Recently, I ordered some clothes online from one of my favorite stores. The merchandise arrived in a package with the following words highlighted in red: “Yule Love This.” Indeed, I loved the clothes but found the slogan annoying, despite the clever word play.
What is Yule? What is Christmas? If you do a quick search on the Internet, you might conclude that Yule and Christmas are synonymous with celebrating the birth of Christ. However, if Yule celebrates the birth of Christ, why do pagans embrace Yule?
What connection, if any, does the Yule log, mistletoe, holly, and chopping down and decorating a tree (Jer. 10: 1-4?) have to do with the birth of Christ? Is Yule about the Sun or the Son? If you want to research Christmas and Yule, check out STORIES BEHIND THE GREAT TRADITIONS OF CHRISTMAS by Ace Collins (Zondervan, 2003), ALL ABOUT CHRISTMAS by Maymie R. Krythe (Harper & Brothers, New York, 1954), and the MYSTERY OF CHRISTMAS, a DVD by Norm Franz of Ascension Ministries. Also, be sure to watch the History Channel’s special on the origin of Christmas. It’s an eye-opener.
I love nativity scenes and hymns that celebrate the birth of Christ. Handel’s “Messiah” moves me to tears (although Handel wrote it to celebrate Christ’s Resurrection, not His birthday.) “Joy to the World,” “O Little Town of Bethlehem,” “Silent Night,” and “Mary Did You Know” are awesome reminders of the event that changed our calendar.
What troubles me is “the other side” of Christmas. Traditions are fine unless they clash with the Word of God. This brings me back to Yule. Is it wrong to mix pagan traditions with Christian traditions? Is it OK to Christianize a pagan holiday? By now you’re probably thinking what difference does it make? As long as we celebrate the birth of Christ in our hearts, nothing else matters, right? Actually, the question should be how does Christ feel about when and how we celebrate His birth?
“You must not worship the LORD your God in their [pagan] way, because in worshiping their gods, they do all kinds of detestable things the LORD hates” (Deuteronomy 12: 31a NIV).
God doesn’t want us to worship Him the way the pagans worship their gods. Don’t mix the holy with the profane is a scriptural mandate. They [the Levitical priests] are to teach my people the difference between the holy and the common and show them how to distinguish between the unclean and the clean (Ezekiel 44: 23 NIV).
You cannot drink the cup of the Lord and the cup of demons too; you cannot have a part in both the Lord’s table and the table of demons (I Corinthians 10: 21 NIV).
Suggested further reading: Jeremiah 10: 1-4; Matthew 1: 1-24; Matthew 2: 23; Luke 2: 1-40; Deuteronomy 12: 29-31; Deuteronomy 18: 9-13; Galatians 4: 4-10.