Keith Hunt - THE FACTS ABOUT CHRISTMAS Restitution of All Things


THE FACTS ABOUT CHRISTMAS

CHRISTMAS - DECEMBER 25 - is the day designated on our calendars
as the day of Christ's birth.  But is this really the day upon
which Christ was born?  Are today's customs at this season of the
year of Christian origin?  Or, is Christmas another result of a
mixture between paganism and Christianity?


WHEN WAS CHRIST BORN?

The word "Christmas" is not found anywhere in the scriptures of
course, and as we shall see,  December 25 is definitely not the
date on which Christ was born.  It is evident that our saviour
was not born during the middle of winter, for at the time of his
birth the shepherds were living out in the fields with their
flocks.  As the scripture says:
"There were in the same country shepherds abiding in the field,
keeping watch over their flock by night"(Luke 2:8).  As is well
known, the shepherds in Palestine do not "abide in the fields"
during the winter season. The shepherds always bring their flocks
in from the mountain slopes and fields not later than about the
fifteenth of October.

It is quite evident then that Christ was not actually born in the
middle of the winter season.  But, on the other hand, do the
scriptures tell us what season of the year He was born? Yes, the
scriptures indicate that He was born in the FALL of the year. 
For example, our Lord's public ministry lasted for three and a
half years (Dan. 9:27, etc.). 
His ministry came to an end at the time of the Passover (John
18:39), which was in the Spring of the year.  And so three and a
half years before this would make the beginning of His ministry
the FALL of the year.

Now, when Jesus began His ministry, He was about thirty years of
age (Luke 3:23). 
This was the recognized age for a priest before he could become
an official minister under the Old Testament (Numbers 4:3). 
Therefore, since Christ began his ministry at the age of about
30, and since this was in the fall season of the year,  then
thirty years before this would mark His birth as being in the
early FALL, not December 25.

While the scriptures do not tell the exact date of the birth of
Jesus, there is a way to figure the approximate time of the birth
of John the Baptist; and since John was born six months before
Jesus. By comparing the two, we can again determine at least the
SEASON in which Christ was born, as we shall see below.

John's father, Zacharias, was a priest in the temple at
Jerusalem. During those times, each priest had a definite period
of the year in which to serve in the temple.  There were 24 such
time divisions or "courses" when each priest would serve during
the year.  The names of these courses are given in I Chronicles
24:7-19. According to Josephus [Antiquities of the Jews, Vol.7,
p.14,7], each of these courses lasted for one week, the first
course began serving in the first month, Nisan, in the very early
spring (1 Chron. 27:1,2).  Each priest in order would then serve
his course.  After six months, this order of courses would be
repeated, so that each priest served a week - twice a year. Then
three weeks out of the year all of the priests served together -
during the periods of the Passover, Pentecost, and the Feast of
Tabernacles.

With these facts for our foundation, let us notice what course it
was that Zacharias served: "There was in the days of Herod, the
king of Judea, a certain priest named Zacharias, OF THE COURSE OF
ABIA" - or, in Hebrew, Abijah - "and it came to pass that while
he executed the priest's office before God in the order of his
course there appeared unto him an angel."  The angel revealed
that to him and his wife Elizabeth - though they were advanced in
years - a son would be born (Luke 1:5-13).

But what time of the year was it that Zacharias served the course
of Abijah? 
According to 1 Chronicles 24:10, the course of Abijah was the
EIGHTH in order.  This would have been lyar 27 to Sivan 5; that
is, June 1 to 8.  Following his week of service in the temple,
Zacharias was obligated to remain another week - for the
following week was Pentecost.  But as soon as this ministry was
accomplished, he returned to his home in the hill country - which
was approximately 30 miles south of Jerusalem, and his wife
conceived (Luke 1:23-24).  This was about the middle of
June.  By adding nine months then, we arrive at the approximate
date of John's birth. 
According to this, John was born in the early spring of the year.

Now, since Jesus was six months younger than John (verses 26,36),
we simply add these six months to the time of John's birth in the
early spring and come to Mid-September as the approximate time of
the birth of Christ.  Again, the evidence indicates that our Lord
was born in the FALL of the year; not December 25.

