Scriptures

Christmas

Introduction

It’s universal to call December 25th Christmas which is made up of two words, Christ and Mass. Mass is religious rite. Thus, it’s a religious rite recognising the coming of Christ into the world. However, Scriptures don’t give us the actual date of the event, Galatians 4:10-11.

While he’s referring to Jewish celebrations which had passed away with the old law it would seems it could be applied to observing any special day not authorised by the Lord.

Historical background of Christmas

Before the 5th century there was no general consensus as to the date of the birth of Jesus. It had been observed in at least six different months on various dates in each month. This confusion led church authorities in the year of 440 to set a definite date for celebrating the birth of our Lord. December 25th because it fell on the old Roman feast day of the birth of Sol, the Sun god. It was purely for competition to get people to the churches. This was observed primarily by the Roman church, however, many opposed it. This is illustrated in British and American history.

British

The history of Christmas didn’t begin with Christ. The winter solstice, the shortest day of the year, has been celebrated in one form or another for millennia. Northern Europeans called it ‘Jul’, a term remembered in the English word Yule, which now means Christmas, in ancient Rome it was the Dies Natalis Solis Invicti, or ‘the birthday of the unconquered Sun’. Through sacrifices and feasting, pagans celebrated the beginning of the Sun’s revival.

In the UK Christmas was banned and even today there are those who want to see it banned again, but as someone once said, ‘it’s political correctness gone mad’, some local councils even try to ban the use of the word Christmas. This is nothing new because back in the 17th century, this was actually true.

The English parliament under Oliver Cromwell, and Massachusetts Puritans, both tried to ban the celebration of Christmas, in England because it was ‘popish’ and pagan, in America, because 25th December was viewed as an arbitrarily selected date, rather than the true anniversary of Christ’s birth, and because drinking, eating, dancing and having fun weren’t things that went down well with 17th century American Puritans generally.

America

The first Christmas spent in America by the Mayflower Pilgrims was devoted to hard labour such as cutting down trees. In order to avoid any frivolity on the day called Christmas, they argued that nothing in the Scriptures mentioned having a good time. To Robert Brown and his associates, it was nothing more than a ‘Popish frivolity’ and the ‘dreadful work of Satan’ in their midst.

In 1659 in the Massachusetts Bay Colony, the colonial legislature made Christmas illegal. ‘Whosoever shall be found observing any such day as Christmas, shall pay for every offense five shillings.’ One judge, loudly proclaimed that people who made mince pie or plum pudding over the holiday period would surely be ‘Cursed by God for all eternity.’

Because of its association with pagan festivals the Pilgrims outlawed the colour green. Pilgrim preachers used their pulpits to denounce holly and ivy and Christmas trees as ‘seditious badges’ which were always to be looked upon as signs of the devil at work.

This stern prohibition proved to be extremely unpopular causing widespread discontent. In 1681 Christmas could be celebrated without dire consequences in Massachusetts. Yet the Pilgrim chill on the holiday persisted for another 175 years. Children in that area of New England were made to attend school on Christmas day.

The law lasted until 1856. Many people in other colonies disagreed, their holiday festivities began well before December 25th and lasted until January 6th. These were Virginians and Dutch Burghers, they believed there should be a mixture of religion and revelry.

25th December is a Jewish celebration

Hanukkah is the Jewish Festival of Lights and it remembers the rededication of the second Jewish Temple in Jerusalem. This happened in the 160s B.C. Hanukkah is the Hebrew and Aramaic word for ‘dedication’. John 10:22.

Hanukkah lasts for eight days and starts on the 25th of Kislev, the month in the Jewish calendar that occurs at about the same time as December. Because the Jewish calendar is lunar, it uses the moon for its dates, Kislev can happen from late November to late December.

The Bible does emphasise the birth of Christ

In all the New Testament devotes 100 verses to the coming of Christ into the world and we cannot overlook the fact that the birth of Jesus is one of the most significant events in the history of the world. It’s one of the most profound thoughts in the Bible and we cannot in our human limitations begin to comprehend the significance of what took place.

We cannot imagine what it was like when Jesus left the Father, the Holy Spirit, the angels and all the grandeur and glory of heaven to come to this world and become a fully human infant with an infant mind. John wrote, ‘The Word became flesh and made his dwelling among us.’ John 1:14

So simple, yet so profound

How majestic must have been that celestial scene when the Father, the Holy Spirit and all the angelic hosts of heaven said goodbye to the Word. What a scene it must have been to watch Him pass through the portals of glory to come into this world by way of a virgin.

God becoming human is one of the most amazing events in history. Angels announced His birth but only to some shepherds. Wise men came to worship him, so did the shepherds. Yet, for the most part this event went unannounced, it occurred under the most humble circumstances, in a stable, to two poor teenagers.

How amazing God would trust two teens with the care and raising of the Son of God. We today stand amazed and with Mary we cry out, ‘How can this be?’

Oh, the power and Divine love of God Almighty toward mankind.

How are Christians to observe this great and powerful event?

