Q & A: Is Christmas a Pagan Holiday?

Second Coming

Question and answer from the Bible Answer Man broadcast.

Lou in St. Louis, MO on KSIV: Hi, Hank. This is his wife. He had to go to work. My name is Ginger. The Bible talks about under one name you shall enter the gates of heaven. What is that name? We’ve read that God has been identified as Yahweh.

Hank: What’s really important is that you have the God who is revealed in Scripture. That one God, Yahweh in the Old Testament, is revealed as one God by nature, three in Person. Which is to say that the God of the Bible is a God who is one. We are fiercely monotheistic as believers, both Old Testament and New Testament believers. But if you read through the Bible, what you apprehend is that the Father is God, the Son is God and the Holy Spirit is God. Now, when we’re talking about Father, Son and Holy Spirit we’re talking about personal identification formed and completed on the basis of relationships within the Godhead.

So you might say, from a biblical perspective, that there’s one “What” and three “Who”s. If I were to say there was one God and three Gods I’d be obviously contradicting myself. But that’s not what the Bible says. It’s one God revealed in three Persons. And by the way, those three Persons are eternally distinct. So the Father never becomes the Son and the Son never becomes the Holy Spirit.

So it is in the name of Yahweh revealed in the Old Testament and manifested through Christ in the New – and remember Christ is the image of the invisible God, the firstborn over all creation. It is through the name of the one true God revealed in Scripture that we have entrance into a relationship with our Creator for both time and for eternity.

Ginger: Thank you so much for that. With regard to pagan holidays, some religions don’t celebrate Christmas or July 4th or anything. As Christians, are these considered pagan holidays?

Hank: I think this is a matter of conscience. I think that wonderful Christians have chosen not to celebrate those holidays for particular reasons, but I don’t think you want to do it for the wrong reasons. Sometimes you have the wrong reasons given, something that ends up being historical revisionism. As Christians we ought to be those committed to truth.

The issue here from a historical standpoint is simply this: that the holidays were never meant as a means of Christianizing something that’s pagan, but rather as a means of setting up a rival celebration. So, for example, Christmas is not the Christianizing of something that’s pagan, but it is a rival celebration intended to communicate that the real joy of the world is Christ Who, in the incarnation, comes and brings meaning, purpose and fulfillment to our lives and through Him we might have redemption, which is a reestablished relationship with God in full in the new time/space continuum, the new heavens and the new earth, and in part even now. So Christ came to give us life and to give us life more abundantly, even in the present.

So, again, the idea here is that we want to set up a rival celebration to say that this is something that we overtly celebrate to bring glory to the name of the One who came in a manger and lived a perfect life which we could never live, offers us His perfection as an absolutely free gift.

Ginger: Thank you very much. My last question is regarding the Sabbath day and what starts the first day. With regard to the Bible, is the first day of the week Saturday?

Hank: No, the first day of the week is Sunday. The last day of the week is Saturday. But the idea behind this, remember, is we were always given a pattern of recognition. Which is to say in Genesis we are to remember God’s creative prowess, and so we work six days and we rest on the seventh in honor of the One who created everything.

In Exodus it is the celebration of God’s liberation from oppression. But in the New Testament it becomes a celebration that we have through Christ in whom we have out Sabbath rest. That Sabbath rest ultimately comes as a result of the resurrection, and, therefore, the most dangerous snare that anyone could imagine in the early Christian church was a failure to recognize that Jesus was the substance that fulfilled the type and the shadow. So because of the resurrection of Jesus Christ, because of the descent of the Spirit on Pentecost Sunday, the early Christian church changed a theological tradition that had given them their national identity because Christ had risen from the dead and through Christ we have our Sabbath rest and therefore no longer slavishly bound to the Old Testament Laws with respect to the Sabbath such that if we did any work on the Sabbath we’d have to be stoned to death.

Those civil and ceremonial laws have ultimately been abrogated, and not only abrogated, but heightened ultimately in the resurrected Christ who fulfills the substance that once was shadow. We’ll be right back in just a moment with your questions.