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Tkach: Is keeping Christmas a sin?

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In its 12/10/10 email, the Glendale, California based Grace Communion International (the group that ended up in charge of the apostate version of the former Pasadena-based WCG) sent out a link to a short video titled Is Keeping Christmas a Sin? by its president, Joe Tkach. In it, Dr. Tkach stated:

Is Keeping Christmas a Sin?

In my younger days, I believed that celebrating Christmas was a sin. I wanted to let the Bible guide me in everything I did, and since I couldn’t find any command in the Bible to keep Christmas, I concluded that keeping it must be a sin.

Of course, it wasn’t very good logic, and it kept me from enjoying one of the most meaningful and joyous celebrations of the year.

After all, if we never did anything that isn’t specifically commanded in the Bible, we wouldn’t have Sunday school, children’s church, English language Bibles, printing presses, public address systems, fire alarms or charcoal grills. None of these are specifically commanded in the Bible.

But, of course, since he seems to be relying on human reason and not the Bible, he comes to odd conclusions.

His logic simply does not have proper biblical support. For example, while “Sunday school” is not in the Bible, teaching children daily is (Deuteronomy 11:18-19). The other items he brings up are irrelevant (red herring) arguments that miss the real issues.

In his presentation, Dr. Tkach also stated:

The fact that the Bible doesn’t command us to celebrate Christmas is not a valid argument against Christmas celebration.

But there are many biblical valid arguments against observing Christmas that he apparently overlooked (or at least neglected to place in his presentation in favor of Christmas).

In 2010, there are many who are concerned about the secular "war on Christmas" or "war against Christmas", but those who claim to believe the Bible should consider the ramifications of Christmas and whether participating in its activities may be sinful.

Since Dr. Tkach asked in his title if keeping Christmas was a sin, it would seem logical to go to the Bible for its definition of sin. Notice what the Apostle John wrote:

4 Whosoever committeth sin transgresseth also the law: for sin is the transgression of the law. (1 John 3:4, KJV)

So sin is the transgression of the law.

Christmas Encourages Covetousness and False Witnessing

Which laws?

The laws in the Bible as the Apostle Paul wrote:

7 What shall we say then? Is the law sin? Certainly not! On the contrary, I would not have known sin except through the law. For I would not have known covetousness unless the law had said, “You shall not covet.” (Romans 7:7, NKJV)

Now, the above verse is an interesting one. It says that coveting is a sin. Does Christmas encourage children to covet? Does it encourage them to expect to get various material objects whether they should or not?

Some may say yes, and others may feel otherwise.

Also, at least in many Western cultures, Santa Claus is supposed to bring presents to children all over the world by coming down chimneys at night.

Many parents actually tell children this lie every year.Yet the Jesus taught:

19 For out of the heart proceed evil thoughts…false witness…20 These are the things which defile a man (Matthew 15:19-20).

18 You shall not bear false witness (Matthew 19:18).

19 “Do not bear false witness (Mark 10:19).

20 You know the commandments:…Do not bear false witness (Luke 18:20).

Those fully observing Christmas also seem to forget that Jesus taught that Satan was a liar and the father of lies, and that once their children get older, they will realize that their parents lied to them. The Rheims‘ version of the New Testament specifically shows that Jesus taught the following:

43 Why do you not know my speech? Because you cannot hear my word. 44 You are of your father the devil, and the desires of your father you will do. He was a murderer from the beginning, and he stood not in the truth; because truth is not in him. When he speaketh a lie, he speaketh of his own: for he is a liar, and the father thereof. 45 But if I say the truth, you believe me not. (John 8:43-45).

Lying to children does NOT improve the bond between parents and children as some apparently hope the Santa Claus lie will somehow help their family. Please tell your children the truth. Is that not what Jesus would do?

Would Jesus lie about Santa Claus?

Of course not. Jesus was without sin (Hebrews 4:15) and Christians are to imitate Christ (1 Corinthians 11:1).

Sin involves fitting into the world because of lust:

16 For all that is in the world — the lust of the flesh, the lust of the eyes, and the pride of life — is not of the Father but is of the world. (1 John 2:16, NKJV)

Is not the observation of a holiday that many people lust after material possessions (lust of the eyes), observe to fit in society (lust of the flesh) and lie to children (pride of life) sin? Is not the observation of Christmas a worldly thing to do?

Breaking the Ninth and Tenth Commandments is Evil

It is evil to break the ninth and tenth commandments according to Jesus:

Commandment 9 19 For out of the heart proceed evil thoughts…false witness…(Matthew 15:19-20).

