Monday, December 8, 2014

The Quotes Before Christmas

The Armstrongist Church of God splinter groups quote, or perhaps I should say ‘strategically quote-mine’, from about any source which even so much as appears to undermine Christmas. For example, in his definitive booklet on the topic of Christmas, “The Plain Truth about Christmas” Herbert Armstrong quotes a section of the New Schaff-Herzog Encyclopedia of Religious Knowledge article on Christmas. He quotes just enough of it to smear the day, and then proceeds to leave us, the readers of his booklet, to conclude that history itself has soundly denounced the day as pagan.
"How much the date of the festival depended upon the pagan Brumalia (Dec. 25) following the Saturnalia (Dec. 17-24), and celebrating the shortest day in the year and the 'new sun,' . . . cannot be accurately determined."
-Herbert Armstrong, "The Plain Truth about Christmas" 1957, p.5
Our complaint is not that they argue against Christmas. A healthy, well-formed argument is a good thing. We all improve from the challenge. The truth can take care of itself. Our complaint is the unhealthy and poorly-formed arguments, the shifting standards, the ideologically driven shoddy research, the pseudo-history, the unwillingness to consider evidence to the contrary, and the manipulative quote-mining that come close to outright deception. Just as they do with British-Israelism, so they do with Christmas. They expose us to the oldest, least reliable sources and call it "truth." If they do accidentally quote a quality source, they are not above only quoting just enough to get what they want from it, even if they alter the entire meaning of the quote. This is the plain truth? I find their lack of integrity disturbing.

This is fairly typical of the way the modern COGs treat their source material each year when they trot out their litany of hand-crafted quotes before Christmas. It has become so dogmatically important to them to oppose Christmas that any means justifies this end. It is the great white whale. Back in 2009, ABD began looking into Easter and Christmas to see if what the COGs claim is true. We were surprised to learn the claims were not true, but shocked to learn how very badly we had been lied to. The discoveries continue uninterrupted to this day. Let's see just a few examples.

QUOTATION EXPLANATION

I would like to show you what the quote actually says because there is a very important part that Armstrong skipped over.
"How much the calculation of Hippolytus had to do with the festival on Dec. 25, and how much the date of the festival depended upon the pagan Brumalia (Dec. 25), following the Saturnalia (Dec. 17-24) and celebrating the shortest day in the year and the 'new sun' or the beginning of the lengthening of days, cannot be accurately determined."
-"Christmas", The New Schaff-Herzog Encyclopedia of Religious Knowledge, Volume III, Grand Rapids, 1952, p.48, [bold mine] from Christian Classics Ethereal Library.org, p.67, http://www.ccel.org/ccel/schaff/encyc03.pdf 
See there? I've bolded the key portion that the COGs leave out. The COGs fundamentally transform the entire quote. I want to explain what that quote says, because it is easy to misunderstand.

On page 47, the author of this New Schaff-Herzog article on Christmas spent a good number of words reviewing how the dates of Jesus' death and birth were calculated by several second and third century theologians. Some theologians concluded a winter birth but one theologian in particular, Hippolytus, is credited with being the first to calculate December 25th as the birth date at some time near 211 AD. Well, there are several people who say Theophilus of Antioch should get the credit for the first mention of December 25 at some time around 185 AD, but until I see some better evidence I am going to give this a mention and then ignore it. Hippolytus arrived at this date by first calculating the date of Jesus' conception at March 25th. December 25th is exactly 9 months after March 25th. The December date relied entirely upon the March date.

That's where we come in with this quote. We can see that the article clearly points out that Hippolytus calculated the date. It is entirely forthcoming about that point. Armstrong leaves that part completely out. With what we were allowed to see from the quote, we were all left wondering how much of Christmas comes from Saturnalia or Brumalia. But that's not really what the paragraph was claiming. The article says it was calculated rather than just adopted and wonders of the calculations were influenced by pagan holidays.

We at ABD, not having read Schaff-Herzogg when we first started, came to the same conclusion on our own, that the date was calculated by Hippolytus and then caught on over time. It was a surprising find to us. Should it have been surprising, considering the material Armstrong quoted from states that Hippolytus calculated the date? No. I spent thirty years in Armstrongism, eating up their material on Christmas, but never once did I hear a whisper about calculations. All I heard was that it is a continuation of several varieties of paganism.

Now here is a detail you absolutely must know: Hippolytus wrote around 202-220 AD.

Why is that important? Because there was no Roman festival on December 25th at that time.

Granted, December 25th had been the traditional Roman date of the solstice since 45 BC, but there was no festival at all marking the solstice. Romans did not celebrate the solstice anciently. No known Roman festival falls on the solstices before 274 AD. (There is no evidence that one fell on the solstice in 274 either, this is complete speculation, but it's a reasonable guess.) The fact remains that the Roman traditional date of the solstice was important for astronomy/astrology but unimportant for religion.

So let us return full circle again to the conjecture from earlier. How much the calculation of Hippolytus had to do with a solstice festival specifically is simple to determine: it wasn't. There was no solstice festival to influence Hippolytus. We'll deal with more the established festivals like Brumalia in a bit.

MIND YOUR SOURCE MATERIAL

So, am I saying that the New Schaff-Herzog Encyclopedia is wrong? Well, to be fair, the author was simply offering some conjecture. They didn't say it was and they didn't say it wasn't. An encyclopedia is an odd place for conjecture, but it is what it is. Armstrong took this conjecture as some solid evidence. Obviously he had no idea what makes for good evidence, but he sure knew what makes for good propaganda. This conjecture is easily determined now, in our time, by modern scholars who are far better informed than 100 years ago. So, no, the conjecture isn't "wrong" per se, but we can definitively answer this conjecture.

Yet, in other places the New Schaff-Herzog Encyclopedia's article on Christmas is wrong.

The Schaff-Herzog Encyclopedia of Religious Knowledge was written in the 1800's. It was revised and published in 1952 as the New Schaff-Herzog Encyclopedia of Religous Knowledge. (Armstrong quoted from the New.) This is a fairly old encyclopedia by today's standards. When Herbert Armstrong was writing his Plain Truth about Christmas booklet, this information must have seemed new to him, definitive, and quite fascinating. And rightfully so. I cannot necessarily blame the man, he concluded as he did at least in part because of the information he had on hand. But we aren't in the 1950's anymore. We have learned much in 60+ years.

In the late 1800's to mid 1900's, the prevailing theory in religious history was that Christianity borrowed most every component that it has from pagans, including Jesus Himself. Which is why you get the kind of information that you do in books like The Golden Bough by James Frazer, a favored source of the Living Church of God. Yes, the LCG frequently references a book that believes Jesus Christ is a false god created from borrowed pagan material. So is the book authoritative or not? You decide.
For more on why Frazer's claims are outmoded, see this article at Tektonics.org.

