Too often a bogus account bubbles up and gains a foothold in the population’s received version of things — and thereafter pitilessly refuse to go away. There’s the “President-George-H-W-Bush-Amazed-by-a-Cash-Register-Scanner” legend; there’s the twaddle about exploding Super-Bowl spousal abuse and the “pay gap” bedeviling women. All phony — but popularly believed — claims.
Apparently, certain, oft-repeated “facts” about “the most wonderful time of the year” are not exempted, either: things everyone “knows are true” about Christmas, which just ain’t so! Some are merely irksome; others downright corrosive, targeting the very heart of the joyful and sacred celebration.
It’s far past time to stuff these down the Grinch’s throat.
So, with no further ado …
Myth 1: Christmas is a ripped-off pagan festival: Saturnalia, the Roman “Sol Invictus” or winter solstice — my whole life I’ve heard it clucked nearly axiomatically: “Y’know, the church chose December 25 for Christmas Day to compete with pagan observances of [fill-in-the-blank] being held at the same time of year.” This charge, unsurprisingly, is a cherished article of secularist narrative. What’s really agitating is when supposed believers dutifully and uncritically parrot it.
Imagine my shock when I was informed this tidbit is almost certainly specious.
Space constraints forbid an exhaustive debunking , but suffice it to say: any historical evidence for swallowing this bah-humbug against my favorite holiday is emptier than Santa’s workshop December 26. I highly recommend Mark Shea’s mind-blowing essay on the debate — he actually crafts a doughty case for the conclusion that, in some cases at least, the Christmas-dissers get things exactly backwards (heathens echoed the church, not the other way around.) A brief, 2013 column by Eric Erickson is also handy. For that matter, Wikipedia’s article on the subject offers an unexpected drubbing of this lazy, but widespread, holiday-trashing hokum.
Myth 2: Christmas is off-limits because it’s become overloaded with pagan or “worldly” traditions: Christmas trees? Wreaths? Gift giving? Demonized facets of the season all?
It’s possible — even probable, in certain cases — some beloved holiday earmarks evolved from non-Christian elements.
At this point, it’s also largely irrelevant.
Consider: lots of spurious religions encourage prayer, fasting and meditation; they endorse the notion of corporate gatherings and holy writings. Curiously, true religion — faith in Christ — mirrors all of these practices, as well. Is the church off the beam because Christ-less systems reflect these similarities? Should Bible people abandon them because their non-Christian rivals say, “Me, too!”?
So, for example, what about the Christmas tree? A nature worshiping abomination? Offshoot of the Vikings? Or, as I’ve heard it stated, a late-night brainstorm of Martin Luther? Perhaps a compounding of medieval mystery play’s “Paradise Tree” and the “Christmas Pyramid” popular around the same time?
Who knows for sure? Who cares?
Culturally, living trees and evergreen foliage enjoy a hardy, longstanding — and BIBLICAL — heritage as symbols of God’s eternalness, of everlasting life. Idol worshipers, undeniably, have made use of the imagery — but so have followers of the God of Abraham, Issac, and Jacob. (Note: Genesis 21:33; Isaiah 41:18-20; 60:13; John 12:13). A bedecked conifer in the parlor or festive wreath brightening the front door has roots, in part at least, in a biblical motif.
Similarly, while it’s undeniable the modern concept of the Thanksgiving-Christmas-New-Year’s-Day stretch has become heinously clogged with materialism, stress and crass commercial manipulation, there’s an honorable solution for that regrettable situation: determinedly keep the holidays minus all of the nonsense.
The ages confirm: human beings manage to misuse, abuse, sully everything they touch with their sin-soiled fingers. The majority of the time, the preferred response should be not withdrawl or abstinence. Rather, it’s doing worthy things the proper, God-honoring way.
Myth 3: Christmas is not mentioned in the Bible, so it shouldn’t be in our lives!: Right-o, the word “Christmas”appears nowhere in Holy Writ. Then again, neither explicitly are “church building”, “choir practice”, “gospel tract” and “youth group” referenced in the Book. These contemporary facets of Christian life, nevertheless, are resolutely buttressed by Scriptural principles. That’s the crucial factor.
It’s a bizarre argument: Worshipers of Jesus Christ — the Lord of Life — should shy away from memorializing the occurrence of His miraculous arrival on planet earth — that is, His birth-day — simply because the New Testament fails to distinctly demand it?
Aren’t we supposed to make a big deal out of the realities that are a big deal to the Creator? Like the incarnation of His Son?
The concept of important days’ and outward practices’ being valuable tools for reinforcing vital spiritual milestones and truths is all over the Old and New Testaments (the Feasts of Israel, the Sabbath, water baptism, the Lord’s table, etc.).
Must a lover of Jesus throw up a silver-and-gold-adorned tree, hang a wreath, exchange gifts on December 25th morning or feast and make merry with loved ones later that afternoon? Of course not – yet he’s enthusiastically free to do so if any of it can augment his delight in the Savior (Colossians 2:16; Romans 14:5f).
Myth 4: Jesus = Zoroaster; or Osiris; or Horus. Or Whoever: A favorite talking point of the particularly “sophisticated” God-hostile set is the sneering indictment of the Son of God as merely a deficient copycat of other religious figures who chronologically preceded Him. The luminous “Nativity Story”, they sniff, (i.e., virgin birth, angels, shepherds) was filched from the Persian mythology of Zoroaster or Roman Mithra. Others imperiously insist it’s really details from ancient Egypt’s Osiris or Horus, or the Greek demi-god Hercules, which the New Testament writers were pathetically ape-ing in their gospel accounts.
Cutting to the apologetic chase: it’s more than fair to say the preponderance of these impious accusations collapses into the “mere assertion” category when subjected to the teeniest bit of scrutiny. That is, just smugly saying ’em don’t make ’em so. Most, if not comically exaggerated, are simply without any historic support whatsoever. (See tektonics.org for devastating delineation of these rebuttals.)
The life, ministry and teachings of Jesus? Incontestably unlike those of any other individual — authentic or imaginary — of any era. Sorry, Zoroaster, you’re not even in the same ballpark; let alone the same manger.
Myth 5: “Xmas” is blasphemous: Well-meaning believers who take offense at the use of “Xmas” in place of “Christmas” can relax. By all means, don’t abandon your righteous indignation; just channel it against genuine attacks on faith.
The sacrilegious who purposefully spout “Xmas” as a dig against religious folks? You ain’t getting it either.
Xmas is not an attempt to “x-out” the Messiah – or anything else — from the focus of the holiday. Indeed, for centuries it’s served as an abbreviation – albeit a reverent one – for the full term. The “X” is actually derived from the Greek letter Chi, which is the first letter of the Greek Χριστός. This translates into English as “Christ”.
“Xmas” is not diabolical; it’s shorthand.
It shouldn’t surprise that militantly Christ-allergic types would concoct these kinds of gobbledygook. Their mission is to trashcan confident devotion to Jesus. That professing disciples would buy into any of it, on the other hand? Perplexing.
I think it was Pastor Ken Sumrall who conceded, years ago, he couldn’t see the wisdom in believers’ refusing to participate in those few weeks during which the name of “Christ”, and a watershed moment in His glorious earthly ministry, is conspicuously and exuberantly highlighted practically everywhere. Seems some Christians won’t take “yes” for an answer.
Got a beef with Christmas? Feel free not to partake. But for Heaven’s sake — literally — leave alone those of us who opt to forgo the Scrooge route.
While I’m at it, one final Christmas myth to dispatch: Fruitcake, always inedible? With a cold glass of milk, in fact, a slice can really be quite tasty.
There, I said it.