Still further proof of this conclusion may be seen from the fact
that at the time Jesus was born Joseph and ~Mary had gone to
Bethlehem to be taxed (Luke 2:1-5).  There are no records of this
period whatsoever that would indicate the middle of the winter
was the time of taxing.  On the other hand, there is evidence
that taxes were paid in the fall season of the year. This was the
logical time for the taxes to be paid - since this was at the end
of their harvest.  There is also evidence that when Joseph and
Mary made this trip it was the time of a great feast at
Jerusalem.  This is the most logical reason why Mary went with
Joseph - to attend the feast (as they also did on later occasions
- See Luke 2:41), for there was no law that required a woman's
presence at a taxing.

We know that the time they went to pay taxes was also the time of
one of the great feasts at Jerusalem because of the enormous
crowd - so enormous, in fact, "there was no room in the inn at
Bethlehem (Luke 2:7).  Jerusalem was normally a city of only
120,000 inhabitants, but, according to Josephus, during the
feasts sometimes as many as two million Jews would gather there.
With such vast throngs of people coming to the feast, not only
would Jerusalem be filled, but the surrounding towns also,
including Bethlehem, which was only five miles to the south. Mere
taxation would not cause a crowd this big to be in Bethlehem, for
each person returned to his own city to be taxed.  And so, taking
all these things into consideration, it seems evident that Joseph
and Mary made the journey, not only to pay their taxes, but also
to attend a great feast at Jerusalem.  This was at the end of the
harvest season that they were taxed; and this was also the time
of the Feast of Tabernacles.  All of this - as well as the
evidence already given - would mark the birth of Christ in the
fall, not December 25th.


HOW DID WE GET CHRISTMAS?

Since Christ was not born on December 25, then how did this
particular day come to be a part of the church calendar?

History has the answer.  Instead of this day being the time of
our Saviour's birth, it was the very day and season on which the
pagans for centuries had celebrated the birth of the Sun-god.  A
study into this shows how far apostate church leaders went in
their effort to merge Christianity and paganism into one apostate
religion - even to placing the birth of Christ on a date to
harmonize with the pagan birthday celebration of the sun-god. It
was in the FIFTH Century that the Roman Catholic Church
commanded that the birth of Christ be observed forever on
December 25 - the day of the old Roman feast of the birth of Sol
(one of the names of the sun-god). 
[Encyclopedia Americana, Vol. 6, p.623]

In pagan days, this birth of the sun-god was especially popular
among that branch of the "Mysteries" known as Mithraism.
Concerning this, we read: "1. The largest pagan relIgious cult
which fostered the celebration of December 25 as a holiday
throughout the Roman and Creek worlds was the pagan sun worship -
Mithraism. This winter festival was called 'the Nativity' - the
'nativity of the SUN.' " [The Golden Bough, p. 4713].  And not
only was Mithra, the sun-god of Mithraism, said to be born at
this time of the year, but Osiris, Horus, Hercules, Bacchus,
Adonis, Jupiter, Tammuz, and other sun-gods were also supposedly
born at what is called the "Christmas" season - the winter
solstice. [Doane, p. 474; Hislop, p.933].

Says a noted writer: "The winter solstice (was) the time at which
all the sun-gods from Osiris to Jupiter and Mithra had celebrated
their (birthdays), the celebration being adorned with the pine
tree of Adonis, the Holy of Saturn, and the Mistletoe tappers
represented the kindling of the newborn sun-god's fire..." [Man
and His Gods, p.2013].

Now, the fact that the various sun-gods that were worshipped in
different countries were all believed to have been born at the
same season (in the old fables), would seem to indicate that they
were but different forms (under different names) of the original
son of the sun-god, Tammuz, of Babylon, the land from which
sun-worship originally spread.

In Babylon, the birthday of Tammuz was celebrated at the time of
the Winter solstice with great feasts, revelry, and drunkenness;
the same way many celebrate it today. 
The ancient celebration spread and became so much an established
custom that "in pagan Rome and Greece, in the days of the
Teutonic barbarians, in the remote times of ancient Egyptian
civilization, in the infancy of the race East and West and North
and South, the period of the winter solstice was ever a period of
rejoicing and festivity." [Curiosities of Popular Customs,
p.242].

