course of Abijah ran in (pick a month .. let's go with June here) therefore Jesus was born in September. Not so fast! The timing of the Course of Abijah was one of the earliest supporting proofs given in defense of December 25th. John Chrysostom was known to have used it. Therefore it cannot preclude a December 25th date. There are ways to calculate the courses of Abijah that very much support a December 25th birth. Therefore, the course of Abijah can only support December 25th or be neutral about December 25th, it cannot rule December 25th out.


Does Christmas come from Saturnalia?

No. Saturnalia was on December 17th. When Caesar reformed the calendar, he added two days to December. This moved Saturnalia to the 19th. Now, people celebrated on the 17th and the 19th. After this the celebration lasted three days. Over time the celebration expanded from the 17th to the 23rd, but was then limited to five days. Saturnalia was never on the 24th or 25th of December. The traditions of Saturnalia, the imagery, the dates – none of these are Christmas. The traditions of Saturnalia were merged into Brumalia.
"The origin of Christmas should not be sought in the Saturnalia..."
-Martindale, C.C. (1908). Christmas. In The Catholic Encyclopedia. New York: Robert Appleton Company. Retrieved December, 2015 from New Advent: http://www.newadvent.org/cathen/03724b.htm
Much has been said about the “great debauchery” of Saturnalia, in an attempt to associate Christmas with a very stylized picture of Roman paganism. This attempt to poison the well is desperate ignorance. The original Christmas was a very somber event. People went to church, then people went home. Hence the name “Mass of Christ.” Modern people would likely be quite disappointed with it.


Does Christmas come from Brumalia?

No. The Bruma was on November 24th. In the Byzantine east, around the sixth century (hundreds of years after Christmas began), Bruma grew into a multi-day festival from November 24th to December 17th.


Does Christmas come from Natalis Invicti?

No. Although both were on December 25th, the December 25th date of Jesus' birth was calculated decades before Natalis Invicti was created. The December 25th calculation of Jesus' birth comes not from any winter holiday but from the March 25th calculation of Jesus' conception. The phrase Natalis Invicti comes from a calendar written in 354 AD by a Christian named Filocalus. The calendar does not directly say who Natalis Invicti honored. However, it does mention Jesus being born on December 25th. Some people speculate that Natalis Invicti honored the sun god Sol, but this is just speculation. There is nothing tying December 25th to a sun god until decades later when Emperor Julius the Apostate wrote a poem, Ode to King Helios, in 362 AD. Julius was attempting to return Rome to paganism.


Does Christmas come from Zagmuk?

No. Zagmuk is part of the Persian New Year festival, and that occurs in the Spring.


What are the Twelve Days of Christmas?

They are the twelve days between Christmas and Epiphany.


PURITANS


Did the English outlaw Christmas for a time?

Yes. King Charles I oppressed the Puritans, but they rose up in a civil war and took power in England. The English government was heavily influenced by Puritans under their new leader, Oliver Cromwell. The Puritans were pious anti-Catholics who despised anything overly festive and anything Catholic. Since Christmas was both festive and came to us through the Catholics, they hated it. The name was changed from Christ-mass to Christ-tide (to further remove Catholic elements). At first, people were still allowed to close shops and attend special church services. Christmas was ordered to be a day of fasting. Government officials were allowed to raid homes and confiscate goods and food upon the mere suspicion that people were celebrating Christmas privately in their homes. Suspicion that a family was eating a dinner that might be more fancy or larger than what is expected on a normal day was grounds for such a raid. It wasn't just Christmas that they banned, but most holidays. Eventually shops were ordered to remain open and the day commanded to be a normal day without special church services or other festivities.
The question we ask is – is this really the example people should follow?


Did the early colonialists in America outlaw Christmas?

Yes. The Puritans in America were in most things exactly like their counterparts in England – except they were even more radical. These are the people who fled to America partly because they were oppressed by Charles I and partly because they didn't think the anti-Catholic reformations of Puritans in England went far enough. The Puritans in America banned Christmas. No enjoyment was allowed to be sought, not even the most mundane. Playing card games on the day brought penalties. Not the best example to follow, if you ask us.


