Image of Altar upon which Aaron placed the Golden Calf
What follows is first my take on Scripture, regarding the origins and practices contained within Christmas, Easter, Lent, Halloween, and then some links that I’ve found to be good, helpful, thought provoking…
I won’t go into it here, but the history of Christmas, Easter, and several other “church holidays” celebrated on the equinox & solstices, have their roots, typology, practices and icons directly from ancient sun worship, which after the flood, started in Babylon, by Nimrod, builder of Babel. (For more on the history, see – Holiday History… as best as I can figure it… )
Upon really looking at the roots of the holidays, the question I’ve asked and been asked is, “Can’t God redeem something that was once pagan? Can’t we celebrate it in honor of the Lord?”
I believe, to find this answer, I need to look at how the Lord dealt with these same sun worshipping practices. I have a general sense of the whole of the Lord’s call of his people away from Molech, Baal, Ashteroth, but a few verses stand out for me … okay, maybe a few chapters… LOL
First up is Deuteronomy 12, especially verses 1-7, and 28-32
1 These are the decrees and laws you must be careful to follow in the land that the LORD, the God of your ancestors, has given you to possess—as long as you live in the land. 2 Destroy completely all the places on the high mountains, on the hills and under every spreading tree, where the nations you are dispossessing worship their gods. 3 Break down their altars, smash their sacred stones and burn their Asherah poles in the fire; cut down the idols of their gods and wipe out their names from those places.
4 You must not worship the LORD your God in their way. 5 But you are to seek the place the LORD your God will choose from among all your tribes to put his Name there for his dwelling. To that place you must go; 6 there bring your burnt offerings and sacrifices, your tithes and special gifts, what you have vowed to give and your freewill offerings, and the firstborn of your herds and flocks. 7 There, in the presence of the LORD your God, you and your families shall eat and shall rejoice in everything you have put your hand to, because the LORD your God has blessed you.
29 The LORD your God will cut off before you the nations you are about to invade and dispossess. But when you have driven them out and settled in their land, 30 and after they have been destroyed before you, be careful not to be ensnared by inquiring about their gods, saying, “How do these nations serve their gods? We will do the same.” 31 You must not worship the LORD your God in their way, because in worshiping their gods, they do all kinds of detestable things the LORD hates. They even burn their sons and daughters in the fire as sacrifices to their gods.
32 See that you do all I command you; do not add to it or take away from it.
Duet 7:5, and Ex 34:13,14 say the exact same thing in re to the “symbols” of the other nations, but Ex 34 expands upon it:
“5 But thus shall ye deal with them; ye shall destroy their altars, and break down their images, and cut down their groves, and burn their graven images with fire.”
Ex 34:13 But ye shall destroy their altars, break their images, and cut down their groves:
14 For thou shalt worship no other god: for the LORD, whose name is Jealous, is a jealous God:”
Interestingly, what follows in Exodus 34 (which is the record of Moses 2nd trip up Mt Sinai) is the command to not go whoring after the other gods, and then the injunction to keep the feast of Unleavened bread (Passover), of first fruits, of weeks(Pentacost) and of ingathering(Tabernacles), and the 7th day Sabbath –
Almost like the Lord is saying – Don’t do those things which are an abomination to me, but observe these things, instead!
Well, that seems pretty clear but are there any hints of the Lord taking what was heathen and making it His??
Certainly, the Land which the Hebrews conquered – but, the Lord asked them to cleanse the land of all worship places; and Jericho was to lay in ruins, the people taking none of the spoils, as an offering to the Lord… but what about the actual practices and icons of the other religions??
Did he redeem the golden calf & the following feast which Aaron proclaimed would be unto the LORD?? No, His anger burned so hot he was going to incinerate them all, on the spot, but Moses begged for mercy. Did Moses then say to the Isrealites, “well, it’s okay, use the calf image, light candles around it, bring gifts for one another to it and we’ll call it good??” No, he burned it, ground it up, threw it in the water, and made them all drink it, so that the only way for them to recover the gold was to sift thru their own excrement! (Ex 32)
Going further along in History, let’s look at Ezekiel & Jeremiah…
Ez 8 tells of a vision, in which the Lord showed Ezekiel the detestable things done in the temple of the Lord, and called it an abomination, each one even more detestable than the previous… There were sacred stones (Obelisks) also known as the “image of jealousy” (and are reportedly a representation of the sun-god’s penis), and an altar to it in the doorway, there was a secret room full of pictures of all sorts of unclean animals and idols, to which the elders were burning incense, and, then women weeping, for Tammuz, and lastly even more detestable – 25 men, with their backs to the temple of the LORD, their faces to the east, worshipping the sun in a “sun-rise” service…
Did the Lord somehow sanctify these acts? No.