20 For everyone practicing evil hates the light and does not come to the light, lest his deeds should be exposed. 21 But he who does the truth comes to the light, that his deeds may be clearly seen, that they have been done in God (John 3:20-21).

…deceit…All these evil things come from within and defile a man” (Mark 7:22-23).

Commandment 10 19 For out of the heart proceed evil thoughts (Matthew 15:19). …covetousness…All these evil things come from within and defile a man” (Mark 7:22-23).

The Apostle Paul wrote,

9 Let love be without hypocrisy. Abhor what is evil (Romans 12:9).

22 Abstain from every form of evil” (I Thessalonians 5:22).

10 For the love of money is a root of all kinds of evil, for which some have strayed from the faith in their greediness, and pierced themselves through with many sorrows (1 Timothy 6:10).

One of the reasons that Christmas is promoted across society is that the love of money by many promoters exceeds their love of God. Christians are to abhor what is evil. Christians are not to see how close to evil they can get without being burnt (cf. Proverbs 6:27).

Christmas observance is a sin because it encourages commandment breaking and violates other scriptures.

The God of the Bible Condemns Using Pagan Practices to Worship Him

There are also more scriptures that also should be considered.

Notice what God had His prophet Jeremiah write:

2 Thus saith the Lord, Learn not the way of the heathen, and be not dismayed at the signs of heaven; for the heathen are dismayed at them.

3 For the customs of the people are vain: for one cutteth a tree out of the forest, the work of the hands of the workman, with the axe.

4 They deck it with silver and with gold; they fasten it with nails and with hammers, that it move not.

5 They are upright as the palm tree, but speak not: they must needs be borne, because they cannot go. Be not afraid of them; for they cannot do evil, neither also is it in them to do good.
(Jeremiah 10:2-5, KJV)

In the above, God clearly says not to adopt non-Christian forms of worship and this seems to include objects like Christmas trees. Now some may argue that since the tree cannot do evil, that it is okay to do have them anyway. Those who feel that way may wish to ask themselves why God then wanted the following to be said to those with such trees:

11 Thus shall ye say unto them, The gods that have not made the heavens and the earth, even they shall perish from the earth, and from under these heavens. (Jeremiah 10:11, KJV)

The God of the Bible clearly does not want people to use Christmas trees to pretend to honor Him as He clearly is not honored by such things.

Of course, some may wish to reason about that by claiming that they are trying to honor the God of the Bible and not the pagan gods with things as Christmas trees, or even reason around it by thinking that simply not having Christmas trees, but observing Christmas honors Jesus and thus this is not sin.

Well, perhaps the following may help them realize the sins involved in this:

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. 32 “Whatever I command you, be careful to observe it; you shall not add to it nor take away from it. (Deuteronomy 12:29-32, NKJV)

Is not Christmas celebration adding something that God does not want?

Most people these days realize that most of the trappings of Christmas come from the worship of pagan gods. Some even realize that the early Christians did not celebrate Christmas nor observe any date for the celebration of the birth of Jesus. Even Catholic scholars realize this:

Christmas was not among the earliest festivals of the Church (Martindale C. Transcribed by Susanti A. Suastika. Christmas. The Catholic Encyclopedia, Volume III. Copyright © 1908 by Robert Appleton Company. Online Edition Copyright © 2003 by K. Knight. Nihil Obstat, November 1, 1908. Remy Lafort, S.T.D., Censor. Imprimatur. +John Cardinal Farley, Archbishop of New York).

Early Christians also did not celebrate any birthdays (Did Early Christians Celebrate Birthdays?).

December 25th was Chosen as it was the Birthday of a Pagan Sun God

What some may find particularly reprehensible about Christmas is that not only are the trappings of it pagan, but the actual date selected was the birthday of the sun god Mithras. This is known by pretty much all scholars. Here is one from a Catholic scholar:

Mithraism A pagan religion consisting mainly of the cult of the ancient Indo-Iranian Sun-god Mithra. It entered Europe from Asia Minor after Alexander’s conquest, spread rapidly over the whole Roman Empire at the beginning of our era, reached its zenith during the third century, and vanished under the repressive regulations of Theodosius at the end of the fourth century…Helios Mithras is one god…Sunday was kept holy in honour of Mithra, and the sixteenth of each month was sacred to him as mediator. The 25 December was observed as his birthday, the natalis invicti, the rebirth of the winter-sun, unconquered by the rigours of the season (Arendzen. J.P. Transcribed by John Looby. Mithraism. The Catholic Encyclopedia, Volume X. Published 1911. New York: Robert Appleton Company. Nihil Obstat, October 1, 1911. Remy Lafort, S.T.D., Censor. Imprimatur. +John Cardinal Farley, Archbishop of New York).