Was Christmas shunned by early Americans?

Yes. Considering that early Americans were by overwhelming majority Protestant, and influenced by the Puritans, there is absolutely no surprise here. The Reformation began in a desire to correct Catholicism but quickly devolved into a movement to replace Catholicism. Protestantism divided into new denominations, each one more zealous to out-do its own predecessors. Anti-Catholicism was a major theme in the American colonies. Catholicism was perceived as being authoritarian and was associated with the monarchies of Europe – the very thing Americans were rebelling against. Catholicism reminded them of the Spanish to their south and west. Catholics, they said, were incompatible with Democracy. The Great Awakening was rooted in anti-Catholicism. Anti-Catholic authors abound in America's history, with names such as Increase Mather, Samuel Morse, Charles Spurgeon, William Hogan, Jules Michelet, Maria Monk, Matthew Carey, Alexander Hislop, Joseph Smith, Ellen G White … the list goes on and on. It wasn't until 1960 that America would, hesitantly, elect a Catholic President. To appeal to such non sequitur information as, “The first Capitol Christmas Tree was purchased in 1919,” is an argumentum ad populem which demonstrates absolutely nothing about the merits of Christmas. So, yes, early America did shun Christmas, but not because of Christmas. They shunned Christmas because they shunned Catholicism.


STATISTICS


Isn't Christmas the worst time of the year for crime?

No. According to modern statistics, crime rates are not higher in winter but lowest in winter. It only makes sense that people who turn to crime for gain are too lazy to face the elements. They would rather prey on their fellow man in the comfort of good weather.

http://www.bjs.gov/content/pub/pdf/spcvt


Doesn't the suicide rate skyrocket at Christmas?

No. Suicide rates are not higher in winter but spring.

http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC3315262


OBSERVANCE


Should I observe Christmas if I don't know the exact right day of Jesus' birth?

That's up to you. But let's examine whether not this is actually a consistent standard to go by or a convenient excuse to use. We don't know the exact right day for many things. Take for example the decades-long argument in Armstrongism over when Pentecost should fall. There are several interpretations on how to calculate Pentecost. Would you say it is right to dump Pentecost? I doubt it. Or when is the exact right day for Passover? Armstrongism follows the modern Jewish calendar to determine Passover. Problem is, the modern Jewish calendar is a far cry different from the ancient Jewish calendar. They are not the same by any means. So we don't really know when the exact correct date of Passover should be. Would you advocate no longer celebrating Passover, then? I doubt it. Now think about this, if we don't know when Passover should be then we don't really know when any of the other Holy Days should be. What's even more, IF the Lunar Sabbath theory is correct, then people haven't been observing the weekly Sabbath on the right day. So I ask again, is it a consistent rule or a convenient excuse to reject something because we don't know the exact right day it should fall on? Appears to me to be an excuse.


Should I observe Christmas if it wasn't among the early feasts of the church?

That's up to you. Christmas was not among the earliest feasts, this much is true. The early feasts of the church were basically ordered around the weekly and annual gatherings to celebrate the death and resurrection and various fasts, and were different from area to area. The church was in its infancy and many things were not fleshed out at that point. Many people have an honest and well-meaning desire to "return to original Christianity" but most of those people have little real understanding of exactly what that means or all it entails. We recommend using your best judgment in faith and much prayerful consideration. But if your concern is that the church cannot make new annual feasts, please see the next point.


Should I observe Christmas if we aren't directly commanded in the Bible to celebrate Christmas?

That's up to you to decide. But let's look further into that. Are we commanded to observe Thanksgiving? No. Do you observe it? It is a day to worship God, after all. All of the talk about what separates Thanksgiving from other religious holidays is gerrymandering. What about the Night to be Much Observed? The Bible never commands us to observe that. The idea that we must abstain from holidays that are not directly commanded by God is not a Biblical command. It didn't come from the Bible. In fact the Bible shows the opposite. The Jews made up holidays and God not only recorded it in the Bible but personally took part in those days. Hanukkah is not commanded, but Jesus participated (JON. 10: 22). Or take Purim for example. Esther 9: 27 tells us, “The Jews established and imposed it upon themselves and their descendants and all who would join them, that without fail they should celebrate these two days every year, according to the written instructions and according to the prescribed time...”.  
Now look what else they did:

(EST. 9: 22) "as the days on which the Jews had rest from their enemies, as the month which was turned from sorrow to joy for them, and from mourning to a holiday; that they should make them days of feasting and joy, of sending presents to one another and gifts to the poor."

