I’ve been really hesitant to write this post, because I knew that it would arouse the anger of many.
Our holidays are something that we all hold very dear to our hearts. We have wonderful memories of buckets full of candy on Halloween, presents around the Christmas tree and Easter egg hunts at our grandparents’ houses. No one likes to hear that the events that they find comfort in could be out of the will of God (or sin) …not even me. But our flesh desperately seeks the path of least resistance. Our carnal nature would rather appease our flesh, justify our way of life, and quietly blend in with the world around us.
Most of us already know that all three of these holidays (namely Halloween, Christmas and Easter) have purely pagan origins, and yet we still religiously continue to follow these customs. Admittedly, a few of us may blacklist Halloween as a “pagan holiday” because Jesus is not celebrated, but we still hold on very tightly to Christmas and Easter.
There are some yearly rituals that a good little christian must not challenge. If you attack these two holidays, you’ve gone way too far! It’s tantamount to burning the American flag on the 4th of July.
If you think about this mindset with an honest heart and a reasonable amount of unbiased scriptural knowledge, it reeks of hypocrisy.
The truth is that I cannot find one scriptural reason why it is OK to celebrate these holidays.
New Testament Scriptures used by the church (which I will address in this post) to justify their involvements in these celebrations are cherry-picked and grossly out of context. Let’s take a look at a few Scriptures that are commonly used by often well-meaning christians to justify their positions on the holidays.
If you seek the truth, you WILL find it, but I’ll let you know ahead of time, it will not feel good to your flesh.
Galatians 4 – You Observe Days and Months and Seasons and Years!
In my opinion, Galatians is probably THE most misunderstood book in the Bible. More false doctrine has come out of this book than any other (Romans and Revelation tie for a VERY close second).
But then, indeed, when you did not know God, you served those which by nature are not gods. But now after you have known God, or rather are known by God, how is it that you turn again to the weak and beggarly elements, to which you desire again to be in bondage? You observe days and months and seasons and years. I am afraid for you, lest I have labored for you in vain.
Because of what our leaders have taught us, and because it is our natural tendency to incorporate what we’ve been taught into our paradigm, it is really easy to just focus on the verses that our leaders have emphasized:
Due to our religious training, it’s inevitable that our eyes will gravitate to these verses and exclude the surrounding text, diluting (or outright distorting) the truth of the Word as we read our paradigm INTO the passage. Blindly, we proceed to the next verse, assuming that Paul was writing a chastisement to people who want to observe the “old Jewish holidays,” because somehow Jesus’ work on the cross did away with God’s commandments.
Not so, my friends.
- We don’t think about WHO the epistle (letter) was written to.
- We don’t think about what was happening at the TIME the epistle was written. ~and~
- We don’t think about the CULTURE of the people who received the epistle.
We don’t study the Word for ourselves.
A careful analysis of the surrounding Scriptures will bring out the truth.
But then, indeed, when you did not know God, you served those which by nature are not gods. But now after you have known God, or rather are known by God, how is it that you turn again to the weak and beggarly elements, to which you desire again to be in bondage?
From the Scripture above, we see that prior to coming to the faith, the Galatians DID NOT KNOW GOD and SERVED OTHER GODS.
They were pagans, not Jews or proselytes!
One error taught by those who teach Galatians is that, somehow, the church of Galatia used to be involved in Judaism, and that the whole debate is over whether or not they should go back to “the Law.” This sets the stage for an errant “Grace vs. Law” mindset whenever anyone reads this epistle.
If you don’t get the WHO right, you’re going to have a problem interpreting these verses (as well as the entire book of Galatians) correctly.
You observe days and months and seasons and years. I am afraid for you, lest I have labored for you in vain.
So, if we know that the members of the Galatians church were pagans prior to their conversion, we must come to the conclusion that their celebrated “days and months and years” (the “weak and beggarly elements” that they were “in bondage” to) were pagan holidays, not “Jewish” holidays. On top of that, Paul was afraid that, since the Galatians were celebrating these pagan holidays, that he had “labored in vain.”
We can learn something here. Paul calls celebration of pagan holidays “bondage” …not “freedom.” What does that say about those who celebrate pagan holidays? …Selah.
Let’s go on, there’s more!
