Posted Dec 16, 2017 by Michael L. Brown

Is Christmas a holiday with pagan origins? Is it wrong to celebrate the birth of Jesus on December 25th? And what about putting up a Christmas tree? Is that a direct violation of Jeremiah 10?

As a Jewish follower of Jesus (commonly called a “Messianic Jew”), I do not relate to the Christmas season the way many Christians do, especially those who were raised in a home where Christmas was celebrated. Yet I do not have a problem with the Christian celebration of Christmas as long as the spirit of the celebration is right. If Jesus is being adored and his birth is being commemorated, the date of that commemoration is not a concern to me.

It is true that there is no biblical holiday that marks the birth of Jesus, nor is there a command given to celebrate it at a later time. But that doesn’t mean it was wrong for the later Church to develop the Christmas tradition.

To be sure, some traditions are negative and destructive, going against the Scriptures and even making void what the Bible teaches. And Jesus actively opposed such traditions. But other traditions are neutral, while still others can be positive. If, over time, Christians felt it important to remember the birth of the Messiah along with his death and resurrection, what harm is there in doing so?

It is true that the evidence appears against Jesus being born on December 25th, although there were early Church leaders who did believe he was born at that time.

More importantly, December 25th was a pagan holiday, and many believe that the Church adopted this day to celebrate Christmas as a capitulation to paganism. While this is certainly possible (as a Messianic Jew, I don’t relate to Church history the way many Christians do), it’s also possible that this was not the case at all.

As the recently departed theologian R. C. Sproul explains, “It just so happens that on the twenty-fifth of December in the Roman Empire there was a pagan holiday that was linked to mystery religions; the pagans celebrated their festival on December 25. The Christians didn’t want to participate in that, and so they said, ‘While everybody else is celebrating this pagan thing, we’re going to have our own celebration. We’re going to celebrate the thing that’s most important in our lives, the incarnation of God, the birth of Jesus Christ. So this is going to be a time of joyous festivities, of celebration and worship of our God and King.’”

The whole gospel story is a story of redemption, and since God owns every day of the year, why not redeem a day set apart for pagan worship and use it instead to glorify the Lord?

Regardless of why this date was chosen, since it is the date on which hundreds of millions of Christians do mark the Messiah’s birth, it’s as good a day as any to celebrate it, should you be so inclined to do so.

Many Messianic Jews celebrate the birth of Jesus (whom they call Yeshua, using his original Hebrew name) during the Feast of Tabernacles (Sukkot), which takes place in September or October. They believe an argument can be made that he was born at this time of the year, they point out that this is already a time set apart on the biblical calendar as holy to the Lord, and they point to John 1:14, which states that “the Word” (speaking of Jesus) tabernacled among us.

Personally, I think that’s wonderful as well. But I also believe it’s fine not to celebrate the birth of Jesus on any particular holiday. Let every day be a celebration of his birth!

At the same time, since the gospels take considerable time to describe these important events (historically, in Matthew 1-2 and Luke 1-2, and theologically in John 1), it’s fine to mark this with a special, annual celebration where these texts are read again and familiar hymns, like “Joy to the World” are sung. Hope remains alive because God sent his Son into the world.

I’m aware, of course, that there’s no evidence that the earliest disciples specially marked the day of his birth, and I’m aware that in early American history, the celebration of Christmas was actually banned, primarily through Puritan influence. But once again, I believe the spirit of the event is what matters most, not the questions of date or timing.

What about erecting a Christmas tree? Does this have anything to do with the birth of Jesus? Obviously not. Does it have pagan origins? There are arguments for or against such origins. Let each one decide for himself or herself.

Is it a violation of Jeremiah 10:2-4? Certainly not.

The text in Jeremiah reads, “Learn not the way of the nations, nor be dismayed at the signs of the heavens because the nations are dismayed at them, for the customs of the peoples are vanity. A tree from the forest is cut down and worked with an axe by the hands of a craftsman. They decorate it with silver and gold; they fasten it with hammer and nails so that it cannot move.”

This is talking about making an worshiping an idol, and nothing more. It is not referring to putting up a Christmas tree in your home!