Sounds an awful lot like Christmas, doesn't it?
So what can we see here? It is not at all a sin to create a holiday to honor God. It is Biblical to do so. God apparently even participates.

http://asbereansdid.blogspot.com/2014/12/established-and-imposed.html
http://asbereansdid.blogspot.com/2015/04/should-christians-observe-night-to-be.html


Does Christmas distract from the death & resurrection?

No. What an odd thing it would be if the incarnation - which is necessary for the death - somehow distracted from the death. Was the incarnation of our Lord not a miraculous work of God, foretold by prophets, attended by angels, accompanied by signs (the star, the presence of John the Baptist, the visitations both to Mary and Joseph, born of a virgin, the death of the innocents), rich with prophetic imagery (the manger prophesying Jesus as true food from Heaven, the prophetic words of Elizabeth calling Mary the Mother of her Lord, the gifts of the Magi predicting Jesus' death), and did it not fulfill the specific timing as prophesied in Daniel?? The birth was no small event! Some have claimed that the birth distracts from the God's plan for mankind. The birth and the death are linked; they are mutually dependent. If the birth somehow distracts, then what doesn't? If the birth distracts, then so does the Old Testament - especially the Exodus - and so does His childhood, and so does His 3-year ministry, and all the Christian era after His resurrection, and all other things besides. OR! We can see all of these things as parts in a single story, all necessary, all linked, all wonderful, all bringing glory to God. Nothing distracts because it's all part and parcel of the glorious story that God has been authoring from the very beginning.


Doesn't the Bible say not to 'learn the way of the Heathen'?

Yes. The Bible says that. But what was the actual context of what the Bible means? Jeremiah was talking about learning the God-rejecting ways of pagan idolatry and the worship of false gods. “Learn not the way of the heathen” in this context begs the question that Christmas was heathen to begin with. The entire thrust of our research here at ABD leads us to conclude that Christmas and Christmas Trees were never pagan to begin with. Paganism must be assumed contrary to the evidence. Then, from that false starting point, all forms of accusation are heaped on top of these things. All of this in wanton abandonment of the fact that Christmas is meant to honor Jesus Christ, not some false god.


If it's Jesus' birthday, why give gifts to everyone but Him?

And how exactly do you propose we do that? His address is certainly not listed and everything belongs to Him already. Or, we could give to Him the way He told us to - by giving to others.

(MAT. 25: 40, 45) 40 And the King will answer and say to them, ‘Assuredly, I say to you, inasmuch as you did it to one of the least of these My brethren, you did it to Me.’
45 Then He will answer them, saying, ‘Assuredly, I say to you, inasmuch as you did not do it to one of the least of these, you did not do it to Me.’

Now, if anyone gives you grief about this response, perhaps you might ask them how they give money to God by cutting a check to men.


Should I observe Christmas since it has become so commercial?

That's up to you to decide. It has become quite commercial lately. Not because of Christians, mind you. It has become commercial despite Christians. I suggest rather than abandoning it we instead should reclaim it. Observe Christmas but turn it back into the holy memorial of our Savior's birth.


