Q. I have been considering the issue of pagan holy days being repackaged by the Christian church. My tendency in my faith-walk is to fall into legalism (following an outward practice thinking that I am a “better” Christian because of it). Since I know it’s a pitfall for me, I am cautious to change my outward practice until I am certain that is the best way. For example, while the Christian church celebrates Easter and not Passover, does the very act of celebrating Christ’s death and resurrection not somehow redeem the fact that it may not be on the right day or have questionable beginnings (inclusion of pagan elements)? I’ve attempted to discuss this issue with several friends who are Believers, and they tend to “roll” their eyes at my comments. Do you have any insight on this?
A. It’s no coincidence that the two most important Christian holidays were once two of the most excessive displays of pagan revelry, characterized by behavior that was specifically forbidden by God. Christians refused to celebrate either of these holidays for over 400 years, but they have now been accepted to a point where to question them invites ridicule.
As far as the Lord’s birth is concerned the actual date is unknown, although an early fall time frame seems most likely. The way the holiday is celebrated is another matter. The commercialism, over indulgence, and prominence of pagan symbols like evergreen trees, mistletoe, and Santa Claus (an all knowing, omni-present father figure who rewards kids based on their behavior) have no place in the celebration of our Lord’s arrival on Earth. Giving each other gifts to celebrate His birth is one thing, but pretending they came from the false god Santa as a reward for good behavior is quite another.
Where Easter is concerned, the very name comes from the Babylonian fertility goddess Ishtar, and the main attractions are eggs and rabbits, which are symbols of fertility. Contrary to the day of the Lord’s birth, Resurrection Morning is well known. It happened on the Jewish Feast of First fruits which falls on the first Sunday morning after Passover. It’s by far the most important event in human history and deserves our full attention in a heart felt expression of praise and thanksgiving. We might be able to convince God that we didn’t know the date of His birth, but we have no such excuse with His resurrection. It’s a good thing we live in the Age of Grace.