By Joel A. Hess –
Just as the Hallmark channel and Freeform marked the holiday season with bizarre Christmas theme soap operas your friends with PhDs from the Discovery Channel have begun to distribute their dissertations about the pagan origins of Christmas. Now try not to get your self-righteous Hanes in a bunch and lose a friend. If, like watching Elf for the millionth time, you can’t help yourself, try one of the following responses.
- Point out that there is absolutely no smoking gun on the whole deal. Correlation is not causation. The winter solstice is not December 25. There is a little evidence that the 25th was chosen because it’s 9 months after Jesus’ death and people often believe that great heroes were conceived on the day of their death. Try to look at the evidence together. But don’t get your hopes up. We live in twenty-first century America, where critical thinking is considered to be a remnant of the dark ages and emotional reasoning has replaced the divining rod. It is just too much fun to rattle our Bible-thumping friends cages by saying “merry solstice” and “happy holidays.”
- If you want to really insult your party-pooping pagan wannabes, tell them to go join the bah humbugging Jehovah’s Witnesses, or better yet, the Puritans. They argue the same thing. Both banned Christmas because they believed it has pagan origins. Ha! Check mate!
- Or baffle your suddenly zealous expert on all things pagan by replying, “Who cares!” Even if it was proven that Christians chose to transform their celebration of the Sun to a celebration of the Son. How does that negate the claims of Christianity? It’s like erasing your wrong answer on a test and replacing it with the right one. Yes, it’s true, the faded pencil marks of the wrong answer are still visible beneath the darkened lines spelling Jesus! And yes, the evergreen is a great idea for demonstrating the evergreen life we have in Jesus. Candles do well to show us the light of Christ.
Thank you, pagans, for these great questions about life: Who made us? Why are we here? What’s our purpose? How cool that we know the answer: Jesus! And thank you for pointing out that humanity has not always believed in Jesus, and before Christ the western world was pagan. Because, guess what? I was pagan too, just like you. Every single Christian who has ever lived was once an idol-worshiping, tree-hugging, baby-sacrificing, moon-howling, sex-loving pagan!
Christmas is all about God converting pagans. But He doesn’t convert through armies or indoctrination camps, nor by simply changing the names of holidays or signs on temples.
Christmas is about a gentle God entering a broken world, not to condemn it but to save it. Christmas is about God not letting us live in darkness, fear, dysfunction and death. It’s about God seeking out the lost, reaching out to the rebel, even raising the dead!
Jesus did not die and rise in order to set up a new culture, religion, society or government. He died and rose to give people LIFE! The church’s task is not to set up new societies and governments but to announce to everyone the Good News. The universal fact! The historical truth! All sin has been paid for and death has been conquered! God will not hold your sins against you, and death will not be the end! Repent and believe the Good News; the Reign of God has come. Christ is risen! This is not just good news for Jews or Germans. It’s good news for everyone!
So don’t get mad at your neighbor who has suddenly become a tenured scholar on ancient history. Jesus died and rose for him too! Christmas is for him too!