As noted on the CARM website, “If people were praying to their Christmas trees or worshiping them as deities, these passages would certainly apply. But that is not, nor has it ever been, how Christmas trees are used. Christmas trees were never appealed to for blessings nor incorporated into religious rituals or acts of worship. While the exact origin of Christmas trees is unknown and highly disputed, the tradition seems to have come into existence as late as the 16th century during the Protestant Reformation in Germany. There is no evidence that Christians ever used them as anything other than home decorations for the holidays. There is nothing in this tradition that is innately idolatrous or in any way contrary to the biblical prohibitions against carving trees into false gods.”

My personal perspective on Christmas trees is this. If it’s just a fun family tradition that has no religious significance, there’s nothing wrong with that in itself. And if the tree is decorated in such a way that it reminds a family about the birth of Jesus, I see no reason to be critical.

On the other hand, if the tree is the center of a hyper-materialistic, greed-driven celebration, it’s best to separate this from the miracle of the incarnation (the Son of God becoming flesh), lest we degrade his birth into an excuse for carnality.

So for me, as a Messianic Jew, even though I don’t appreciate “the spirit of Christmas” the way many Christians do, I can enjoy Christmas in a non-religious way (a fun time for the family to get together) and I can affirm other believers who set this time of the year aside in a holy way. I can enjoy singing the special hymns too.

Let there be liberty here as long as Jesus is being exalted.

