Paganism and the Church (part two)

Paganism and the Church (part two)

So comes our descent into the grand tradition of Christmas. The “holy” days or holidays as we know them. Full of culture, family, celebration, gifts, decorations, food, food, and more food. It’s a merry time, had by many. It brings out goodwill in the masses, a charity of heart to our neighbors. What could possibly be vile or evil in such a time as this? Indeed, Christmas is the celebration of the birth of Jesus, the Messiah. Who came that we might have life and that to the full. (John 10:10)

What traditions within our celebration of Christmas were first observed within pagan festivals? Specifically, Saturnalia, Yule, and Egyptian beliefs. As well as similarity in the dates of the observance of the celebrations. Although, in the case of the Egyptian festivals, dates are not easily acquired because their calendar is, well, a wreck. Therefore in this instance, we will take the similarities of the festival and relate it the best we can. i do find it interesting that Satan is talked about as disguising himself as an angel of light, and each of these pagan traditions involves a sun god.

For such men are false apostles, deceitful workmen, disguising themselves as apostles of Christ. And no wonder, for even Satan disguises himself as an angel of light. So it is no surprise if his servants, also, disguise themselves as servants of righteousness. Their end will correspond to their deeds.” 1 Corinthians 11:13-15

In Ezekiel, we read a depiction of  Satan and his desire to rise to the place of God. He wanted to be above all the angels. Yes, we can see that Satan is an egomaniac, and any worship of him that he can generate, even indirectly, is to him a win. It is probably one of the many reason’s, not that any are needed, for God’s decree that we are not to worship him like the nations worship their pagan false gods. We are not to intermix worship practices but are told to eliminate them from our lives completely.

So this week, let’s look at some of the history of these festivals and our observance of Christmas, and you can decide which is right and how best to honor God. After all, it is you that will have to stand before Him one day and give an account, ignorance will not be an excuse, at least not anymore. For instance, although the early church did not have a specific day to honor the birth of Christ, we have a general understanding that it was still significant in the history and telling of Jesus as we read in the Gospels of Mathew, Luke, and referenced in John. At some point in the first century around the time of Telesphorus, believed to be the second Bishop of Rome began a set-aside time to honor Jesus’ birth called, “The Nativity of our Lord and Saviour.” It’s worth noting that at this time, the Nativity, was recognized in September along with the Feast of Trumpets.

In fact, for 300 years the Nativity was celebrated on many days depending on where one was in the world. The recognition of December 25, as Jesus’ birthday, was a move by the Roman Emperor and self-proclaimed Bishop of Rome Constantine. His desire was unity among the Christians and the pagans, as well as perhaps making Christianity more palatable for the pagans to convert. Saturnalia was a celebration of the sun god. It was celebrated from December 17th through the 24th. Part of the celebration included lighting bonfires in honor of the sun and with the idea of helping it defeat the darkness. When the days would begin to get longer generally recognizable around the 23rd. Although this date could be as late as the 26th. Later in 274 A.D. under the Roman Emporer, Aurelian proclaimed the date as “Natalis Solis Invicti,” the festival of the birth of the invincible sun and set the date as December 25th. In 320 A.D., Pope Julius I specified the 25th of December as the official date of the birth of Jesus Christ.

Yule dates back to as early as the 4th century A.D. It would later become known as Christmastide. Yule was a 12-day festival that landed between mid-November and early January. Interesting to note that January 7th, which often ended Yule is for many the day they observe the Nativity or Christmas day to this day (a few exceptions observe the 6th). Coptic Orthodox located in Eygpt and the Middle East as well as Central and Eastern Europe. Although there are many reasons it is notable to say that during this time, two calendar systems were in use, the Julian calendar that pre-dates the Gregorian calendar, which is commonly observed today. What is Yule, well they were original celebrations of the Wild Hunt, the god Odin, and the pagan Anglo-Saxon Mōdraniht.

Again the Egyptians worshipped many gods, including a sun god. However, their calendar was so confusing they didn’t even know how it worked resetting it often. So i will only state here that as we look at the traditions of these festivals more in-depth and begin to recognize how the church co-opted many of the pagan practices in their Christmas celebrations we will see Egyptian influence.

Let me close this entry with this, i am not in any way discouraging the celebration of the birth of Jesus. It is clear that the early church remembered the Nativity. However, it is my goal to get us to think critically and honestly as we walk this narrow road together worshiping the One True God, as He desires, and not as the pagans do.

