VERY LATE EDIT:
An acquaintance of mine was nice enough to point out I had a gross amount of typos and grammatical errors in the posting I linked to (the post you're looking at now). I apologize to everyone!! Please know, Dr. MacDonald can write and write well. His poor granddaughter did not inherit her paternal grandmother’s typing skills and it shows. : P That said, I believe these errors seriously detracted from his writing and for that I‘m sorry. I have corrected the problems that I found but, I will not boast they are all 'found and fixed' so, please alert me to any typographical errors at firstname.lastname@example.org. Thank you.
As I mentioned previously, here is the article written by Dr. William G. MacDonald dealing with the issues that surround Christmas. (Italics and bold original.)
Fallacy 1: That sacred duty demands an annual month-long anticipation of a week-long festival of Christmas, the driving mechanism of which is partying and exchanging presents.
Christmas as a season came in Christianity by the Constantinian accommodation of the Christian faith to pagan culture, some three and one-half centuries after Jesus was born. In the ancient Roman empire the most important, that is, most celebrated festival of the year was feast to the Roman god, Saturnus, god of seed-sowing, for whom a planet was named and also the seventh day of the week. This season of festivity for countering the onset of winter was accounted as an agricultural festival dedicated to Saturnus and called the Saternalia. It began on December 17 and lasted seven days through December 24. Presents were frequently exchanged. Business, school, and court were not conducted during the festival, and slaves were given increased freedom for the week. People reveled in feasting, drinking, dancing, gambling, and sensuality.
The day following the Saturnalia was December 25, still another feast day that had special appeal in the eastern part of the empire where the political power shifted in the fourth century. December 25 was the birthday of the Iranian savior-hero god of light, Mithras, the sun-god, celebrated as the greatest power affecting the earth and its inhabitants.
“The reason for the season,” as Christians of the early centuries knew so well was pagan; and it is pathetic for Christians today to think that because of the name change it later underwent in the fourth century, this season featuring high-spirited partying during the winter solstice, originally belonging to them. Christians of the first three centuries kept a low profile during the Saturnalia and on Mithras’ birthday. Since they did not even know, and therefore, did not celebrate the day of Jesus’ birth, they would be astounded to hear modern western Christians lament about the need to ‘put Christ back into Christmas,” as if pagan had taken over “Christmas,” instead of the other way around.
Fallacy 2: That the annual seasonal exchanging of presents among those who have the means to do so has anything to do with honoring Christ or implementing his teachings.
The most prominent, stressful, and costly feature of Christmas, exchanging gifts of equal value among social equals, while not giving the gifts to the living Jesus on his supposed birthday, demonstrates how far Jesus is out of the picture today in the holiday that bears his name --but little else of his. No one else is so treated at a birthday party when gifts are brought. Jesus therefore becomes the embarrassment of most Christmas parties.
Jesus discoursed on the broad aspects of giving-lending and the inadequacy of sinners’ motivation. The world gives only to those who benefit the giver or who can repay one’s gift or load in due course. His basic words from the sermon on the plain speak ever so perceptively to the subject of gift-giving motivated by selfish principles that do not meet the standard of his new kingdom:
And if you do good to those who are good to you, what credit is that to you? Even ‘sinners’ do that, And if you lend to those from whom you expect repayment, what credit is that to you? Even ‘sinners’ lend to ‘sinners’, expecting to be repaid in full.
When we apply this accounting of the Lord to Christmas day --as well we should--we get the following consistent query and comment:
If you give Christmas presents to those you anticipate will be giving Christmas presents to you, what credit is that to you? Even ‘sinners’ exchange presents among themselves.
Fallacy 3: That the coming of Santa Claus from the sky as a supernatural visitor to homes to provide gifts according to the wealth-level of that home, make him indispensable to Christmas, bringing abundance down from on high, the top of the world, alias North Pole, and making him the world’s celebrated and legendary giver, as weighed against a helpless holy baby, the gift of God, who has nothing to give-but himself in due course as the ransom for all.
