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Sermon No: 41166-Should Christians celebrate Christmas - Part 1



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SERMON TOPIC: Should Christians celebrate Christmas - Part 1

Speaker: Gavin Paynter

Language: ENGLISH

Date: 20 January 2019

Topic Groups: CHRISTMAS, SOUND DOCTRINE, HERESY

Sermon synopsis: Some feel that it is unimportant (or even sinful) to celebrate Christ’s birthday at all. The argument used by anti-Christmas proponents is normally:

- The Bible is silent on the date of Jesus birth. The December 25th date of Christmas and the many associated customs all come from pagan sources. All Christmas celebrations are therefore pagan.

Is this a valid argument?
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SHOULD CHRISTIANS CELEBRATE CHRISTMAS? (PART 1)

Some feel that it is unimportant (or even sinful) to celebrate Christ’s birthday at all. The arguments used by anti-Christmas proponents are normally:

The date of Christmas comes from pagan sources.

Christians never observed Christmas until the 4th century. “The pope” or Constantine introduced the festival as a form of honour to the sun god.

Since many of the elements in modern Christmas celebrations seem unrelated to Christianity, they must have been borrowed from pagan traditions that seem similar.

There is no instruction or precedent in the Bible to celebrate Jesus’ birth.

CELEBRATE CHRISTMAS?

LEGAL

EVIDENCE

In most legal systems today the judge and / or jurors need to ascertain if evidence is reliable. We have concepts like “burden of proof”. This principle, also known as the presumption of innocence, is summed up with the phrase “innocent until proven guilty”.

In order for a successful conviction a crime must be proven “beyond a reasonable doubt”.

Motive should also be established and the defence may use “character witnesses” for the accused.

Indirect evidence: Circumstantial evidence might point to the possibility of guilt but it is only when a significant amount of this type of evidence is presented that the likelihood of guilt is assumed.

LEGAL EVIDENCE

Hearsay is never admissible.

If eye witnesses are available then it must be established if they are reliable. The Bible gives cases when false witness brought about a wrongful conviction of the likes of the righteous Naboth (1 Kings 21:10), Stephen (Acts 6:13) and even Jesus (Matt 26:60-61).

The Bible itself indicates that there should be at least 2 or more witnesses in order for a conviction.

Deut 17:6 On the testimony of two or three witnesses a man shall be put to death, but no one shall be put to death on the testimony of only one witness.

1 Tim 5:19 Do not entertain an accusation against an elder unless it is brought by two or three witnesses.

HEARSAY vs EYE-WITNESS

Now if we use these principles of ‘fairness’ in a secular court, surely they should apply to allegations made concerning events in church history.

Yet much of the evidence offered by anti-Christmas lobbyists is based on hearsay, assumptions loosely based on circumstantial evidence, or even arguments from silence.

FAIR EVIDENCE

PAGAN ORIGIN?

Let’s look at the first objection:

Pagan origin

The “logic” goes something like this:

The Bible is silent on the date of Jesus birth.

Therefore the December 25th date for Christmas and the many associated customs must all come from pagan sources.

Hence all Christmas celebrations are pagan.

1) PAGAN ORIGIN

THE BIBLE IS SILENT ON JESUS’ BIRTH DATE.

Although the exact year of Jesus’ birth is unknown, historians place it some time between 7 BC and 2 BC, based on events related in the gospels (e.g. the census of Augustus, the death of Herod the Great, and the appearance of the Bethlehem star).

While narratives of Jesus’ birth are included in two of the gospels (Matthew and Luke), the Bible is silent on the issue of Jesus’ birth date in terms of the exact day and month. If it was very important, God would have told us in his Word.

So you cannot make a conclusive argument for or against the 25th December date, based on the silence of Scripture.

SILENCE

The early church had opinions about the birth date of Jesus, but were by no means in total agreement. Clement of Alexandria (150-215 AD) recorded that “there are those who have determined not only the year of our Saviour’s genesis, but even the day, which they say took place in the twenty-eighth year of Augustus on the 25th of Pachon… Indeed, others say that he came to be on the 24th or 25th of Pharmuthi.” 1

He gives 2 possibilities, both on the 25th day of a Coptic (Egyptian) calendar month. Pachon was the ninth month of the Coptic calendar (9 May to 7 June on the Gregorian calendar). Pharmuthi was the eighth month of the Coptic calendar (9 April to 8 May on the Gregorian calendar).

1 Stromata, 1.21.145-146

THE EARLY CHURCH

Origen (184/5–253/4) pointed out 1 that in the Scriptures only sinners (Pharaoh and Herod) celebrated their birthdays. 2 As such he claimed that Christians should not celebrate birthdays.

This idea of not celebrating birthdays has been adapted by the Jehovah’s Witness cult, who extend the idea to not celebrate Christmas – which is Christ’s birthday.