When this mid-winter festival came to Rome, it was known as the
Saturnalia (Saturn being but another name of Nimrod or Tammuz as
"the hidden god").  This feast was the most vile, immoral feast
that ever disgraced pagan Rome.  It was a season of license,
drunkenness, and debauchery, when all restraints of law were laid
aside.  And it was from this very feast at Rome that the
merry-making of this season passed into the Roman Catholic Church
and on down to our present civilization:  "It is a matter of
common knowledge," says one writer, "that much of our association
with the Christmas season - the holidays, the giving of presents
and the general feeling of geniality - is but the inheritance
from the Roman winter festival of the Saturnalia survivals of
paganism." [The Legacy of Rome p.242].


GIFT GIVING AT CHRISTMAS

Surely the giving of gifts is taken from the nativity story, some
will say.  But if we read carefully we shall see that the gifts
were given to CHRIST - not exchanged among themselves. So, from
where did this custom of people exchanging presents between
themselves come from?

In the book "Christian Feasts and Customs" by Francis Weiser
[p.110-111], we read this:

The practice of giving presents was also an old Roman custom,
called "strenae."  On New Year's Day the people of ancient Rome,
exchanged gifts of sweet pastry, lamps, precious stones, and
coins of gold or silver, as tokens of their good wishes for a
happy year.  This custom and even its name (etrennes) have been
preserved among the French people to the present day.  In most
countries, however, the present-giving has become a part of the
actual Christmas celebration.

In Germany the packages of Christmas gifts were called "Christ
bundles."  They contained candy, sugar plums, cakes, apples,
nuts, dolls, and toys; useful things like clothes, caps, mittens,
stockings, shoes and slippers; and things "that belong to
teaching, obedience and discipline," such as ABC tables, paper,
pencils, books; and the "Christ rod."  This rod, attached to the
bundle, was a pointed reminder for good behavior.  Another form
of presenting gifts was the old German custom of the "Christmas
ship," in which bundles for the children were stored away.  This
was adopted in England to some extent, but never attained general
popularity, though special carols for the occasion were sung in
both countries.


GIFTS AND GIFT-BRINGERS

A popular Christmas custom in Britain is "boxing" on the feast of
Saint Stephen, December 26.  It originated because in medieval
times the priests would empty the alms boxes in all churches on
the day after Christmas and distribute the gifts to the poor of
the parish.  In imitation of this practice, workers, apprentices,
and servants kept their own personal "boxes" made of earthenware,
in which they stored savings and donations throughout the year. 
At Christmas came the last and greatest flow of coins, collected
from patrons, customers, and friends.  Then, on the day after
Christmas, the box was broken and the money counted.   This
custom was eventually called "boxing" (giving and accepting
presents).  Each present is a box, and the day of presentation is
Boxing Day.

Tertullian mentions that the practice of exchanging gifts at this
season was a part of the pagan Roman Saturnalia.  When this
midwinter festival was adopted into the Roman church, this custom
was also adopted.  As usual, however, apostate leaders tried to
find some point of similarity between the pagan and Christian
religion - to make the merger seem less obvious.
In this case, reference was made to the fact that the wise men
when they came to see the Christ-child presented to Him gifts. 
Some suppose that this is where the custom of exchanging gifts at
Christmas time came.  But not so.  The wise men did not
exchange gifts among themselves.  They presented their gifts to
JESUS, who was born king of the Jews  (It was an Eastern custom
to present gifts when coming into the presence of a King).  But
these gifts were not birthday gifts.  When the wise men arrived,
it was some time after the day on which Jesus was born.  By this
time  he was no longer in a stable, but in a HOUSE (Matt 2:9-11).
Obviously, the gifts of the wise men were not Christmas gifts.

THE ORIGIN OF SANTA CLAUS

Certainly, no one claims that the jolly fat man with a long white
beard, known as Santa Claus, is taken from the Bible. Where then
did he come from?
Francis Weiser says:

"After the Reformation, the feast and veneration of Saint
Nicholas, the patron of little children, were abolished in many
countries.  Soon people in those countries forgot the saint who
had once been so dear to them.  Only here and there a trace of
him would linger on; as, for example, in the pageant of the 'Boy
Bishop' in England, and in the name Pelznickel (Fur Nicholas),
which many people in western Germany gave to their Christmas Man
(Pelsnichol - now among the Pennsylvania Dutch).

