Here in the U.S., there is a perpetual longing for the next major holiday. There is scarcely a time when the retail establishments are not decorated for one holiday or another. The decorations and merchandise for one holiday will simply replace the decorations and merchandise of another holiday. Christmas decorations are often up even before the Halloween decorations come down. Then will come Mardi Gras, Valentine's Day, St. Patrick's Day, April Fool's Day, Easter and so on. What do all of these holidays have in common? They all have pagan origins. However, many who celebrate these holidays today do not recognize the pagan origins. In fact, some who celebrate these holidays have no idea that they even originate in paganism.
Most pagans do know the origins, and they proudly celebrate their holidays. Some pagans are more than a little miffed that many of their holidays have been hijacked by the Christian community. Some people who celebrate these holidays have no religious affiliation at all. They simply follow the crowd. Some Christians know the origins but do not see the harm in celebrating these holidays because there is no pagan intent in their heart. Still others claim these holidays have been Christianized and are therefore now Christian holidays. As a Christian, as long as I don't bow down and worship the idols, celebration of these holidays is acceptable, right? To find the answer to that question we must determine:
1. Who decides what is acceptable when it comes to worship?
2. What exactly defines worship?
As Christians, we must seek the answer to those questions in the Bible. We do not have to look very far in the Bible before we get the answer to our first question.
Gen 4:2 And she again bare his brother Abel. And Abel was a keeper of sheep, but Cain was a tiller of the ground.
Gen 4:3 And in process of time it came to pass, that Cain brought of the fruit of the ground an offering unto the LORD.
Gen 4:4 And Abel, he also brought of the firstlings of his flock and of the fat thereof. And the LORD had respect unto Abel and to his offering:
Gen 4:5 But unto Cain and to his offering he had not respect. And Cain was very wroth, and his countenance fell.
The symbolism in Genesis 4:3 gives the full story. God made us from the dust of the ground as seen in Genesis 2:7. Therefore, the "fruit of the ground" in this verse is symbolic of the thoughts and actions of man—the works of man. However, one does not need to delve into symbolism to understand the point of this verse. Cain was a tiller of the ground, and it must have seemed appropriate and reasonable to him that God would accept the offering of fruit. However, God did not accept his offering. Without understanding the symbolism, we don't know why God did not accept Cain's offering. We simply know that God found the offering unacceptable, and that is all that we truly need to know. This very basic lesson in the Bible makes clear that our intentions are not what determines what is acceptable to God. God decides what is acceptable, not us.
We are also told twice in Proverbs that what seems right to us may be entirely wrong.
Pro 14:12 There is a way which seemeth right unto a man, but the end thereof are the ways of death.
Pro 16:25 There is a way that seemeth right unto a man, but the end thereof are the ways of death.
We must rely on God to show us what is acceptable to Him. We may not decide this for ourselves. How we perceive a particular ritual or tradition is simply irrelevant. All that matters is what that ritual or tradition means to God. This requires a humble heart on our part. We must set our ego aside and seek only the truth regardless of our own feelings and thoughts. The pressures of the world must not enter into our decision on whether or not to keep one of the holidays. Sentimental thoughts are irrelevant. This is a matter that only God can decide. God truly has to come first. What we think, does not matter. God alone can judge what He deems acceptable. The One receiving the worship decides what is acceptable to Him.
Now we need to answer our second question. What exactly defines worship? The answer to that question is different for worshiping God than it is for serving Satan. Notice that wording. God requires worship of us, but Satan will be happy if we simply serve him. There is a difference. We can gain understanding of this truth by looking at a few verses that tell us exactly what God requires of us.
Exo 13:16 And it shall be for a token upon thine hand, and for frontlets between thine eyes: for by strength of hand the LORD brought us forth out of Egypt.
This verse is in reference to the children of Israel sacrificing to God after He brought them out of Egypt. The situation is symbolic of Christ bringing us out of our sins. In the verse, God is telling the people that they must obey Him with their thoughts and actions concerning the sacrifice. Upon thy hand and between thine eyes—that is to say in the deeds of their hands and the thoughts of their mind.
Deu 6:5 And thou shalt love the LORD thy God with all thine heart, and with all thy soul, and with all thy might.
Deu 6:6 And these words, which I command thee this day, shall be in thine heart:
Deu 6:7 And thou shalt teach them diligently unto thy children, and shalt talk of them when thou sittest in thine house, and when thou walkest by the way, and when thou liest down, and when thou risest up.