That kind of "Christians borrowed everything from pagans" thinking has lasting appeal to some people. I have the COGs in mind in particular. This is no longer the prevailing theory among religious historians. The prevailing theory now is precisely the opposite - Christianity is uniquely a spin-off of Judaism, pagans primarily borrowed from Christianity, and other similarities are superficial. This effectively obsoletes a good deal of older material, like that which we find in this Christmas article from the New Schaff-Herzog. Undaunted, the COGs continue to use select quotes from obsolete and inaccurate material to this very moment for no other reason than it says what they want to hear.

One would think the Shaff-Herzogg Encyclopedia is wholly condemnatory against Christmas. It is not. To be completely forthcoming, this Christmas article is pretty damning. Some sections of the Christmas article which Armstrong left out are even worse towards Christmas than those he included! Yet, even in this, the reality is quite different than the picture painted for us. Christmas is not nearly the train wreck that the Christmas article makes it seem. As a witness for the defense, let us call … the Shaff-Herzog Encyclopedia.

I was able to find the Shaff-Herzog Encyclopedia from 1912. The original. Its article on Yuletide on p.491 once again goes into a great deal of detail regarding how December 25th was a calculated date. Afterwards, it says this:
“It has also been conjectured that the day was selected because of its significance in the Roman calendar, where it bore the name of deis invicti solis (“the day of the unconquered sun”), since on this day the sun began to regain its power and overcame the night. … It is, however, unlikely that the birth-day of Jesus was first determined by this heathen festival. Nor can Christmas be assumed to owe its origin to the Roman Saturnalia, since they lasted from Dec. 17 to Dec. 19, and even with the later prolongation to seven days, ended on Dec. 23. Still less can the origin be sought in the Germanic solar festival, since the Christmas festival arose long before the Christianizing of the Germans.”
-“Yuletide”, Schaff-Herzog Encyclopedia of Religious Knowledge, Volume XII, p.491, Funk and Wagnalls, New York and London, 1912. From Google Books
http://books.google.com/books?id=n2EhAQAAMAAJ&pg=PA491&lpg=PA491#v=onepage&q&f=false
Can you believe that?
I want to reiterate, for clarity. The Yuletide article of the same brand of encyclopedia answers the conjecture put forward in the Christmas article. It went from "cannot be accurately determined" to "unlikely."
Odd, it didn't seem so impossible for them to determine.

Wouldn't that have been nice to know before? I have a little conjecture of my own as to why Armstrong and the COGs leave this information out. I'll give you a hint -- it doesn't fit the narrative.

But wait, there's more.

The articles Christmas and Yuletide conflict regarding the dates of Saturnalia. Both articles claim Saturnalia started on December 17th, but whereas the Yuletide article correctly states that it was concluded on the 23rd at its longest point, the Christmas article in the New errors by adding a day. Saturnalia did not conclude on the 24th.

A second notable error is that the Christmas article in the New states the festival of Brumalia fell on December 25th. The festival of Brumalia was a month-long observance which began on November 24th and ended at Saturnalia which was December 17th. Brumalia was not on December 25th.

Anciently, the Bruma was an event where the Roman head of state fed the Senators in a meal symbolizing their importance to the nation during the quiet months of winter. It grew to be a longer festival over time. It eventually grew so long that it ended at Saturnalia. We speculate that is where the name Brumalia came from. The lengthy Brumalia was actually a Byzantine development. That means it developed after Hippolytus' death. Neither Brumalia nor Saturnalia were on December 24th or 25th. Neither the correct dates nor the correct location could have had any influence on the calculations of Hippolytus. So the reference in the New Schaff-Herzog Encyclopedia on Religious Knowledge article on Christmas is factually incorrect in regards to this point.
"Moreover, the Byzantine Brumalia was actually called a festival of Cronos, and December 17, the day on which it closed, was the opening day of the Saturnalia.
...Balzamon, Tzetzes, and Zonaras, twelfth century Byzantine writers, affirm that the Brumalia was a festival of Dionysus, inasmuch as βροῦμοςwas an epithet of that god. It is a fact that at this festival, in the eighth century, the Emperor Constantine Copronymus revered Dionysus and Broumos as creators of corn and wine.
-John Raymond Crawford, “De Bruma et Brumalibus Festis”, Byzantinischer Zeitschrift, pp.365-396.
Am I saying the New Schaff-Herzog Encyclopedia is wrong? Yes! Yes I am. Even WikiPedia manages to get the dates right. See what you can achieve when you do more than just quote-mine your source material?

So let us return full circle a second time to the conjecture that started this post. How much the calculation of Hippolytus had to do with the Brumalia is in fact simple to determine: it wasn't. Brumalia wasn't on December 25th at all, but had ended a week earlier.

It seems apparent to me that the COGs care a lot less about what actually happened in the past than they care about preserving the narrative. Do you honestly think that they want to hear that something might exonerate one of their favorite money-makers? Tell me truthfully, if you are from the anti-Christmas side of this debate, don't you really want me to be wrong?

For more detail on these points, please see our article "The Plain Truth About December 25" especially the sections Bruma/Brumalia and Saturnalia.

A HELPFUL TIMELINE

Keeping all of these dates in line can be difficult. I want to put up a timeline for you.

80-120 AD

Mithras mystery cult begins in Rome. Distinct from Persian Mithra worship.
150-190 AD

Theologians in Egypt try to discern the birth date of Jesus. May and January are favorites.
190-195 AD

Clement of Alexandria believes Jesus born in winter. November or January. Also references a baptismal celebration which could be Epiphany.
202-211 AD

Clement's student Hippolytus calculates Jesus’ death as March 25 and birth as December 25.
218 AD

Elagabalus becomes Emperor at age 14. Introduces Sol Invictus to Rome.
221 AD

Julius Africanus confirms Hippolytus' March 25 date.
222 AD

Elagabalus is assassinated. Sol worship is suppressed.
243 AD

Cyprian confirms Hippolytus' March 25 date.
274 AD

Aurelian reintroduces or recreates Sol Invictus. Dies the next year. Sol Invictus is a favorite of Roman rulers for the next 40 to 50 years until Constantine.
314 AD

Christianity legalized by Emperor Constantine I. Mithraism and Sol Invictus begin to decline. Mithraism gone by mid-century.
336 AD

The first mention of Natalis Invicti (notice Sol is not mentioned, but it likely is Sol Invictus). This is the first record of a pagan festival on December 25. Same document mentions Jesus born on December 25.
337 AD