When the Dutch came to America and established the colony of New
Amsterdam, their children enjoyed the traditional 'visit of Saint
Nicholas' on December 5, for the Dutch had kept this ancient
Catholic custom even after the Reformation.  Later, when
England took over the colony and it became New York, the kindly
figure of Sinter Klaas (pronounced like Santa Claus) soon aroused
among the English children the desire of having such a heavenly
visitor come to their homes, too.

The English settlers were glad and willing to comply with the
anxious wish of their children. However, the figure of a Catholic
saint and bishop was not acceptable in their eyes, especially
since many of them were Presbyterians, to whom a bishop was
repugnant.  In addition, they did not celebrate the feast of
saints according to the ancient Catholic calendar.

The dilemma was solved by transferring the visit of the
mysterious man whom the Dutch called Santa Claus from December 5
to Christmas, and by introducing a radical change in the figure
itself.  It was not merely a 'disguise' but the ancient saint was
completely replaced by an entirely different character.  Behind
the name Santa Claus actually stands the figure of the pagan
Germanic god Thor (after whom Thursday is named).  Some details
about Thor from ancient German mythology will show the origin of
the modern Santa-Claus tale:

Thor was the god of the peasants and the common people.  He was
represented as an elderly man, jovial and friendly, of heavy
build, with a long white beard,  His element was the fire, his
color red.  The rumble and roar of thunder were said to be
caused by the rolling of his chariot, for he alone among the gods
never rode on horseback but drove in a chariot drawn by two white
goats (called Cracker and Gnasher).  He was fighting the giants
of ice and snow, and thus became the Yule-god.
He was said to live in the 'Northland' where he had his palace
among icebergs.  By our pagan forefathers he was considered as
the cheerful and friendly god, never harming the humans but,
rather, helping and protecting them.  The fireplace in every
home was especially sacred to him, and he was said to come down
through the chimney into his element, the fire."

Your Bible says that GOD is the GIFT GIVER - not Santa Claus.

"Every good gift and every perfect gift is from above, and cometh
down from the father of lights ....." (Jam. 1:17).  When we teach
our children otherwise, we put another god before them and us. 
The true and only God says we are not do it: "You shall have NO
OTHER gods beside (in place of) me" (Ex.20:3).


THE YULE LOG

The World Book Encyclopedia says:

"The custom of burning the yule (pronounced yool) came from the
Norse and Anglo-Saxons.  They burned a huge oak log once a year
to honor Thor, the god of thunder.  After the Norse became
Christians, they made the yule log an important part of their
word yule to mean Christmas.  In Lithuania, the word for
Christmas actually means 'log evening'. The yule log became
equally important in England. The English considered it good luck
to keep an unburned part of the log to light the next year's
yule log."


THE MISTLETOE

Francis Weiser, in his book "Christian Feasts and Customs"  has
this to say regarding the mistletoe:

"THE MISTLETOE. The mistletoe was a sacred plant in the religion
of the Druids in Britain.  It was believed to have all sorts of
miraculous qualities, such as the power of healing diseases,
making poisons harmless, giving fertility to humans and animals,
protecting from witchcraft, banning evil spirits, bringing good
luck and great blessings. 
In fact, it was considered so sacred that even enemies who
happened to meet beneath the mistletoe in the forest would lay
down their arms, exchange a friendly greeting, and keep a truce
until the following day.

>From this old custom grew the practice of suspending mistletoe
over a doorway or in a room as a token of good will and peace to
all comers.  A kiss under the mistletoe was interpreted as a
sincere pledge of love and a promise of marriage, and, at the
same time, it was an omen of happiness, good fortune, fertility,
and long life to the lovers who sealed and made known their
engagement by a kiss beneath the sacred plant.

After Britain was converted from paganism to Christianity, the
bishops did not allow the mistletoe to be used in churches
because it had been the main symbol of a pagan religion.  Even to
this day mistletoe is rarely used as a decoration for altars.
There was, however, one exception; e.g.  At the Cathedral of York
at one period before the Reformation, a large bundle of mistletoe
was brought into the sanctuary each year at Christmas and
solemnly placed on the altar by a priest.  In this rite the plant
that the Druids had called 'All-heal' was used as a symbol of
Christ, the Divine Healer of nations.