Accept this story exactly as it’s told without any additions and subtractions. Since no date of birth is given then obviously the Lord didn’t intend for us to set aside a day to celebrate. To celebrate December 25th is without Scriptural evidence, we simply don’t know the date.

There is no problem to talk about, read about, or even sing about His birth as long as I don’t teach it’s a command I must observe. It’s appropriate to talk about the Lord’s birth anytime. I can do this without implying I believe in the ‘immaculate conception of Mary,’ ‘the bodily assumption’ of Mary to heaven, or that ‘three wise men’ came to worship him.

Christmas trees

I remember a few years ago, a brother in the Lord and his family came for dinner on Boxing Day, we sat and chatted and enjoyed a lovely meal prepared by my wife. Everything was nice and went well and my wife and I thought it was an enjoyable evening.

However just as they were leaving the brother said to me, ‘it’s unscriptural to have that Christmas tree up in your home’, to which I replied, ‘we don’t worship the tree.’ I found it interesting that they waited until they had finished eating the food before they mentioned the tree was offensive to them.

Anyway, it was Jeremiah 10 that was used to tell us that we shouldn’t have Christmas trees in our homes, but a closer look at the passage will show that it has nothing to do with Christmas trees and everything to do with idol worship.

‘They are all senseless and foolish; they are taught by worthless wooden idols.’ Jeremiah 10:8

Idol worship was a clear violation of the Ten Commandments, Exodus 20:3-6, but there is no connection between the worship of idols and the use of Christmas trees. I can erect a Christmas tree without any thought that I am raising up some pagan symbol to honour some pagan God as it was originally done. To me it’s merely a decoration and custom, nothing more. It’s a holiday, a time of joy, giving of gifts, good cheer and reaching out to those less fortunate.

For example, I don’t look at the days of the week as the pagans did. To pagans Sunday referred to the pagan god Sun. Monday was ‘Moon day.’ Tuesday was Tiw’s day, the Anglo-Saxon god of war. Wednesday was ‘Wooden’s day’ the chief god of the Anglo-Saxons. Saturday refers to Saturn, the god of Agriculture.

When I say these words today it never crosses my mind that I am saying the names of certain pagan gods. These words no longer have any such meaning.

Almost any teaching in the Bible has some error associated with it, when I talk about the Bible doctrine of faith, I try not leave the impression I believe in faith only. If I speak on baptism I try not to leave the impression I believe in sprinkling, when I talk, read or sing about Christ’s birth, I try not to leave the impression it occurred on December 25th.

In Romans 14, Paul argues the general proposition that there will be different levels of knowledge among brethren and that, to a certain extent, these must be accommodated for the sake of Christian unity. For example, some, out of conviction, choose not to eat meats, others see nothing wrong with such a practice.

‘You, then, why do you judge your brother or sister? Or why do you treat them with contempt?’ Romans 14:10

No man is to create a law in areas of convenience and then demand that all others submit, if an obvious act of sin isn’t the issue, then peace must prevail. What I’ve discovered over the year is that those who persist in telling us that we shouldn’t celebrate Christmas, are really inconsistent with their own practices.

Birthdays

Think about the celebration of birthdays, in ancient Egypt, the birthdays of the Pharaohs were considered as ‘holy’ days, with no work being done. When we give our spouses birthday presents or throw a party for our children on their birthday, does this mean that we have compromised our faith?

Valentine’s Day

February 14th is the date that most people make an extra effort to love and be loved, this usually consists in the giving of flowers, a card and possibly going out for a nice romantic dinner. When people do this are we seriously saying that they are involved with and submitting to the Roman Catholic named Saint Valentine!

Remembering the dead

When our loved ones pass away and we go to the cemetery to visit their resting place, most people usually leave some flowers. Again, when people do this, are we seriously saying that they are practicing what the Hindu’s practice, but instead of flowers they put food on the graves of their loved ones.

Church weddings

Everyone loves a good wedding, and the place for which people get married is more important to some than others. People who can afford it would like nothing less than a big old wedding in a church building. Again, when people get married in any church building, are we seriously saying that they believe that marriage is a church sacrament, which the Catholics teach!

Common sense needs to rule, it’s just a shame that common sense isn’t so common. We all know that what people practiced years ago, maybe still be practiced today but have a totally different meaning and that’s because over a period of time, practices change, and their meanings change, and every practice has a different meaning to different people.

Conclusion

Please don’t misunderstand me, I’m not suggesting that we compromise the truth, but what I am saying is that we need to be careful not to make spiritual laws for others. We’re commanded to observe the death, burial and resurrection of Jesus on every first day of the week. We have been given a memorial to help us remember his suffering on the cross.

At the same time, I am thankful for his birth and rejoice that the Word became flesh. Without His taking on our sinful nature, the flesh, I would have no hope. I never want to forget this.

We haven’t been commanded to observe any specific day as the birth of Jesus. No memorial has been left to remind us of His birth, but we have been given abundant information about His birth thus the Lord expects to know about it and the events that surrounded it. This can be done publicly or personally anytime of the year.

 

DAILY BIBLE VERSE

"Consequently, faith comes from hearing the message, and the message is heard through the word of Christ."

Romans 10:17

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