“. . . take care that you be not ensnared to follow them after they have been destroyed before you and that you do not inquire about their gods, saying, ‘How did these nations serve their gods?–that I also may do the same.’ You shall not worship the Lord your God in that way, for every abominable thing that the Lord hates they have done for their gods . . .” Deuteronomy 12:30-31 (in part)

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You are loved,

cj

And God * said, ​”because you are free,​ it is ok to do as the pagans do!” (*never)

And God * said, ​”because you are free,​ it is ok to do as the pagans do!” (*never)

This is me wading into the muck of a cultural tradition steeped in paganism. The question, should Christians celebrate Halloween? The answer, first, let me ask you a question. If Jesus were alive today, would He attend a pagan festival, dressed as a zombie? No, given the many times in Scripture, we are told not to do as the pagans. Would He attend the festival to preach to the attendees? Unlikely, perhaps He would stand outside of it preaching? Maybe. We don’t know because there isn’t a pagan festival written in the New Testament, so what we have is Jesus’ words regarding worship and the Old Testament. So when in doubt, search the Scriptures and seek the leading of the Holy Spirit.

Let me tackle the idea that we are not to put on others our own convictions, which, i hear often. The verse most widely used is found in Galatians 5:1 — “For freedom, Christ has set us free; stand firm therefore, and do not submit again to a yoke of slavery.” Another prominent verse is 1 Corinthians 6:12 — “‘All things are lawful for me,’ but not all things are helpful. ‘All things are lawful for me,’ but I will not be dominated by anything.‘” We could also look at Romans 14 and 1 Corinthians 8 here, but we will touch on those in a bit. Our freedom gives us, well, freedom. But, not license to sin by committing idolatry. i have been reading and studying Halloween for some time now, and these are the things that i have learned.

  1. It dates back to a Celtic festival known as Samhain. In which the Celts believed that a portal between worlds, life, and death, was opened. They would dress up in costume to ward off evil spirits.
  2. The Celts date back to 1800 B.C. However, The existence of the Celts was first documented in the seventh or eighth century B.C. The Roman Empire, which ruled much of southern Europe at that time, referred to the Celts as “Galli,” meaning barbarians.
  3. In the early Church, roughly the eighth century, Pope Gregory III designated November 1 as a time to honor all saints; soon, All Saints Day incorporated some of the traditions of Samhain. The evening before was known as All Hallows Eve and later Halloween.
  4. It was believed that if the church incorporated some of these traditions, it would make it easier for pagans to convert to Christianity.

There is so much more i could write regarding the traditions and origins of those traditions but suffice it to say all of them are pagan. Therefore, they should be avoided. Look at this passage in Deuteronomy 6:13-15 we read:

“It is the Lord your God, you shall fear. Him you shall serve, and by His name, you shall swear. You shall not go after other gods, the gods of the peoples who are around you, for the Lord your God in your midst is a jealous God, lest the anger of the Lord your God be kindled against you, and He destroy you from off the face of the earth.”

In 1 Thessalonians 5:21-23, we have Paul instructing the Thessalonians to avoid evil.

“but test everything; hold fast what is good. Abstain from every form of evil. Now may the God of peace Himself sanctify you completely . . .”

Two things here stand out. First, abstain from EVERY form of EVIL. Would you say that Halloween in its former and present state is filled with evil? i know i sure do! Second, “sanctify you,” sanctify means to set apart from. As Christians, we are to be different than the world not blend in so well that no can tell the difference. Let me share a few more verses just to add some perspective for our thought.

“See to it that no one takes you captive by philosophy and empty deceit, according to human tradition, according to the elemental spirits of the world, and not according to Christ.” Colossians 2:8

“for at one time you were darkness, but now you are light in the Lord. Walk as children of light (for the fruit of light is found in all that is good and right and true), and try to discern what is pleasing to the Lord. Take no part in the unfruitful works of darkness, but instead expose them.” Ephesians 5:8-11

“He answered them, “And why do you break the commandment of God for the sake of your tradition?” Matthew 15:3

We could discuss here the eating of meat that had been sacrificed to idols, but i will just add this . . . The intent here is to not be a stumbling block to others by our understanding.  So let me pose the question, are you confident in your celebration of a clearly pagan festival isn’t laying a stumbling block for your neighbor? That is the test! Let me end this with a passage from Ezekiel and really, the reason i am writing was inspired here.

“If I say to the wicked, ‘You shall surely die,’ and you give him no warning, nor speak to warn the wicked from his wicked way, in order to save his life, that wicked person shall die for his iniquity, but his blood I will require at your hand. But if you warn the wicked, and he does not turn from his wickedness, or from his wicked way, he shall die for his iniquity, but you will have delivered your soul.” Ezekiel 3:18-19

Can you warn someone of wickedness, evil, and idolatry, and still keep the same festival you are warning them about? No, you cannot. So, therefore, in my humble opinion we as Christians should not partake of the pagan festival known as Halloween regardless of its human tradition. Let me add, this was a natural conclusion, but a difficult decision. Why? Because i love tradition and i grew up on Halloween. i even helped my sister put on a haunted trail for a park she worked for not many years ago. However, my conviction over this grows more and more every day as i see the day of the Lords return getting ever closer. We must wake up and proclaim the truth!

You are loved,

cj