Q. Do you believe that when we celebrate Christmas we’re celebrating a pagan holiday? I believe it’s the celebration of our Savior’s birth. Am I committing a sin by doing so? Also, can you please tell me whether having a Christmas tree is committing a pagan ritual? Further, is wearing a cross or having one in your home also a sin … some say that it is worshiping an idol. I don’t understand this, as in my heart it is reminding me of what Christ has done for us. Please help.
A. The December Christmas observance began as a pagan holiday that was “papered over” with Christian meaning when the Roman Empire officially converted to Christianity in the 4th century. For a long time Christians refused to recognize it because 1) they knew Jesus wasn’t born on December 25 and 2) nearly all the signs and symbols associated with Christmas had recognizable pagan origins. It took about 200 years for it to gain acceptance and be viewed by Christians as a celebration of the Lord’s birth. But in recent times it seems like the celebration has reverted back to its pagan origins and Christians are beginning to opt out again.
According to Hebrews 4:12-13 the Lord judges us by the motives of our heart, because that’s where sin begins. He knows whether we’re focused on expressing our gratitude for the gift of His Son or indulging in pagan revelry. So as long as our hearts are right we’re not sinning by celebrating Christmas.
The idea that a Christmas tree is wrong comes from Jeremiah 10:1-5 where the Lord is poking fun at the pagans who worshiped the evergreen tree as a symbol of eternal life. He ended by saying that they can neither do you harm nor good. An idol becomes such when you bow down to worship it instead of the creator who gave you the ability to make it. The same goes for crosses and other religious paraphernalia. The commandment that prohibits the making of images pertains to everything in Heaven or on Earth, but it’s given in the context of worshiping false gods. (Exodus 20:4-5) Otherwise every single drawing, painting, statue, video or photograph ever made would be a violation.