What is special about December 25?

December 19, 2011 | Pr. Finny Samuel |

Billions of people around the world celebrate December 25th as Christmas to commemorate the birth of incarnated Jesus Christ. Jesus Christ, in fact, does not have a beginning or end but rather IS the beginning and end itself! What does the word of God, the Bible, tell about celebrating Christmas? Bible does speak about the virgin birth of Jesus but it neither specifies the date nor mentions the need to celebrate it. Why do Christians celebrate Christmas, then?

  • Is it a time to remember Jesus?

If Christmas is celebrated to 'remember' the birth of Jesus, it should be celebrated 365 days a year because Christians must remember Christ and his manifestation on earth, in their everyday life. The only celebration Jesus gave to the church to remember Him is the Lord's Supper (1 Corinthians 11:23-24). It is the conviction of this author that if Jesus wanted His followers to remember His birth on a specific day or season, He surely would have given that as a command in the Bible either himself or through his saints. It is not mentioned anywhere in the Bible that the early Church celebrated this day either.

Hence, for a believer, the celebration on a specific day is not needed to 'remember' Christ.

  • Is it a tradition to follow?

Many consider Christmas as a 'Christian tradition' since early church history. However, what does the Bible say about following traditions? Paul does urge the believers to stand firm on the traditions that Apostles taught. (2 Thessalonians 2:15). However, the celebration of Christmas on December 25 (as a matter of fact, any special day, be it Easter, Good Friday, or Sabbath) was not one of the teachings of early apostles, according to the scriptures.

One can even find the roots of the celebration on this day from some of the early pagan worships.

"During the later periods of Roman history, sun worship gained in importance and ultimately led to what has been called a 'solar monotheism.' Nearly all the gods of the period were possessed of Solar qualities, and both Christ and Mithra acquired the traits of solar deities. The feast of Sol and Victus (open unconquered Sun) on December 25th was celebrated with great joy, and eventually, this date was taken over by the Christians as Christmas, the birthday of Christ."

2000 Encyclopædia Britannica, Volume 11 ; page 390.

Colossians 2:16 urges us not to be carried away by the observances of certain days. I am not arguing that Christmas is Pagan. However, the selection of December 25th as Christmas was backed by a lie to follow the idolatrous feasts by Pagans. Now, even the believers celebrate Christmas using the idols of Jesus Christ, his earthly parents, and even of Santa! Christmas has become a time when man moves away from God the most! Parents tell "licensed lies" about Santa Claus to their children! Everyone is busy decorating their houses with all kinds of Christmas related idols! I was deeply saddened when I saw the Christmas decorations including the idols of "baby Jesus", Mary, and Joseph inside a very prominent and 'Bible-believing' evangelical Christian church in town. That reminded me of the incident of Jesus driving out sellers and buyers from the tabernacle (Matthew 21:13 and Luke 19:45-46) and scolding the Jews for turning the tabernacle as a den of robbers!

Jeremiah 10:2,3,4 clearly warns us not to learn from the ways of the world! Verses 3 and 4 reminde me of the custom of cutting out evergreen trees, shaping its branches, decorating it with red, silver, gold-colored ornaments, and calling it as Christmas Tree!

At the end of this article, you can see an addendum listing the true origins of some of these Christmas traditions.

Hence, Christmas cannot be legitimately considered as a biblical Christian tradition either.

  • Is it time to have fun?

All celebrations are for joy and fun. I am, in no way, against enjoying and having fun. We can have that at any time. But should we misuse the name of Jesus for having fun? If we celebrate our children's birthdays, would we leave them at home alone and go to someplace else to have fun without them? Isn't that what is happening at Christmas nowadays? Where is Jesus in these celebrations? Where is His Glory in all these traditions of Santa, alcoholism, partying, and other so-called traditions? On our child's birthday, we would do the maximum to make him/her happy. Does Christmas achieve a goal of making God pleased? Usually, we give the gift to the person who has the birthday. How many of us really think what gift Jesus would like the most? What is it that pleases God the most?

There is more joy in heaven over one lost sinner who repents and returns to God than over ninety-nine others who are righteous and haven't strayed away!

Luke 15:7

Repenting and turning to God, is what God pleases the most!