The people of England then adopted the mistletoe as a decoration
for their homes at Christmas.  Its old, pagan religious meaning
was soon forgotten, but some of the other meanings and customs
have survived: the kiss under the mistletoe; the token of good
will and friendship; the omen of happiness and good luck; and the
new religious significance."


THE HOLLY

When the earth turns brown and cold, the holly, with its shiny
green leaves and bright red berries, seems to lend itself
naturally to Christmas decoration.  Its appearance in
the homes of old England opened the season of feasting and good
cheer. Today, holly is not only hung at doors and windows, on
tables and walls, but its green leaves and red berries have
become the universal symbol of Christmas, adorning greeting
cards, gift tags and labels, gift boxes and wrapping paper at
Christmas time.

Medieval superstition in England endowed holly with a special
power against witchcraft.  Unmarried women were told to fasten a
sprig of holly to their beds at Christmas to guard them
throughout the year from being turned into witches by the
Evil One.  In Germany, branches of holly that had been used as
Christmas decoration in church were brought home and
superstitiously kept as charms against lightning. 
Another superstition claimed that holly brought good luck to men,
and that ivy brought it to women.  The holly, therefore, is
always referred to as "he," while the ivy is the distaff plant.


THE IVY

In pagan Rome, the ivy was the badge of the wine god Bacchus, and
was displayed as a symbol of unrestrained drinking and feasting. 
For this reason it was later banished from Christian homes.  The
old tradition in England ruled that ivy should be banned from the
inside of homes and should be allowed to grow only on the
outside. 
Accordingly, the use of ivy as a Christmas decoration was opposed
by most people in medieval England.  On the continent of Europe
it was hardly ever used for that purpose. But a symbolism of
human weakness clinging to divine strength was
frequently ascribed to the ivy; and this prompted some poets in
old England to defend ivy as a decoration at Christmas time.


CHRISTMAS CARDS

People did not exchange Christmas cards until fairly recent
times.  The first specially-designed Christmas card is believed
to have been printed by a London company and placed on sale in
1843.  Charles Goodall & Sons of London began printing and
selling Christmas cards on a wide scale in 1862.  Printed cards
soon became as popular as the handwritten personal notes that
people had exchanged. 
Louis Prang, a Boston lithographer, began printing multicolored
Christmas cards in 1865, and marketed them in Europe.  In 1875,
he sold them in the United States.


THE CHRISTMAS TREE

And, finally, in connection with the customs of the "Christmas"
season, we will mention THE CHRISTMAS TREE.

An old Babylonish fable went like this: Semiramis, the mother of
Tammuz, claimed that overnight an evergreen tree sprang up from a
dead tree stump.  The dead stump supposedly symbolized her dead
husband Nimrod.  The new evergreen tree was the symbol that
Nimrod had come to life again in the person of Tammuz.

This idea spread and developed so that the various nations all
have had their legends about "sacred trees."  Among the Druids,
the oak was sacred; among the Egyptians, it was the palm; and in
Rome, it was the fir, which was decorated with red berries during
the Saturnalia [Curiosities of Popular Customs, p. 242].  The
Scandinavian god Woden or Odin was believed to bestow special
gifts at Yuletide to those who honoured him by approaching his
sacred FIR TREE [Festivals, Holy Days, and Saints' Days, p. 222].

And even as other rites of the Yuletide season were absorbed into
"Christianity" so also is the widespread use of the tree at this
season a carryover of an ancient practice.  "The Christmas tree
.... recapitulates the idea of tree worship gilded nuts
and balls symbolizing the sun .... all of the festivities of the
(pagan) winter solstice have been absorbed into Christmas day
.... the use of holly and mistletoe to the Druidic ceremonies;
the Christmas tree to the honours paid to Odin's sacred fir ...."

[Ibid, p. 23].