Here are some resources to aid you in finding the truth about Christmas:


Material on ABD:


On Nimrod And Christmas Trees part 1
http://asbereansdid.blogspot.com/2011/01/on-nimrod-and-christmas-trees-part-i.html

On Nimrod And Christmas Trees part 2
http://asbereansdid.blogspot.com/2011/01/on-nimrod-and-christmas-trees-part-ii.html

On Nimrod And Christmas Trees part 3
http://asbereansdid.blogspot.com/2011/01/on-nimrod-and-christmas-trees-part-iii.html

Nimrod's Birthday Was January 6?
http://asbereansdid.blogspot.com/2013/12/nimrods-birthday-was-january-6.html

Jeremiah 10 and Christmas Trees
http://asbereansdid.blogspot.com/2010/12/jeremiah-10-and-christmas-trees.html

A Dialogue On Jeremiah 10
http://asbereansdid.blogspot.com/2014/12/a-dialogue-on-jeremiah-10.html

The Plain Truth About December 25th
http://asbereansdid.blogspot.com/2010/12/plain-truth-about-december-25th.html

The Plain Truth About December 25th (full study)
https://dl.dropboxusercontent.com/u/8632770/The%20Plain%20Truth%20About%20December%2025.pdf

The Quotes Before Christmas
http://asbereansdid.blogspot.com/2014/12/the-quotes-before-christmas.html

Crazy About Christmas
http://asbereansdid.blogspot.com/2013/12/crazy-about-christmas.html

Established And Imposed
http://asbereansdid.blogspot.com/2014/12/established-and-imposed.html


Material off-site from ABD:

Vance Stinson, of the Church of God International (CGI) [an Armstrongist splinter church] gives a message affirming much of what we've said here for years. "The Word Became Flesh" on YouTube.
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=fCCluUzKgeg&feature=youtu.be

Christmas Is Not Pagan, on ORLutheran.com
https://web.archive.org/web/20150422020638/http://www.orlutheran.com/html/chrmas_pagan1.html

Ralph Woodrow’s book “Christmas Reconsidered”
http://www.amazon.com/Christmas-Reconsidered-Ralph-E-Woodrow/dp/0916938131/ref=sr_1_2?s=books&ie=UTF8&qid=1416143815&sr=1-2

"Calculating Christmas" on Touchstonemag.com
http://www.touchstonemag.com/archives/article.php?id=16-10-012-v

"Why December 25th" on Redstate.com
http://www.redstate.com/2013/12/24/why-december-25th/

Star of Bethlehem documentary, on YouTube.com
http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=hptQbH_59nc

"Why December 25th Is Christmas" on Patheos.com
http://www.patheos.com/blogs/geneveith/2010/12/why-december-25-is-christmas/

"Pagan Origins of Christmas" on Pious Fabrications.com
http://www.piousfabrications.com/2010/12/pagan-origins-of-christmas.html

"Christmas Day – Was Jesus Really Born On December 25th" on Hebrew4christians.com
http://www.hebrew4christians.com/Articles/Christmas/christmas.html

Should Christians Celebrate Christmas, on Bible.org
https://bible.org/article/should-christians-celebrate-christmas

Why December 25, on Catholic.com [I don't see any COG quoting this one.]
http://www.catholic.com/blog/jon-sorensen/why-december-25

"Hebrew Roots Movement, the Law and Christmas", on Throwbackchristianity.com
http://www.throwbackchristianity.com/hebrew-roots-movement-law-pagan-roots-december-25th

"Christmas: Pagan Festival or Christian Celebration?" on AnsweringIslam.org
http://www.answering-islam.org/pagan/christmas.html

"Christmas In Rome Through The Ages" on Reginamag.com
http://reginamag.com/christmas-in-rome-through-the-ages

"Spurious Correlations" on tylervigen.com

"St Nicholas of Myra: A Guide to the Real Santa Claus" on arthuriana.co.uk
http://www.arthuriana.co.uk/xmas/pages/prigins.htm

"Is Christmas Pagan? No!" on FreeRepublic.com
http://www.freerepublic.com/focus/religion/2971709/posts

"Is Christmas Pagan?" on Stand To Reason
http://www.str.org/articles/is-christmas-pagan#.VoB1ALbyvcs

"Have Yourself a Very Pagan Christmas! (not)" on RightReason.org
http://rightreason.org/2015/have-yourself-a-very-pagan-christmas-not

"The Pagan Origin of Christmas?" on Orthodox Outlet for Dogmatic Enquiries (OODE)
http://oodegr.co/english/ekklisia/genika/pagan_origins_of_christmas.htm

"Horus Ruins Christmas" on Lutheran Satire
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=4r2m_cffRjI