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WHERE DID CHRISTMAS ORGINATE?
Victor M. Eskew
Christmas Day will soon be here. It is December 25th of every year. Stores will close. Most work places will be shut down for the day. Families will get together. Meals will be shared with families and friends. Gifts will be given. In some homes, there will be a visit from a bearded man in a red and white suit named Santa. Children will arise to find gifts from jolly ole Saint Nick under the Christmas tree.
Almost all of us will be celebrating this day in some way. Some view it as a religious holiday. Others view it simply as a secular holiday similar to Labor Day or July 4th. Most have never stopped to consider the origin of Christmas. We want to give a brief history of the day in this article.
First, Christmas is not mentioned in the New Testament at all. The apostles and prophets did not record anything about Christmas. Think about that. Not one word is mentioned of a holy day called Christmas in God’s Word. Thus, the first century Christians knew nothing of the day. They never did celebrate Christmas as the day of Christ’s birth. If Peter or Paul were to arise from the dead, they would be strangers to Christmas. They never heard of it. They never taught it. They never celebrated it. All of our readers need to understand that the celebration of Christians as a religious holiday (holy day) has no divine authorization at all. It is a man-made day.
Second, there is absolutely no doubt that the infant Jesus was born to Joseph and Mary in the city of Bethlehem. The Scriptures do record this event for us. Luke has more to say about the birth of Christ than any of the gospel writers.
“And it came to pass in those days, that there went out a decree from Cesar Augustus, that all the world should be taxed. (And this taxing was first made when Cyrenius was governor of Syria.) And all went to be taxed, every one into his own city. And Joseph also went up from Galilee, out of the city of Nazareth, into Judea, unto the city of David, which is called Bethlehem (because he was of the house and lineage of David,) to be taxed with Mary his espoused wife, being great with child. And so it was, that, while they were there, the days were accomplished that she should be delivered. And she brought forth her firstborn son, and wrapped him in swaddling clothes, and laid him in a manger; because there was no room for them in the inn” (Luke 2:1-7).
An angel of the Lord appeared to shepherds that night and told them of the birth of “a Saviour, which is Christ the Lord” (Luke 2:11). This angel was joined by a heavenly host who praise God, saying: “Glory to God in the highest, and on earth peace, good will toward men” (Luke 2:14). These shepherds went to Bethlehem “and found Mary and Joseph, and the babe lying in the manger” (Luke 2:16). At some point later, there was a visit from wise men from the East who had “seen his star in the east,” and came to worship Him (Matt. 2:1-2). “And when they were come into the house, they saw the young child with Mary his mother, and fell down, and worshiped him: and when they had opened they treasures, they presented unto him gifts; gold, and frankincense, and myrrh” (Matt. 2:11). It is a beautiful story. The birth was very insignificant in some ways. However, heaven called a lot of attention to the day when the child Jesus entered into the world.
Third, for some reason, man developed a desire to celebrate the birth of Christ. There was a problem, however. There is no indication in the Scripture as to the day when Jesus was born. In an article about Christmas in Wikipedia, this statement is made: “In the 3rd century, the date of birth of Jesus was the subject of both great interest and great uncertainty. Around AD 200, Clement of Alexandria wrote:
“There are those who have determined not only the year of our Lord's birth, but also the day;
and they say that it took place in the 28th year of Augustus, and in the 25th day of [the Egyp-
tian month] Pachon [May 20] ... Further, others say that He was born on the 24th or 25th of
Pharmuthi [April 20 or 21].
In other writing (sic) of this time, May 20, April 18 or 19, March 25, January 2, November 17, and November 20 are all suggested” (www.wikipedia.com, “Christmas”).
So, how was December 25th selected as the day to celebrate the birth of Christ? Some believe that is was chosen because this was the day of the Roman solstice, that is, the shortest day of the year. Others believe that it was chosen from calculations some have made based upon a close study of the Scriptures. The most common theory is that the day was chosen to offset the pagan feast known as the birthday of the Sun. On this day, the Sun god, Sol Invictus, was honored. Instead of having to tolerate the celebration of a false god, Christians could now celebrate a day recognizing the birth of the Son of God.
The name Christmas is a shortened form of “Christ’s mass.” This informs our readers that the celebration of Christmas as a religious holiday is aligned with the Roman Catholic Church. “The earliest known Christmas celebration is recorded in a fourth-century manuscript compiled in Rome. This manuscript is thought to record a celebration that occurred in 336. It was prepared privately for Furius Dionysius Filocalus, A Roman aristocrat…” (www.wikipedia.com, “Christmas”). Throughout the fourth century, the church was urged to accept December 25th as the day to celebrate the birth of Christ. Pope Julius I is said to be the pope who authorized December 25th as the day to celebrate Christ’s birth. He did this in 353 A.D. It took several years for the day to grow to its present importance. Since so many denominations came out of Roman Catholicism during the Reformation (1500 A.D. to 1800 A.D.), many of them have adopted this day as a religious holiday as well.
As we close, let us remind our readers that the church established in the first century never celebrated Christmas. Let us also be reminded that the New Testament of Jesus Christ does not authorize the church to celebrate it as a religious holiday in honor of the birth of Christ. Those who celebrate Christmas as a religious holy day are adding to the Word of God (See Rev. 22:18). There is no doubt that Jesus was born. The Scriptures, however, do not make this the most important day in the history of Christ. The most important day is the day of His resurrection. That happened on the first day of the week (Matt. 28:1-7). This is the holy day that is honored by Christ’s faithful disciples today. Every Lord’s day they assemble to honor a living Christ.