The apostle John warned, “even now many antichrists have come” (1 John 2:18c). Santa Clause has all the following plusses to make him as anti-Christ in good standing (second in splendor only to the pope, who is more tangible):
1. He is believed to be omniscient, knowing all the good or bad children do at all times.
2. He has no great concern, however, for righteousness; so he gives presents even to bad people who have the money to play his game.
3. He is construed at be morally superior to Christmas-keepers in that they only exchange gifts Saturnalia-style, yet he gives Christmas presents to individuals as if it were their birthday and receives none in return (except from Ms. Claus).
4. He has no spiritual gifts to give, but provides the world’s more appreciated material presents, whose market value can be determined fairly easily.
5. He has a retinue of elves (like quasi-angels) and eight regular reindeer (as quasi-apostles whom he commands and who accompany him all over the world). He gets around faithfully, and there has never been a year in wealthy countries not in depression when his next coming did not materialize or the wait for him lasted more than twelve months.
6. He in recent years had acquired a surrogate for the Christ-child, Rudolph the red-nosed [ninth] reindeer, who though very young was chosen to guide Santa’s sleigh on the big night. In Santa’s version of the Christmas story, there is no baby as the center of attention, but there is his lovable little reindeer with whom, instead, all the children can identify, one chosen because of his red-glowing nose [substitute halo] to lead the team of reindeer.
7. He is virtually omnipresent, being simultaneously on the scene in his red suit in stores all over the city and throughout the nation, not to speak of there being millions of icons of him in all the print and television media and plastic or plaster statues of him that fill the land two months of the year, People regard the ubiquitous “graven images” of Santa with the same unguarded familiarity of acceptance that ancient Israel had for their statues of Baal that were everywhere during the many years of their unfaithfulness to their unseen God. Appearances that Santa Claus puts in from year to year even at church parties prove his wide ranging status as a substitute ‘instead of’ [Gk., anti] Christ.
Fallacies from Misunderstanding the Bible
Fallacy 4: That the two biblical accounts of the birth of Jesus authorize both the term, “Christmas,” and the day -December25- as his birthday.
Neither the date (day, month, year) nor the term (‘Christ[‘s] mass[s]’) occurs in the biblical texts that narrate the birth of Jesus. Both displacing Mithras’ birthday on 25 December and the supposed sacerdotal sacrificing of Jesus again in the Roman church’s high mass at midnight to begin the day December 25) are late developing traditions, of which the early Christians for centuries knew nothing. The first recorded festival of Christmas came in Rome in AD 336, and became finally fixed by the state-church in AD 354 to overlap the sun god’s birthday.
Constantine the Great was, by virtue of his office as Roman emperor, the pontifex maximus. He moved the government from Rome to Byzantium, which he called Constantinople, his capital. As the highest priest in paganism (pontifix maximus), he did not submit to Christian baptism until shortly before he died in AD 337, but he did not let this postponement of the rite initiation keep him from exercising great power over the church, which he legalized, led (calling the first general council to meet at Nicea in AD 325), and influenced greatly toward syncretism with the world. Prior to his “conversion” in AD 313, he had been a worshiper of Mithras, and therefore of the sun. Coins were struck and monuments were erected by Constantine that combined Christian doctrines with sun-worship. He bean the trend that ultimately would replace Mithras with Jesus as the symbol for the holiday, keeping the form, but changing the name and adding a continual sacrifice, the mass.
“Christmas,” as the term indicates, requires the mass. But the holy Scripture declares that Jesus was sacrificed once for all time (Heb 7:27; 9:12,26,28; 10:10,14; 1 Pet 3:18), making the sacrifice of the mass biblical impossibility, a heresy that cuts across apostolic teaching, and a contradiction of the Lord’s finished work at the cross (John 19:30), reducing it to the level of the OT animal sacrifices that had to be made continually. Rome’s treachery in this matter of shifting salvation from the finished work of Christ to the unfinished work of the Roman church, needed to keep the OT-type priesthood busy, is explained concisely in:
Dave Hunt, “’Sacrifice’ of the Mass,” A Woman Rides the Beast. Eugene, OR: Harvest House Publishers, 1994, 369-387. [This book of biblical exposition, replete with history and prophetic critique, is definitive -- a classic of the twentieth century.]