Constantine the Great dies. His sons continue the spread of Christianity in Rome.
361-363 AD

Emperor Julian “the Apostate” tried to return Rome to paganism. Gives us the first explicit reference to sun festival on December 25th in his poem "An Ode to King Helios."
380 AD

Gregory of Nazianzus gives the oldest extant Christmas Homily.
387 AD

Last inscription to Sol Invictus struck in this year, though Solar worshipers continue into the next century.
391 AD

Christianity is declared the official religion of the Empire.
400s AD

The Bruma festival on November 24th begins to grow into the Brumalia in the East

Some important points which can be gleaned from this:
1) Calculations of Jesus' birth were very early, predating Sol Invictus' introduction into Roman society.
2) At some time after 211 but before 336 is when the December 25 celebration of the birth of Jesus began.
3) At some time after 274 but before 336 is when the December 25 celebration of Natalis Invicti began.
4) The Bruma was on the 24th of November and grew into the Brumalia by the sixth century

MORE STRATEGERY

This pattern of quote-mining is family tradition in Armstrongism. Just to demonstrate this point, I would like to show a couple other strategic quote-mines from the "Plain Truth about Christmas" booklet in order to demonstrate how manipulative and IMHO deceptive this can get:
“Let us examine the Catholic Encyclopedia, published by that Church. Under the caption ‘Christmas,’ you will find:
'Christmas was not among the earliest festivals of the Church …'”
-Herbert Armstrong, Plain Truth Magazine, “The Plain Truth about Christmas”, December 1957, p.6
Let's pause here briefly here, mid-quote.

This is a favored entry from the COG quotes before Christmas. And the Catholic Encyclopedia was right; Christmas wasn’t among the earliest festivals. But there's more to it than that. The celebration of the early events in Jesus’ human life on another day, namely Epiphany, goes back several decades before Christmas. Every major Christian center observed Epiphany. There is some reason to believe a generic observance of the Nativity goes back even before Epiphany. So celebrating the early events of Jesus' life was not so unheard of as Hebert Armstrong would have us believe. Only celebrating His birth specifically as the feast of Christmas was.

Armstrong's response to Epiphany was to have his court historian, Herman Hoeh, "the most accurately-informed historian in the world," try to smear the day as the true birthday of Nimrod. The results are laughable.
Please see our article "Nimrod's Birthday Was January 6?" for more details on this.

Let us not forget that the angels, shepherds, Magi, Anna the prophetess, John the Baptist, Zecharias and Elizabeth the parents of John the Baptist, and Mary and Joseph all rejoiced to see His first coming. All of the angels and heroes of old eagerly awaited that time. Abraham rejoiced and was glad to know He was coming. There is nothing wrong with being overjoyed that the Lord was born. It remains the second-greatest miracle in the history of mankind. He couldn't die if He wasn't born.

Continuing with Armstrong's citation where we left off from above:
“'… The first evidence of the feast is from Egypt.'”
-Herbert Armstrong, Plain Truth Magazine, “The Plain Truth about Christmas”, December 1957, p.6
That’s Christians in Egypt, particularly. Christians! Not pagans in Egypt.

Armstrong only quotes a small snippet in order to lead his readers to conclude Egyptian pagans were being spoken about. The very next word he quotes is "Pagan," just to make sure you get the point, but that is completely misleading. It is manipulative and bordering on outright dishonesty. Let’s look at the whole sentence. I will again bold the parts the left out.
“The first evidence of the feast is from Egypt. About A.D. 200, Clement of Alexandria (Stromata I.21) says that certain Egyptian theologians "over curiously" assign, not the year alone, but the day of Christ's birth, placing it on 25 Pachon (20 May) in the twenty-eighth year of Augustus.
-Martindale, C.C. (1908). Christmas. In The Catholic Encyclopedia. New York: Robert Appleton Company. [Bold mine] Retrieved November 25, 2014 from New Advent: http://www.newadvent.org/cathen/03724b.htm
Where Armstrong attempts to leave us with the impression that Christmas comes from Egyptian pagans, the quote is clear that it came from theologians in Egypt. Don't be surprised regarding Egypt. Alexandria was one of the largest Christian centers in those days.

Clement of Alexandria (Egypt), mentioned in the quote above, wrote in the 190's AD. Since Clement was referring to theologians before himself, we can be confident that the attempt to locate Jesus' birth goes back to the mid-second century.

So, you see, this pattern of 'strategic quote-mining' is something that is done quite often. A source will be strategically quoted as authoritative, so long as it appears to say what they want to hear. If it doesn't say what they like, they just leave out the parts they don't like, then conclude the opposite anyhow. This includes the Bible. Does "the truth" need to be supported by such incredible amounts of acrobatics and misdirection?

For more examples, please see our article "A Pattern of Dishonest Documentation."

THE COGs STILL USE THIS MATERIAL

Speaking of documentation, I went searching on the COG websites to see if they still at this late date use the New Schaff-Herzog Encyclopedia as a reference as Herbert Armstrong did. (Not that I'm against the entire book, mind you. I was just curious.) Here is what I found.

Philadelphia Church of God

The PCG does use the New Schaff-Herzog as a reference.
The New Schaff-Herzog Encyclopedia of Religious Knowledge says that the pagan celebrations of Saturnalia and Brumalia were popularly held on that date. Further into antiquity, the Egyptians marked December 25 to celebrate the birth of the son of Isis.
-Joel Hilliker, “Two Views of Jesus Christ Reflections on the Christmas Season”, Philadelphia Church of God, on PCOG.org, accessed 11-25-14, https://www.pcog.org/article/348/two-views-of-jesus-christ
I don't know about you, but I didn't see anything saying Saturnalia celebrations were held on December 25. The Brumalia part we have already addressed. Seeing how poorly they read their already poor source material, everything in their Christmas article has suddenly become suspect to me.
One questionable reference can't ruin the study though. Perhaps I'm being overly cautious. Perhaps it is best that I check out some other detail just to make sure. How about we check out the claim about the birthday of Isis.

December 25th was absolutely not the ancient birthday of Isis. This is an absolutely unfounded claim. The Egyptians didn't use the Roman Calendar. They didn't have a December. They would not ever tie anything to a calendar that they did not use. Nor did the Roman and Egyptian calendars match up so that we could say "such and such a date on the Egyptian calendar equated to such and such a date on the Roman calendar." The Egyptian calendar had to be corrected annually. Meanwhile, the Roman calendar fared little better. Rome was founded in the 700's BC. For the first few centuries they had no winter months at all. In the 500's BC, February was in the place of December. Around 450 BC they moved December to the end of the year. After that, the calendar was regularly manipulated for political purposes. In 46 BC, Julius Caesar completely revamped the calendar. In 8 BC Augustus corrected the calendar. Attempts to match the calendar in Alexandria to that of Rome were still problematic. Then in 1582 the Gregorian calendar was introduced. So the claim about Isis' birthday being on December 25th is farcical. Laughable! In reality, and depending on which version of Isis you look at, the birthday of Isis was in the summer.