In at least ten Biblical references, the "green" tree is
associated with idolatry and false worship [Deut. 12:2; 1 Kings
14; 2 Kings 16:4, 17:10; 2 Chron. 3:6, 13; 17:2; Ez. 6:13]. 
Now, of course, all trees are green at one time or another.
Apparently then, the references to the "green" tree refer to a
tree that is especially noted for being green,    the evergreen
or a tree of that family.  Taking all of this into consideration,
it is interesting to notice the reading of Jeremiah 10:1-5 and
compare it with today's custom of decorating a tree at the
Christmas season:

"The customs of the people are vain: for one cutteth a tree out
of the forest, the work of the hands of the workman with the axe.
They fasten it with nails and hammers. They deck it with silver
and with gold."

Jeremiah may not have actually been referring to our modern
practice of cutting and decorating the popular "Christmas tree"
as such, but it was something of the same nature. It was what the
heathen did to a tree within a part of their festival worship
towards their false gods.
Now, of course the people in the days of Jeremiah, as the context
goes on to show, were actually worshipping and idolizing the
tree.  We do not mean to infer that people who today place
Christmas trees in their homes and churches are WORSHIPPING the
tree. What we are saying is that today's use of the tree is
plainly a carryover from paganism - in a much modified form, of
course. But whatever the difference may be between the ancient
use of the tree as compared with present-day customs, no one
can deny that these things of which we have been speaking are
customs of men.  And God says:  "The customs of the people are
vain" - worthless, empty... They add no power to true worship.

The Eternal plainly teaches us in this passage from Jeremiah that
we are NOT to learn the ways of the heathen in our worship
practices towards Him. The Lord is just re-iterating what He gave
to Israel a long time before through Moses. It is found in the
last verses of Deuteronomy 12.


CHRISTMAS ONCE OUTLAWED

With the Reformation in the sixteenth century, there naturally
came a sharp change in the Christmas celebration for many
countries in Europe.  The Sacrifice of the Mass - the very soul
of the feast - was suppressed.  The Holy Eucharist, the liturgy
of the Diving Office, the sacramentals and ceremonies all
disappeared. So did the colorful and inspiring processions, the
veneration of the Blessed Virgin Mary and the saints.

In England the Puritans condemned even the reduced religious
celebration that was held in the Anglican Church after the
separation from Rome.  They were determined to abolish Christmas
altogether, both as a religious and as a popular feast. 
Pamphlets were published denouncing Christmas as pagan, and its
observance was declared to be sinful.  In this anti-Christmas
campaign these English sects were much encouraged by the example
of similar groups in Scotland, where the celebration of the feast
was forbidden as early as 1583, and punishment inflicted on all
persons observing it.

When the Puritans finally came to political power in England,
they immediately proceeded to outlaw Christmas.  The year 1642
saw the first ordinances issued for-bidding church services and
civic festivities on Christmas Day.  In 1644, the monthly
day of fast and penance was appointed for December 25.  The
people, however, paid scant attention to these orders, and
continued their celebrations.  There was thus inaugurated a great
campaign of two years duration (1645-1647).  Speeches, pamphlets
and other publications, sermons and discussions were directed
against the celebration of Christmas, calling it "antichrist-
Mass, idolatry, abomination," and similar names.  Following this
barrage of propaganda, Parliament on June 3, 1647 ordained
that the Feast of Christmas (and other holidays) should no longer
be observed under pain of punishment.  On December 24, 1652 an
act of Parliament again reminded the public that "no observance
shall be had on the five-and-twentieth of December, commonly
called Christmas day; nor any solemnity used or exercised in
churches in respect thereof."

Each year, by order of Parliament, town criers went through the
streets a few days before Christmas, reminding their fellow
citizens that "Christmas day and all other superstitious
festivals" should not be observed, that market should be kept and
stores remain open on December 25.

During the year 1647 popular riots broke out in various places
against the law suppressing Christmas, especially in London,
Oxford, Ipswich, Canterbury, and the whole county of Kent.  In
Oxford there was a "world of skull-breaking;" in Ipswich the
festival was celebrated "with some loss of life;" in Canterbury
"the mob mauled the mayor, broke all his windows as well as his
bones, and put fire to his doorsteps."  An ominous note was
sounded against the republican Commonwealth at a meeting of ten
thousand men from Kent and Canterbury, who passed a solemn
resolution saying that "if they could not have their Christmas
day, they would have the King back on his throne again."