Luke can be specific in recording placement in history, e.g., Luke 3:1-2. Because he did not record the date of Jesus’ birth, while giving other details about his birth (Luke 1:26-56; 2:1-39), we must conclude that the date of his birth in about 4B.C. (after adjustments are made from the old to the modern calendar) had no importance for doctrine, any more than do the unrecorded facts about his physical appearance, or the name of his sisters. For those who would speculate anyway, a date in late December is much too far into the cold season for the shepherds to have been out in the open all night (Luke 2:8). The day and month of Jesus’ birthday were not a matter of revelation, and therefore the exact date has no relevance for our understanding of the gospel.
Fallacy 5: That God incarnated himself by degrees (as a pair of gnostic aeons), by first becoming an angel (in the OT), and then that superangel’s becoming a man (in the NT).
Hebrews, chapter one, completely disallows any mixing of angelology into Christology. Popular support for the incarnation as occurring first in “the angel of the Lord” is bolstered by a coordinate misunderstanding of a phrase from the famous Christmas carol, O Come All Ye Faithful, with the line, “born the king of angels.” For a full examination of the mirage of Christoangelomorphology in all the supposed biblical texts and in the history of their interpretation, see:
William G. MacDonald, “Christology and the Angel of the Lord,” Current Issues in Biblical and Patristic Interpretation, ed. By Gerald F. Hawthorne. Eerdmans, 1975, pp 324-335.
Fallacy 6: That the shepherds and wise men arrived in Bethlehem at the manger on the same night, meeting and greeting each other, as well as the infant Jesus.
Matthew 2:10 indicates “house” as the place Jesus was when the wise men arrived. Contrast Luke’s saying “there was no room for them in the inn” (Luke 2:7) on the night of Jesus’ birth. Rooms of an inn were built on the second story around a patio. Underneath each room there would be the stable to tie, feed [hence the manger], and protect the travelers’ animals of transit.
Since Bethlehem was only five miles from Jerusalem, and a three days’ trip back to Nazareth, Joseph and Mary would have had an incentive to remain at Bethlehem until Mary could be purified [40 days] and Jesus, her firstborn, could be presented in Jerusalem in the temple (Luke 2:22-24).
Fallacy 7: That the evergreen Christmas tree, brought into English-speaking homes for just 200 of the past 2000 years, has validity because the cross was a “tree.”
“Tree” as a euphemism for a hewed upright with a crossbar for executing Roman criminals refers to Jesus’ cross in the NT (Acts 5:30, 10:39, 13:29, 1 Pet. 2:24). On his way to imminent crucifixion, Jesus spoke a riddle to the women who wailed for him along the road: “For if men do these things when the tree is green [the speedy miscarriage of justice that ordered the crucifixion of an innocent man], what will happen with it is dry?” [the destruction of Jerusalem in rebellion against Rome, to occur within the generation]. The Bible says nothing to justify a Christmas tree or its veneration. The OT more than 36 times mentions groves of idols where trees were venerated. Any connection of Jesus’ birth [or death] with a decorated balsam, douglas fir, or spruce tree is arbitrary, unwarranted, and derived from non-Christian historical roots.
Tree worship by ancient Semitic people also was practiced by medieval pagan Europeans, and in modern times the Teutonic/Germanic tree had migrated from Europe into the Christmas festival as its primary symbol. When compared with an animal’s feeding trough, the symbol of poverty making the birth of Jesus , a now artificial lighted “Christmas tree,” almost universally wins the competition to portray the focal center of the season in homes and churches. However ironic, it is not unusual for a fully trimmed 15’ tree to be gleaming near the pastor as he repeats his annual sermon on putting Christ back into Christmas. There is even a hymn to the Christmas tree sung in German [O Tannenbaum] and in English translation, but not sung in most churches--yet.
William G. MacDonald