For more on this, please see our article "On Nimrod and Christmas Trees - part 2."

If the PCG can't figure this out, perhaps they need to try using better source material. Perhaps, just perhaps, they might want to get that beam out of their own eye before they go falsely accusing billions of faithful Christians of not knowing history.

Church of the Great God

The CGG does not seem to cite the New Shaff-Herzog as a source in their articles. Good for them! But they do host the 1974 version of “The Plain Truth about Christmas” on their website.

United Church of God

The UCG does use the New Schaff-Herzog as a reference, but apparently not in any Christmas article. Even so, they continue the tradition of making incorrect claims about Saturnalia and Brumalia. For example,
"On the heels of the Saturnalia, the Romans marked December 25 with a celebration called the Brumalia. Bruma is thought to have been contracted from the Latin brevum or brevis, meaning brief or short, denoting the shortest day of the year."
-"Holidays or Holy Days: Does It Matter Which Days We Observe?", United Church of God, 2008, p.7
http://www.ucg.org/booklet/holidays-or-holy-days-does-it-matter-which-days-we-observe/christmas-untold-story/
Or how about this one:
"The church adopted Dec. 25—the date of the ending of the Roman Brumalia, immediately after Saturnalia—as the date of Christ's birth"
-Gary Petty, "4,000 Years of Christmas", United Church of God,
http://www.ucg.org/mans-holidays/4000-years-christmas-origin/

Now which do you suppose it was? A) Did the Romans mark December 25 with a celebration called the Brumalia? -OR- B) Was Dec. 25 the date of the ending of the Roman Brumalia?
Let's ask a friend.

John Raymond Crawford, who we quoted earlier, wrote on the Brumalia. Let us look to him again.
"From the beginning of the sixth century A. D. to the middle of the tenth, a festival, known as the Brumalia, flourished at Constantinople. It began on November 24 and continued until December 17; each of the twenty-four days thus included was designated by a letter of the Greek alphabet."
-Roger Pearse, "A Review of Crawford on the Bruma and Brumalia", on Roger-Pearse.com, 12-2009.
http://www.roger-pearse.com/weblog/2009/12/19/a-review-of-crawford-on-the-bruma-and-brumalia
The correct answer is C) None Of The Above. Brumalia was not after Saturnalia at all, it was before. It was two centuries after the start of Christmas. Plus it was primarily a Byzantine Roman celebration. Not something the UCG seems to be swift to have corrected on their website, though.

Let's look at another quote. This time from John the Lydian, a Byzantine Roman Christian, who wrote in Greek a work called De Mensibus (or, “On the Months”) in the early 500’s AD.
"...and in November and December, until the “Waxing of the Light,” they bring [these] things to the priests. For the [custom] of greeting [people] by name at the Brumalia is rather recent; and, the truth [is], they call them “Cronian festivals” —and because of this the Church turns away from them."
-Roger Pearse, “A translation of John the Lydian, “De Mensibus” 4.158 (on December)”, 2009, Roger-Pearse.com
http://www.roger-pearse.com/weblog/?p=3178
So the Brumalia was from November until the Saturnalia, and the church turned away from such practices. Well, isn't that odd. In every way the opposite of what we were told.
You won't see these among the COG quotes before Christmas!

And what does our friend Philocalus have to say? Well take a look at the Philocalian Calendar for yourself, in the month of November, on the 24th day (the eighth day before the calends of December) and you will see Bruma listed. So, what does that mean? It means that anyone who tells you that the Bruma/Brumalia festival was on December 25 is mistaken.

Read the rest of Roger Pearse's articles. They are superb. Also, please see our article "The Plain Truth About December 25" especially the section Bruma/Brumalia.

Church of God - A Worldwide Association, Inc.

I was unable to find any reference to Schaff-Herzog on the COGWA, Inc. "Life, Hope, & Truth" website. Don't count them out, though. Their articles claim to draw on past information which is not directly quoted, so there is a high degree of probability that they indirectly pull information from this source. From what they do write they were nevertheless able to open mouth and insert foot.
"It is a well-known historical fact that Dec. 25 had nothing to do with the actual birthday of Jesus Christ. Instead, it was chosen to coincide with a popular festival season in ancient Rome. Three popular pagan festivals were celebrated in late December in the pagan Roman Empire:
• Saturnalia was an annual seven-day festival to the god Saturn, celebrated from Dec. 17-23.
• Dies Natalis Solis Invicti (the birthday of the unconquered sun god) was celebrated on Dec. 25.
• The birthday of Mithra, a Persian god who was primarily worshipped by Roman soldiers throughout the Roman Empire, was also celebrated Dec. 25."
-Erik Jones, "Jesus Christ vs. Christmas", Church of God - A Worldwide Association, Lifehopenadtruth.com, http://lifehopeandtruth.com/discern/nov-dec-2014/jesus-christ-vs-christmas
It is not a "well-known historical fact" that December 25 had nothing to do with the actual birthday of Jesus Christ. Even Garner Ted Armstrong, as opposed to Christmas as he was, counted nine months backwards from the Feast of Tabernacles and admitted that December 25th was either the date of birth or the date of conception of our Lord.

• Saturnalia at its longest ended on December 23rd. It was never on the 25th. Ergo it had nothing to do with December 25 as the date of Christmas.
• Deis Natalis is not actually named "Deis Natalis Solis Invicti" as they claim. Why is it every time I see a claim like this, the name is slightly different? Because that wasn't the name. It was named Deis Natalis. And there is no proof it was celebrated at all before some uncertain point between 274-336 AD.
• The Persian Mithra and the Roman Mithras bear little resemblance one to the other. The Roman cult of Mithras was a secret society; a mystery cult. The soldiery did honor Mithras, but Mithras was not a god honored by the general populace. The cult of Sol Invictus was the more cosmopolitan cult. Sol Invictus was a separate god from Mithras, but Sol Invictus often appeared in Mithras imagery. The evidence appears to say that December 25th was made a festival somewhere between 274-336 AD, long after December 25th became associated with Jesus. Mithras worship died out in the mid-fourth century.

