CHRISTMAS Sun Worship Renamed

Introduction

 “Keep on making sure of what is acceptable to the Lord.”—EPHESIANS 5:10.

“THE true worshipers,” said Jesus, “will worship the Father with spirit and truth, for, indeed, the Father is looking for suchlike ones to worship him.” (John 4:23) When Jehovah finds such individuals—as he found you—he draws them to himself and to his Son. (John 6:44) What an honor that is! Lovers of Bible truth, however, must “keep on making sure of what is acceptable to the Lord,” for Satan is a master of deception.—Ephesians 5:10; Revelation 12:9.

2 Consider what occurred near Mount Sinai when the Israelites asked Aaron to make them a god. Aaron acquiesced and made a golden calf but implied that it represented Jehovah. “There is a festival to Jehovah tomorrow,” he said. Was Jehovah indifferent to this fusion of true religion and false? No. He had about three thousand idolaters put to death. (Exodus 32:1-6, 10, 28) Open Exodus32-1-14.htm The lesson? If we want to keep ourselves in God’s love, we must “touch nothing unclean” and jealously guard the truth against any form of corruption.—Isaiah 52:11; Ezekiel 44:23; Galatians 5:9.

3 Sadly, after the death of the apostles, who acted as a restraint against apostasy, so-called Christians who had no love of truth began to adopt pagan customs, celebrations, and “holy” days, which they dubbed Christian. (2 Thessalonians 2:7, 10) 2-Thess-2-3-12.htm As you consider some of these celebrations, note how they reflect, not the spirit of God, but that of the world. Generally speaking, worldly celebrations have a common theme: They appeal to fleshly desires, and they promote false religious beliefs and spiritism—the hallmarks of “Babylon the Great.” (Revelation 18:2-4, 23) Keep in mind, too, that Jehovah observed firsthand the disgusting pagan religious practices from which many popular customs originated. No doubt he finds such celebrations just as offensive today. Should not his view be what matters most to us?—2 John 6, 7.

4 As true Christians, we know that certain celebrations are not pleasing to Jehovah. But we need to be firmly determined in our heart to have absolutely nothing to do with them. A review of why Jehovah is displeased with such celebrations will strengthen our resolve to avoid anything that might hinder us from remaining in God’s love.

CHRISTMAS—SUN WORSHIP RENAMED

5 The Bible makes no mention of a birthday celebration for Jesus. In fact, his exact birth date is unknown. We can be sure, though, that he was not born on December 25 in the cold of winter in that part of the world. For one thing, Luke recorded that when Jesus was born, “shepherds [were] living out of doors” minding their flocks. (Luke 2:8-11) If “living out of doors” had been their habit year round, that would not have been noteworthy. However, because Bethlehem is subject to cold rains and snow, flocks were wintered under cover and shepherds would not have been “living out of doors.” Additionally, Joseph and Mary went to Bethlehem because Caesar Augustus had ordered a census. (Luke 2:1-7) It is highly unlikely that Caesar would have commanded a people who were resentful of Roman rule to travel to their ancestral cities in the dead of winter.

6 The roots of Christmas are found, not in Scripture, but in ancient pagan festivals, such as the Roman Saturnalia, a celebration dedicated to Saturn, the god of agriculture. Likewise, according to their reckoning, devotees of the god Mithra celebrated December 25 as the “birthday of the invincible sun,” says the New Catholic Encyclopedia. “Christmas originated at a time when the cult of the sun was particularly strong at Rome,” about three centuries after the death of Christ.

7 During their celebrations, pagans exchanged gifts and feasted—practices that Christmas preserved. As is also true today, however, much Christmas giving was not in the spirit of 2 Corinthians 9:7, which reads: “Let each one do just as he has resolved in his heart, not grudgingly or under compulsion, for God loves a cheerful giver.” True Christians give out of love, their giving is not tied to a date, and they expect no gifts in return. (Luke 14:12-14; Acts 20:35) Moreover, they deeply appreciate being set free from the Christmas frenzy and relieved of the heavy yoke of financial debt that many incur at that time of year.—Matthew 11:28-30; John 8:32.

8 But, some may argue, did not the astrologers present birthday gifts to Jesus? No. Their gift-giving was simply a way of paying their respects to a person of note, a common custom in Bible times. (1 Kings 10:1, 2, 10, 13; Matthew 2:2, 11) In fact, they did not even come on the night that Jesus was born. Jesus was, not a babe in a manger, but many months old and living in a house when they arrived.