Brethren, I urge you to become like me, for I became like you. You have not injured me at all. You know that because of physical infirmity I preached the gospel to you at the first. And my trial which was in my flesh you did not despise or reject, but you received me as an angel of God, [even] as Christ Jesus. What then was the blessing you enjoyed? For I bear you witness that, if possible, you would have plucked out your own eyes and given them to me. Have I therefore become your enemy because I tell you the truth?
In the midst of his infirmity, Paul came to the pagans of Galatia when it was against Jewish Law to do so (and by “Jewish Law,” I mean man-made Jewish Law/Talmud, not God’s Law/Torah). He came to them with the Good News of Jesus Christ, which resulted in an opportunity for the Gentiles to become part of His people.
Contrary to what many teach in churches these days, the “Good News” ALWAYS started with the word “Repent.”
Change your pagan ways, stop your pagan celebrations, learn and do God’s ways.
And lest we forget, at this point, the New Testament didn’t exist. People learned God’s ways from “the Law and the Prophets” …Selah.
They zealously court you, [but] for no good; yes, they want to exclude you, that you may be zealous for them.
The “they” in this passage is referring to the Party of the Circumcision (read the entire epistle for context).
From reading the book of Acts and several other references in Paul’s epistles, it can be concluded that the Party of the Circumcision was a powerful and influential sect of the Pharisees. Many of them believed on the Lord Jesus Christ, but they allowed their man-made doctrine to tarnish their faith. Early on, they were very militant about being separate from Gentiles (Acts 11:2-3), then after Peter’s dream they softened their stance a little, but afterwards started preaching circumcision as a means of salvation (Acts 15 and the entire book of Galatians).
It is apparent from Scripture that the Party of the Circumcision followed Paul around, “adding to” the Gospel after Paul passed through. From the verses above, we can see that they were very similar to modern day pastors and prophets, eager for a following.
But it is good to be zealous in a good thing always, and not only when I am present with you. My little children, for whom I labor in birth again until Christ is formed in you, I would like to be present with you now and to change my tone; for I have doubts about you.
I’ve explained Galatians 4:8-20 for this purpose. Paul obviously did not want believers in Messiah to celebrate pagan holidays.
Much like our modern day “salvation prayer” converts, the Gentile believers grasped hold of a salvation by works mindset (saying “the prayer”), and reverted back to their old ways (celebrating their pagan holidays). Paul was calling them (again) to “come out” of the culture that they were a part of. If they failed in this area, Paul considered his efforts to be “in vain.”
Colossians 2: Let No One Judge You
Is your flesh feeling uncomfortable yet? Yeah… mine too. I really want to crucify this flesh; it keeps me from obeying God’s commands… but dying is never painless!
You’ve probably noticed that I use the phrase “cherry-picked” a lot when referring to Scriptures taken out of context. Have you ever picked cherries before? It’s all about eating the nice-looking cherries, and throwing away the rest, right? Sure, the throwaways are “bad” cherries, but that’s where the metaphor ends with God’s Word, because His Word is ALL good! There are no bad Scriptures!
Another Scripture that frequently gets “cherry-picked” is:
So let no one judge you in food or in drink, or regarding a festival or a new moon or Sabbaths, which are a shadow of things to come, but the substance is of Christ.
But when you treat the letter to the church of Colossae for what it is… an actual letter with a continuous thought process, the meaning of verses 16-17 is quite different! Let’s explore:
As you therefore have received Christ Jesus the Lord, so walk in Him, rooted and built up in Him and established in the faith, as you have been taught, abounding in it with thanksgiving.
Paul starts off encouraging the church of Colossae to walk “in Him” …being “rooted” and “established in the faith.”
Beware lest anyone cheat you through philosophy and empty deceit, according to the tradition of men, according to the basic principles of the world, and not according to Christ.
Starting with the verse above, we can see that Paul is setting up a comparison. On one side we have “the tradition of men” and “the basic principles of the world” (a deceitful philosophy that will cheat its followers) and on the other side we have “according to Christ.” At this point, the lines are drawn. What is about to be discussed will fall on one side of the line or the other.