The government, however, stood firm and proceeded to break up
Christmas celebrations by force of arms.  People were arrested in
many instances but were not punished beyond a few hours in jail. 
Anglican ministers who decorated their churches and held service
on Christmas Day were removed from their posts and replaced by
men of softer fibre.  Slowly and relentlessly, the external
observance of Christmas was extinguished.  December 25 became a
common workday, and business went on as usual.  But in spite of
these repressive measures many people still celebrated the day
with festive meals and merriment in the privacy of their homes.


DOES IT MAKE ANY DIFFERENCE?

To use PAGAN practices to worship makes no difference - IF THERE
IS NO GOD.  But IF THERE IS a God it does make a difference. For
God has the right to... tell us HOW to worship Him.  It is not
for man to decide HOW he will worship God - only whether we will
worship Him the WAY God Himself sets.

Catholics believe that even though a rite or custom was
originally paganistic, if it is applied to Christ, then it is
acceptable to God, even though it has no Scriptural basis.
But this is mere human reasoning - a reasoning that is completely
contrary to the written word of God. Let us notice this
carefully.

Let us notice how this was the case in the days when the
Israelites set up the golden calf (Ex.32).

None who read this account would deny that such worship as they
engaged in was false, heathenistic, and an abomination in the
sight of God.  They wanted a god they could see - a sort of
supplement to their worship of the invisible and Eternal God. 
And so they set up the golden calf - a symbol of the son of the
sun-god.  They sat down to eat and drink and rose up to play. 
They practiced heathenistic rites in which they made themselves
naked (verse 25).  Whatever these rites may have been, they
were no doubt rites that they had learned in the pagan land of
Egypt; which, in turn, had received its paganism from Babylon.

We have record that in Babylon there were certain heathenistic
rites that priests carried out naked. Nevertheless, it is evident
that the worship of the golden calf into which the Israelites
fell was paganistic to the core.  YET - and this is the main
thing we wish to point out - they claimed that they were having a
"feast to the LORD" - the true God.

Here then wax a MIXTURE - an attempt to merge heathenistic rites
into their worship and call it a feast to the LORD.  Did God
approve of this worship?  We all know the answer.  About three
thousand fell by the sword as a result of such apostasy.  Now, if
God did not accept such worship then, even though they said it
was a feast to the LORD, then why should we suppose that He
accepts worship today that is likewise a MIXTURE - a mixture
between paganism and Christianity?

During the forty years of wandering in the wilderness (Amos 5),
the children of Israel carried the Tabernacle of God.  They were
strong believers in the true God, as we all know.  However, some
of them were not content with this; so they added something.
They made unto themselves a Babylonian tabernacle that they
carried with them also. 
As God said: "But ye have borne the tabernacle of your Moloch and
Chiun, your images" (Amos 5:26). This apostasy is also mentioned
in the New Testament where these idol gods they carried are
called Remphan and Chiun, which are but different
names of BAAL (Nimrod) and ASTARTE (the Mother- Goddess).  
Because of this mixture, God rejected their songs of worship,
sacrifices, and offerings.  Though these were made to Him - to
the true God - yet such worship was not accepted because it
was a MIXTURE.  To cite another Biblical example of how paganism
and the worship of the LORD were mixed together, let us notice
the 17th chapter of Second Kings (II Kings 17).  In this chapter,
we read that the children of Israel fell into false worship. 
They instituted secret rites; built high places; worshipped the
sun, moon and stars; used divination and enchantments; caused
their children to pass through the fire;  (verses 9-17).  As a
result, they were driven from their own land.  Then the king
of Assyria brought men from various nations, including Babylon,
to inhabit the land from which the children of Israel had been
driven.  These nations also practiced heathenistic rituals and
God sent lions among them.  Seeing that the LORD was against
their paganism, they sent for a man of God that had been carried
away in the captivity.  They wanted him to teach them how to
worship and fear the LORD. 
"Howbeit every nation made gods of their own." And these gods are
listed in verses 29-31.  They attempted to worship these gods and
the LORD also - a MIXTURE.

