By Hank Hanegraaff
Every year around Christmas time, serious concerns are voiced regarding the validity of celebrating Christmas. Some people note that the origins of Christmas are pagan, others point out that the Bible overtly denounces Christmas trees as idolatrous, and still others suggest that Santa Claus is a dangerous fairy tale.
First, in early Christianity, Christmas was celebrated precisely nine months after the feast of the Annunciation (March 25, the annual celebration of Gabriel announcing that Mary was to be the mother of God). While this is a historical fact, Saint Cyprian of Carthage (b. 210) also saw this as a divine paradox: “O what excellent and divine providence of the Lord, that on the day on which the sun was made, Christ should be born.” In other words, what a providence that on the day that pagans celebrated the birth of the Sun God (Natalis Invicti), Christians commemorate the birth of the Son of God. While the world has all but forgotten the Greco-Roman gods of antiquity, they are annually reminded that two thousand years ago Christ invaded time and space.
Furthermore, the Bible nowhere condemns Christmas trees as idolatrous. The oft-cited passage in Jeremiah 10:2–4 might at first glance appear to be compelling support for this idea, but context precludes the pretext. Jeremiah’s description of a tree chopped down in a forest, adorned with silver and gold, and fastened with a hammer and nails so that it would not totter is a reference to wooden idols, not Christmas trees. In fact, Christmas trees originated in Christian Germany two thousand years after Jeremiah’s condemnation of man-made idols. They evolved over time from two Christian traditions. One was a “Paradise tree” hung with apples as a reminder of the tree of life in the garden of Eden. The other was a triangular shelf holding Christmas figurines decorated by a star. In the sixteenth century, these symbols merged into the present Christmas tree tradition. Next Christmas you might well consider using the Christmas tree in an unbeliever’s home as a springboard or opportunity to explain the reason for the season, from the fall in Paradise to redemption in Christ.
Finally, believe it or not, even Santa can be saved! Far from merely being a dangerous fairy tale, Santa Claus is an Anglicized form of the Dutch name Sinter Klaas, which in turn is a reference to the real-life Saint Nicholas. According to tradition, Saint Nick not only lavished gifts on needy children but also valiantly supported the doctrine of the Trinity at the Council of Nicea in AD 325. Thus, Christians may legitimately look to Saint Nick as a genuine hero of the faith.
This December 25 as you celebrate the coming of Christ with a Christmas tree surrounded by presents, may the selflessness of Saint Nick be a reminder of the Savior who gave the greatest gift of all: “Greater love has no one than this, that one lay down his life for his friends” (John 15:13 NASB).
Now there were in the same country shepherds living out in the fields, keeping watch over their flock by night. And behold, an angel of the Lord stood before them, and the glory of the Lord shone around them, and they were greatly afraid. Then the angel said to them, “Do not be afraid, for behold, I bring you good tidings of great joy which will be to all people. For there is born to you this day in the city of David a Savior, who is Christ the Lord. And this will be the sign to you: You will find a Babe wrapped in swaddling cloths, lying in a manger.”
And suddenly there was with the angel a multitude of the heavenly host praising God and saying:
“Glory to God in the highest,
And on earth peace, goodwill toward men!”
Luke 2:8–14 NKJV
For further study please see, “Are Images of Jesus Idolatrous?”
**Note the preceding text is adapted from a new Revised and Updated version of The Complete Bible Answer Book that is forthcoming. When available we will update this page with corresponding information. Until then you can still purchase or receive for your partnering gift the current version by clicking here for purchase or here for partnering gift. ***