“The Messianic/Christian Holiday” Dilemma – For Messianic believers – an article by Ron Cantor with an intro by Cathy Hargett, Highway To Zion

Cathy Hargett, Highway To Zion
Charlotte, North Carolina USA

“The Messianic/Christian Holiday” Dilemma
For Messianic believers – an article by Ron Cantor
Intro by Cathy Hargett

Image result for messiah of israel with star of david


Friday, Dec. 14, 2018

Shalom, Shalom, Friends!

If you have been part of the Messianic Movement, whether Jew or Gentile, for any length of 

time, you know that when the Feast days and the traditional Christian holidays appear on the 
calendar, there is usually lots of discussion about how to celebrate, which ones to celebrate, 
or if to celebrate!

I am forwarding an article written by Ron Cantor, an Israeli and a Messianic Jewish believer. 

Ron’s writing is winsome, often amusing, and even if you don’t agree with him (I don’t agree 
with everything he says), I believe that you will find what he says to be compelling and will 
help you seek the Lord with questions about how to celebrate your Messianic Faith.
The Lord bless you and keep you!
Cathy Hargett
Highway to Zion Ministries, Inc.

The article and info about Ron is below! Ron’s blog address is:  

Shalom from Israel! I am Ron Cantor and this my blog. I am the GODTV Israel Regional 

Director host of the daily TV program, “Out of Zion”. I also serve on the leadership team 
of a Hebrew-speaking, Spirit-filled congregation in Tel Aviv.
We love Yeshua and we love Israel. Hope to see you here soon!

Pastoring, Blogging and Writing

Hi, I’m Ron Cantor. I am a citizen of the rebirthed nation of Israel, the United States and 
heaven! I help lead a congregation in Tel Aviv called Tiferet Yeshua—the Glory of Yeshua
–along with our amazing team of pastors and elders. We have a sister congregation in 
Jerusalem called Ahavat Yeshua. I am also a published author with Destiny Image Publishers
(more on that in a minute) and if you read my eighth-grade evaluation from my Psychiatrist 
you will know what a miracle that is!
This is my blog and my mission is to help you know the true Messiah in His original 
“Jewish” context. It is amazing how much richer your walk will become when you 
understand God’s plan for Israel and the nations and how you fit in! As a new Jewish 
believer I was pretty surprised to find out things like, “John was not a Baptist” or 
“Mariam (Mary) was an Israelite!”
A Balanced view for Christians and Messianic Jews Preface
Over the years I have run into many hurting Christians who tell me of loved-ones suddenly 
having an epiphany and declaring they can never celebrate Christmas again! These 
well-meaning, but a wee-bit overzealous believers often connect it with Messianic Judaism. 
And the end result is that folks believe Messianic Jews are on a Crusade (pun intended) to 
end Christmas. Whether Christmas is pagan in origins or not, one is not going to win over
 their loved-ones by preaching to them that they are now pagans or celebrating a pagan 
holiday.If one has a longstanding tradition of celebrating Christmas with their extended 
family, I see no reason not to continue even if he or she has come to different conclusions 
about celebrating it. Family is too important. Just this morning I was in a Jewish synagogue 
singing songs about the Creator with 40 Jews who don’t share my belief in Yeshua. It was
 not a time to preach, but to be a light. I was there to honor my nephew who was married 
last week. Though we have strong disagreements regarding the Messiah, I want to win my 
in-laws, not drive them away. With that in mind, I wrote a series of blogs on Christmas.
Back in 1999 we lived in Ukraine. We were working with the Messianic Jewish Bible 
Institute, training leaders for Jewish ministry. When Christmas came, we were invited to 
a party with about 30 other expats working in Ukraine. They decided to go around the room, 
asking each other what their favorite Christmas memory was. There was a gasp when I 
shared that I didn’t have one—“I’ve never celebrated Christmas.” Mental hard drives began 
to crash.
It is simple. I am Jewish. I didn’t grow up with Christmas. There is no spiritual or cultural 
connection. However, I do have a few things I would like to share with both Jew and Gentile 
alike about Christmas. I am not here as a Christmas Basher. I think (hope!) you’ll find my 
view balanced and affirming and hopefully enlightening as well. But we need to go through 
it point by point.
Christmas is not in the Bible and neither is the Timing of Yeshua’s Birth
And neither is Hanukah for that matter and I love to celebrate it. We are never commanded 
to celebrate the birth of the Messiah. That doesn’t mean we shouldn’t. I have many 
God-honoring traditions in my life that are not commanded in the Bible. John 10:22 tells us 
that Yeshua celebrated the aforementioned extra-biblical holiday of Hanukah. But regarding 
Christmas, it should be stated that for centuries it never occurred to the first believers that
they should celebrate His birth, nor did they know when he was born.
“With no Biblical directive to do so and no mention in the Gospels of the correct date, it 
wasn’t until the fourth century that church leaders in Rome embraced the holiday.” 
If I had to guess—and I’m no expert in this—Yeshua was born just before Passover. 
Here’s why in a nutshell.
1. Zechariah, the father of John the Baptist, was a priest and according to the Luke passage 
there are only five possible times that someone in the Abijah division, as was Zechariah, 
could have been serving. During one of the three feasts or the tenth week after the beginning 
of the year or nine weeks after Rosh Hashanah.[i]
2. For sure, one of these dates (the Feast of Tabernacles), assuming that Elizabeth conceived 
within a short period of time after Zechariah came home from the Temple, could lead to a 
winter birth. We know that Yeshua was born 15 months after Elizabeth conceived as 
Miriam conceives in Elizabeth’s sixth month.
3. However, it would be highly unlikely for shepherds to be outside on a cold and possibly 
wet winter night. It would make more sense that they were with their lambs in the warmer 
spring in preparation for the Passover, when Lambs would be needed all over Jerusalem. 
According to Dr. Ziony Zevit, lambing season—when lambs were born—was at this time.[ii]
4. It is unlikely that Caesar Augustus would call for a census in the middle of the winter, 
when the rains could make for a cold, muddy trip. Although it could rain in the spring, it is 
less likely at the end of March/April and a lot warmer.
5. It would make sense that Yeshua not only died as the lamb of God on Passover, but was 
born at the time that the Passover Lamb would have been. Of course, this is just a 
hypothesis—but a cool one.
Is Christmas Pagan?