The World Book Encyclopedia notes,

In 354 A.D., Bishop Liberius of Rome ordered the people to celebrate on December 25. He probably chose this date because the people of Rome already observed it as the Feast of Saturn, celebrating the birthday of the sun (Sechrist E.H. Christmas. World Book Encyclopedia, Volume 3. Field Enterprises Educational Corporation, Chicago, 1966, pp. 408-417).

It needs to be understood that some scholarly sources believe that the celebration in Rome of Christmas may have began 2-3 decades earlier (by Constantine), but none I am aware of suggest it was prior Constantine in the fourth century. Notice what the late Martin Luther King, Jr. wrote:

It is also to be noticed that our Christmas, December 25th, was the birthday of Mithra, and was only taken over in the Fourth Century as the date, actually unknown, of the birth of Jesus. (King ML. The papers of Martin Luther King, Jr, Volume 4. Clayborne Carson, Ralph Luker, Penny A. Russell editors/compliers. University of California Press, 1992)

There have been scholars who believe that Constantine was involved as tradition claims a certain church in Rome as the first site of a December 25th “Christmas” celebration as the following 2007 news account indicates:

The church where the tradition of celebrating Christmas on Dec. 25 may have begun was built near a pagan shrine as part of an effort to spread Christianity, a leading Italian scholar says.

Italian archaeologists last month revealed an underground grotto that they believe ancient Romans revered as the place where a wolf nursed Rome’s legendary founder, Romulus, and his twin brother, Remus. A few feet from the grotto, or “Lupercale,” the Emperor Constantine built the Basilica of St. Anastasia, where some believe Christmas was first celebrated on Dec. 25…

It opted to mark Christmas, then celebrated at varying dates, on Dec. 25 to coincide with the Roman festival celebrating the birth of the sun god, Andrea Carandini, a professor of archaeology at Rome’s La Sapienza University, told reporters Friday. The Basilica of St. Anastasia was built as soon as a year after the Nicaean Council. It probably was where Christmas was first marked on Dec. 25, part of broader efforts to link pagan practices to Christian celebrations in the early days of the new religion, Mr. Carandini said. (Scholars link 1st yule church to pagan shrine. Washington Times – Dec 23, 2007 ROME (AP). http://washingtontimes.com/apps/pbcs.dll/article?AID=/20071223/FOREIGN/9... viewed 12/24/07).

December 25th was a date to celebrate paganism.

So since the Bible says not to observe pagan religious celebrations and not to adopt any of their methods to serve the God of the Bible, and since December 25th is clearly recognized as the day to celebrate the birth of the pagan sun god Mithras, the celebration of Christmas by those who claim to live by the Bible is sin.

The video by GCI did not explain how come pagan religious celebrations are not sin, or even what sin is. Since GCI does not teach that “sin is the transgression of the law” (1 John 3:4) as it teaches, for example, that the Ten Commandments are done away, of course it would conclude that there is no sin involved in observing Christmas as GCI does not understand what sin is.

Christmas Takes Away from the True Gospel

Some argue that none of this matters. They believe that their own understanding is superior to the scriptures cited here. The Bible, of course, teaches otherwise:

5 Trust in the Lord with all your heart,
And lean not on your own understanding;
6 In all your ways acknowledge Him,
And He shall direct your paths.

7 Do not be wise in your own eyes;
Fear the Lord and depart from evil. (Proverbs 3:5-7, NKJV)

8 “For My thoughts are not your thoughts,
Nor are your ways My ways,” says the Lord. (Isaiah 55:8, NKJV)

Breaking the commandments of God is evil.

Christmas is a way of humans, not a way of God.

If God really wanted people to celebrate it, He would have given that as a command. Instead, the Bible never even reveals what date Jesus was born. That should be a clue for even the often biblically clueless. The Bible teaches:

33 For God is not the author of confusion… (1 Corinthians 14:33, NKJV)

How could God really want people to observe Jesus’ birthday since He did not have the calendar date of it even recorded? He wouldn’t as, amongst other things, that would cause confusion.

Because Jesus was not born on December 25th, God does not want pagan methods to be adopted to worship Him, and is opposed to decorations that resemble modern Christmas trees, the modern observation of Christmas gives a false portrayal of God the Father and His Son Jesus Christ. It leads to a false gospel (cf. Galatians 1:6-8), and an improper understanding of the plan of God.

