December 25, 2012

Christmas is Pagan?

Well, it certainly has its roots in the pagan tradition of Saturnalia, and the commercialism of much of modern Christmas relates only to the worship of Mammon, but the liturgical tradition we celebrate at this time of year is purely Christian.

Why in the world would I (or any other thinking person) write about this? There are a growing number of Christians who insist on keeping the Old Testament commandments. Not just using the Ten Commandments as exemplars, but in keeping the spirit, if not the letter, of the OT law. That's a great thing to do for orthodox Jews, but for Christians who live under Grace and not the Law?

The main thing I notice from those who argue against observing Christmas is a desire for purity. As Richard Beck notes in Unclean: Meditations on Purity, Hospitality, and Mortality, the purity/contamination boundary is characterized by several beliefs of questionable logic. In this case, that belief is that any amount of impurity contaminates the pure substance, no matter the amount or nature of that pure substance. Is the nature of Christ's cleansing sacrifice limited in some way that it cannot purify pagan roots of a liturgical holiday? Is He somehow powerless to make all things new?

Instead of pointing the finger at things we think somehow can stain the One who cleanses all things, wouldn't it be better to focus on then salvation brought by the One born on this day? Do we really believe that He is so arbitrary as to only forgive some of our sins? If we believe that, then why should we believe anything about Christ?

He is the Lamb of God, come to take away the sins of the world.

The whole world.

And all of its sin.

Do the ancient pagan roots of the holiday we celebrate today overpower the joy we proclaim and salvation of the entire world?

I don't think so.

He is the one with all power and authority in Heaven and Earth. He makes all things new, He cleanses all, and He forgives all. None of our opinions about what contaminates worship of Him can change that.

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