Deu 6:8 And thou shalt bind them for a sign upon thine hand, and they shall be as frontlets between thine eyes.
These verses again reiterate the same sentiment. The love of God must be in our hearts, minds, and souls. We must show this love in our actions (upon thy hand) and in our mind/thoughts (frontlets between thine eyes).
Mat 22:37 Jesus said unto him, Thou shalt love the Lord thy God with all thy heart, and with all thy soul, and with all thy mind.
In this verse, Jesus also tells us that He requires our heart, mind and soul.
Deu 11:16 Take heed to yourselves, that your heart be not deceived, and ye turn aside, and serve other gods, and worship them;
Deu 11:17 And then the LORD'S wrath be kindled against you, and he shut up the heaven, that there be no rain, and that the land yield not her fruit; and lest ye perish quickly from off the good land which the LORD giveth you.
Deu 11:18 Therefore shall ye lay up these my words in your heart and in your soul, and bind them for a sign upon your hand, that they may be as frontlets between your eyes.
These verses again confirm that we must think and act according to the will of God. They also tell us to be careful that we are not deceived into serving other gods. It is possible to serve other gods out of deception. God requires everything. However, Satan will accept anything. One can serve Satan without physically bowing down to him or his idols. The easiest way to illustrate this is probably to go right to the end of the Bible. After all, we all know where we want to end up when all is said and done. The book of Revelation tells us that the followers of Satan will receive a mark. The wording in those verses will tell us what Satan considers acceptable worship for himself.
Rev 13:16 And he causeth all, both small and great, rich and poor, free and bond, to receive a mark in their right hand, or in their foreheads:
Did you catch that? The mark of Satan can be in the hand OR in the mind. While God requires our actions and our thoughts, Satan will accept either or.
Rev 14:9 And the third angel followed them, saying with a loud voice, If any man worship the beast and his image, and receive his mark in his forehead, or in his hand,
Rev 14:10 The same shall drink of the wine of the wrath of God, which is poured out without mixture into the cup of his indignation; and he shall be tormented with fire and brimstone in the presence of the holy angels, and in the presence of the Lamb:
These verses reiterate that God is in agreement on this point. Those who act OR think to serve Satan will experience the wrath of God.
Rev 20:4 And I saw thrones, and they sat upon them, and judgment was given unto them: and I saw the souls of them that were beheaded for the witness of Jesus, and for the word of God, and which had not worshipped the beast, neither his image, neither had received his mark upon their foreheads, or in their hands; and they lived and reigned with Christ a thousand years.
This verse again reiterates this point. Those who will reign with Christ must reject the anti-Christ beast, and his image, and cannot serve Satan or the beast through their actions or thoughts. One can worship Satan or follow the anti-Christ beast by actions or in thought. Satan is not picky about how one serves him, and God recognizes and further establishes this fact. God requires action and thoughts in worship of Himself, and He clearly shows that Satan can be served either through thoughts or actions even if one is deceived into those thoughts or actions. So before anyone sets up that tree, fills that basket with eggs, or places that wreath, perhaps he/she should think about where those customs come from. Are those actions worshiping God or serving Satan? Nowhere in the Bible are we instructed to celebrate holidays like Christmas, Easter, Halloween, and April Fool's Day. These are all man made holidays with pagan origins and pagan meanings. The following verses tell us to destroy the pagan places of worship and idols when they come into our possession.
Deu 12:2 Ye shall utterly destroy all the places, wherein the nations which ye shall possess served their gods, upon the high mountains, and upon the hills, and under every green tree:
Deu 12:3 And ye shall overthrow their altars, and break their pillars, and burn their groves with fire; and ye shall hew down the graven images of their gods, and destroy the names of them out of that place.
Deu 12:4 Ye shall not do so unto the LORD your God.
The word of God tells us very plainly, in that last verse, to not worship Him in the same manner that the pagans worship their deities. The verse before that one says, when we come into possession of a pagan grove, to "burn their groves", not bring the grove into our homes, set it up, and call it a Christmas tree. That is literally placing Christ' name on a pagan grove and is in fact serving Christ in the same manner that the pagans serve their deities. God never asked for this form of worship. In fact, He forbade it. Our intentions are as irrelevant as Cain's intentions were. God chooses how He is to be worshiped.