IS DECEMBER 25th JESUS’ BIRTHDAY?
There are many arguments concerning the day of Jesus’ birth. I personally believe that God purposefully did not give us the day and date. Let’s examine the few clues we do have, in the Word of God, and see if we can determine the season.
In Palestine, December 25th is during the coldest time of the year. “In Palestine, winter includes part of autumn and the seasons of seedtime and cold, extending from the beginning of September to the beginning of March. The cold of winter is not usually severe, though the north winds are very penetrating from the middle of December to the middle of February. Snow and hail, during most winters, fall on the hills.” The Hebrew month Tebeth (December and January) is “the coldest month; rain, hail and snow on higher hills, and occasionally at Jerusalem”: (Ungers Bible Dictionary, p. 1170)
What the weather was like during this time of the year is important in order to answer two questions. Did Caesar Augustus have everybody to return to his hometown for a census during the coldest time of the year? Tithing time was harvest time according to the law of Moses (Exodus 23:14 – 19, Leviticus 23:1 – 10 & Deuteronomy 16: 16 – 17). Some say that tax time was harvest time throughout the Roman Empire. It does seem logical that the Roman governor would collect taxes at the time of harvest (Luke 2: 1 -7). More importantly, with the weather being as it was during that time of year, would the shepherds be in the field at night as recorded in Luke 2:8? We know that they were in the field on the night of Jesus’ birth, but was that night during the middle of December? The Jews built special places to house their flocks during the cold and winter storms (Isaiah 24:3 and Numbers 32:16, 24, 36). “It was an ancient custom among Jews of those days to send out their sheep to fields and deserts about Passover (early spring), and bring them home at commencement of the first rain,” says The Adam Clarke Commentary, Volume5, page 370.
These important facts cast shadows of doubt over the traditional teaching concerning the time of Jesus’ birth in the light of the Biblical account of the events that took place during that time. Is it possible He was born on the day of atonement during the feast of tabernacles?
There are those who say that they know that Jesus wasn’t born on December 25th, but they set that day aside to celebrate the birth of their Saviour. They also say that they don’t celebrate it with sinful activities, but with things that would please the Lord as an expression of their love for Him. Please don’t get caught up in your personal feelings. Let’s remain honest, open and objective about this position as we test the Scripture.
There is absolutely no Scripture in the entire Word of God to support celebrating Jesus’ birthday at anytime. However, we are told in the Word to keep the commandments that the Lord has given us and not to add anything to them nor take anything from them. If Christmas is being celebrated because of real love for Jesus, why are His commandments not being kept? John 13:34 commands us to “love one another, as He loved us.” We are to love each other the same way; black, white, rich or poor. He commanded us to make miracle workers out of others and to teach them to guard His words from loss or injury (Matthew 28:18 – 20). Check out the word “observe” found in Matthew 28:20, in the Greek. He also commanded us to heal the sick, cleanse the lepers, raise the dead and cast out devils – for free (Matthew 10: 5- 8).
If the motive for celebrating Christmas stands on real love for the Master, then according to His own words, that same love will motivate you to keep His sayings. He gave us specific instructions of what to do to remember him (Luke 22:19). Most people begin preparing for Christmas months in advance with unparalleled zeal and enthusiasm. I wonder if they get half as excited when it’s time to take communion or if they even know when is the next time communion will be given at their place of fellowship? The point is obvious. The excitement and enthusiasm manifested during the Christmas season is not an expression of love or gratitude directed to Christ.
HAVE YOU EVER WONDERED, WHY THE PRESENTS AT CHRISTMAS?
WHY THE CHRISTMAS TREE AND LIGHTS ON HOUSES?
HAVE YOU EVER WONDERED WHERE THEY CAME FROM?
Is it because the wisemen brought gifts to Jesus? If this is the case, then we’re not following their example because they gave gifts, and took none. Our search for the roots of the celebration the world calls Jesus’ birthday took us to the Encyclopedia Brittanica, Vol. 5, 1758. December 25th was the date of a pagan Roman festival celebrating the birthday of the unconquered Sun. In the days following the winter solstice, the sun begins to shine again for an increasing length of time. At some point before A.D. 336, the church at Rome established commemoration of the birthday of Christ, the “Sun” of righteousness, on this date. The same evidence was in the Almanac for Christmas. The same encyclopedia says on page 705 that the traditional customs connected with Christmas have been derived from sources as a result of the ‘coincidence’ of the feast of the Nativity of Christ and the pagan agricultural solar observances at mid-winter. It was a time of merry-making and exchange of presents. Christmas festivals were directly influenced by these customs. The fact that Christmas was celebrated on the birthday of the unconquered sun gave the season a solar background, when houses were decorated with greenery and lights. Presents were given to children and the poor. To these solstitial observances were added Germanic-Celtic Yule rites. All the evergreens were sacred, because to them they were symbols that the sun would come back again. New Year’s rites, special foods, Yule logs and Yule cakes, fir trees, wassailing, gifts and greeting cards all commemorated different aspects of this festival. Fires and lights were symbols of warmth and lasting life. These symbols have always been associated with the winter festival. St. Boniface completed the Christianization of Germany and dedicated the fir tree to the Holy Child to replace the sacred oak of Odin.