Zephaniah 3:17 says God is delighted with us when he is among us. Are all these celebrations for being close to God so that God can delight on us? No. All these traditions of Santa, Yule Log, Christmas trees, wreaths, candles, goose, ham, stockings etc, are mere copying of the world's practices while 1 John 2:15,16,17 clearly advises us that we are not supposed to copy the things in this world!

  • Is it an oppurtunity to spread the message of Jesus?

Based on what was discussed above, this author does not consider that Christmas is "for" Christians. However, since the whole world celebrates a day in the name of our Lord Jesus Christ, why not we utilize that fact biblically and wisely, without getting carried away by the traditions and celebrations? We cannot change the world, but we can change ourselves. Christian churches can use this time to effectively reach out to the unreached by asking them the question "Do you know why we have Christmas" and use the opportunity to convey the real meaning of Christmas to them. At the same time, within the church, we can educate our young generation about the lies behind Christmas. We can, thus, utilize these holidays to get closer to God by doing what is pleasing to him.

Thus, Christmas can be considered "for" nonbelievers, rather than for believers.

When is the real Christmas?

If December 25 is not the 'real' Christmas, when is it? As of now, based on biblical or historical evidence, we do not have a concrete date when the incarnated Jesus was born. However, that does not really matter! In the opinion of this author, the true Christmas for a Christian is the day Jesus was born in his heart. It is a combined birthday of a man and his God since accepting Jesus as a personal savior and lord is the experience of a person being born again!

Epilogue: It is not my intention in this article to offend anyone who celebrates Christmas. Nor do I judge any tradition or practice related to Chrismas as 'sin', since I believe that it is God who has to justify our deeds and words.

Addendum: Origins of some Christmas traditions:

  1. The Christmas Day: Celebration of Sun God transformed to Celebration of Son of God

Nowhere in the Bible, it is mentioned that Jesus was born on December 25th. On the contrary, there is enough and more reason to believe that it was certainly not in December that Jesus was born. When shepherds received the news of the birth of Jesus at night, they were tending their flock in the fields. Since it is so cold and rainy during December in Judea, it is impossible for the shepherds to be out in the fields with the sheep on a December night! Also Jesus’ parents came to Bethlehem just before the birth of Christ to register in the Roman census. It is very unlikely that a census would happen in such a cold winter when the weather and the roads were miserable. The fact that 2 billion people believe this date to be the birthday of Jesus Christ is not a proof of the fact.

If 50 million people believe a foolish thing, it's still a foolish thing.

George Bernard Shaw

So how this date came to be Christmas?

Sol Invictus ("Unconquered Sun") was the official sun god of the later Roman Empire and a patron of soldiers. Romans used to celebrate Dies Natalis Solis Invicti means "the birthday of the unconquered sun" on December 25th and due to the tendency of early Christianity to adopt pagan practices, this celebration for the sun God was later adopted in the form celebration of the birth of Jesus by connecting Malachi 4:2 where Jesus was referred to as "Sun of Righteousness" (Sol Iustitiae). In the late Fourth Century the Christian writer Scriptor Syrus commented on the date of Christmas:

“It was a custom of the Pagans to celebrate on the same 25 December the birthday of the Sun, at which they kindled lights in token of festivity. In these solemnities and revelries, the Christians also took part. Accordingly, when the doctors of the Church perceived that Christians had a leaning to this festival, they took counsel and resolved that the true Nativity should be solemnized on that day.”

Syrus

However, it is to be noted that early Catholic theologian Tertullian condemned his fellow Christians for following the pagan culture and celebration in the guise of Christmas:

"The Saturnalia, the feasts of January, the Brumalia, and Matronalia are now frequented; gifts are carried to and fro, new year's day presents are made with din, and banquets are celebrated with uproar; oh, how much more faithful are the heathen to their religion, who take special care to adopt no solemnity from the Christians"

Tertullian in De Idolatria, quoted by Hislop, p. 93
  1. The Christmas Plants: Representation of life with evergreen plants
  • Christmas tree: One of the major components of Christmas Celebrations is the decoration of evergreen trees, (usually an evergreen conifer such as spruce, pine, or fir) which again is adopted from Pagan religions. Much before Christianity, the plants and trees that remained green all year had a special meaning for people in the winter.

