The Celebration of Christmas
Is it possible for Christians to honestly celebrate the birth of Christ on December 25th?
Of course it is!
Christmas was never about paganism to my parents, to me or my kids. But many followers of William Branham love to throw a wet blanket on Christmas.
When we raise our children with the emphasis on Christ and family, then traditions set forth by that family are founded on love and wrapped up in fellowship. Many families have adopted traditions created by other families of yesteryear and some families create their own traditions. Grace is knowing we can celebrate family traditions founded on love while not worrying about how others in the past may have had a different focus.
Forgiveness lavished with grace erases the memories of what previous people did on the same days and gives us mercy as we seek to walk forward in Christ with our families.
Many message churches teach that Christmas is a pagan tradition that should be squelched, ignored and certainly not celebrated. But the Bible teaches that no other Christian is allowed to judge another with respect to the celebration of feasts or holy days.
Legalism kills the spiritual benefit of Christmas and destroys the wonderful Christ-honoring family times that occur as we celebrate the incarnation together, partake in special family meals, and commune with one another during the holiday time.
The origins of Christmas
We know what the origins of December 25th are. But we also know what the origins of the days of the week are too (and we still use a calendar).
We don’t worship pagan gods, sit around an Asherah pole (more on that later), or eat raw meat from strangled animals.
There’s no need to attempt to sway people into thinking they are doing something as horrid as that. Yet, even if they were, they would be considered the modern day heathens who Christ died to save. Because of the knowledge of Christ, we can celebrate our traditions with our families and not worry about the condemnation that legalism spreads.
There is no condemnation to those in Christ.
The argument from the Old Testament fails because I am a Christian; therefore, I am not under the law. Galatians 3:19 states, “Why then the law? It was added because of transgressions, until the offspring should come to whom the promise had been made…” The law was in effect until Christ fulfilled it. Now, we are not under the law, but under grace (Romans 6:14).
Second, even if things like Santa, Rudolph, trees, etc., are wrong (which I’m not claiming they are good or bad, but if they detract from Christ then I’m not in favor of them), it doesn’t follow that every single Christian celebrates Christmas in that way.
We never taught our kids to believe in Santa or any of that other stuff.
So am I not allowed to tell God “Thank You” on December 25th?
The Bible could really not be any clearer on this subject. Christians have the freedom to set aside a day (or multiple days) to celebrate the birth of Christ or for any other reason they may want to praise God.
The Bible and Christmas
Bible verses that support Christmas
There are a number of Bible verses that support scripture. As mentioned above, the whole issue of law versus grace should prevent legalism about Christmas.
I don't think that needs any clarification (although it will not dissuade those that really do want to rain on your parade).
Paul discusses Christians who criticize someone for observing religious celebrations:
In other words, if I want to celebrate the birth of Christ, I have the freedom to do that on any day I want, including December 25th.
You have the freedom not to celebrate Christ’s birth on that day, or any other day. Whichever one you do, let it be according to your own conscience and celebrate (or don’t celebrate) “to the Lord.” If you feel conviction that you should not do it, then God bless you, don’t do it, and serve the Lord, BUT DO NOT JUDGE a fellow believer for celebrating on that day. Remember that Paul asked, “Who are you to judge another’s servant?”
So does this mean that "Jingle Bells" is a scriptural song?
Bible verses used to kill Christmas
Jeremiah 10:3-6 states:
It is obvious that Jeremiah was not speaking of a Christmas tree as this was over 600 years before the birth of Christ. So what pagan rituals was Jeremiah referring to?
Asherah appears in the OT both as the name of a Canaanite goddess and of her wooden cult-symbol. She functioned as consort of the chief god, El, and mother of the gods. The KJV mistakenly translates the name of Asherah as "grove". Asherim were the wooden poles that were used in the worship of Asherah.
It is quite clear, however, from a number of OT references that the Asherim were manmade objects; verbs used in connection with them include “make” (ʿāśâ, 1 Kgs 14:15; 16:33; 2 Kgs 17:16; 21:3, 7; 2 Chr 33:3), “build” (bānâ, 1 Kgs 14:23), and “erect” (nāṣab, 2 Kgs 17:10), which are inappropriate for living trees.
