Every year at Christmas, social media gets flooded with accusations that Christmas is a Pagan holiday, and those who celebrate the birth of Jesus on December 25, with Christmas trees and holly berries and the whole works, are actually, unknowingly, worshiping Pagan gods. The ultimate irony, though, is that those accusers almost always follow the spirit of ancient Paganism more closely than the ones they accuse.
[If you’re a Pagan reading this, I mean no disrespect to you. This is a Christian / Messianic blog, and I’m attempting to address bickering among our own people.]
Greek mythology tells a tale of the god Dionysus, and a lesson he taught to a greedy king named Midas.
The story goes that King Midas treated a drunken Dionysus well. To repay the kindness, Dionysus granted the king one wish. King Midas wished for everything he touched to turn to gold. He soon found that the gift became a curse, however, as he was unable to eat or drink, because his food and wine turned to gold when he touched it. His hasty request reached its tragic conclusion when King Midas accidentally killed his daughter by turning her to gold.
Followers of Jesus do not recognize Dionysus as our god. We believe this as just a story. But how often do we superimpose the personality of Dionysus onto the God of the Bible? We hear (or say), “Be careful what you pray for; God might give it to you.” Or “Be careful how you pronounce names, how you decorate, and which days you observe. You might be worshiping Pagan gods without even knowing it!”
The fear of accidental worship–and by the way, that doesn’t exist–reaches fever pitch around holidays. Followers of Jesus who celebrate Christmas are accused of Paganism because of such superficialities as decorating with Christmas trees and holly wreaths. All the while, their accusers are replacing the basic attributes of the God of the Bible with the traits of the Pagan Dionysus.
Whether or not you believe Christmas originated with Paganism (It did not, but Pagans celebrate winter festivals that predate Christianity.), ask yourself:
- Do you really believe that the God of the Universe hears a person’s thoughts, speaks their language, has the ability and the desire to respond to their prayers—but does not know, or does not care, what they meant?
- Do you really believe God gets confused if we don’t act carefully, if we say the “wrong” words, worship on the “wrong” days, bring the “wrong” plant into our homes?
- Or do you just think that God is so petty and cruel that he eagerly waits for opportunities to pounce, to twist our words, disregard our intentions, and condemn us?
To those who believe any of the above things about God, your idea of God’s personality is closer to the personality of Dionysus than the God of the Bible. Jesus “knew what was in each person.” (John 2:25) I believe he still does.
“Why do you look at the speck of sawdust in your brother’s eye and pay no attention to the plank in your own eye?” Matthew 7:3, NIV
Post updated on 12/4/2015, for clarity and to remove broken links.