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Comments

Romans1013 posted a comment · Dec 31, 2017
First off, I am in agreement with Dr. Brown on this topic. Some wish for all believers in Christ to keep the Appointed Holy days such as the Sabbath and Passover. I am not against one commemorating or keeping the true Sabbath day or Passover. Yet, we rest in Jesus today. No Sunday is not the new Sabbath as I hear many Christians believe. We are dead to the Law which most definitely includes the Ten Commandments. While I would never suggest going by one or two verses in the Bible, I would highly suggest Romans 7 especially versus 4 through 8. Now concerning the Passover. This day was set aside to commemorate when the angel of death passed over God's Chosen people's houses that had the blood of an unblemished lamb on them. Jesus is that fulfillment as he is the unblemished Lamb who spilled His blood as a sacrifice so we no longer see death, (Second Death), we that are in Christ. The point is that there's freedom in Christ. Let us worship Him and adore Him every day. He is the Fulfillment of the Law, the Prophets and the Psalms. The old Mosaic or Sinaitic Covenant has been surpassed by the New Covenant which began at the cross. While some surely disagree, I do not believe at this time Jesus has fulfilled the fall Feasts, but He will do so at His 2nd coming. Debate is healthy. I have no doubt that if Jesus (Yeshua) is your Lord and Savior, you desire to please Him and live according to the Bible. Let us love the Lord and love thy neighbor, friend or foe, as we await His return.
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shmub777 posted a comment · Dec 25, 2017
Just thinking. Maybe this article was not necessary this year. Did not disagree with anything, but just wondering whether this subject needs to be broached again. Just thinking.
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dr.brown posted a comment · Dec 23, 2017
After I was born again, I was always uncomfortable with the popular saying "keep Christ in Christmas" . Recently I read this article writen by a Jewish believer, which made sense to me and confirmed my uneasiness. Here it is: http://www.eaec.org/bibleanswers/christmas/christians_and_christmas.htm
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Blind Girl Who ... posted a comment · Dec 23, 2017
Hello, Dr. Brown. I totally agree with your message: It's not the date of Jesus' birth that matters; what matters most is why He was born. The main purpose of His coming to this earth is to save humanity from sin. And, like I posted on YouTube in your video about whether Christmas should be celebrated, winter is the darkest season of the year before spring; therefore, Jesus was born in the darkest time in human history, when people needed God the most. Just as we sing every year, "Joy to the world; the Lord has come!" In the midst of all the pain, sorrow and death, God has brought the greatest joy to the whole world by sending His Son to save humanity. And just as December 25 is traditionally the darkest day of the year, when sunlight was desired and needed the most, Jesus was, and is still, the greatest light that ever shone to the world. While the world was doing their own celebration for the sake of wanting sunlight, we've been using this day as an opportunity to show them that Jesus is much greater than sunlight. So, thank God for Christmas.
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avantijk posted a comment · Dec 22, 2017
Man’s wisdom is foolishness to God (I Corinthians 3:19), as this article clearly exemplifies. I could go on and on about the problems in this article and how unscriptural it is. Your reasons given for keeping Christmas are purely secular. Do you have any early church fathers’ writings that can verify any of it? Considering the reasoning in this article, I would expect to see another article by you entitled “A Messianic Jew Reflects on Keeping Sunday.” Maybe we should all be modifying the 4th Commandment by keeping Sunday because most people keep it due to the resurrection; that surely is a good thing. Or should we be telling people that they should keep the Sabbath of the LORD thy God? Considering the time that we are living in (the time of the end), it is of utmost importance that we make a decision for the government of God and His laws. At this time in history, we should be helping people understand that they need to choose this day whom they will serve. This would include teaching them not only the Sabbath, but all of the appointed times, statutes and judgments of Yehovah’s government (Malachi 4:4-6). We should be teaching them, not to bow down before a Christmas tree to receive gifts, but rather to bow to our Lord and Saviour Yeshua, and accept the only gift that matters – His gift of eternal life. It is time to stand up before God and call sin by its rightful name. Sunday, Christmas, and Easter are satan’s counterfeits of God’s original appointed times (Sabbath, Tabernacles, and Passover). He commands us to keep what He calls “My appointed feasts” in Leviticus 23:2. Sunday, Christmas, and Easter are part of “another gospel” and “another Jesus” (2 Corinthians 11:4) that the Bible repeatedly condemns. The final line in this article, “Let there be liberty here as long as Jesus is being exalted” could be the motto for any false teaching. The True Messiah, Yeshua, did not do away with His commemorative and prophetic festival system at His death, but rather established it. The question begs to be asked: Would God have us keeping pagan holidays which are championed by the Roman Catholic Church, or His holidays that He gave unto His servant, Moses? “And he said unto him, If they hear not Moses and the prophets, neither will they be persuaded, though one rose from the dead” (Luke 16:31). There is a way that seems right to a man, but the end thereof is the way of death. Proverbs 14:12 and 16:25
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yeshuais4me posted a comment · Dec 22, 2017