    "The use of evergreen trees, wreaths, and garlands to symbolize eternal life was a custom of the ancient Egyptians, Chinese, and Hebrews. Tree worship was common among the pagan Europeans and survived their conversion to Christianity in the Scandinavian customs of decorating the house and barn with evergreens at the New Year to scare away the devil and of setting up a tree for the birds during Christmastime."

    Encyclopedia Britannica
    The ancient Egyptians worshipped a god called Ra, who had the head of a hawk and wore the sun as a blazing disk in his crown. At the solstice, when Ra began to recover from the illness, the Egyptians filled their homes with green palm rushes which symbolized for them the triumph of life over death.

    “It is identified with the "tree of paradise" of medieval mystery plays that were given on 24 December, the commemoration and name day of Adam and Eve in various countries. In such plays, a tree decorated with apples (to represent the forbidden fruit) and wafers (to represent the Eucharist and redemption) was used as a setting for the play. Like the Christmas crib, the Paradise tree was later placed in homes. The apples were replaced by round objects such as shiny red balls.”

    Wikipedia

  • Use of Mistletoe, Holly and Ivy, etc:

    Druid priests in Great Britain also used evergreen plants and mistletoe in pagan ceremonies, and the mistletoe plant was the symbol of the birth of a god. Celtic Druids and Norseman of Scandinavia also used mistletoe in a mysterious ceremony just after the winter solstice. European mistletoe, Viscum album, figured prominently in Greek mythology and is believed to be The Golden Bough of Aeneas, ancestor of the Romans. During the Summer solstice and Winter solstice, they used to decorate with Mistletoe. In pagan times, Holly was thought to be a male plant and Ivy a female plant. An old tradition from the Midlands of England says that whatever one was brought into the house first over winter, tells you whether the man or woman of the house would rule that year! When it is adapted to Christianity, the prickly leaves of Holly is said to represent the crown of thorns that Jesus wore when he was crucified. The berries are considered as the drops of blood that were shed by Jesus because of the thorns. It is interpreted that like Ivy needs support to grow, Christians should depend on Jesus. But the truth is decorating with holly (and ivy) is an ancient pagan tradition and was used by the Romans to decorate at Saturnalia celebrations, which was an ancient Roman festival in honor of the deity of Saturn and is held on December 17 of the Julian calendar. It is written in the history that the second-century theologian Tertullian condemned those Christians who celebrated the winter festivals, or decorated their houses with laurel boughs in honor of the emperor:

    "Let them over whom the fires of hell are imminent, affix to their posts, laurels doomed presently to burn: to them the testimonies of darkness and the omens of their penalties are suitable. You are a light of the world, and a tree ever green. If you have renounced temples, make not your own gate a temple."

    Tertullian

  • Yule Log:

    The Yule log, is a large and very hard log which is burned in the hearth as a part of traditional Yule or Christmas celebrations in several European cultures, has been said to have its origins in the historical Germanic paganism which was practiced across Northern Europe prior to Christianization.
  1. The Christmas Lights: Adapted from celebration of Sun, the God of Light

Even the Christmas lighting has its origin from Pagan festivals. While I don’t think there is nothing wrong to decorate our homes with lights or candles, associating Christmas and setting the lights as a representation of the “light of the World” has some roots in Pagan practices. The root of the date of Christmas, which is the Roman winter festival celebrating the birth of the sun itself was a festival of lights and naturally involved decoration with lots light, bonfires, and candles and hence when it was adapted to Christianity, these traditions were also adapted.

  1. The Christmas Father: Santa Claus, imposter of Jesus Christ.

Another tradition is of the myth of Santa Claus, who is portrayed as omnipresent, omniscient, and omnipotent. I even heard a Pastor delivering his Sunday Sermon portraying Santa Claus as Jesus himself! Parents are used to lying to their children about the nice vs naughty list maintained by Santa! Bible clearly despises the worldly fables and warns the believers against it (1 Timothy 4:7).

Two years back, I was so saddened when I heard a Christian Pastor in a prominent Church in Omaha, United States, preaching that Santa Claus represents Jesus Christ! It is a LIE. Santa Claus has nothing to do with Christ or Christians. Neither is this character connected in any way to the Holy Bible. It is one of the greatest DECEPTIONS from the devil to associate the character named Santa Claus to Christmas.