With excellent modern scholarship and primary source documents available to them, the COGWA is content to read the World Book Encyclopedia. This tells us that the COGWA desperately needs to update their source material and research techniques. An attempt to be fair and balanced on the topic wouldn't hurt either.

For more detail on Mithras, we recommend you read the material on KingDavid8.com. We also recommend you read "The Roman Cult of Mithras" on Tertullian.org.

Living Church of God

The LCG manages not to use Schaff-Herzog as a reference, but somehow manages none the less to snatch failure from the jaws of victory by making claims with startling factual inaccuracy.
“But why do people celebrate Christ's birth on December 25? Late December is the time of the winter solstice, one of the major festival periods in the ancient world.”
-Douglas S. Winnail, “What Is Hidden by the Holidays?”, Living Church of God, on Tomorrowsworld.org, accessed 11-25-14, http://www.tomorrowsworld.org/magazines/2000/november-december/what-is-hidden-by-the-holidays#sthash.cwcekP2V.dpuf
As we stated earlier, there is no evidence whatsoever that the solstice was celebrated by Romans. There was no festival on that day at all when Christmas was being calculated, let alone a "major festival."

The first evidence we have that Romans did anything festive on December 25th comes from a document written in 336 AD. That occasion couldn't have started more than 62 years prior. The same document also lists the date as Jesus' birthday. That can be traced back 130 years prior. Which came first? Hippolytus came first. So who borrowed from whom?

Restored Church of God

The RCG actually quotes Schaff-Herzog precisely as Armstrong did, starting where he started and stopping where he stopped. Could it be that they simply cut and paste Armstrong's material into their own?

So you've read the COG literature and you're certain Christmas is pagan?

OTHER EXCUSES

The COGs will be unimpressed by any of this. As we have demonstrated, if the material doesn't fit the narrative, simply massage the quote until it appears to. But if even that fails, deflect and move the goal posts. In other words, rationalize.

Perhaps the most popular deflection claim is that Christmas isn't in the Bible. Well, that's just asinine. If the birth of Jesus isn't in the Bible then there is no reason to go to church, or be a Christian. What this claim really means to say is there is no explicit command in the Bible to celebrate "Christmas." It's true, there isn't. And there's no law that says you shouldn't either. Jesus celebrated Hanukkah without a command, and that's a festival marking a religious event which doesn't even appear in the canonized Bible. No doubt He celebrated Purim, also without a command. People are more than willing to celebrate their own birthday, without a command - just not their Savior's. Certain people celebrate Thanksgiving without a command. Paul could not have said, "he who does not observe the day, to the Lord he does not observe it" in reference to the holy days if the holy days are mandatory. Either they are not mandatory or Paul is talking about some other, non-commanded day. Therefore we are free to celebrate or not celebrate additional days. But there is no command in the New Covenant to celebrate any day. Every day that the COGs observe is either made up or brought forward from the Old Covenant, and is done so through indirect circumstantial evidence. Assumption upon assumption. The Church of God (Seventh Day), who keeps the weekly Sabbath, teaches strongly against the holy days. This was one of the reasons why they fired Herbert Armstrong and revoked his ministerial credentials.

Another claim is if God wanted us to celebrate the birth of Jesus, then He wouldn't have hidden the date. To that we reply that it is an assumption that God "hid" the date. We disagree that God "hid" the date at all. Matthew and Luke gave us several clues as to the timing. They tell us who was involved, who the political leaders were, who was serving at the Temple, what the conditions were like, and so forth. All of these were dating markers in their time. We simply have lost the ability to properly interpret the information. Not only that but Daniel left us the Seventy Weeks Prophecy. Since there are date cues we can affirm that God did not "hide" the date.

The same can be said for Jesus' death. What year does the Bible say He died in? It doesn't say. We may know the day of the week or even the date itself, but if we don't know the year then we cannot tie it to our calendar. Using the Jewish calendar will not work. The modern calendar has changed so much over the centuries that it cannot help us. The ancient system fares no better. We have no idea when the Sanhedrin declared the New Moon which started the month of Abib/Nisan, so we cannot know exactly how the Passover falls. So God must have "hid" it and therefore doesn't want us to observe His death? Hardly! So this is a line of reasoning that really doesn't hold up. We need to try and figure these things out for ourselves, just as Daniel tried to figure out the 70 years mentioned in Jeremiah. We have no choice. Yet this is precisely what the early Christians were doing. They arrived at Jesus' birth by first arriving at His death.

The next claim will be that if we can't know the exact correct date, then it's not worth the effort. So, if you don't know the exact date then you're not going to rejoice in the coming of the long-awaited Messiah? Your choice. The December 25th date might not be right. It has a 1/365 chance of being correct; same as any other day. Many claim Jesus was born at the Feast of Tabernacles. Based on what? Pure speculation. This is precisely the reason why Garner Ted Armstrong concluded Jesus was conceived on Christmas. This Tabernacles idea isn't backed by any more evidence than any other day. Even as the COGs say this, they argue among each other on when Passover and Pentecost should fall. They are beginning to wonder if the Last Great Day is a proper Feast day. Seems they can't even agree on the name. UCG has even changed its name to "The Eighth Day". Not only that but the Night to be Much Observed/Remembered, another day whose name was changed, is completely made up from whole cloth. That doesn't stop the COGs from observing it. Strangest of all is that some of them will have Winter Family Weekend events during Christmas, which wasn't instituted by the Apostles either. They say they are just offering an alternative to Christmas ...while they condemn the early Christians for offering any alternative to genuinely pagan celebrations of their day. Those goal posts sure do move! If Armstrongists held themselves to their own standard, they wouldn't observe half of what they do. But most ominous of all things is, if the Lunar Sabbath theory is correct, the COGs aren't even keeping the Sabbath itself on the right dates.

CONCLUSION

Today we have looked into a few of the COG's favorite quotes before Christmas, especially the New Schaff-Herzog article on Christmas, and we have found them wanting. If the COGs want to make a case against Christmas, fine. Be our guest. Please at least be intellectually honest about it, though. To cite unreliable source material, to insist on things that are blatantly incorrect, and to alter the evidence presented to make it fit the narrative is not "the plain truth." It is dishonest and it is supremely disappointing.

We can only conclude that the theory stated in the New Schaff-Herzog Encyclopedia, that “The pagan Saturnalia and Brumalia were too deeply entrenched in popular custom to be set aside by Christian influence,” should be dismissed, seeing as it depends on three specious things:
1) That there was a popular festival on December 25th in Hippolytus' day. There wasn't.
2) That Christmas depends on the dating of the Brumalia festival. It doesn't. They get the Brumalia date wrong. Nor does it depend on the dating of Saturnalia, as that was never on the 25th either.
and
3) The assumption that the Christians could not set aside a festival that clearly they had set aside. They set it aside even farther than the UCG set aside Christmas to hold the Winter Family Weekend. Christmas isn't on the dates of Brumalia or Saturnalia. If it isn't on those dates, then it is inescapable that it isn't from those dates.