"SO" - in this way - "they feared the LORD, and made unto
themselves of the lowest of them priests ..... they feared the
LORD, and served their own gods" (verse 32). 
Such worship was rejected by God.  He hates a mixture.  Even
though these nations claimed to worship the LORD, they served
idols also. Today, likewise, Romanism claims to worship the LORD;
but it is obviously a system that is a mixture of idol
worship.

In the days of Zephaniah, another attempt to merge heathen
worship with the worship of the true God occurred.  Concerning
this, our Lord said:  "I will cut off the remnant of Baal from
this place ..... and them that worship the host of heaven upon
the housetops; and them that worship and that swear by the LORD,
and that swear by Malcham" (Zeph. 1:4,5).

Why was God going to destroy them?  Were they not worshipping the
LORD?  Yes, but this worship of the LORD was mixed with Baal
worship.  God requires a pure worship and rejects a mixture
worship.

In the 17th and 18th chapters of Judges, we read that a certain
man had a "house of gods" - a special chapel in which statues of
pagan deities were placed.  It had a priest called "father."  And
the description plainly shows that such worship was idolatrous
and false.  Yet - and this we mention to show another example of
MIXTURE - these people claimed to be seeking the favour of the
LORD (17:3, 13).  And the young father-priest claimed to speak
the word of the LORD (18:6).  So here again was a case of an
attempt to MIX heathenism with the worship of the true God.

Another example of a MIXTURE of paganism into the worship of the
LORD is found in Ezekiel 8.  Right in the very entrance of God's
temple, the people had erected an idol. 
Inside the temple of God, even the ministers were offering
incense to false gods.  In this case, these abominations were
pictures upon the walls - pictures of creeping things, beasts,
idols, etc.  This was plainly Babylonish; for such pictures are
also found on the Ishtar Gate in Babylon.  Also connected with
the House of GOD were "women weeping for Tammuz" - the false
Babylonian messiah - and men with their "backs toward the temple
of the LORD, and their faces toward the east; and they
worshipped the sun toward the east" - worshipping the symbol of
the Babylonian sun-god.  These people that had mixed such rites
into their worship were people who had known the true God, the
house of Judah (verse 17). Though their worship was carried on in
the House of God, though they prayed to God - the true God - yet
God refused their worship (verse 18).  God does not bless a
mixture.

In Ezekiel 23  we read of a time of apostasy when the people who
had known God caused, "their sons ..... to pass for them through
the fire" and practiced other pagan rites.  Concerning this, our
Lord said: "Moreover, this they have done unto me: they have
defiled my sanctuary ..... For when they had slain their children
to their idols, then they came the SAME DAY into my sanctuary to
profane it." (verses 38, 39).

Jeremiah also wrote of this apostasy.  His message was to the
people who claimed to be the people of God.  These people when
they came to the temple of the LORD, came, "to worship the LORD"
(Jer. 7:2).  But, notice that along with their worship of
the LORD, other rites had been mixed in that were of paganistic
origin.  "Behold,"  God said, "Ye trust in lying words that
cannot profit.  Ye ..... burn incense unto Baal, and walk after
other gods ..... and come and stand before me in this house,
which is called by my name" (verses 8-10).  And this same people
who came to the house of God, this people who claimed to worship
the LORD, not only shipped Baal, but the worship of the pagan
Mother; the "Queen of Heaven "was mixed into their religion
also: (verse 18).


By repeated examples then, we can see from the scriptures that
God WILL NOT ACCEPT A WORSHIP THAT IS A MIXTURE.  As Samuel
preached to the children of Israel when they attempted to worship
God and still at the same time hold on to paganism:
"If ye do return unto the LORD with all your hearts, then put
away the strange gods and Ashtaroth (the pagan Mother worship)
from among you, and prepare your hearts unto the LORD, and serve
him ONLY: and He will deliver you ....." (I Sam. 7:3).

And this is still the unchanging message of our God today.
Worship and serve the Lord ONLY, with no mixture of paganism,
with no mixture of rites and doctrines whose roots are in
heathenism.

                  .......................................


Written 1980
by Keith Hunt

All articles and studies by Keith Hunt may be copied, published,
e-mailed, and distributed as led by the Spirit. Mr. Hunt trusts
nothing will be changed without his consent.




 
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