First a story. I was getting ready to preach one morning and the fellow giving the 
announcements said: “Everybody’s talking about the pagan roots of Christmas. Next thing
 we’ll know, they are going to start telling us that Halloween is pagan too!” He was being 
funny of course. But we must deal with the pagan roots of Christmas or at least the 
One theory is that it was connected to the heresy, Docetism, spreading in the fourth century 
which stated that Jesus had never been physically born, but was merely some sort of spiritual
 entity. The Council of Nicea dealt a blow to this heresy affirming both the divinity and 
humanity of the Messiah. It is believed that Church leaders felt that if they gave Him a 
birthday, it would crush the heresy.
The winter pagan celebrations were already widely observed, so they chose December. It is 
believed that they did this to win pagans to Christianity.
“More than likely, this date was picked to line up with the Roman holiday of Saturnalia, 
which was celebrated with a pagan sacrifice to Saturn and a public banquet, followed by 
gift-giving and a carnival-like atmosphere.” (click for source)
However, Saturnalia ends on December 23th, not the 25th. And there is a strong case made 
that Christians were celebrating Christmas before the fourth century. To be honest with you,
 there is much that is written on the pagan roots of Christmas and just as much written to
 refute it. Many of these folks have outstanding credentials and they all make strong cases. 
But as we will see in point three, it doesn’t really matter.

Just because the pagans use a symbol doesn’t make it pagan.