BIBLICAL LIGHT ON BIRTHDAYS

9 Even though the birth of a baby has always been a cause for much joy, the Bible makes no reference to a birthday celebration for a servant of God. (Psalm 127:3) Was this simply an oversight? No, for two birthday celebrations are mentioned—that of a Pharaoh of Egypt and that of Herod Antipas. (Genesis 40:20-22; Mark 6:21-29) Both events, however, are presented in a bad light—especially the latter, which saw John the Baptizer beheaded.

10 “The early Christians,” notes The World Book Encyclopedia, “considered the celebration of anyone’s birth to be a pagan custom.” The ancient Greeks, for instance, believed that each person had a protective spirit that attended the person’s birth and thereafter watched over him. That spirit “had a mystic relation with the god on whose birthday the individual was born,” says the book The Lore of Birthdays. Birthdays also have a long-standing and an intimate link with astrology and the horoscope.

11 Besides rejecting birthday customs on account of pagan and spiritistic roots, God’s servants of old likely rejected them on principle as well. Why? These were humble, modest men and women who did not view their arrival in the world as so important that it should be celebrated. (Micah 6:8; Luke 9:48) Rather, they glorified Jehovah and thanked him for the precious gift of life.—Psalm 8:3, 4; 36:9; Revelation 4:11.

12 At death, all integrity-keepers are safe in God’s memory, and their future life is guaranteed. (Job 14:14, 15) Says Ecclesiastes 7:1: “A name is better than good oil, and the day of death than the day of one’s being born.” Our “name” is the good reputation we have gained with God through faithful service. Significantly, the only commemoration commanded for Christians involves, not a birth, but a death—that of Jesus, whose excellent “name” is the key to our salvation.—Luke 22:17-20; Hebrews 1:3, 4.

EASTER—FERTILITY WORSHIP IN DISGUISE

13 Promoted as a celebration of Christ’s resurrection, Easter is actually rooted in false religion. The name Easter itself has been linked to Eostre, or Ostara, the Anglo-Saxon goddess of the dawn and of spring. And how did eggs and rabbits come to be associated with Easter? Eggs “have been prominent as symbols of new life and resurrection,” says the Encyclopædia Britannica, while the hare and the rabbit have long served as symbols of fertility. Easter, therefore, is really a fertility rite thinly disguised as a celebration of Christ’s resurrection.

14 Would Jehovah condone the use of a filthy fertility rite to commemorate his Son’s resurrection? Never! (2 Corinthians 6:17, 18) In fact, the Scriptures neither command nor authorize the commemorating of Jesus’ resurrection in the first place. To do so in the name of Easter, therefore, is to be doubly disloyal.

HALLOWEEN IS FAR FROM HOLY

15 Known for its witches, goblins, and other grotesque decorations and paraphernalia, Halloween—also called All Hallows’ Eve or the eve of All Saints’ Day—can be traced back to the ancient Celts of Britain and Ireland. On the full moon nearest November 1, they celebrated the festival of Samhain, meaning “Summer’s End.” They believed that during Samhain, the veil between the human and the supernatural worlds was parted and that spirits, both good and evil, roamed the earth. The souls of the dead were thought to return to their homes, and families would put out food and drink for their ghostly visitors in hopes of appeasing them. Thus, when children today, dressed as ghosts or witches, go from house to house threatening a mischievous trick unless they receive a treat, they unwittingly perpetuate the rituals of Samhain.

KEEP YOUR WEDDING UNDEFILED

16 Soon, “no voice of a bridegroom and of a bride will ever be heard in [Babylon the Great] again.” (Revelation 18:23) Why? In part because of her spiritistic practices, which can defile a marriage right from the wedding day.—Mark 10:6-9.

17 Customs vary from country to country. Some customs that may appear innocent may have their roots in Babylonish practices that are supposed to bring ‘good luck’ to the bridal couple or their guests. (Isaiah 65:11) One such tradition involves the throwing of rice or its substitutes. This practice may have had its roots in the notion that food appeased evil spirits and kept them from doing injury to the bride and groom. Additionally, rice has a long mystical association with fertility, happiness, and longevity. Clearly, all who want to remain in God’s love will shun such tainted customs.—2 Corinthians 6:14-18.