Keeping Christmas is a Sin

The fact that the Bible commands against having religious holidays that resemble Christmas should be a reason that real Christians consider seriously if they would be at all inclined to consider being involved with Christmas.

Is keeping Christmas a sin?

For real Christians, it would certainly seem to be. Those who overlook scriptures but rely on their own imaginations and human reason are in a different category as they are not being biblically-faithful Christians.

Your personal conduct does matter. Your example does count. And there are consequences to sin:

…the wages of sin is death… (Romans 6:23, NKJV)

Many this year will reason around the above and other scriptures, but those scriptures are still true and still part of the word of God.

If you believe you are a Christian, will you rely on the traditions of humans, societal pressures, or the word of God this year?

Some articles of related interest may include:

What Does the Catholic Church Teach About Christmas and the Holy Days? Do you know what the Catholic Church says were the original Christian holy days? Was Christmas among them?
Did Early Christians Celebrate Birthdays? Did biblical era Jews celebrate birthdays? Who originally celebrated birthdays? When did many that profess Christ begin birthday celebrations?
Do You Practice Mithraism? Many practices and doctrines that mainstream so-called Christian groups have are the same or similar to those of the sun-god Mithras. Do you follow Mithraism combined with the Bible or original Christianity?
Was Jesus Born in the Grotto of the Nativity? Was Jesus born in a below ground cave? Was Jesus born below the “Church of the Nativity”? Were the wise men there?
Is There “An Annual Worship Calendar” In the Bible? This paper provides a biblical and historical critique of several articles, including one by the Tkach WCG/GCI which states that this should be a local decision. What do the Holy Days mean? Also you can click here for the calendar of Holy Days.
Tradition and Scripture: From the Bible and Church Writings Are traditions on equal par with scripture? Many believe that is what Peter, John, and Paul taught. But did they?
The Gospel of the Kingdom of God was the Emphasis of Jesus and the Early Church Did you know that? Do you even know what the gospel of the kingdom is all about? True religion should be based upon the true gospel.
The History of Early Christianity Are you aware that what most people believe is not what truly happened to the true Christian church? Do you know where the early church was based? Do you know what were the doctrines of the early church? Is your faith really based upon the truth or compromise?

Comments

  • Profile picture of David W. Thornton
    David W. Thornton 3 years ago

    Interesting article, and, while you do make some good points, I have to disagree with your premise.

    A recent article (http://www.bib-arch.org/e-features/christmas.asp) disputes the notion that December 25 was selected on the basis of pagan celebrations. An astronomical study of the Bible indicates that the Magi may have seen the star of Bethlehem on Dec. 25, 2 BC.

    Further, the origin of the Christmas tree is also uncertain. One story relates to St. Boniface in Germany who chopped down Thor's oak. When a fir tree grew in the center of the oak stump, he took the fir to be a symbol of Christ and said "let Christ be at the center of your households" (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Christmas_tree).

    Finally, with respect to Santa, we have many Christian friends who do not practice "Santa gift giving." Nevertheless, the practice commemorates the charity and giving spirit of St. Nicholas, whose generosity was based in Christian love. We teach our kids that Santa gives gifts to commemorate Jesus' birth. When we give gifts as Santa, it isn't necessarily a lie, but it isn't the whole truth either.

    I do agree that Christmas is not as theologically important as Easter, but that doesn't make celebrating it sinful. I don't believe that celebrating the birth of our Saviour could be inherently sinful, but will stipulate that some celebratory practices could be sinful.

  • Profile picture of David W. Thornton
    David W. Thornton 3 years ago

    One other thing: Think of all the focus on Christ during the Christmas season. Christmas carols celebrating Jesus are ubiquitous. Linus reads the Bible on national network TV. People who never darken the door of a church come to Christmas services to hear the gospel

    Then read John 10:21.

    David Thornton
    Atlanta Conservative Examiner.

  • Profile picture of Bob Thiel
    Bob Thiel 3 years ago

    Thank you for your comments.

    In all due respect, while some want to suggest that there were other reasons for December 25, the reality is that it was celebrated as the birthday of Mithras. And Emperor Constantine observed it as a follower of Mithras, and got the Church of Rome to accept many things that are outside of the Bible.

    Also, the Christmas tree certainly was not used by early Christians.

    You and I will have to agree to disagree about the effectiveness of proclamation through carols this time of year. I believe that blending pagan practices with the Bible should not a major Christian position.

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