17 He said to me, “Have you seen this, son of man? Is it a trivial matter for the people of Judah to do the detestable things they are doing here? Must they also fill the land with violence and continually arouse my anger? Look at them putting the branch to their nose! 18 Therefore I will deal with them in anger; I will not look on them with pity or spare them. Although they shout in my ears, I will not listen to them.”
1 Hear ye the word which the LORD speaketh unto you, O house of Israel:
2 Thus saith the LORD, Learn not the way of the heathen, and be not dismayed at the signs of heaven; for the heathen are dismayed at them.
3 For the customs of the people are vain: for one cutteth a tree out of the forest, the work of the hands of the workman, with the axe.
4 They deck it with silver and with gold; they fasten it with nails and with hammers, that it move not.
5 They are upright as the palm tree, but speak not: they must needs be borne, because they cannot go. Be not afraid of them; for they cannot do evil, neither also is it in them to do good.
6 Forasmuch as there is none like unto thee, O LORD; thou art great, and thy name is great in might.
7 Who would not fear thee, O King of nations? for to thee doth it appertain: forasmuch as among all the wise men of the nations, and in all their kingdoms, there is none like unto thee.
8 But they are altogether brutish and foolish: the stock is a doctrine of vanities.
Jeremiah 10:3,4 is an interesting verse, hotly contested by many… some saying it refers to a Christmas tree, others saying it refers to an idol – that’s what I thought, when I first looked at the verse, and in fact that is how many translators word the verse. However, as I’ve since seen, the Tammuz tree is an idol, a symbol, just not quite what we picture in our minds when we hear the word idol. Not only that, I now know that the Tammuz/Yalda tree was set up & decorated in the homes, on a yearly basis, as far back as 2000 BC, so the idea that the Lord might have been talking about this tree is, frankly plausible, especially in the context of the previous verse, which talks about signs in the sky… The sun fading in the winter, until the solstice/then it’s rebirth was a big issue in those times, they truly believed they had to pray for the sun to return, that they were being cast into the netherworld, they were dismayed at this time of year!
Interestingly, an article on assyrianvoice.net says this:
“Part of the religious ritual involved cutting down a young evergreen tree as a way of commemorating the premature death of Tammuz. Along with this the Babylonians would also burn a Yala (Yule) log, called “the log of the son.” It was burned in the fire to symbolise the death of Tammuz. The next day the evergreen tree would be decorated with silver and gold. The log that was burned was now alive again as the Tammuz tree. The Old Testament book of Jeremiah (Jeremiah 10:3-4) also describes how the Birth of Tammuz was celebrated in ancient Babylon , “..for one cutteth a tree out of the forest, the work of the hands of the workman, with the ax; They deck it with silver and with gold; they fasten it with nails and with hammers, that it move not.” “
The Lord, to Jeremiah makes it clear that these practices are Vanity, and foolish…
So, I think, well, perhaps things changed in the NT, perhaps God has changed his view of these pagan traditions.
First, I come to Acts 15, and the council of elders in Jerusalem to discuss what direction should be given to the Gentiles, After some discussion, Peter speaks :
19 Wherefore my sentence is, that we trouble not them, which from among the Gentiles are turned to God:
20 But that we write unto them, that they abstain from pollutions of idols (also translated meat offered to idols), and from fornication, and from things strangled, and from blood.
21 For Moses of old time hath in every city them that preach him, being read in the synagogues every sabbath day.
The last thing John writes in his first letter is:
John 5:21 Little children, keep yourselves from idols. Amen.
Almost the entire chapter of 2 Peter 2 warns about false teachers, teaching damnable heresies, and likens them, and those that follow the teachings, to the angels that fell from heaven, the heathen in the days of Noah, Sodom & Gomorrah, and Balaam,
Wrapping the chapter up with:
“They speak great swelling words of vanity, (reminds me of Jeremiah 10) they allure through the lusts of the flesh, through much wantonness, those that were clean escaped from them who live in error.
19 While they promise them liberty, they themselves are the servants of corruption: for of whom a man is overcome, of the same is he brought in bondage.
20 For if after they have escaped the pollutions of the world through the knowledge of the Lord and Saviour Jesus Christ, they are again entangled therein, and overcome, the latter end is worse with them than the beginning.
I think tho, that 2 Cor 6:14-18 takes it for me… It begins talking about being unequally yoked with unbelievers, but some of of the questions further on have much broader application, and the underlined verses have meanings and cross references from the OT…
14 Be ye not unequally yoked together with unbelievers: for what fellowship hath righteousness with unrighteousness? and what communion hath light with darkness?
15 And what concord hath Christ with Belial? or what part hath he that believeth with an infidel?
16 And what agreement hath the temple of God with idols? for ye are the temple of the living God; as God hath said, I will dwell in them, and walk in them; and I will be their God, and they shall be my people.
17 Wherefore come out from among them, and be ye separate, saith the Lord, and touch not the unclean thing; and I will receive you.
18And will be a Father unto you, and ye shall be my sons and daughters, saith the Lord Almighty.
Of course, I can’t leave discussion of the NT without looking a bit at Revelation, which
in his introduction, John, the beloved says, “Blessed is the one who reads aloud the words of this prophecy, and blessed are those who hear it and take to heart what is written in it, because the time is near.”
In the very next chapter, we start seeing God’s feeling about idols, and the false religions surrounding the churches… He commended the Ephesians for their hatred of the practices of the Nicolatans, while he denounced Pergumum for those who followed and taught the teaching of the Nicolatans. (www.christmasisalie.com says that the Nicolatans taught various portions of that ancient sun worship, and it is from them that we get “Saint Nick” however, I’ve not traced back their resources as yet, to be certain this is true.)
The Lord also holds against Pergamum that some of them follow the teachings of Balaam, who caused Israel to sin, so that they ate food sacrificed to idols.
His words to Thyatira tho are very strong – keep in mind, Jezabel was the queen whom Elijah contended with her prophets of Baal (the sun god) at Mt Carmel –
“Rev 2:20 Nevertheless, I have this against you: You tolerate that woman Jezebel, who calls herself a prophet. By her teaching she misleads my servants into sexual immorality and the eating of food sacrificed to idols. 21 I have given her time to repent of her immorality, but she is unwilling. 22 So I will cast her on a bed of suffering, and I will make those who commit adultery with her suffer intensely, unless they repent of her ways. 23 I will strike her children dead. Then all the churches will know that I am he who searches hearts and minds, and I will repay each of you according to your deeds.
24 Now I say to the rest of you in Thyatira, to you who do not hold to her teaching and have not learned Satan’s so-called deep secrets, ‘I will not impose any other burden on you, 25 except to hold on to what you have until I come.’
Awfully strong words for the church in Thyatira, and whatever church/era is also pointed to prophetically in these verses!
Going back to the beginning… The worship of Satan, via the sun started in Babylon… that worship has continued in various way, taking various forms until all nations have followed after this religion. Not long into Christian history, the political powers that reigned at the time, thought it right to join those demonic practices with the faith of Jesus. Many in the early church lost their lives because they refused to follow after the ways of Babylon – including partaking in pagan festivals, or renouncing the Lords Feasts , and the Sabbath, as described in Lev 23; down thru the centuries many more died as well, and of course, the Protestant reformers protested many parts of that rather large, elaborate religion … traditions of men… (2 Col 2:8-10 – Beware lest any man spoil you through philosophy and vain deceit, after the tradition of men, after the rudiments of the world, and not after Christ. For in him dwelleth all the fulness of the Godhead bodily. And ye are complete in him, which is the head of all principality and power.)
John was shown that this joining would come, and was shown angels declairing Babylon’s abominations & ruin:
1 And after these things I saw another angel come down from heaven, having great power; and the earth was lightened with his glory.
2 And he cried mightily with a strong voice, saying, Babylon the great is fallen, is fallen, and is become the habitation of devils, and the hold of every foul spirit, and a cage of every unclean and hateful bird.
3 For all nations have drunk of the wine of the wrath of her fornication, and the kings of the earth have committed fornication with her, and the merchants of the earth are waxed rich through the abundance of her delicacies.
4 And I heard another voice from heaven, saying, Come out of her, my people, that ye be not partakers of her sins, and that ye receive not of her plagues.
5 For her sins have reached unto heaven, and God hath remembered her iniquities.
6 Reward her even as she rewarded you, and double unto her double according to her works: in the cup which she hath filled fill to her double.
7 How much she hath glorified herself, and lived deliciously, so much torment and sorrow give her: for she saith in her heart, I sit a queen, and am no widow, and shall see no sorrow.
8 Therefore shall her plagues come in one day, death, and mourning, and famine; and she shall be utterly burned with fire: for strong is the Lord God who judgeth her.
9 And the kings of the earth, who have committed fornication and lived deliciously with her, shall bewail her, and lament for her, when they shall see the smoke of her burning,
10 Standing afar off for the fear of her torment, saying, Alas, alas that great city Babylon, that mighty city! for in one hour is thy judgment come.
11 And the merchants of the earth shall weep and mourn over her; for no man buyeth their merchandise any more:
12 The merchandise of gold, and silver, and precious stones, and of pearls, and fine linen, and purple, and silk, and scarlet, and all fine wood, and all manner vessels of ivory, and all manner vessels of most precious wood, and of brass, and iron, and marble,
13 And cinnamon, and odours, and ointments, and frankincense, and wine, and oil, and fine flour, and wheat, and beasts, and sheep, and horses, and chariots, and slaves, and souls of men.
14 And the fruits that thy soul lusted after are departed from thee, and all things which were dainty and goodly are departed from thee, and thou shalt find them no more at all.
15 The merchants of these things, which were made rich by her, shall stand afar off for the fear of her torment, weeping and wailing,
16 And saying, Alas, alas that great city, that was clothed in fine linen, and purple, and scarlet, and decked with gold, and precious stones, and pearls!
17 For in one hour so great riches is come to nought. And every shipmaster, and all the company in ships, and sailors, and as many as trade by sea, stood afar off,
18 And cried when they saw the smoke of her burning, saying, What city is like unto this great city!
19 And they cast dust on their heads, and cried, weeping and wailing, saying, Alas, alas that great city, wherein were made rich all that had ships in the sea by reason of her costliness! for in one hour is she made desolate.
20 Rejoice over her, thou heaven, and ye holy apostles and prophets; for God hath avenged you on her.
21 And a mighty angel took up a stone like a great millstone, and cast it into the sea, saying, Thus with violence shall that great city Babylon be thrown down, and shall be found no more at all.
22 And the voice of harpers, and musicians, and of pipers, and trumpeters, shall be heard no more at all in thee; and no craftsman, of whatsoever craft he be, shall be found any more in thee; and the sound of a millstone shall be heard no more at all in thee;
23 And the light of a candle shall shine no more at all in thee; and the voice of the bridegroom and of the bride shall be heard no more at all in thee: for thy merchants were the great men of the earth; for by thy sorceries were all nations deceived.
24 And in her was found the blood of prophets, and of saints, and of all that were slain upon the earth.
While I know it is high near impossible to completely separate from pagan traditions, as everything from our calendar to our handshake have their roots therein, and I don’t fear these traditions, as if they would bring evil or sin upon me, but I feel compelled to walk away from the “in God’s face” sun worshipping practices, icons & elements of Christmas, Easter, Lent, & Halloween, just as we continue to see the Sabbath as set apart for the Lord. To me, now, bringing Christmas or any of the other holidays into my home would be somewhat akin to creating a golden calf to light candles around and place presents under it…
I feel a bit like the Gentiles, in Jeremiah’s prophecy, Jer 16:19-21
19 O LORD, my strength, and my fortress, and my refuge in the day of affliction, the Gentiles shall come unto thee from the ends of the earth, and shall say, Surely our fathers have inherited lies, vanity, and things wherein there is no profit.
20 Shall a man make gods unto himself, and they are no gods?
21 Therefore, behold, I will this once cause them to know, I will cause them to know mine hand and my might; and they shall know that my name is The LORD.
This isn’t out of blind obedience, works based theology, or a desire to make myself more holy; merely the sure deep conviction of a God who loves me, and I, Him. A God who leads us all, step by step. If the liar comes trying to convince you otherwise, please send him packing. In no way do I want to press my convictions upon you saying that this is the way to salvation! God forbid! For Yeshua, our Saviour clearly states, “God so loved the world that He sent His only begotten Son, that whosoever believes in Him, shall not perish but have everlasting life!” and that HE is the Way to Salvation, thru Him alone!
I respect, and hope that you do as well, that the Lord is incredibly gentle to take each one of us where we are at and to lead us. I share this because questions have come, I know anger has been, when I choose not to participate in certain things, when I choose to voice where I stand. I hesitate to share, because I don’t want to cause stress or turmoil. I don’t expect you to agree, or even feel compelled to follow. I hope if we are friends, that you will feel free to continue our friendship, even tho we are walking different paths!
Links of interest:
A bit longer, but well done –
A thorough covering of the topics of Christmas & Easter