18 Servants of Jehovah likewise refrain from worldly practices that may rob weddings and wedding receptions of Christian dignity or that may offend the conscience of some. For example, they avoid giving speeches tainted with hurtful sarcasm or sexual innuendos and refrain from practical jokes or remarks that can embarrass the newlyweds and others. (Proverbs 26:18, 19; Luke 6:31; 10:27) They also avoid lavish fairy-tale receptions that reflect, not modesty, but “the showy display of one’s means of life.” (1 John 2:16) If you are planning a wedding, never forget that Jehovah wants your special day to be something you can always look back on with joy, not regret.

TOASTING—A RELIGIOUS GESTURE?

19 A common practice at weddings and on other social occasions is toasting. The 1995 International Handbook on Alcohol and Culture says: “Toasting . . . is probably a secular vestige of ancient sacrificial libations in which a sacred liquid was offered to the gods . . . in exchange for a wish, a prayer summarized in the words ‘long life!’ or ‘to your health!’”

20 True, many people may not consciously view toasting as a religious or superstitious gesture. Still, the custom of lifting wine glasses heavenward might be viewed as a request to “heaven”—a superhuman force—for a blessing in a way that does not accord with that outlined in the Scriptures.—John 14:6; 16:23.

“YOU LOVERS OF JEHOVAH, HATE WHAT IS BAD”

21 Reflecting the plummeting standards of today’s world—a trend promoted either directly or indirectly by Babylon the Great—some countries sponsor annual carnivals or Mardi Gras, festivals that feature lewd dancing and that may even celebrate gay and lesbian lifestyles. Would it be appropriate for a ‘lover of Jehovah’ to attend or view such an event? Would his doing so reflect a genuine hatred for what is bad? (Psalm 1:1, 2; 97:10) How much better to imitate the attitude of the psalmist who prayed: “Make my eyes pass on from seeing what is worthless”!—Psalm 119:37.

22 On the days of worldly celebrations, a Christian would be careful that his conduct not give others the impression that he is joining in the celebration. “Whether you are eating or drinking or doing anything else,” wrote Paul, “do all things for God’s glory.” (1 Corinthians 10:31; see the box “Making Wise Decisions,” on pages 158-9.) On the other hand, if a custom or a celebration clearly retains no false religious significance, is not part of a political or patriotic observance, and violates no Bible principles, then each Christian might make a personal decision as to whether he will share in it. At the same time, he would consider the feelings of others so as not to become a cause for stumbling.

GLORIFY GOD IN WORD AND DEED

23 Many people view the days of certain popular celebrations primarily as opportunities for family and friends to get together. Thus, if someone wrongly assumes that our Scriptural stand is unloving or extreme, we can kindly explain that Jehovah’s Witnesses value wholesome gatherings of family and friends. (Proverbs 11:25; Ecclesiastes 3:12, 13; 2 Corinthians 9:7) We enjoy fellowship with loved ones throughout the year, but because of our love for God and for his righteous standards, we do not want to tarnish such happy occasions with customs that offend him.—See the box “True Worship Brings the Greatest Joy,” on page 156.

24 Some Witnesses have had good success in sharing with sincere inquirers points from chapter 16 of the book What Does the Bible Really Teach? Remember, though, that our goal is to win hearts, not arguments. So be respectful, maintain a mild temper, and “let your utterance be always with graciousness, seasoned with salt.”—Colossians 4:6.

25 As Jehovah’s servants, we are well-informed. We know why we believe and practice certain things and abstain from others. (Hebrews 5:14) So parents, teach your children to reason on Bible principles. By doing so, you build up their faith, you help them to give Scriptural answers to those who question their beliefs, and you assure them of Jehovah’s love.—Isaiah 48:17, 18; 1 Peter 3:15.

26 All who worship God “with spirit and truth” not only avoid unscriptural celebrations but also strive to be honest in every aspect of life. Today, many view honesty as impractical. But as we shall see in the next chapter, God’s ways are always the best.

[Footnotes]

See the box “Should I Join in the Celebration?” on pages 148-9. A number of specific “holy” days and celebrations are listed in the Watch Tower Publications Index, published by Jehovah’s Witnesses.

Based on Biblical reckoning and secular history, Jesus was likely born in 2 B.C.E. in the Jewish month of Ethanim, which corresponds to September/October on our present calendar.—See Insight on the Scriptures, Volume 2, pages 56-7, published by Jehovah’s Witnesses.

See the box “‘Holy’ Days and Satanism,” on page 150.

