Lots of message board chatter, this Christmas season, about the pagan origins of Christmas. This is not surprising given some recent books and the contemporary hatred for all things institutional. Truth be told, a 12/25 celebration does have pagan origins. In the 3rd and 4th century world, that date was, pretty much, a universally celebrated pagan holiday (they believed it was the winter solstice, for one thing, among others). There are basically three positions to take when confronted with this information:
1) What!?! Jesus wasn't born on 12/25? Christmas has pagan origins? We should stop practicing it right now! God must be really mad at us! I can't believe I've been practicing paganism all these years! I'm so sorry! I am now going to become a crusader against Christmas. I must let other Christians know how sinful they are being!
2) Good idea! I think the early Christians were smart to replace pagan festivals with Christian holy days. After all, I was once a pagan and God redeemed me. I happen to think God is in the redeeming business. We're not told when, or even to, celebrate Jesus' birth. So we're free to be creative!
3) So what? Contemporary Christians don't know the pagan origins of Christmas anyways. The day is as 'Christian' or as 'Pagan' as each individual makes it. We can use it to celebrate the incarnation or we can not use it at all. The main question should always be "What is it now?" Is it a Christian celebration of incarnation or a pagan celebration of consumerism? Hmm.