And therefore, we can respond to the conjecture, "How much the calculation of Hippolytus had to do with the festival on Dec. 25, and how much the date of the festival depended upon the pagan Brumalia (Dec. 25), following the Saturnalia (Dec. 17-24) and celebrating the shortest day in the year and the 'new sun' or the beginning of the lengthening of days, cannot accurately be determined” with confidence that it can in fact be determined. Another article of the same encyclopedia say this scenario is "unlikely" but we say it is more than just that. It would appear that it is nigh impossible for these things to have affected Hippolytus and the theologians of his time, such as Clement of Alexandria and Julius Africanus. If by some odd chance there was any influence at all, it was indeed minimal at best. At worst it is an astronomical stretch of the imagination that Hippolytus was influenced by Saturnalia or Brumalia to choose March 25th as the date of Jesus' death. But no COG quotes the Catholic Encylopedia when it says, "The origin of Christmas should not be sought in the Saturnalia" [ibid].

The fact is that Hippolytus et al were basing the date of the birth from the date of the conception and death. An old Jewish tradition stated that great men died on the day of their conception. Hippolytus concluded that March 25th was the conception and death of Jesus. He then counted up nine months to December 25th as the birth of Jesus. Accurate or not, that's how it went. The March date had nothing to do with the winter solstice. It is improper to stand on the claim that Hippolytus worked in the opposite manner from how he actually worked.

This is the sum of the entire matter --

(ROM. 14: 5-6) 5 One person esteems one day above another; another esteems every day alike. Let each be fully convinced in his own mind. 6 He who observes the day, observes it to the Lord; and he who does not observe the day, to the Lord he does not observe it. He who eats, eats to the Lord, for he gives God thanks; and he who does not eat, to the Lord he does not eat, and gives God thanks.

If Christmas disturbs you so much, then don't observe it, but don't judge those who do observe it. And if Christmas is fine with you, then do observe it, but don't judge those who don't observe it. Stop the judgment and condemnation and start loving each other as Jesus said to do. Either way, observe or no, do that in honor of the Lord in the peace and unity of the Holy Spirit.


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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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19 comments:

Questioner said...

Fascinating article. Great research. Please tell me: what have you studied about counting the birth based on the ancient Hebrew calendar via the passages regarding the pregnancies of Elizabeth and Mary and the birth of John the Baptist? I have heard that this concludes the birth date being somewhere in the autumn months, though I am not well versed in the ancient calendar... I would also like to point out that it is of stronger opinion on the CoGs that Christ was probably born on Feast of Trumpets, instead of the Feast of Tabernacles (though this is pure speculation).

Questioner said...

Also (sorry for not including these in the first comment), what do you think about the word "Christmas"- being derived from the Latin term meaning Christ-end, Christ-dismissal, Christ-passing away, or Christ-death? Was this term indeed coined by Catholicism and the practices of their "mass" steeped in pagan rituals and beliefs?

What do you think about the argument concluding that His birth could not be in the winter due to the environment/weather and the statements of travel and outdoors shepherding in the Bible?

Is it possible that these ancient decision-makers chose the 25th precisely because it was close to pagan festivals in order to synchronize with the pagans to draw more into/create more buy-in for Christianity?

What about the symbols around Christmas? For instance the nativity scene which is not in accordance with the Bible: i.e. a stable instead of the downstairs of an inn, where the animals were likely kept at night, or the wisemen visiting at birth, when it was much later that they came and the Bible does not mention only 3... or the seemingly pagan backgrounds of mistletoe, ivy, holly, and yule logs, evergreen trees being set up indoors (not because of Nimrod-but because of Baal-Tamar. or Germanic pagans, or Egyptians...) or the sometimes associated pagan origins of Saint Nicholas/Santa Claus as a Germanic Thor-God...
I wonder if all the symbols of a certain celebration are wrong and ungodly, but the celebration itself is not, why even celebrate it? I have not proven these symbols' background for myself, just curious on your thoughts.

xHWA said...

Questioner,

What I have seen about finding the birth of Jesus based on the birth of John the Baptist is confusing. It all comes down to when Zecharias worked in the Temple - or in other words when the Course of Abijah worked in the Temple. And let me tell you, I've seen every possible claim regarding that.

The oldest attempts to find Jesus' birth come in the mid 100's AD. None of them concluded a fall birth. So, did none of them use the Course of Abijah? I don't see anything that speaks of it. The earliest use of the course of Abijah that I did see (unfortunately I can't remember when that was) concluded that it supported Jesus' birth in winter. Since then I've seen people use the Course of Abijah to support a number of different dates. One person even claimed that the Dead Sea Scrolls had some information on the courses, and that supported a winter birth. I have not been able to verify that claim.

One thing I learned is that each course ran twice in the year. So, which was this? The first or the second? We don't know.

Another interesting tidbit that I learned is that it is unlikely that Jesus' birth was at Tabernacles since Mary and Joseph and a large number of others were in Bethlehem, not Jerusalem, and the holy family stayed in Bethlehem, and shepherds were in the fields. These things would not have happened during Tabernacles.

xHWA said...

Mass does not mean death. Mass is a celebration. The word "Mass" is derived from the final words of the liturgy: "Ite, Missa Est". Literally, "Go, it is dismissed." The singular focus of every mass is the Eucharist, and that remembers the death, but it celebrates the death because of grace, not death. The word Eucharist comes from the Greek word for grace: "charis." So the word Eucharist has everything to do with grace, not death.

xHWA said...

His death could definitely have been in the winter regardless of climate.

In our time, shepherds do keep their sheep out of doors in the winter in Israel. (I personally know a shepherd. He lives in the northern United States. He lets his sheep out all year around. He says they love it.) But around that time, 4-2 BC, they were coming down off of the peak of a global warm period. Their climate then was warmer than it is now.

The winter is their rainy season. It's the time when the deserts burst out in tasty green shoots. It's the perfect time of year to graze the flocks.

Then we take into account the shepherds in Bethlehem were not out in the wilderness, they were simply in the fields, which most likely means they were close to town. Being close to town would lead us to believe that it was not the dry season.

Bethlehem was the main source of sheep for the Temple sacrifices and their shepherds were out in the fields year round. They were perpetually working the flocks there.