The Law covenant required that a woman, after giving birth, present a sin offering to God. (Leviticus 12:1-8) A poignant reminder that humans pass sin on to their children, this legal requirement helped the Israelites to have a balanced view of the birth of a child and may have discouraged them from adopting pagan birthday customs.—Psalm 51:5.

Easter has also been linked to the worship of the Phoenician fertility goddess, Astarte, who had as her symbols the egg and the hare. Statues of Astarte have variously depicted her as having exaggerated sex organs or with a rabbit beside her and an egg in her hand.

See the three articles on weddings and social gatherings in The Watchtower, October 15, 2006, pages 18-31.

See The Watchtower, February 15, 2007, pages 30-1.

Published by Jehovah’s Witnesses.

[Study Questions]

 1. What kind of people does Jehovah draw to himself, and why must they remain spiritually vigilant?

 2. Explain how Jehovah views those who try to fuse true religion with false.

3, 4. Why should we pay close attention to Bible principles when examining popular customs and celebrations?

 5. Why can we be certain that Jesus was not born on December 25?

6, 7. (a) The roots of many Christmas customs can be found where? (b) What contrast can be seen between Christmas giving and Christian giving?

 8. Did the astrologers present birthday gifts to Jesus? Explain.

 9. What is significant about birthday celebrations mentioned in the Bible?

10, 11. How did the early Christians view birthday celebrations, and why?

12. How can the day of our death be better than the day of our birth?

13, 14. What are the roots of popular Easter customs?

15. What is the origin of Halloween, and what may be significant about the date chosen to celebrate this holiday?

16, 17. (a) Why should Christian couples planning to get married examine local wedding customs in the light of Bible principles? (b) In regard to such customs as throwing rice or its substitutes, what should Christians take into consideration?

18. What Bible principles should guide both the couple planning a wedding and those invited to attend?

19, 20. What does one secular source say about the origin of toasting, and why is this custom unacceptable to Christians?

21. Even though they may not have a religious theme, what popular celebrations would Christians avoid, and why?

22. When might a Christian decide according to his own conscience whether he will share in a celebration or not?

23, 24. How might we give a good witness concerning Jehovah’s righteous standards?

25, 26. How can parents help their children to grow in faith and love for Jehovah?

[Box/Picture on page 148, 149]

SHOULD I JOIN IN THE CELEBRATION?

Principle: “‘Get out from among them, and separate yourselves,’ says Jehovah, ‘and quit touching the unclean thing’; ‘and I will take you in.’”—2 Corinthians 6:17.

Some questions to ask yourself about a popular celebration or custom

▪ Does it clearly have roots in a false religious practice or teaching, including spiritism?—Isaiah 52:11; 1 Corinthians 4:6; 2 Corinthians 6:14-18; Revelation 18:4.

▪ Does it give undue honor or adulation to a human, an organization, or a national symbol?—Jeremiah 17:5-7; Acts 10:25, 26; 1 John 5:21.

▪ Does it elevate one nation or ethnic group over another?—Acts 10:34, 35; 17:26.

▪ Does it reflect “the spirit of the world,” which works in opposition to God’s holy spirit?—1 Corinthians 2:12; Ephesians 2:2.

Could my participation in it be a cause for stumbling?—Romans 14:21.

▪ If I choose not to participate, how would I respectfully explain my reasons to others?—Romans 12:1, 2; Colossians 4:6.

The following scriptures may shed further light on questions about popular observances:

▪ “[Unfaithful Israelites] went mingling with the nations and took up learning their works.”—Psalm 106:35.

▪ “The person faithful in what is least is faithful also in much, and the person unrighteous in what is least is unrighteous also in much.”—Luke 16:10.

▪ “You are no part of the world.”—John 15:19.

▪ “You cannot be partaking of ‘the table of Jehovah’ and the table of demons.”—1 Corinthians 10:21.

▪ “The time that has passed by is sufficient for you to have worked out the will of the nations when you proceeded in deeds of loose conduct, lusts, excesses with wine, revelries, drinking matches, and illegal idolatries.”—1 Peter 4:3.

[Box on page 150]

“HOLY” DAYS AND SATANISM

  It is of interest to note that the most important day in the religion called Satanism is one’s birthday. Why? Because Satanists hold that each individual is a god if he chooses to view himself as one. Thus, to celebrate one’s own birthday is to celebrate the birth of a god. Of course, most people do not take such an extreme, egotistical view. Nevertheless, the book The Lore of Birthdays states: “Other holidays lift the heart, but birthdays warm the ego.”

