Christmas is one holiday that I’ve never quite been able to wrap my mind around. When I was younger it was simply an extended period of time when none of us kids had to go to school, plus we received new toys and gizmos to play with. Later, with so much commercialism taking place, as well as a lot of thought and introspection about where the custom even came from, it simply began to boggle my brain why anyone, especially Christians, pays any attention to it.
Now, I’m sure there will be some who are thinking: “Uh-oh. Derengowski has gone the way of the Jehovah’s Witnesses or some other nefarious cult, since only cultists would dare want to take away our blessed holiday when all we’re doing is celebrating the birth of our Lord and Savior, Jesus Christ.” Let me simply put everyone’s minds as ease: that is not true. As way off in left field as the JWs are, I won’t be joining them, even though on this one they may have stumbled upon the truth about Christmas. Any blind squirrel can accidentally stumble upon an acorn if given enough time to do so. That said, let me give just a few reasons why Christmas just does not appeal to me as something a Christian should occupy his/her time.
The whole idea that Jesus was born on December 25th is guesswork at best. At worst, it ignores what the Bible does say about Jesus’ birth, while aligning the date with some fairly notorious events in the pagan world. Can you just imagine someone guessing what day you were born on, so they could celebrate it by giving gifts to each other? More on that in a moment.
From Luke 2:8 we read, “And in the same region there were shepherds staying out in the fields, and keeping watch over their flock by night.” Typically shepherding sheep took place during the springtime, which in Israel was sometime between March and May. The remainder of the time, particularly during the cold months, the sheep were kept close to the villages and not out in the fields or hills. Therefore, it is unlikely that Jesus was born in December. Some have speculated January 6th might be a better day, but even that seems too early. Others have speculated that Jesus was born at the Passover, which would have been in the spring. But even that is mere conjecture. So, no one really knows for sure when Jesus was born.
On the other hand, we know from history that the Roman festival of the Unconquered Sun took place on December 25th, complete with many of the customs reveled in by many Christians, including gift giving, decorating houses and trees, and the lighting of candles. Also, December 25th was the date for the celebration of the coming forth of the sun-god Mithra among the Romans. Mithraism was a major religious rival of Christianity early-on in its existence.
But in shaping Christian acceptance of December 25th as the date for Jesus’ birth, it was the Roman Catholic Church which gets the most credit. Aside from Emperor Constantine sanctioning the date to stabilize the Roman Empire, Pope Julian and Pope Gregory gave weight to December 25th as the date which the Roman Catholic Church recognized for the date of Christmas and Advent. Of course, it is Roman Catholicism that also came up with such things as Mariolatry, Papal Infallibility, and Purgatory, as well as Christ Mass.
Christ and Mass
Very few are informed on just what the Roman Catholic Mass is all about. It’s not that those same people have not heard about it; it’s simply that they do not know what it is supposed to represent. Unfortunately, even the Roman Catholics have not been very good at explaining the ritual itself. A perusal through the Catechism of the Catholic Church, which was sanctioned by none other than John Paul II, bears this out. When searching for an explanation of Christmas in its index one comes across “Eucharistic celebration.” Great. So, what does that mean?
In short, the Eucharistic celebration or Christ Mass is about re-sacrificing Jesus, in a bloodless ceremony, every time the Roman Catholic priest meets with his congregation to transubstantiate the elements of bread and wine into the actual body and blood of Christ. By consuming the renewed sacrifice the participant merits grace for himself and the “reparation for the sins of the living and the dead” are garnered, as well as are the spiritual and temporal benefits from God. As it pertains to what everyone calls “Christmas,” the ritual is simply more elaborate, but not necessarily any different than what Roman Catholics perform every Sunday, which is to victimize Jesus all over again, and then ironically leave him on the cross, as is seen in nearly all Catholic sanctuaries or cathedrals.
From a biblical perspective the Roman Catholic Christ Mass is nonsense. According to the Apostle Peter “For Christ also died for sins once for all, the just for the unjust, in order that He might bring us to God, having been put to death in the flesh, but made alive in the spirit” (1 Pet. 3:18). The writer to the Hebrews affirms Peter’s statement by paralleling the number of times a man will eventually die (once) and face judgment by stating that “Christ also, having been offered once to bear the sins of many, shall appear a second time for salvation without reference to sin, to those who eagerly await Him” (Heb. 9:28). The point behind Jesus only having to die once for sin is that his personal sacrifice not only exceeded all the previous Old Testament sacrifices, that had to be repeated, but that it satisfied God’s justice, righteousness, and holiness, whereby God could graciously and justly impute righteousness to the redeemed by faith.