I go over that in the "Plain Truth About December 25" study. Or, if you don't want to read all of that, you can go to the "Plain Truth About December 25" article here on the blog, which is much shorter than the study, and look in the comments. I quoted the section about the shepherds there.

xHWA said...

I personally do not believe that they chose December 25th because it was close to a certain pagan festival. Every day was close to a pagan festival. When I look at the sum of what we know about the 200's and 300's AD, it seems that the pagan cults were adapting to Christianity, not the other way around. Christians started "redeeming" pagan customs around the 400's and that is simply too late in this game.

But I wonder about your question sometimes. Let's just say they did choose December 25 because it was close, for the sake of argument. Solar-symbolism is in the Old Testament ("sun of righteousness" MAL. 4: 2) and putting Jesus up as greater than the sun isn't unheard of.
After years of pondering this, I have concluded that nothing could be more inconsequential than offering an alternative to a pagan worship day.
I think people deep down understand that this is a perfectly fair thing to do. I don't know if you are or were involved in Armstrongism, but even back in the Worldwide Church of God we used to put parties near mainstream Christian holidays. Costume dances near Halloween, for example.

I am not trying to be negative in saying this, but I do sincerely believe that the only ones who would make a huge deal about this are people who are desperate for whatever reason they can find to condemn Christmas when other facts have failed them.

xHWA said...

Other symbols came centuries too late to affect the origins of Christmas.

The nativity is a very recent thing, and any number of nativity scenes can be found.

Personally, I do not believe the wise men came years later. I believe they came one or two months later at the most. Luke 2 leads one to believe that they only stayed in Bethlehem long enough for Mary's ritual purification to be completed, and that length was 40 days. So it is presumptive to conclude that Herod slaughtered innocents aged 2 and younger, therefore Jesus was 2 years of age.

Herod was a despot going literally insane and life apparently had little value to him. He was well known for having people killed for no good reason. I do not think that because 2 years old were the oldest innocents slaughtered that it had any real significance in determining the age of Jesus at that time or when the star appeared. I think Herod was just being thorough. I think it had everything to do with the showing that Herod was not a good man.

I theorize that Matthew included this at least in part because it was reminiscent of the slaughter of the firstborn in Egypt.

xHWA said...

"or the seemingly pagan backgrounds of mistletoe, ivy, holly, and yule logs, evergreen trees being set up indoors (not because of Nimrod-but because of Baal-Tamar. or Germanic pagans, or Egyptians...) or the sometimes associated pagan origins of Saint Nicholas/Santa Claus as a Germanic Thor-God..."

I would say that the Christmas Tree is genuinely innocent of charges against it.
Santa, when we look at it, bears little real resemblance to Thor. I've looked into that and I'm not impressed. Santa as we know him is the product of a poem and an ad by Coca Cola. But I don't treat Santa with any more honor than I do Mickey Mouse. The day is about the First Advent of Jesus Christ our Lord, not consumerism.

But those other things, definitely pagan. I always tell people that if those things bother you, by all means leave them out. But don't let that ruin your honoring of the second greatest miracle of in our history to date.

What bothers me most about modern Christmas isn't a handful of pagan traditions that crept in, or that atheists celebrate the day, it's that the day has been taken over by secular groups and turned into a consumerist nightmare because Christians just threw their hands up and walked away from it, due in no small part to a group of poorly-informed people like Herbert Armstrong who went around telling us how pagan the day is based on half-truths and outright lies. We Christians refused to insist that the day be kept in honor of Jesus Christ our Savior, just like we've done in so many other areas of our lives. We worried about what God might think about mistletoe rather than what God might think about the quality of our faith and love, so we surrendered. What good came of this unconditional surrender? None that I can see. If we had walked away from the day and gotten better, stronger, more effective Christians from it, that would be one thing. We didn't. We got the opposite -AND- we can't say Merry Christmas now. And that is really what saddens and discourages me about it.

Anonymous said...

Well, so much for the vaunted ecclesiastical scholarship of Herbert W Armstrong, Herman Hoeh, and now the 21st century Armstrong apologists. To conclude that all of these fellows unfortunately just made a few inadvertent minor errors is to step away from the real matter: These fellows deliberately fabricated phony historical accounts and patently lied to their followers so as to (a) make their aberrant and contrived doctrines appear truthful, and (b) allow them to financially exploit their followers.

I, too, was an Armstrong believer, mired in the Worldwide Church of God for 13 ominous years. The WCG ministry spoke and wrote with wonderful, marvelous authority, quoting legitimate academic and historical documents that seemed to so fully justify the unique teachings, doctrines, and practices they imposed on the membership.

Because of authentic scholarship, as in this essay, both here on As Bereans Did and on other evidence-supported critical websites, the clever, manipulative, theological contrivances of Armstrongism are now apparent. It’s extremely hard to come to the realization that one has been so thoroughly exploited and lied to. Membership in the Armstrongist splinter churches is withering away, as members either die, or come to the harsh reality that they’ve been lied to and what they’ve been led to believe has no Biblical or historical validity. I pray for the quickest evaporation of such a false Christianity.

And, now in truth, Merry Christmas!

Questioner said...

xHWA, thank you for your comments. I will ponder this all...

xHWA said...

Not a problem at all, Questioner. Glad I had some responses for you. Thanks for your questions.

Until you brought it up, I had completely forgotten that people try to redefine the word Mass to mean something it has never meant. Always interesting to see what new and creative things people will come up with.

xHWA said...

CHRISTMAS LINKS

Christmas Is Not Pagan, on ORLutheran.com
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

Anonymous said...

Well, so much for the vaunted ecclesiastical scholarship of Herbert W Armstrong, Herman Hoeh, and now the 21st century Armstrong apologists. To conclude that all of these fellows unfortunately just made a few inadvertent minor errors is to step away from the real matter: These fellows deliberately fabricated phony historical accounts and patently lied to their followers so as to (a) make their aberrant and contrived doctrines appear truthful, and (b) allow them to financially exploit their followers.

I, too, was an Armstrong believer, mired in the Worldwide Church of God for 13 ominous years. The WCG ministry spoke and wrote with wonderful, marvelous authority, quoting legitimate academic and historical documents that seemed to so fully justify the unique teachings, doctrines, and practices they imposed on the membership.

Because of authentic scholarship, as in this essay, both here on As Bereans Did and on other evidence-supported critical websites, the clever, manipulative, theological contrivances of Armstrongism are now apparent. It's extremely hard to come to the realization that one has been so thoroughly exploited and lied to. Membership in the Armstrongist splinter churches is withering away, as members either die, or come to the harsh reality that they've been lied to and what they've been led to believe has no Biblical or historical validity. I pray for the quickest evaporation of such a false Christianity.

