Christmas a pagan holiday?

Sol Invictus (or Saturnalia) was a festival to celebrate the birth of the “Unconquerable Sun” at the winter solstice when the sun starts to “grow” again (at least in the northern hemisphere). It has been suggested that Christianity has adopted the date of Christmas to be aligned with this pagan Roman festival (as early as the 4th century). What does this suggest about the nature of Christmas?

But for you who fear My name, the sun of righteousness will rise with healing in its wings; and you will go forth and skip about like calves from the stall. (Malachi 4.2 NAS)

Christianity truly made claim to that festival. Instead of worshiping a pagan notion of our sun conquering darkness, God’s Son came to be worshipped as the conqueror of darkness.

Christmas comes from the Middle English Christemasse literally meaning “Christ’s Mass.” I hope that Christians can reclaim this true meaning. I know this seems so cliché to say now, but really, this is the ultimate Mass. I am not Catholic by any means, but I can at least understand the importance. Go ahead, call it X-mas, I am ok with that, I know what X means.

I will try to save the typical “This is what Christmas is really all about…” I am sure you have all heard it, but are you living it? Do you really believe it? While the King James Version is not the most accurate, I think their rendition of Luke 2.14 is still appropriate and should be followed.

Glory to God in the highest, and on earth peace, good will toward men.

The more accurate (like from the NAS)

Glory to God in the highest, And on earth peace among men with whom He is pleased

is just as appropriate for this season. God is pleased with His people (even though he usually shouldn’t be) and has given us this celebration of the birth of the incarnate son. He is so pleased with us that He sent the Incarnate to die as the Suffering Servant for us. I encourage everyone to really look at who this Baby Jesus is and what He will do for us all. I leave you with this passage, I hope you will mediate on it, I hope it will bring you to tears in the realization that the tiny Baby Jesus whose birth we are about to celebrate is the same Jesus who took brutal beatings and a torturous death for us. Isaiah 52.13 - 53.12 from The Message

Just watch my servant blossom!
Exalted, tall, head and shoulders above the crowd!
But he didn’t begin that way.
At first everyone was appalled.
He didn’t even look human—
a ruined face, disfigured past recognition.
Nations all over the world will be in awe, taken aback,
kings shocked into silence when they see him.
For what was unheard of they’ll see with their own eyes,
what was unthinkable they’ll have right before them.”
Who believes what we’ve heard and seen?
Who would have thought GOD’s saving power would look like this?
The servant grew up before God—a scrawny seedling,
a scrubby plant in a parched field.
There was nothing attractive about him,
nothing to cause us to take a second look.
He was looked down on and passed over,
a man who suffered, who knew pain firsthand.
One look at him and people turned away.
We looked down on him, thought he was scum.
But the fact is, it was our pains he carried—
our disfigurements, all the things wrong with us.
We thought he brought it on himself,
that God was punishing him for his own failures.
But it was our sins that did that to him,
that ripped and tore and crushed him—our sins!
He took the punishment, and that made us whole.
Through his bruises we get healed.
We’re all like sheep who’ve wandered off and gotten lost.
We’ve all done our own thing, gone our own way.
And GOD has piled all our sins, everything we’ve done wrong,
on him, on him.
He was beaten, he was tortured,
but he didn’t say a word.
Like a lamb taken to be slaughtered
and like a sheep being sheared,
he took it all in silence.
Justice miscarried, and he was led off—
and did anyone really know what was happening?
He died without a thought for his own welfare,
beaten bloody for the sins of my people.
They buried him with the wicked,
threw him in a grave with a rich man,
Even though he’d never hurt a soul
or said one word that wasn’t true.
Still, it’s what GOD had in mind all along,
to crush him with pain.
The plan was that he give himself as an offering for sin
so that he’d see life come from it—life, life, and more life.
And GOD’s plan will deeply prosper through him.
Out of that terrible travail of soul,
he’ll see that it’s worth it and be glad he did it.
Through what he experienced, my righteous one, my servant,
will make many “righteous ones,”
as he himself carries the burden of their sins.
Therefore I’ll reward him extravagantly—
the best of everything, the highest honors—
Because he looked death in the face and didn’t flinch,
because he embraced the company of the lowest.
He took on his own shoulders the sin of the many,
he took up the cause of all the black sheep.

Merry Christmas to everyone. May God Bless you and your family in this time of celebration and may you realize that God is still there if you can’t celebrate.
May you truly live in God’s Shalom and peace.


Original post with comments. [UPDATE: The original post and comments are no longer available. :( Sorry!]

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