Is Christmas From Christ?by: Keith Camp
I hear it on the radio, "Remember! Jesus is the reason for the season." The family and I receive a card wishing us a "Happy Christ's Birthday." I drive downtown and see a "nativity scene." All of this and more is designed to impress upon me that Christmas is from Christ. But is it?
If that sounds like a foolish question, think of the absurdity of
celebrating the Lord's birth in the wrong month. Yes, I said the wrong
month! Consulting a Bible encyclopedia I find that our month December
corresponds to the ninth month (Chislev) of the Hebrew calendar which,
like our own, is the cold rainy season of the year, "when the rain usually falls in torrents" (Physical Geopgraphy, Robinson,p.287). Take your Bible and take a look at these passages Ezra 10:9,13 & Jeremiah 36:22.
We can be sure it was not in December (Chislev) when an angel of the Lord announced the birth of Christ to "shepherds staying out in the fields, and keeping watch over their flock by night" (Luke 2:8-11). Then, in what month was Jesus born and how did December 25th become the selected date of His birth?
As much as we might like to know, the date (month/day) of Jesus'
birth cannot be ascertained; not even from the Bible. Any date that man
may specify is purely an assumption. (For the record, the earliest
speculations we know of are from Clement of Alexander [150-212 AD] who
wrote that April 21, 22 and May 20 were contended for in his day.) But
the uncertainty of Jesus' birthDAY does not disturb the Christian. For
if the Lord had wanted His followers to celebrate it, He would have so
instructed them. But no such instruction exists in
the New Testament. But now with respect to the day of His
death, the Lord has outlined a simple memorial and commanded His followers: "This do in remembrance of Me" (1 Corinthians 11:23-26), which Christians in the 1st century did on Sunday, the first day of each week (Acts 20:7). And so will everyone today who seeks to faithfully follow the Savior (1 Corinthians 11:1; 14:37).
It is of great importance here to remember that when some of the
Christians in Galatia were seeking to keep the holy days of the law of
Moses as part of Christianity, the apostle Paul wrote to them: "Ye
observe days and months and seasons
and years. I fear for you, that perhaps I have labored over you in
vain" (Galatians 4:10-11). Those holy memorials were enjoined upon a
particular people under a particular dispensation. When Christ came and
gave His life, "the law of Christ" (Galatians 6:2) became effective
and rendering ineffectual the law of Moses (Colossians 2:14-16;
Hebrews 8:13). And Paul warned the Galatians that anyone who sought to
combine the two for obeisance and justification was teaching/following
a "perverted gospel" and "accursed from Christ" (Galatians 1:6-9). Now
think about that. If Christians in the 1st century were instructed not
to give religious significance to days of a former law (even a
God-given one!), then can Christians today lawfully give such
significance to a day that was never commanded by the Lord? The
disciple of Christ will not if he desires to be pleasing to His Lord (2
But if the Lord did not command the disciples to observe the day of
His birth, and there is no Biblical record they did, then how did
December 25th become the celebrated day? I'll let the historians
Dahmus, Dictionary of Medieval Civilization, p.191...
"CHRISTMAS, feast commemorating the birth of Christ that came to be
celebrated on December 25 at least as early as the year 336 AD. It was
on that date pagans had honored the Natalis Sol Invictus and it may
have been to neutralize that pagan feast that Christ's birth was
assigned to it, the birth of the Sun of Righteousness. The
Christological controversies of the fourth, fifth, and sixth
centuries over the nature of Christ undoubtedly contributed to the
growth of the importance of the feast."
World Book Encylopedia, 1985 ed., Vol.3, p.408... "This celebration
was probably influenced by pagan (unchristian) festivals held at that
time. The ancient Romans held year-end celebrations to honor Saturn,
their harvest god; and Mithras, the god of Light."
Christmas in the Older Time: Its Customs and Their Origin, Folcroft Library Ed., 1977, pp. 45-46...
"The Emperor Julian says, in his fourth oration, 'When the last month
is nearly out -which is sacred to Saturn- just before the beginning of
the new year, we celebrate the most magnificent sports dedicated to SOL
INVICTUS.' And in the old calendar of the late Constantine it is
written, 'On the 8th of the Kalends of January (Dec.25), the birth of
SOL INVICTUS, 24 courses are performed in the circus,...' Had not the
Romans observed this SATURNALIA, it may be reasonably doubted if
any Christmas festival would have been known among the modern
nations. The early Christian fathers tried to banish the sports, but
tried in vain; and then they baptized and employed them for Christian
purposes. They failed in blotting them out, and hence
they rested content with presenting them in a new aspect.
When the Roman or Scandinavian declared that he would keep the festival
of the 'new birth of the Sun,' the Christian fathers said we will show you a better reason for rejoicing 'we tell of the Spiritual Son, not
the Material Sun.' The people cared little which, so long as they
preserved their sports, and with many sighs, at first, but a desire to
share their mirth, the Christian teachers gave their consent."
World Book Encyclopedia, 1960 ed.,Vol.3,p.416... "In
AD 354, Bishop Liberius of Rome ordered the people to celebrate on
December 25. He probably chose this date because the people of Rome
already observed it as the Feast of the Sun, celebrating the birthday
of the sun...."
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