Many People think that the legend of Santa Claus is derived from the stories of an early Christian bishop by the name of St. Nicolas as he loved children a lot and used to give generous gifts to the poor, especially the children. However, it is not true either. While some aspects of the modern Santa Claus stories may have been derived from the fact that Nicholas remained popular as gift-bearer for the people, the true origin of Santa Claus is from the Scandinavian God Odin (or Woden) who left gifts during the Yuletide season under his sacred and evergreen tree.

Prior to Christianization, the Germanic peoples (including the English; Old English geola or guili) celebrated a midwinter event called Yule. During this period, supernatural and ghostly occurrences were said to increase in frequency, such as the Wild Hunt, a ghostly procession through the sky. The leader of the wild hunt is frequently attested as the god Odin and he bears the Old Norse names Jólnir, meaning "yule figure" and the name Langbarðr, meaning "long-beard". The god Odin's role during the Yuletide period has been theorized as having influenced concepts of St. Nicholas in a variety of facets, including his long white beard and his gray horse for nightly rides. Margaret Baker comments that "The appearance of Santa Claus or Father Christmas, whose day is 25th of December, owes much to Odin, the old blue-hooded, cloaked, white-bearded Gift bringer of the north, who rode the midwinter sky on his eight-footed steed Sleipnir, visiting his people with gifts. … Odin, transformed into Father Christmas, then Santa Claus, prospered with St Nicholas and the Christ child became a leading player on the Christmas stage.

Wikipedia

BibleBelievers.com presents an interesting study about the deception of Santa Claus. Santa Claus is said to have competitive powers to Jesus Christ and hence teaching our children about the fake story or fairy tale of Santa Claus with a list of Nice and Naughty children is against the Bible and is heresy. The following points that are said about Santa clearly show that this character is an imposter of Jesus Christ and designed by the devil to lead people away from Christ.

If Santa represents St. Nicholas, the below are wrong:

  • Santa sees/knows everything (Omnipotent).
  • Santa is everlasting.
  • Santa does the judgment on Nice vs. Naughty.
  • Santa sits upon the throne
  • Santa was/is a carpenter (Jesus, while on earth was a carpenter too)

If Santa represents Jesus, the below are wrong:

  • Santa lives in north pole
  • Santa comes through Chimney
  • Santa travels in a reindeer sled

Hence, Santa Claus is better understood an fantasy character.

  1. The Christmas Gifts: Commercial exploitation of a non-Christian tradition

At this time, you might be thinking "What! this guy won't even spare gift exchange?"

What is wrong with gifting your friends and family? Nothing!

However, practicing the tradition of gifting as a representation of the gifting of the Magi (the wise men who visited baby Jesus) and using the Christmas tree for this tradition has originated from pagan practices! During the festival of Saturnalia, the Romans used to exchange gifts, including toys and edible treats and naturally that got into the tradition of Christmas as well. The commercialism behind Christmas really exploits this tradition especially targeting the younger generation. Christmas Cards, Santa stockings, and other ornaments are simply money grabs for the retailers and have nothing to do with Christ or Christmas.

So what am I saying? Christmas is Sin? NO! I just wanted to make the point that Christmas today has deprived Jesus out of the festival and gives more importance to the imitations of the pagan celebrations and vanity in temporary worldly pleasures. Christ is fading away from Christmas! Now it has become just 'Xmas', 'the holidays', 'good tidings', and 'a season'! A believer doesn’t need a particular day to remember Christ’s birth in the world. Rather, every day the meaning and purpose of Christmas have to be celebrated through our life. However, one can use this season to be the bearer of the good news as it is one season where one gets the most number of open doors for sharing Jesus!

But reject profane and old wives’ fables, and exercise yourself toward godliness.

1 Timothy 4:7

Thus says the Lord: "Do not learn the way of the Gentiles; Do not be dismayed at the signs of heaven, For the Gentiles are dismayed at them. For the customs of the peoples are futile; For one cuts a tree from the forest, The work of the hands of the workman, with the ax. They decorate it with silver and gold; They fasten it with nails and hammers So that it will not topple. They are upright, like a palm tree, And they cannot speak; They must be carried because they cannot go by themselves. Do not be afraid of them, For they cannot do evil, Nor can they do any good."

Jeremiah 10:2-5

References:

  • en.wikipedia.org
  • history.com
  • hope-of-israel.org
  • patheos.com
  • biblebelievers.com
  • christianitytoday.com
  • whychristmas.com

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