Jeremiah 17:2 speaks of “their Asherim beside every luxuriant tree,” which would be odd if the Asherim were themselves actual trees. This makes it impossible to suppose that the Asherim were living trees.
Deut 16:21 states that “You shall not plant any tree as an Asherah beside the altar of the Lord your God, which you shall make.” However, the word ʿēṣ can mean “wood” as well as “tree” so it seems that this also refers to something other than a living tree. Since all the other references to the Asherah in the OT (including other references in Deutoronomy) indicate that it is a manmade object, it is more natural to suppose that this is the meaning of ʿēṣ here.
The Asherah cult object does not appear to have been an image of her, since the Asherim are frequently mentioned alongside pĕsı̂lı̂m “graven images” (an expression including images of wood) as distinct objects (see Deut 7:5; 12:3; 2 Chr 33:19; 34:3, 4, 7; Mic 5:12–13—Eng 5:13–14). The most likely view is that the Asherah was a wooden pole symbolizing the goddess Asherah. 
Jeremiah 2:26-27 states:
"Stock" here refers to a dead piece of wood, an Asherah pole.
Isaiah 44:14–19 also deals with this issue in a very similar way:
As a result of the above, it is clear that Jeremiah 10 is not referring to a Christmas tree.
William Branham and Christmas
How William Branham celebrated Christmas
From conversations with members of the Branham family, we understand that William Branham had a Christmas tree in his home every year, right up to his death. In fact, they were mildly embarassed with the last Christmas tree that he purchased in Tucson, as it was apparently a small artificial wind-up metallic tree that played a popular Christmas song as it turned on its base.
So based on his actions, it is clear that William Branham was in favour of celebrating Christmas within the family setting.
What William Branham said about Christmas
Unfortunately, like with so many things, William Branham managed to communicate confusion on this issue. While celebrating Christmas with his family and giving presents to the kids, he also sometimes railed against it over the pulpit.
Was this another example of William Branham adopting the doctrine of the Jehovah's Witnesses?
There are several examples of William Branham adopting doctrinal positions that were similar to those of the Watchtower Society (the Jehovah's Witnesses).
“… those who celebrate Christmas do not honor God or Christ, but honor pagan celebrations and pagan gods.” This declaration in an Awake! magazine of December 8, 1988 (page 19) sums up the Watchtower Society’s teaching on the holiday — a teaching that the Society’s magazines reemphasize each December lest some of the flock forget and erroneously conclude ‘tis the season to be jolly.
Criticism of Christmas in those articles focuses first of all on the date. Religious and secular sources are quoted to establish the well-known fact that the actual date of the Savior’s birth is unknown. The articles then attack selection of December 25th as an arbitrary date to celebrate the event, because pagans were already holding winter festivals on that date. The implication is that the Church did not try to supplant the pagan festival with a Christian one, but rather that the Church merely attached a new name to the old holiday so that believers could join in. JW articles go on to trace the Christmas tree to pagan worship; they focus on greed and commercialism that surfaces during the Christmas shopping season; they point out that the holiday is celebrated in oriental lands where the general population makes no pretense of being believers in Christ.
From all of this they argue that Christmas is a pagan holiday inappropriate for Christians to share in. Interestingly, however, The Watchtower did not always express this viewpoint. The organization’s founders and early leaders celebrated Christmas and encouraged others to do the same:
The early Watchtower leaders who felt this way were just as familiar as today’s leaders with the resemblance between pagan customs and certain Christmas traditions. They welcomed opportunities to share with others in honoring Christ, while today’s leaders seem more eager to keep followers separated from non-JW relatives and neighbors. (Some form of isolation from outsiders is a common thread found in many mind-control cults. With some groups this separation is accomplished by physically withdrawing into a commune, while in other cults members continue living in the outside world but withdraw from social contact with non-members.)
Participation in Christmas celebrations is not optional for Jehovah’s Witnesses. The ban is enforced by elders who make up judicial committees that sit in judgment of any who celebrate the holiday, even in some small way. This has been a firmly held position of the Watchtower Society since 1928.
Christmas and Paganism
BAH! HUMBUG! These two words are instantly associated with Charles Dickens’s immortal fictional antihero, Ebenezer Scrooge. Scrooge was the prototype of the Grinch who stole Christmas, the paradigm of all men cynical.