For in Him dwells all the fullness of the Godhead bodily; and you are complete in Him, who is the head of all principality and power. In Him you were also circumcised with the circumcision made without hands, by putting off the body of the sins of the flesh, by the circumcision of Christ, buried with Him in baptism, in which you also were raised with Him through faith in the working of God, who raised Him from the dead.
You can clearly see from the Scriptures above that Paul is describing the “righteous” side of this comparison. The side that is “according to Christ.”
Thank God for what He has done! When we put off the body of the sins of the flesh (by crucifying it), we are taking part in the “circumcision made without hands.” I explain the “circumcision made without hands” in the following post:
And you, being dead in your trespasses and the uncircumcision of your flesh, He has made alive together with Him, having forgiven you all trespasses, having wiped out the handwriting of requirements that was against us, which was contrary to us. And He has taken it out of the way, having nailed it to the cross. Having disarmed principalities and powers, He made a public spectacle of them, triumphing over them in it.
The Law of sin and death cursed those who disobeyed what was written in it. (See Deuteronomy 28.) Christ, through His death and resurrection, did not abolish the Law (Matthew 5:17-19), but abolished the curse of the Law (Galatians 3:13) that was upon those who lived in habitual disobedience to the Law.
The curse of the Law was “contrary to us,” but God’s Law was given to us “for our good” (Deuteronomy 6:24, 30:11-20). This will be explained in a more detailed post at another time.
Verses 9-15 show us all of the things that Jesus did for us by His death and resurrection on the cross. They are most certainly the details that we must be aware of if we are to live a life “according to Christ.”
So let no one judge you in food or in drink, or regarding a festival or a new moon or Sabbaths, which are a shadow of things to come, but the substance is of Christ.
Once again, we come across the “cherry-picked” Scripture that people read out of context. Let’s take a step back and think about what we are reading here and WHO it was meant for.
The church of Colossae was located in the same region as Galatia, really close to Laodicea. While we don’t know for sure if the church was primarily made up of Gentile believers or a mixture of Jew and Gentile, it really doesn’t matter. They were a group of called out believers (an ekklesia) in the midst of a pagan society.
Bringing the comparison in verse 8 forward, we can easily peg those who were judging someone for celebrating festivals, new moons and Sabbaths as the pagans who adhere to philosophy and empty deceit.
At this point, one could say, “Yes, but the substance is of Christ… so we don’t have to worry about celebrating those ‘Jewish’ holidays!”
To which I would reply with a few questions:
- Then why would Paul tell the Colossians to not let anyone judge them? Why wouldn’t he say… “Well, it doesn’t really matter if you celebrate it or not?”
- Why did Paul himself place great value in God’s Holy Days? (Acts 18:21)
- Lastly, some of the “Jewish holidays” in Leviticus 23 pointed to events AFTER His return. The events that the Feast of Trumpets, the Day of Atonement and the Feast of Tabernacles point to have YET to occur. Where do we divide them up? Do we celebrate some and not others?
Obviously, this is a subject of great debate. Personally, I feel that when God said “it shall be a statute forever” in Leviticus 23, He meant what He said.
Regardless of your stance on God’s Holy Days, we can see from verses 16-17 that Paul is telling the believers in the church at Colossae that they shouldn’t let any pagan judge them just because they want to take part in a God-commanded feast. To NOT take part in God’s feasts would be caving in to a deceit-filled philosophy that would ROB them of a life “according to Christ.” Let’s go further:
Let no one cheat you of your reward, taking delight in [false] humility and worship of angels, intruding into those things which he has not seen, vainly puffed up by his fleshly mind, and not holding fast to the Head, from whom all the body, nourished and knit together by joints and ligaments, grows with the increase [that is] from God.
Continuing the stream of thought from verse 8, we see Paul mentioning again a philosophy, spoken through people who would CHEAT us and disrupt our walk “according to Christ.” Not only that, but the context of these verses attributes “false humility,” “worship of angels,” and a “puffed-up fleshly mind” to the same people who would judge someone for celebrating a God-ordained holiday.
Because the carnal mind is enmity against God; for it is not subject to the law of God, nor indeed can be.
It’s “heavy stuff” to not hold fast to the Head.