First a little quiz, What do Chanukah and Christmas have in common? The answer is that these Holidays both are the creation of man and not God. Let us start with Chanukah. Chanukah was created by Judas Maccabee and his brothers (I Maccabees: 59 in the The New Oxford Annotated Bible with the Apocrypha) to be celebrated on the 25th of Kislev which was exactly three years after the temple was desecrated by Antiochus. Antiochus controlled Judah for 3 1/2 years. You could compare this event to the 4th of July celebration of independence that removed the oppression of the British from America. Chanukah is a celebration of the Maccabees removing their oppressor, Antiochus IV. This does not mean that God was not involved in these events, it means that God did not command that this holiday be observed. God’s commandments for His Appointed Times (also called feasts, holidays, etc.) are listed in Leviticus 23 and are meant to be observed by all who believe in Him until the end. There are more details of the Appointed Times in other books of the Torah. Matthew 5:18 tells us that Torah will exist without any changes even after Heaven and Earth pass away. A interesting side note is that Gifts were never exchanged in America during Chanukah until late in 19th century around the time America made Christmas a national holiday. So, how did we end up with Christmas or what was called by the church of Rome “Christ Mas”. The creator of this day was a Monk known as Dennis the Small also known as Dionysius Exiguus in Latin which means Dennis the Humble. Dennis lived in Rome from around 500 AD until his death around 544 AD, he was approximately 75 years old. Dennis is the one that created our separation of years between BC (Before Christ) and AD ("A.D." stands for Anno Domini, Latin for “in the year of the lord,”) Dennis established the year 33 AD as the year the Messiah was crucified and resurrected to over come death. The day Dennis shows as the crucifixion is April 1, in the year 33 AD and the resurrection being April 3, 33 AD. This has never made sense to me because it did not line up with God’s Word where the Messiah tells us that He will be in the center of the earth for three days and three nights like Jonah, Matthew 12:40. In the year 2012 Pope Benedict announced to the world that Dennis the Small was wrong in his calculation of both the birth and death of the Messiah who is also known as Yeshua which means salvation or better known as Jesus in the English speaking world. The Pope went on to say that the birth of the Messiah happened between 2 and 7 BC. It appears that very few read or heard about this due to lack of followup questions, etc. A very small group of people always felt that Dennis could not be correct in his calculations of the Messiah’s birth and death from the time he issued his report. Dennis was well versed in Latin and Greek but appears to had no or very little knowledge of Hebrew. It appears that this was his downfall. God’s Word was given to the Hebrews and when written, was in their language, Hebrew. So what did Dennis do wrong? At the time Dennis did his work there was only one complete Bible which was the Latin Vulgate. This Bible was completed sometime during the third century and only certain people were allowed access to these words. The problem Dennis had was that he knew nothing or almost nothing about the Hebrew life and culture. It is important that you understand what is called God’s Appointed Times, which are called Feasts in most English Bibles. Vayikra which in English is Leviticus or the book of Leviticus the third book given to Moses. Vayikra means “He called” and some say it means “Instructions for the Priest”. Leviticus 23 give us a complete list of the Sabbaths and Feasts to be celebrated by God’s people to honor God. These Appointed Times also show up in the other parts of the Torah (the first five books of the Bible) which means target or also known as God’s Instructions. The first Appointed Time commandment in Leviticus 23 is that the 7th day of the week would be a Sabbath to God and is the first Sabbath mentioned in Leviticus 23. The second day to be identified as a Sabbath is Yom Kippur which is the day of atonement and Sabbath for us. The remaining Appointed Times or Feasts are called a Holy Convocation. So it appears that Dennis knew that the Messiah was 33 when He was crucified, this makes sense since for a Rabbi to teach one of the requirements is that he be 30 years old. The Latin Vulgate told Dennis that Pesach or Passover was on the 14th day of the first month of the Hebrew year (Leviticus 23:5). Therefore Dennis assumed that since the Sabbath was the 7th day of the week and the Hebrew calendar showed Passover on 14th of Nisan the first month of the Hebrew year that Passover had to happen on a Friday the day before the Sabbath. So Dennis decided that April 1, 33 AD had to be the crucifixion and April 3 had to be the resurrection and Feast of First Fruits. Side note, could this be the first April fools prank? We need to understand that the Hebrew day starts a sundown and continues to the next sundown. So Passover starts on the 13th at sundown which is when the 14th day starts. The death of the Messiah happened around 3 PM on the 14th day. We also need to know that Dennis did not understand that the Sabbath spoken of in John 19:31 was the first day of the Feast of Matzah (Unleavened Bread), not God’s Shabbat or Sabbath on the 7th day of the week. Also that the Pharisees had changed God’s definition of the first day of the Feast of Matzah from a Holy Convocation to High Shabbat (Sabbath). This is what John 19:31 is saying when he tells us that this is an especially important Shabbat being the first day of the Feast of Matzah. Then there is the big problem that Dennis did not fulfill the Messiah’s prophesy in Matthew 12:40 which tells us that the Messiah would spend three days and three nights in the center of the earth. Death on Friday late in the day and resurrection early Sunday morning hardly meets Yeshua’s prophesy from Matthew 12:40. This been validated by the fifth largest Catholic Cathedral in America by them placing the image of the sky at the time of Yeshua’s resurrection on Nisan 18 in the Hebrew Biblical year 3790 or April 7th 30 AD in the Gregorian calendar in the canopy above their ark. Something to think about, the Gospels tell us that the crucifixion took place on Passover. God’s Appointed Time Passover is the second on God’s list of His Appointed Times and is the first Feast that God tells us to honor. Then comes Feast of