For instance, the LBGT community uses the rainbow. But when I see a rainbow I think of 
God’s covenant with Noah. A symbol only has meaning to the extent that you give it meaning. 
That is why Paul said that for someone who realizes there is no power in idols, he can eat meat 
sacrificed to idols. But for someone who grew up as a pagan, he still might think there is some
 spiritual power in this practice, so as a believer, he abstains.
My point is that if someone brings a Christmas tree into their house, it doesn’t mean that are 
embracing pagan practices. Yes, it is true that pagans were fond of bringing greenery into their 
homes in the winter and many Romans decorated the tree to honor Bachuss, the fertility God. 
But that doesn’t make trees evil.

Jeremiah (10:2-4) does condemn the practice, but again, he is condemning mimicking the 

pagans who sought spiritual reward or favor through such things. So to be clear, if you think 
that your Christmas tree has spiritual power, then Jeremiah has a problem with you. But if 
it is merely a family tradition that reminds you of Yeshua’s birth, what is to condemn?

As a Messianic Jew I don’t celebrate Christmas for two reasons.
A) It simply doesn’t mean to me what it means to others. I grew up seeing Christmas as the 
Gentile Hanukah. I preferred eight days of gifts to one. Culturally there was no connection. 
After coming to faith, I never felt drawn to the custom.
b) For 1,900 years the Church has presented Jesus, the Jewish Messiah to my people as 
someone completely and utterly non-Jewish. I wrote a book called Identity Theft to show 
the church how the Jewish roots of the Gospel have been largely deleted. Some Church 
fathers went so far as to say that God hates the Jews. Constantine, the first Roman emperor 
to embrace Christianity outlawed using Passover to celebrate the Resurrection of Yeshua 
(that is why there is Easter) in the most damning words.
“And truly, in the first place, it seems to everyone a most unworthy thing that we should 
follow the customs of the Jews in the celebration of this most holy solemnity, who, polluted 
wretches, having stained their hands with a nefarious crime are justly blinded in their minds. 
It is fit, therefore, that rejecting the practice of this people, we should perpetuate to all future 
ages the celebration of this rite, in a more legitimate order, which we have kept from the first 
day of our ’Lord’s’ passion even to the present times. Let us then have nothing in common 
with the most hostile rabble of the Jews. (Council of Nicea, pg. 52.)”
His actions further distance the body of Messiah from her Jewish roots.
The Crusaders, with crosses on their shields murdered thousands of Jews in cold blood—
all in the name of Christ. The Inquisition, empowered by the Spanish Church, sent some 
40,000 Jews packing because they would not be baptized. There have been countless 
pogroms and massacres from so-called Christians against Jews. And many “Christian” 
Germans joined the Nazi frenzy to liquidate Europe of its Jews.
Now I understand the difference between a cultural Christian and genuine follower of 
Yeshua. But most Jews don’t. I live and breathe with a passion to see my people find life 
in the Messiah. So why embrace a tradition, not commanded in the Bible, that only adds to 
the false idea that Yeshua is not for the Jews?
I am fighting a battle to show my people the truth of the Gospel—that Yeshua, the Jew, 
lived in Israel, fulfilled the Jewish prophecies of the Messiah, had Jewish disciples, never 
started a new religion, died on Passover, rose on First Fruits[i] and birthed the body of 
believers on Shavuot (Pentecost). And that for the first ten years the disciples only preached 
to Jews—not realizing that Gentiles could embrace the Jewish Messiah without first 
converting, and the message they preached was eternal life and forgiveness of sins through 
the sacrificial death of the Passover Lamb, the Jewish Messiah. They never converted or 
stopped being Jewish.
Celebrating Christmas, for me, would confirm the lie in the mind of many that I have 
betrayed my people. This was Paul’s argument in 1 Cor. 10, where he said, all things are 
legal, but if your freedom is communicating something that causes others to stumble, then 
it is not beneficial. Or, as he says in Romans 14:15, “Do not destroy by your food (in this 
case Christmas) someone for whom the Messiah died.”
Some Believers would feel Guilty not to Celebrate Christmas
Many years ago when I was on the pastoral team of a Messianic congregation in the U.S. a 
woman came to me and asked, “Why don’t we celebrate Christmas at Beth Messiah?” She 
was married to a Jewish believer. She grew up with Christmas. She loved Christmas. In fact,
 there are many people who would feel as if they were sinning if they didn’t celebrate 
Christmas—because for them, it is honoring Yeshua, as well as a time to be with family
 and friends. For them, to not celebrate would be to dishonor Him.
I told this woman something akin to what I wrote a few paragraphs above in point 4, making 
it clear that as a congregation we would never celebrate Christmas—it’s not who we are. 
But I added, “In your home, by all means celebrate how you feel best. No one is going to 
judge you. We have no Messianic police!” I know many Messianic couples where one 
spouse is not Jewish. For the non-Jews, often there is an emptiness by not celebrating 
something with which they grew up—that was pure and honoring to God. Several have 
told me that in recent years they have quietly celebrated. Given that my wife was raised 
in Israel, she too has no cultural ties to Christmas.
Can we talk about Santa and the commercialism of the Holidays?
Let me be clear, while it is not my place to judge people who partake in Christmas—I do 
have serious issues with Santa! You see I am fiercely loyal to the idea that if we celebrate, 
we do so to the glory of God. Santa Claus takes glory away from Yeshua. And the madness 
of shopping for Christmas, while good for the economy, is out of control! No longer do 
people shop to bless others, instead they run from the Thanksgiving table, to start the season 
of goodwill, by fighting with others to get stuff for themselves. So don’t confuse my grace 
towards Christmas by assuming that I embrace all things connected to the modern way in 
which it is celebrated.
It should be noted that the custom of gift-giving didn’t begin until the 1800s. And it does 
seem a strange way to celebrate someone else’s birthday. Imagine if 100 people came to your
 birthday party and started exchanging gifts with each other and you got nothing? If anybody 
should receive a gift on Christmas, should it not be Yeshua—the One whose birthday we 
are celebrating? We can do that by supporting ministries that are doing the work of the 
Kingdom. (hint, hint )
More people get find Salvation on Christmas and Easter than any other specific days
Non-Jews are more likely to go to a congregation on that day than on other days. Many 
congregations take advantage of that and seek to reach those people with the Good News. 
One of my best friends and supporters came to faith on Christmas. I am certainly not going 
to condemn that. We do the same thing here in Israel on Hanukah and Passover. Last week we had over 100 visitors for our Hanukah concert and party.
There is a Lutheran Church in Jaffa. They will have a Christmas Eve celebration next week, where they will sing Christmas carols—the Biblical ones. Over one hundred Israelis will come to see it out of curiosity. And they will seek to share Yeshua’s message in a tactful way by giving away books and DVDs about Yeshua.