The Encyclopedia Americana says, “The reasons for establishing December 25th as Christmas are somewhat obscure, but it is usually held that the day chosen was to correspond to pagan festivals that took place around the time of the winter Solstice, when the days begin to lengthen, to celebrate the rebirth of the sun.” Northern European tribes celebrated their chief festival of Yule at the winter solstice to commemorate the rebirth of the sun as the giver of light and warmth. The Roman Saturnalia (a festival dedicated to Saturn, the god of agriculture, and to the renewed power of the sun) also took place at this time. Some Christian customs are thought to be rooted in this pagan celebration. It is held by some scholars that the birth of Christ as “Light of the World” was made analogous to the rebirth of the sun in order to make Christianity more meaningful to pagan converts.
The Christmas Almanac, 1944 edition says, “Saturnalia (December 17-24) and the Kalends (January 1-3) were celebrations familiar to early Christians. But the tradition of celebrating December 25th as Christ’s birthday came to the Romans from Persia. Mithra, the Persian god of light and sacred contacts, was born cut of a rock on December 25th. Rome was famous for its flirtations with strange gods and cults, and in the third century Aurelian established the festival of Dies Invicti Solis, the Day of the Invincible Sun, on December 25th. The Mithra was an embodiment of the sun, so this period of rebirth was a major day in Mithraism, which had become Rome’s latest official religion with the patronage of Aurelian. It is believed that the emperor Constantine adhered to Mithraism up to the time of his conversion to Christianity. He was probably instrumental in seeing that the major feast of his old religion was carried over to his new faith.”
As you have just read, we got the celebration of Christmas from the Church of Rome, or as it is called today, the Roman Catholic Church. The church of the Lord Jesus Christ has received many abominable customs from the Catholic church. After Constantine’s makeshift conversion from sun god worship to his form of Christianity, the mixture began. Before that time, Christians were being severely persecuted. Constantine Christianized his entire army with one motion and stopped the persecutions. Instead of doing away with the old pagan customs, the names were changed to make them attractive to the real Christians. The Christians who did not conform to the new state religion were persecuted as pagans, and in later years as heretics. See Foxes Book of Martyrs. This is a brief history of the birth of the Catholic Church. Now let’s see what the Catholic Church has to say concerning the birth of Christmas.
In The Catholic Encyclopedia under the heading of Christmas, “According to the hypothesis suggested by H. Userner developed by B. Potte (Les Origines) and accepted by most scholars today, the birth of Christ was assigned the date of the winter solstice (December 25th in the Julian calendar; January 6th in the Egyptian) because on this day, as the sun began its return to the northern skies, the pagan devotees of Mirthra celebrated the Dies Natalis Solis Invicte (birthday of the invincible sun). On December 25th, 274 A.D. , Aurelian had proclaimed the sun god principle patron of the empire and dedicated a temple to him in the Campus Martius.
Christmas originated at a time when the cult of the sun was particularly strong at Rome. This theory finds support in some of the church fathers comparing the birthday of Christ and the winter solstice. Indeed, from the beginning of the Third Century “Sun of Justice” appears as a title of Christ (Botte, Les Orgines, page 63). Though the substitution of Christmas for the pagan festival cannot be proven with certainty, it remains the most plausible explanation for the dating of Christmas.”
The festival celebrated throughout the known world was called Saturnalia before the name was changed to Christmas. The name underwent several changes before finally becoming Christmas, which means Mass of Christ. As a matter of fact before being Christmas, the festival was called Christ’s Mass. Let’s take a historical look at this festival, Saturnalia, and see if it is in any way similar to what is traditionally celebrated today as the birthday of Jesus Christ.
The Encyclopedia Americana says, “The great festival, the Saturnalia, became the most popular of Roman festivals, and its influence is still felt throughout the western world. Originally on December 17th, it was extended first to three and eventually seven days. The date has been connected with the winter sowing season, which in modern Italy varies from October to January. Remarkably like the Greek Kronia, it was the gayest festival of the year. All work and business was suspended Slaves were given temporary freedom to say and do what they liked, and certain moral restrictions were eased. The streets were infected with a Mardi Gras madness. A mock king was chosen (Saturnalia pinceos). The seasonal greeting ‘1 0 Saturnalia’ was heard everywhere. Presents were freely exchanged, principally wax candles and little clay dolls (sigillaria). The cult statue of Saturn himself, traditionally bound at the feet with woolen bands, was untied, presumably to come out and enjoy the fun. The influence of the Saturnalia upon Christmas and the New Year has been direct.”