Matzah, which can also be called a part of Passover or Passover. So, is it not very possible and even very likely that each the resurrection and the birth of the Messiah would also be an Appointed Time? There are two Feast that God requires they be filled with joy. The first is the resurrection or Feast of First Fruits. The second is the Feast of Sukkot, also known as the Feast of Tabernacles. If you start with the Hebrew year 3755 (see mini timeline below) where the first day of the year, Nisan 1 is on the Sabbath and could be called the conception of the Messianic movement. If you study Luke 1 knowing the Jewishness of this chapter you can come to the conclusion that the Messiah was born in the Hebrew year 3756 during the month of Tishri on the 15th day which is the first day of Sukkot. On the eighth day of Sukkot the Messiah is given His name Yeshua. By knowing the birth, death and resurrection an interesting thing is to be noted because of the Messiah spending three days and nights in the center of the earth. The Sadducees who appeared to follow God’s Word to the letter debated with the Pharisees who were the more popular of the Torah teachers as to when the Feast of First Fruits was and when to start counting the Omer. The Sadducees believed that the Feast of First Fruits followed the weekly Sabbath. Since the Pharisees call the first day of Matzah a Sabbath (High Sabbath) and not a Holy Convocation they believed that First Fruits was the day after the High Sabbath or Nisan 16. When the Temple was destroyed the debate ended in favor of the Pharisees. However, I believe that the Sadducees were correct on this issue. My support is how negative both John and the Messiah were towards the Pharisees and Torah teachers. Matthew 5:20 makes me believe that this generation of Pharisees and Torah teachers will not see God’s Kingdom. Timeline from the destruction of the Temple back to the birth of the Messiah - Source God’s Word, the Talmud (Yoma 39B) and Josephus verify the 40 years that the Yom Kippur sacrifice was not accepted by God after the Messiah was crucified. *70 AD - 9th of Av Temple destroyed. This was more than a one day event; however, this day is most commonly used as the day the Temple was destroyed. *30 AD to 69 AD - 40 times during this period God did not accept the Yom Kippur sacrifice. *30 AD - The Messiah fulfilled His prophecy written in Matthew 12:40. From Nisan 15 at the beginning of that day which was at night He went into the depths of the earth until Nisan 18 when He rose from the dead The Messiah was 33 years and six months old at the time of His death. *The year from the Hebrew Biblical calendar was 3756 the Messiah was born on the 15th of Tishri You can also calculate the birth of the Messiah by using Luke 1 and start with the year 3755 the beginning of the Messianic age. This is an unusual year since the year starts on the Sabbath and the birth of the Messiah is on the Sabbath in the year 3756 plus the giving of His name is on the Sabbath. To know the birth of the Messiah you must know the day John was born. You must know the Jewish culture and God’s Word as it was during the time of the Messiah on this earth. An example is when Z’kharyah lost his voice. Luke 1:10 tells us that all the people were there or it could say that the multitude was there, etc. depending on your translation. Everyone that believed in the God of Israel during the time the Messiah was on earth goes to Jerusalem three times a year. As many as 500,000 people go to Jerusalem during these times. During Sukkot which I believe God’s Word is telling us that the Messiah was born at Sukkot you can see why there was no room at the inn. During Sukkot people live in a Sukkah which could be compared to an open air tent.
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Jardalkal posted a comment · Dec 19, 2017
I did idolize Christmas by having 450 santa (Satan), floor mats, wall mural and all it got me was a visit from a fallen angel and a demon visit in 2015. The godly qualities of joy (jolly) wealth (bearer of gifts), omnipresence (everywhere on the same night), eternal life (ageless), travel in the Spirit (magical flight), punisher of the wicked (withholds gifts), and rewarder of good (giver of gifts), are combined with the ungodly qualities of Antichrist and World Unity, in this pitiful, comic substitute for the CHRIST of the Bible. Adults as well as children are force-fed this demonic lie (usually from birth), which exposes them to violence, magic, fantasy, war games, dancing reindeer and mystical cartoons, while the Son of God, His truth and His righteousness, are denied and blasphemed by the world. (Demonbuster.com)           Santa has the same letters as Satan. The red suit is the picture of Molech who was a god in the valley of Hinnom who people worshipped. They would get the statue very hot and then burn their babies on this altar as a form of sacrifice. Today, we have abortion centers/ Molech centers in places. Deuteronomy 7:26 "Do not bring a detestable thing into your house or you, like it, will be set apart for destruction. Utterly abhor and detest it, for it is set apart for destruction."      What items of worship do we bring into our houses that are detestable? Here are a few from our Western culture: Christmas worship objects and the Christmas tree (which is a modern-day Asherah pole that we bow down to for gifts – Jeremiah 10:3-4), mistletoe, Santa Claus and wreaths. Easter and Easter bunnies, eggs and hot cross buns Angelic images and objects (for “angel worship”), Everything associated with the celebration of Halloween. Abhorred forms of worship found in: secret societies like Freemasonry, fraternities and sororities. False religions such as One World Religion, Sunday Worship, Friday worship, Buddhism and Hinduism, religious idols and foreign gods; obelisks (including church steeples). Yoga, pilates, horoscopes, karate, pagan symbols, dream catchers. Pharmacia (which include prescription drugs or homeopathic remedies to mask the illness instead of going to the spiritual root of the problem). Acupuncture, psychology, cultic forms of massage. Science fiction, occultic music, occultic books like Harry Potter books and movies, mind control courses, tattoos, body piercings and the list could go on and on.