Life, Hope & Truth

From the November/December 2018 issue of Discern Magazine

Is Jesus Really “the Reason for the Season”?

In the midst of commercialism and ingratitude, many seek to refresh the meaning of the holiday season. But the real issues go much deeper than that.

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The slogan pops up every year on everything from billboards to bumper stickers, church signs to greeting cards, on T-shirts and in sermons—“Jesus is the reason for the season!” Along with a similar slogan, “Put Christ back in Christmas,” these jingles are attempts by people to turn the tide against Christmas being secularized, commercialized and trivialized.

But do these sayings have any truth to them?

Only a few weeks earlier some countries, including the United States and Canada, celebrate another major holiday—Thanksgiving—which was instituted to recognize the Creator God as the Source of their national blessings.

These two celebrations bookend what is called “the holiday season,” and both of them claim to have their roots in honoring God and/or Jesus.

But—is it true? Is Jesus really the reason for the season?

A careful look at Thanksgiving and Christmas is quite revealing!

Thanksgiving

He should be the reason, but He’s losing ground.

Gratitude is an essential quality for our personal and societal well-being—it’s proven good for, among many things, improving psychological and physical health, strengthening relationships and increasing empathy, while reducing materialism and self-centeredness.

But gratitude toward whom?

On Thanksgiving Day, a 2016 LifeWay Research survey reported, “nearly two-thirds (63 percent) say they give thanks to God.” Or, put another way, nearly 40 percent don’t thank God. And 7 percent of Americans said they don’t give thanks at all on Thanksgiving Day.

If those statistics are for a day nationally dedicated to giving thanks, what are the percentages on days when gratitude is not so much on our minds?

President Abraham Lincoln called on Americans in 1863 to “observe the last Thursday of November next, as a day of Thanksgiving and Praise to our beneficent Father who dwelleth in the Heavens,” humbly recognizing that our “deliverances and blessings” are “justly due to Him.”

But today we are not the same people. “In 1863, America was a different kind of Christian nation than it is now,” stated an article in The Atlantic, November 2014. “The country is far more religiously diverse and culturally secular than it was when Thanksgiving was founded. A strong majority of Americans consider themselves religious, but for many others, religious faith doesn’t play much of a role in their everyday lives. And although roughly 90 percent of people in the U.S. believe in ‘God or a universal spirit,’ faith doesn’t have much bearing on the way Thanksgiving is talked about in public life.”

Gratitude may be the objective of “these secular rituals, but the object of the gratitude is unclear. If people aren’t thanking God, who are they thanking?”

Will we someday discover that our lack of thanks, and our misplaced thanks, played a part in our undoing? The Bible is straightforward about the tragic results of those who refuse to recognize and thank God: “Although they knew God, they did not glorify Him as God, nor were thankful, but became futile in their thoughts, and their foolish hearts were darkened” (Romans 1:21, emphasis added).

Around the same time that the apostle Paul wrote those words, the Roman writer Petronius is credited with saying, “Ingratitude is the daughter of pride.” The Bible goes one step further, warning that “pride goes before destruction, and a haughty spirit before a fall” (Proverbs 16:18).

Should Jesus (and God the Father) be “the reason for the season” of Thanksgiving? Of course—He is the reason for our lives! We should, in fact, live every day with the words of Psalm 107:8 in mind: “Oh, that men would give thanks to the LORD for His goodness, and for His wonderful works to the children of men!”

Christmas

He never was the reason, and never will be!

“So it’s wrong to lie to your children about Santa? Please go on about ‘the reason for the season’ and how the winter solstice magically became about Jesus.”

I never cite a meme meant for humor as a reliable source of information, but this one actually captures the core of the problem—and the hypocrisy—with Christmas as a Christian holiday.

But if you want credible authorities to verify the origins and practices of Christmas, they’re easier to find than funny memes! For example, Britannica.com states candidly, “None of the contemporary Christmas customs have their origin in theological or liturgical affirmations, and most are of fairly recent date.”

A Dec. 22, 2017, Los Angeles Times article on Christmas, like so many at that time of the year, stated, “Rather than religious, its origins are secular and commercial, even profane.”

No legitimate biblical support exists for any aspect of Christmas celebrations. Virtually all of its traditions—trees, mistletoe, gift giving, wreaths, caroling, Santa Claus—were borrowed from pagan worship of false gods.No legitimate biblical support exists for any aspect of Christmas celebrations. Virtually all of its traditions—trees, mistletoe, gift giving, wreaths, caroling, Santa Claus—were borrowed from pagan worship of false gods.

The simple truth is (pardon my quoting another meme), “Pagans are the reason for the season.”

God explicitly told Israel, “Do not inquire after their gods, saying, ‘How did these nations serve their gods? I also will do likewise.’ You shall not worship the LORD your God in that way” (Deuteronomy 12:30-31).

So has God changed His mind? Is it okay now? Jesus, quoting Isaiah, made it pretty clear: “‘This people honors Me with their lips, but their heart is far from Me. And in vain they worship Me, teaching as doctrines the commandments of men.’ For laying aside the commandment of God, you hold the tradition of men” (Mark 7:6-8).

You simply cannot “put Christ back into Christmas” when He was never a part of it!

The seasons that have reasons

The Bible shows, however, that Jesus, His apostles and the early Church did celebrate and worship God in certain seasons. Several centuries later, corrupt church leaders, seeking to pacify and attract non-Christians, abandoned these festivals and holy days. In doing so, they lost—and this is not an overstatement—the knowledge of God’s plan of salvation!

Are you bothered by the shallowness, deceit and hypocrisy of Christmas? Are you curious about the festivals Jesus kept and their meaning? Then download our free booklet From Holidays to Holy Days: God’s Plan for You. There you will see from the Bible the amazing truths about God, Jesus and the real reasons for these seasons!

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