  The next most “holy” days on the Satanists’ calendar are Walpurgis Night and Halloween. Merriam-Webster’s Collegiate Dictionary defines the former as “the eve of May Day on which witches are held to ride to an appointed rendezvous.”

[Box on page 156]

TRUE WORSHIP BRINGS THE GREATEST JOY

  Jehovah is “the happy God,” and he wants his servants to be happy. (1 Timothy 1:11) This fact is reflected in the following scriptures:

“The one that is good at heart has a feast constantly.”—Proverbs 15:15.

“I have come to know that there is nothing better for them than to rejoice and to do good during one’s life; and also that every man should eat and indeed drink and see good for all his hard work. It is the gift of God.”—Ecclesiastes 3:12, 13.

“As regards the generous one, it is for generous things that he has given counsel; and in favor of generous things he himself will rise up.”—Isaiah 32:8.

“Come to me, all you who are toiling and loaded down, and I [Jesus] will refresh you. . . . For my yoke is kindly and my load is light.”—Matthew 11:28, 30.

“You will know the truth, and the truth will set you free.”—John 8:32.

“Let each one [give] just as he has resolved in his heart, not grudgingly or under compulsion, for God loves a cheerful giver.”—2 Corinthians 9:7.

“The fruitage of the spirit is love, joy, peace, . . . kindness, goodness.”—Galatians 5:22.

“The fruitage of the light consists of every sort of goodness and righteousness and truth.”—Ephesians 5:9.

[Box on page 158, 159]

MAKING WISE DECISIONS

  At times, situations may arise that test our love for Jehovah and our grasp of Bible principles. For example, a Christian’s unbelieving marriage mate may invite him or her to have a meal with relatives on a worldly holiday. Some Christians may in good conscience accept; others may not. If a Christian does accept such an offer, his conduct should make it plain that he is not celebrating the holiday and that his visit is purely to enjoy a meal with relatives.

  It would be prudent for a Christian to speak respectfully to his marriage mate in advance, explaining the embarrassment that might occur if the relatives share in holiday activities and the Witness declines. The unbelieving mate might decide to visit on another day.—1 Peter 3:15.

  After hearing his wife’s explanation, what if the husband of a Christian woman still insists that she accompany him? She might conclude that as head of the household, he has the responsibility to provide food for the family. (Colossians 3:18) In this case, the meal is at the home of his relatives. She may even be able to give a fine witness on that occasion. The food is not contaminated just because it is eaten on a worldly holiday. (1 Corinthians 8:8) The Christian might view it as a common meal and not join in any holiday greetings, songs, toasts, and so forth.

  Another factor to be considered is the effect that sharing in such a meal might have on others. A Christian wife should take into account the possibility that others who learn of her visit with worldly relatives on that day might be stumbled.—1 Corinthians 8:9; 10:23, 24.

  In addition, will the family pressure the Christian wife to compromise? The desire to avoid any embarrassment can exert a powerful influence! So it would be important to think the matter through in advance, taking all these factors into consideration, including, of course, her own Christian conscience.—Acts 24:16.

Should I Accept a Christmas Bonus?

  During the Christmas season, a Christian’s employer may offer a present or a bonus. Should the Christian reject such? Not necessarily. The employer may not even be thinking that by accepting the bonus the receiver is celebrating Christmas. The employer may simply be giving all his workers a share of the company’s profits. Or the bonus may be evidence of his gratitude for services rendered all year long as well as a stimulus to continued good work. The employer may give a gift to all employees—Jews, Muslims, or others—regardless of whether they celebrate Christmas or not. So the mere timing of the gift or the name that may be associated with it does not necessarily rule out its acceptance by one of Jehovah’s Witnesses.

  Even if the gift is given because of a religious holiday, that does not mean that the recipient is thought to share the religious view. A fellow worker or a relative may tell a Witness, “I know that you do not celebrate this holiday, but I still want you to have this as a gift from me.” If the Christian’s conscience would be at rest, he might choose to accept the gift and express thanks without any reference to the holiday. (Acts 23:1) Perhaps at a time when there will be less likelihood of causing offense, the Christian can tactfully explain his stand.

  However, what if the one offering the gift has the clear intention of showing that the Christian is not firm in his beliefs or will compromise for material gain? Then it is definitely best to decline. To be sure, we want to render Jehovah God exclusive devotion.—Matthew 4:8-10.

[Picture on page 147]

True Christians give out of love

 

From Chapter 13 Celebrations That Displease God JW Book Called God’ Love 2008