Therefore, the Roman Catholic priest, by continually sacrificing Jesus every Sunday, or on the day that many commonly call Christmas, is implying that what occurred at Calvary was no better than sacrificing a bull or a goat and that the human sin-debt was not paid at the crucifixion. And if the sin-debt was not paid, then just what kind of celebration is everyone really engaging in by going through all the machinations that are traditionally tied to the Christ Mass? Moreover, just why are Christians, who would otherwise not have a thing to do with Roman Catholicism, climbing into bed with it by carrying on all the trumped-up pageantry associated with it, including the re-crucifixion of Christ?
On the flip side, the Christian Church has been commanded to remember to keep what is commonly called the “Lord’s Supper.” In Luke 22:19-20 it is reported that when Jesus and his disciples gathered just prior to his crucifixion, “And when He had taken bread and given thanks, He broke and gave to them saying, ‘This is My body which is given for you; do this in remembrance of Me.’ And in the same way He took the cup after they had eaten, saying, ‘This cup which is poured out for you is the new covenant in My blood.” Interestingly, in none of the Gospels is Jesus reported to have passed the cup to his disciples. It is not until one reads in 1 Corinthians 11:25-26 that they drank of the cup, again, “in remembrance of Me.” Then, after signing a hymn, “They went out to the Mount of Olives.”
The example set forth for remembering Jesus is a far cry from all the hoopla and pretentiousness found in the so-called Christmas remembrance of Jesus. For Jesus never said anything about remembering his birth, but the sacrifice he was about to make, and eventually did, on the cross. It was his sacrificial body—one he did not have prior to coming to earth to identify with humanity—and his blood that were most important in terms or remembrance, given that they provided the foundation for redemption.
Yet, amid all the revised versions of Jesus’ birth narrative concocted by church showmen remembering the Lord’s Supper frequently gets lost or perverted. Instead, constantly focusing on Jesus as a little baby helps us to forget, rather than remember, why Jesus came into the world in the first place, as well as who he is today. We are all self-centered, egotistical, malevolent degenerates who are most deserving of eternal hell and it is only because a full-grown Jesus went to the cross to pay our sin-debt to redeem us to God that we are in any way, shape, or form accounted worthy to enter His presence.
Jesus now resides at the right hand of God, as he waits the time for his return whereby everyone whom God has not forgiven and spiritually brought back to life from the dead will be judged by Jesus and cast into the lake that burns with fire and brimstone. Failure to remember who Jesus is, and the ordinance he gave to do so, while substituting for it something that is nowhere found in Scripture, only demonstrates more of our willingness to forget than to remember.
Imagine that it’s your birthday and people the world around have gathered in their individual hovels and houses to celebrate it. For some they have been shopping far and wide for months to get that special gift to make the day as special and memorable as possible. Then, when the dawn breaks that they assume is your birthday—even though they likely missed it by several months (just how special is that?)—everyone gathers around a green tree (real or fake) and starts ripping into those gifts. Oh by the way, you received none of them, and for the most part you’re not even brought up in the conversation. Everyone was too wrapped up (no pun intended) in receiving the latest gizmo, the coolest fashion or trend, or the neatest toy to remember. And if you happened to be a retailer, you’re too fixated on the bottom line to even care that it was someone else’s birthday. All you wanted was to make money off of it. Would any of that make sense to you? Do you think you would be as joyous as everyone getting all the goodies would be? Wouldn’t all of this make your birthday more of a farce than anything?
When it comes to gift-giving and the birth of Jesus, it becomes even more of a farce. For in the Bible the only gifts given, and that without all the fanfare that we see today, was by three magicians (probably Zoroastrians), who gave gold, frankincense, and myrrh. And those gifts came to Jesus long after his birth, while he was living in house, and most likely not even in Bethlehem. Also, those gifts represented things that few today would be willing to credit Jesus, given either their rebellious lives or wayward theology.