We all recognize that Ebenezer Scrooge was a mean person—stingy, insensitive, selfish, and unkind. What we often miss in our understanding of his character is that he was preeminently profane. “Bah! Humbug!” was his Victorian use of profanity.
Not that any modern editor would feel the need to delete Scrooge’s expletives. His language is not the standard currency of cursing. But it was profane in that Scrooge demeaned what was holy. He trampled on the sanctity of Christmas. He despised the sacred. He was cynical toward the sublime.
Christmas is a holiday, indeed the world’s most joyous holiday. It is called a “holiday” because the day is holy. It is a day when businesses close, when families gather, when churches are filled, and when soldiers put down their guns for a 24-hour truce. It is a day that differs from every other day.
Every generation has its abundance of Scrooges. The church is full of them - a kind of legalist. We hear endless complaints of commercialism. We are constantly told to put Christ back into Christmas. We hear that the tradition of Santa Claus is a sacrilege. We listen to those acquainted with history murmur that Christmas isn’t biblical. The Church invented Christmas to compete with the ancient Roman festival honoring the bull-god Mithras, the nay-sayers complain. Christmas? A mere capitulation to paganism.
And so we rain on Jesus’ parade and assume an olympian detachment from the joyous holiday. All this carping is but a modern dose of Scroogeism, our own sanctimonious profanation of the holy.
Sure, Christmas is a time of commerce. The department stores are decorated to the hilt, the ad pages of the newspapers swell in size, and we tick off the number of shopping days left until Christmas. But why all the commerce? The high degree of commerce at Christmas is driven by one thing: the buying of gifts for others. To present our friends and families with gifts is not an ugly, ignoble vice. It incarnates the amorphous “spirit of Christmas.” The tradition rests ultimately on the supreme gift God has given the world. God so loved the world, the Bible says, that He gave His only begotten Son. The giving of gifts is a marvelous response to the receiving of such a gift. For one day a year at least, we taste the sweetness inherent in the truth that it is more blessed to give than to receive.
What about putting Christ back into Christmas? It is simply not necessary. Christ has never left Christmas. “Jingle Bells” will never replace “Silent Night.” Our holiday once known as Thanksgiving is rapidly becoming known simply as “Turkey Day.” But Christmas is still called Christmas. It is not called “Gift Day.” Christ is still in Christmas, and for one brief season the secular world broadcasts the message of Christ over every radio station and television channel in the land. Never does the church get as much free air time as during the Christmas season. Not only music but the visual arts are present in abundance, bearing testimony to the historic significance of the birth of Jesus. Christmas displays, creches, Christmas cards, yard displays all remind the world of the sacred Incarnation.
Doesn’t Santa Claus paganize or at least trivialize Christmas? He’s a myth, and his very mythology casts a shadow over the sober historical reality of Jesus. Not at all. Myths are not necessarily bad or harmful. Every society creates myths. They are a peculiar art form invented usually to convey a message that is deemed important by the people. When a myth is passed off as real history, that is fraud. But when it serves a different purpose it can be healthy and virtuous. Kris Kringle is a mythical hero, not a villain. He is pure fiction—but a fiction used to illustrate a glorious truth.
What about the historical origins of Christmas as a substitute for a pagan festival? I can only say, good for the early Christians who had the wisdom to flee from Mithras and direct their zeal to the celebration of the birth of Christ. Who associates Christmas today with Mithras? No one calls it “Mithrasmas.”
We celebrate Christmas because we cannot eradicate from our consciousness our profound awareness of the difference between the sacred and the profane. Man, in the generic sense, has an incurable propensity for marking sacred space and sacred time. When God appeared to Moses in the burning bush, the ground that was previously common suddenly became uncommon. It was now holy ground—sacred space. When Jacob awoke from his midnight vision of the presence of God, he anointed with oil the rock upon which he had rested his head. It was sacred space.
When God touches earth, the place is holy. When God appears in history, the time is holy. There was never a more holy place than the city of Bethlehem, where the Word became flesh. There was never a more holy time than Christmas morning when Emmanuel was born. Christmas is a holiday. It is the holiest of holy days. We must heed the warning of Jacob Marley: “Don’t be a Scrooge” at Christmas.