Therefore, if you died with Christ from the basic principles of the world, why, as though living in the world, do you subject yourselves to regulations — do not touch, do not taste, do not handle, which all concern things which perish with the using — according to the commandments and doctrines of men? These things indeed have an appearance of wisdom in self-imposed religion, false humility, and neglect of the body, but are of no value against the indulgence of the flesh.
When we “died with Christ,” we died to the “basic principles of the world.”
I understand that you all have a wide range of beliefs and interpretations for how a believer should relate to the Law of God. Although that should not be, one thing must be true: God’s Law was NOT created by man, nor was it EVER a “basic principle of the world.” So to use the verse above to support the man-made philosophy that we no longer need to “subject ourselves” to God’s commands is dangerous ground (at best). What the verse above is instructing is that we not subject ourselves to man-made doctrine.
Analyze yourself a moment… what kind of doctrines/regulations/traditions regarding Christmas and Easter do you subject yourself to?
Matters of the Heart
Besides Scripture, many people have other “pat” responses as to why they think it’s OK to celebrate Christmas, Easter and Halloween. They usually sound similar to what you see below.
- God knows my heart.
- We celebrate “Jesus” during the holidays, so He trumps the pagan holidays.
- Whatever you do, do ALL to the glory of God.
- People are more open to the Gospel during Christmas.
- Satan doesn’t own any day, why should I give “pagan holidays” any credit on his behalf?
In light of Scripture, these responses hold no weight.
The Old Testament is FULL of Scriptures where God warns His people against idolatry and taking on the customs and practices of the nations. We can also see from the content above that God carries this command through to the New Testament. In fact, the very Scriptures that people use to support their “right” to celebrate pagan holidays are actually found to mean the exact opposite!
So why do good “Christian” people celebrate these holidays?
To be honest, it’s really difficult to break with years of tradition, the expectations of our loved ones, and our own wicked desires.
The heart is deceitful above all things, and desperately wicked; who can know it?
The truth is that our hearts are wicked and no one can know (be intimately acquainted with) them. We don’t even know ourselves… how can we know the hidden desires of our own hearts?
We can’t… but GOD can!
For the word of God is living and powerful, and sharper than any two-edged sword, piercing even to the division of soul and spirit, and of joints and marrow, and is a discerner of the thoughts and intents of the heart. And there is no creature hidden from His sight, but all things are naked and open to the eyes of Him to whom we must give account.
Keep in mind that the above verse was referring to the Old Testament, as the New Testament wasn’t even written (or was just beginning to be written) at that time.
Time and space don’t permit me to go into a huge study on how God judges the human heart, but I would encourage you to dig deep into your Bible for the answer! If you do, you will find that the condition of your heart is directly related to your obedience to the commands of God.
Contrary to what you may think, I didn’t write this post to be the proverbial “Scrooge” who wants to take away your holiday cheer. I have a passion for the Word of God, finding the ultimate truth that lies within it, and doing my best to obey accordingly.
We’re at a point within the “Church Era” where we are finding out that our “Game Plan” isn’t working. You have to be in a serious state of denial to think that the church is going forward – just take a look around you. Our struggle to “stay relevant” is futile, and has run its course… ending in confusion and apostasy.
Let’s get one thing straight:
The true church will NEVER be relevant to a carnally-minded society. It will either STAND on the Word of God, or CAVE to the pressure of syncretism.
The call to “come out from among them” has never been stronger. Do not allow the popular excuses of the so-called “church” to taint your understanding of what Yahweh is saying to us in His eternal Word.
“Jesus is the reason for the season” and “He Is Risen!” are only mantras that we use to comfort us in our compromise.
“It’s OK, as long as your heart is in the right place” is just a weak excuse and does nothing to take away from the sinfulness of our actions. Besides, if you are bound and determined to contradict Scripture so that you can maintain the status quo, then you have just revealed where your heart is.
The following video gives us some great “food for thought.”
May God bless you with Truth this Season …
A Little Bit More About Christmas, Easter and Halloween:
- Discovering the Bondage of Christmas Worship
- The Fallacy of Taking the Holidays Back for Christ
- Celebrating Halloween
- Easter ~ The Fertility of it all
- The Truth About Christmas and Easter
- The True Origin of Christmas
- The History of Christmas
Note: The links above are sources to some good information … that doesn’t mean that I 100% endorse what they teach (with the exception of my own articles, haha).