And, now in truth, Merry Christmas!

xHWA said...

Anonymous left this quote for us, but I have no idea what Google did with it.

"Well, so much for the vaunted ecclesiastical scholarship of Herbert W Armstrong, Herman Hoeh, and now the 21st century Armstrong apologists. To conclude that all of these fellows unfortunately just made a few inadvertent minor errors is to step away from the real matter: These fellows deliberately fabricated phony historical accounts and patently lied to their followers so as to (a) make their aberrant and contrived doctrines appear truthful, and (b) allow them to financially exploit their followers.

I, too, was an Armstrong believer, mired in the Worldwide Church of God for 13 ominous years. The WCG ministry spoke and wrote with wonderful, marvelous authority, quoting legitimate academic and historical documents that seemed to so fully justify the unique teachings, doctrines, and practices they imposed on the membership.

Because of authentic scholarship, as in this essay, both here on As Bereans Did and on other evidence-supported critical websites, the clever, manipulative, theological contrivances of Armstrongism are now apparent. It's extremely hard to come to the realization that one has been so thoroughly exploited and lied to. Membership in the Armstrongist splinter churches is withering away, as members either die, or come to the harsh reality that they've been lied to and what they've been led to believe has no Biblical or historical validity. I pray for the quickest evaporation of such a false Christianity.

And, now in truth, Merry Christmas!"

A beautiful comment. Merry Christmas to you, too! May you be filled with the love and joy of our Lord whose Advent we honor on Christmas.

xHWA said...

This is truly an interesting article. Too many good points to list here.

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

John said...

I believe that the Christ was born, but everything associated with the celebration of "Christmas" is based on lies i.e. Christ's birth wasn't in midwinter on December 25; He wasn't born in a cave or stable; there weren't 3 wise men; there was no Catholic "mass"; Santa Claus doesn't exist; decorated trees have nothing to do with Christ; etc.

Besides Christ commanded His followers to commemorate His death not His birth. And this is primarily why I don't observe "Christmas."

xHWA said...

John,

We at ABD do not demand that anyone observe Christmas. If your walk with God leads you to abstain, then that is your decision, and we respect that.

What we do have a problem with is definitely stating inaccurate claims.

For example, claiming that it is a lie that Jesus was born in midwinter. You can't prove that. Not only can you not prove that claim, but I'm willing to bet you can't provide very much evidence for it. ABD has several articles explaining why we believe as we do, but we primarily just want the truth, so we would love to hear from anyone who can prove when Jesus was born or even so much as prove that Jesus was not born in midwinter.

Or for another example claiming Jesus was not born in a stable. Jesus may have been born in a stable beneath a house. He may have been born in a watchtower just outside of Bethlehem. We don't know for certain. Definitely not certain enough to claim that it was not a stable. But in either case, He was wrapped in swaddling clothes and laid in a manger (LUK. 2: 7, 12, 16)- which is a place where animals were fed. So something stable-ish was involved.

Or for a third example, claiming that there were not three wise men. There were wise men. Magi from the east (MAT. 2: 1-16). The Bible doesn't say the number. It says the number of gifts, and there were three. So, some people have concluded that there were three wise men present, each with one gift. Is this a fact? It doesn't say. There very well could have been three. Or not. So, to claim there definitely were not three is simply not a conclusion supported by any evidence at all.

I disagree that decorating the Christmas Tree has nothing to do with Jesus. The decorations have, or at least when they began they had, symbolic meaning and they were all Christ-focused. I would respectfully suggest to you that you take some time and learn about what those symbols are/were. After that, perhaps you will disagree, but we hope you would not simply ignore them as if they don't exist.

Santa and the rest I could live without. But personally speaking I find it an incredible stretch to avoid honoring the incarnation of our Savior simply because in recent times a fictional character has been associated with the season. I find, "God, I'm not going to honor the second greatest miracle in mankind's history because of Santa," to be desperately weak. That's just me.

If you don't want to do a thing because there is no direct command, that's your prerogative. We have an article explaining why we disagree with this certain perspective. Please read "Established and Imposed". We just don't see where that is a perspective taken from the Bible. No offense meant here, but we find this to be more of a convenient excuse than a Biblically-established doctrine.

At the end of this whole matter is simply what I started with. It's your choice! And we respect that. We didn't see you condemning others for their choice to honor the day, so kudos to you for that! That's the best we can ask for. So we say to you, go in peace brother.

God bless!

John said...

Hi xHWA,
I just wanted to apologise if I came across as judgmental as I didn't mean to be at all.
I'm a firm believer in liberty of conscience and that we all have the freedom to choose to believe who or whatever we want.
My extended family are Catholic and celebrate Xmas, New Years, Easter, Halloween, etc. I, however, do not. However, we all are Christian and we all love one another without judgment. I extend grace to them and they to me. Of course, our differences haven't stopped them from inviting me over for Xmas lunch or a Halloween party (even though they know I don't observe such). And neither has my faith stopped me from going since it might be the only chance I get to catch up with family I haven't seen for months. Besides there's tonnes of delicious home cooked Italian fare to go around! ;-)
I know a few within the churches of God who go around claiming this thing or that thing associated with Western Christendom's holiday seasons are of pagan origin. But, like you point out in your post "Established and Imposed" that just because something was used by pagans doesn't automatically mean it's forbidden by God for use by Christians. I think that such reflects a naive faith. For instance, I love door wreaths and I know there are those who believe such is of pagan origin etc. But, I'm not creating such in honour of any god or goddess or pagan festival etc. I just like it as a seasonal decoration.
And I know that to their shame the churches originating from Armstrong's ministry preach that the Godhead best resembles a family relationship. And yet in my experience within these cults they are quick to abandon children, forsake parents, and break up families--and all in the name of "God"! Well such fruits speak volumes now doesn't it?!
I don't believe Christ came with a sword in His hand to conquer heathens by giving them the choice to convert or die--an idea, which to their shame various political and religious groups in history and today have followed. In fact, He even said Himself, that He came "not to destroy men's lives, but to save them." So we should "live and let live." Violence is never the answer.
Anyway I know we might respectfully disagree regarding Christmas traditions etc. but I hope some day soon we'll all see "eye to eye." Until then as you were so kind to convey your good wishes xHWA I do the same too. God's blessings and peace to you and yours my brother! ;-)

xHWA said...

John,

That's a beautiful attitude. An example to others. You don't celebrate Christmas (sure, I wish you would, but that's OK), you have your reasons but you're willing to discuss it civilly, yet you don't judge and condemn anyone over it. Good on ya!