My point here is simple and based on Romans 14 and 1 Corinthians 10—where Paul teaches 
about freedom. So for those who love Christmas and celebrate it to the glory of God, great! 
But please do not judge me or my Messianic brothers and sisters for not celebrating.
In 2001 we moved back home to Richmond, Virginia. A man who has become a dear friend, 
quizzed me about why I didn’t (and don’t) celebrate Christmas when I first met him. He 
couldn’t wrap his head around the idea of someone in fulltime ministry—a pastor even—
who did not celebrate Christmas. How can you love Jesus and ignore Christmas?
Over the years he has come to a better understanding. And while he certainly doesn’t judge 
me for not partaking, it doesn’t stop him from continuing to enjoy Christmas for all the right 
With that, I would like to wish you a Happy Hanukah (that just ended), a Merry Christmas 
and a Blessed New Year (that actually starts in the Spring )

Steve Martin

STEVE & LAURIE MARTIN - LOVE FOR HIS PEOPLE FOUNDERS My good wife Laurie and I (married 45 years), founded Love For His People Ministry in 2010. This work gives love and support to our friends in Israel and other nations with friendship and humanitarian aid. Through social media, Steve's messages, and our Ahava Adventures trips to Israel, it is a growing, effective organization. Steve has also authored and published 36 books. We live in the Charlotte, NC area and have four adult children, spouses, and eight grandkids. Ahava and shalom with blessings on ye head!

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *