Growing up in an irreligious home, I hardly saw a connection between Jesus and Christmas. I could tell even as a young teen that it was more about marketing to maintain the health of a consumer-based economy. So when I turned into COG-land in college and was told Christmas was pagan and should not be observed, it was an easy sell.
But what always struck me as bizarre was the sheer vitriol expressed by church members toward the holiday and those that celebrated it. The historical arguments tying every little element of the season directly to rank paganism and Mystery Babylon the Great, while interesting, failed in bolstering their arguments with direct Scripture. I learned later that there was another school of thought with compelling historical evidence that first and second century Christians were observing Sundays and celebrating the birth and resurrection of Christ, completely unrelated to paganism. In fact, paganism specifically related to the Roman cult of Sol Invictus was not part of the Roman culture until the fourth century. This would suggest that Roman paganism had very little influence on Christianity for three centuries. And from a logical standpoint, it makes no sense that Christians were regularly filling the first chapters of Fox's book of martyrs if they were socially engineering the empire, syncretizing with their persecutors.
For years, I've watched ministerial wannabe's parade up to the lectern every December with sermonettes to end all sermonettes on the greatest evil to ever befall mankind. In between all their spit and rage, I would have to ask myself: what does roasting babies in Babylon have to do with present-day Christians like my brother and his lovely family who partake of normal family rituals like eating together, singing together and worshipping together at a time when they all acknowledge that Jesus was the Christ that came in the flesh? He was born a man and every year, Christians re-enact nativity scenes, acknowledging that belief.
I was surprised when I came across an article by COGWA about Christmas this year that was trying to take a rather new (to me) and novel approach to throwing shade at Christmas.
The title, "The Incarnation: How Christmas Hides Its Meaning" caught my attention. Mike Bennett asks, "If Christmas is really about the birth of the Son of God, why do so many concentrate on Christmas shopping and whitewashed pagan customs, while so few focus on the incredible, life-changing truth of the incarnation?"
Mike goes on to argue that very few people focus on the incarnation of Jesus. His evidence is all the extras surrounding the holiday and the growing number of secularists around the globe who could care less about the incarnation.
While all of that is true, what Mike fails to realize is that people who do consider themselves devout Christians, DO, in fact, care about the incarnation and do put that at the center of their observance. Every year, my brother's family (even if not historically or Biblically accurate completely) re-enact the nativity story at their church. There is absolutely nothing about their Christmas observance that hides the "incredible, life-changing truth of the incarnation."
What is fantastically ironic about Mike's attempt at throwing shade at the holiday, only highlights how the COG's never celebrate or acknowledge the incarnation whereas Christians observing Christmas, rehearse that truth every single year without the prompting of Scripture. How is celebrating Christ's birthday, the incarnation (not solicited in Scripture) actually any different from Armstrongists that observe Independence Day and Thanksgiving (not solicited in Scripture) to honor God or Jews that observe Purim and Hanukkah to honor God for delivering them from their enemies?
120 years of additional research and scholarship has transpired since the Adventist movement took aim at everything Catholic as being directly adopted from the Babylonian Mystery religions. There is evidence that suggests Christians adopted Sunday and celebrated the Resurrection and the Birth of Christ within the first 100 years and it had nothing to do with the paganism and secularism that surrounded and persecuted them. Were they man-made observances not sanctioned by Scripture? YES! Does that automatically make them pagan? NO! Not anymore pagan than Thanksgiving that Armstrongites observe or Hanukkah that Jesus and His apostles observed.
HWA and his followers have always used various forms of faulty logic. "Dichotomous reasoning" is a COG mainstay used to proffer "proof" for some of the faulty doctrines in the church. This is the faulty logic whereas everything is black or white, all or nothing. A two-dimensional worldview that is symptomatic of many forms of psychosis and various personality disorders.
COG's love to quote Jude when he exhorts the brethren to "earnestly contend for the faith which was once delivered unto the saints." This faith, they claim, is the same truths HWA restored to Christianity after 1900 years. Ignoring Biblical and historical context, another mainstay of Armstrong theology, has left them in the dark whereas scholars have been shedding light through dark glass since the invention of the printing press.
What was the faith that needed to be contended for so earnestly? What was the biggest threat to Christianity at the close of the first century after the death of all the original apostles, save John?
I was shocked to learn that at the time of Christ, Judaism was the only religion, philosophy, worldview and culture on the whole planet that believed or ever believed that physical fleshly life could be restored from death. This belief of a resurrection from the dead is what was "foolishness" to the Greek. The centerpiece to Christianity is accentuated by Paul in I Corinthians 15:1-4
"Now brothers and sisters, I want to remind you of the gospel I preached to you, which you received and on which you have taken your stand. By this gospel you are saved if you hold firmly to the word I preached to you. Otherwise, you have believed in vain. For what I received I passed on to you as of first importance: that Christ died for our sins according to Scriptures, that he was buried, that He was raised on the third day according to the Scriptures."
Paul goes on to list all of the eye-witnesses to the resurrected Jesus. We can see among Gentiles during Paul's apostleship, the resurrection of Jesus in the flesh was already in question 20-30 years after His death and resurrection. John tells us what was being questioned and in doubt 60 years after what Jesus accomplished in I John 2:18-23 and says plainly in 2 John 7, "I say this because many deceivers, who do not acknowledge Jesus Christ as coming in the flesh, have gone out into the world. Any such person is a deceiver and an antichrist." Jude says ungodly men are turning grace into license to sin and deny the Christ.
It does seem to appear that the biggest problem Christianity faced at the beginning was the unbelief that Christ came in the flesh as a man, died, and was resurrected in the flesh. This makes perfect sense. Once a generation arose that did not have first-hand experience with Jesus, it only stands to reason that it now may be taken by the next generation and new adherents from a non-Jewish view that compromising ideas would arise to account for who and what Jesus was and what actually happened.
What literally came into question was the incarnation. This may be why there is evidence as early as the early 2nd century of Christians observing the birth of Christ. This was an annual acknowledgment in their faith of the incarnation that many were doubting and began filling the ranks of a new Gnostic Christianity.
This is a valid working theory that is fitting with our addition of scholarship and research over the last 120 years. For all of the shade the Adventist Movement has thrown at Christmas down to this very week, is it even possible that the COG's could revisit the topic and reconsider just how awful they have been in portraying fellow Christians all these years?
My own opinion is that Christmas is no different from other man-made holidays that have non-pagan foundations. That means we are free to take it or leave it. I stopped observing the holiday as a teenager for non-religious reasons. I will continue to do so but without passing judgment on fellow Christians who do so for reasons completely unrelated to roasting babies in fires and participating in drunken orgies.
by Stoned Stephen Society