Gold represented Jesus kingship or royal status. How many really live their lives as if Jesus is anything more than, say, a baby in manger, rather than a king? Frankincense represented Jesus’ priesthood or deity. How many recognize that Jesus is God very God, much less an intercessor or mediator in their lives between them and God? Myrrh represented Jesus’ servant status or as one willing to suffer unto death. How many acknowledge Jesus as a the ultimate servant and are willing to follow his model as one who gave his all out of love and adoration for God? In each instance, the answer is not many.
To most, Christmas and receiving gifts is about them, not Jesus. In fact, very few, if any of the gifts given have any symbolic resemblance whatsoever with honoring Jesus as a king, God, or a servant. Instead, they often represent what is the worst in humanity, namely forgetting God and satisfying our own greedy, thankless desires. Now, granted there are some who are needy and the gifts given are done so with sincere motives. But, that is not what the gift-giving was all about at the birth of Christ. Moreover, all one has to do is ask, why did it take a Roman Catholic manufactured holiday to meet some specific need of the poor or destitute? Clearly the whole exchange of gifts during Christmas is enough to boggle one’s mind once one stops to think about it. It simply makes no sense from either a practical or biblical standpoint.
Jesus is the Reason. Really?
As December 25th rolls around every year there are those who wish to combat much of the recognized secularism and commercialism that is out of control involving Christ Mass. Many well-meaning, well-intentioned individuals have come up with slogans which try to steer attention toward Jesus as the real “reason for the season.” Yet, as seen above, because of the dubious history of Christ Mass and all the ulterior motives for making it a big deal, Jesus really has nothing to do with it. Besides, if Jesus is not already the reason for living, and not just the season, then trying to correct or reform what is essentially a pagan holiday is going to do nothing but add to the confusion of just who Jesus really is, much less why he incarnated to redeem mankind.
The fact of the matter is, Jesus is not the reason for Christ Mass. Biblical ignorance is. Not only do fewer and fewer professed Christians know what the Bible says about Jesus’ birthday, a burgeoning biblically illiteracy plagues most “Christian” churches, which is why one sees the attempted Madison Avenue productions take place on their stages during Christ Mass, just so the pastor or church leader can get up and act the part of the Roman Catholic priest and sacrifice Jesus anew in their own self-styled Eucharistic rituals. If Jesus Christ truly played the prominent part in the lives of so many who call themselves Christians, then Christ Mass would be ignored for the anti-Christian ritual that demeans the person of Jesus that it is.
Writing this little essay has not been one of the more enjoyable exercises of my life, mainly because I know many will read it and be effected in the wrong way.
Some will be upset, thinking that I’m waging some kind of attack upon the Christian faith, when the reality is that I’m trying to defend it against centuries of attack by those who have imposed upon it practices and beliefs that are antithetical to what Christ and Christianity represent.
Others will be miffed, wondering what to do with what they’ve read. Should they cease recognizing the Christmas tradition; and if they do, what will their friends and family think?
Finally, others will simply choose to ignore what has been written, which really only scratches the surface of several other reasons that Christians should stop and ask themselves “why?” when it comes to Christmas. Nevertheless, if they choose to ignore, then so be it. We seem to be living in an age when ignorance, even among the so-called “educated,” is ruling the day. So, it won’t be the first time.
All I can say is that if after reading this and you wish to continue to go through the motions of trying to rectify and coordinate the mountain of obvious contradictions and inconsistencies that exist between biblical Christianity and Christ Mass, then more power to you. For years I chose to ignore them myself, thinking that so long as I believed, for example, I could turn a 1940 DeSoto automobile into a 2013 Ferrari, then everything would be just fine. Well, after years of repainting, replacing, and refurbishing that DeSoto, I found out that it was still a DeSoto, not a Ferrari. The same is true about Christmas. No matter how much one tries to vanquish or revise all the pagan influences and Roman Catholic doctrine, and replace it with all the pretty ornaments and contemporary music sung by the Mormon Tabernacle Choir or Mannheim Steamroller, Christmas still has nothing to do with Jesus’ birth, much less what is depicted in the Bible.
So, best wishes to all, regardless of their conclusions. It took a while to finally come to mine. As for me, 2012 is my last Christ Mass, unless someone can come up with a better explanation than I have to the question of why?