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Christian History and Pagan Traditions

We have arrived at the time of year where the remembrance of Christ’s birth enters the forefront of our thinking. While the Christmas celebration is decisively Christian, there can be no doubt that some of what we now reference as Christmas traditions, are traced back to pagan rituals and celebrations. The sounding of bells, for instance, is commonly thought to have its origins in the early pagan winter festivities. The purpose of ringing the bells was done with the intention of expelling evil spirits. In future centuries, bells resonated on Christmas Eve to welcome the spirit of Christmas with jubilant sound (Psalm 95:1). When Christians appreciate the pleasantness of a skilled bell choir playing Christmas carols, there is the reminder of the Lord’s advent into the world. It is not remembered for the driving out of malevolent spirits. Just last night, I attended a Christmas candlelight service with my family. It was a special moment of worship when the candles were aflame. What one might find interesting is that likewise, there was an ancient heathen ritual of lighting candles to banish the invasion of cold and dark weather. It is highly improbable that Christians today participate in this practice in order to honor a pagan exercise. Instead, believers are rejoicing in the Savior, Jesus Christ, the Light of the World (John 1:4-9). Furthermore, when I give presents to my family during the Christmas holiday, the gifts will not have less meaning just because a priestly magician sometime in the past conferred a gift to the family goat as part of the pagan sacrament. Instead, we recall the gifts given to the Christ-child by the Magi (Matthew 2:11), even as Jesus was the supreme gift ever given. His birth is, in fact, worthy of celebration. The priority and importance are not discovered in the initiation of some traditions, but rather the meaning to Christians today as the Son of God is celebrated. December 25th was obviously not cited in the biblical account as the day Jesus was born. Consequently, one cannot be assertive about it. Yet, even if the date is totally incorrect, there is still the occasion for thousands of individuals who wouldn’t attend church any other time of the year to go on Christmas day, and hear a presentation of the gospel of Christ. The date is unimportant. Remembering the birth of Christ is the priority. There is a practical word of advice that would speak to each person in this matter. If someone is fully convinced that they simply cannot, in good conscience, participate in a specific Christmas custom, just do not observe it. If you are entirely persuaded that a certain ritual is too soaked in paganism to honor God, merely abandon that practice. Conversely, if a person is convinced that honor and worship can be offered to God via a particular institution, worship God through it (Romans 14:5)! Christmas traditions can be a significant aspect of the honoring of the birth of the Savior, and they remind believers of the grand event that transformed the world eternally. The arrival of the baby Jesus would ultimately lead to His sacrifice on the cross some thirty-three years later. Ultimately, He gave everyone the opportunity for a new spiritual life, saving from sin, and creating children of God (Colossians 1:20).

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