1 Lev. Hom. viii in Migne, P.G., XII, 495 2 Ex 40:20 Now the third day was Pharaoh’s birthday, and he gave a feast for all his officials… Mark 6:21 Finally the opportune time came. On his birthday Herod gave a banquet for his high officials and military commanders and the leading men of Galilee.

THE EARLY CHURCH

Some argue that it is impossible that Augustus would have had a census in winter (i.e. Dec – Feb in the Northern hemisphere).

But others counter by saying that it must have been in winter, because it was only then that field labour was suspended.

Also the Romans were not known for their consideration towards their subjects; the coldness of winter would have been a non-issue to them when calling a census.

WINTER OR SUMMER

Emperor Augustus (63 BC – 14 AD)

Others claim that Jesus could not have been born in winter (21 Dec – 20 Mar in the Northern hemisphere) because the shepherds would not have been out in the fields as seen in Luke 2.

WINTER OR SUMMER

But according to Richard P. Myers “it is very possible that this scene could have taken place in winter in Israel”.

Israel has a very moderate climate, and mild

WINTER OR SUMMER

Shepherds in the 'Field of the Shepherds' near Bethlehem

winters … In fact, our family made a trip to Israel in Dec 1989. The weather was mild; we wore short sleeves and no coats some of the time. We personally passed by several fields in which shepherds were out in the fields, watching over the sheep as they were grazing. 1

1 http:// www.tbclacey.org

A modern analysis of temperature in Bethlehem indicates that January and February are the coldest months.

Next is December with temperatures ranging from 5.7 to 13.7°C with an average of 9.7°C 1 (not below freezing).

1 https:// www.yr.no/ place/ Palestine/ West_Bank/ Bethlehem/ statistics.html

WINTER OR SUMMER

Month

Normal

Warmest

Coldest

Jan

8.0°C

11.9°C

4.1°C

Feb

9.0°C

13.3°C

4.6°C

Mar

11.1°C

15.9°C

6.3°C

April

15.2°C

21.0°C

9.5°C

May

18.8°C

25.2°C

12.4°C

June

21.4°C

27.5°C

15.2°C

July

23.0°C

28.8°C

17.2°C

Aug

22.6°C

28.8°C

17.3°C

Sept

22.1°C

27.9°C

16.3°C

Oct

19.2°C

24.8°C

13.7°C

Nov

14.2°C

18.9°C

9.5°C

Dec

9.7°C

13.7°C

5.7°C

Even if it was cold, would the shepherds not be tending their flocks outside? Consider what Jacob said to Laban about how he had shepherded his flocks (Gen 31:38-40).

WINTER OR SUMMER

I have been with you for twenty years now. Your sheep and goats have not miscarried… This was my situation: The heat consumed me in the daytime and the cold at night, and sleep fled from my eyes.

So Jacob did what some say the Bethlehem shepherds could not have done.

BECAUSE THE BIBLE IS SILENT, THE DEC 25TH DATE MUST COME FROM PAGAN SOURCES.

Examining the actual documentary evidence: While there are peripheral customs linked to current Christmas celebrations which have pagan origins, the only documented arguments for the December 25th date actually come from Christian sources.

1) PAGAN ORIGIN

Dionysius Exiguus, a Scythian monk living in Rome, is best known as the inventor of the Anno Domini (AD) era, which is used to number the years of both the Gregorian calendar and the (Christianised) Julian calendar. In 525 AD he established the current Christian calendar which is dated from the birth of Christ. He calculated Jesus’ birth date to be 25 Dec, 753 AUC (Ab Urbe Condita, “from the founding of the city” [Rome]).

But the tradition of 25 Dec as Jesus’ birthday is actually much older, dating from the 2nd century and not the 4th as many claim. The earliest known testimony is Theophilus, Bishop of Caesarea (AD 115-181) who wrote “We ought to celebrate the birth-day of our Lord on what day soever the 25th of December shall happen.” 1

1 Magdeburgenses, Cent. 2. c. 6. Hospinian, de orign Festorum Chirstianorum

1) PAGAN ORIGIN

Around 202-211 AD the famous scholar, Hippolytus of Rome, stated in his Commentary on Daniel:

For the first appearance of our Lord in the flesh took place in Bethlehem eight days before the Kalends of January [December 25], on the fourth day [Wednesday], under Emperor Augustus, in the year 5500.

This puts the birth of Christ at December 25th, 2 BC. 1

1 Some scholars claim the Dec 25th date was added to this document later. Tom Schmidt of Chronicon.net defends the Dec 25th date online at: http:// chronicon.net/ blog/ chronology/ hippolytus-and-the-original-date-of-christmas/

1) PAGAN ORIGIN

As Hippolytus predated the era of Christian Rome by over a century - and also was martyred by the pagan rulers - it seems rather poor taste to suggest that he was basing the 25th December date for Christmas on a pagan holiday. Christians were being routinely martyred by pagans at the time – why would they be wanting to emulate them or copy their holidays?

Furthermore Hippolytus was a dissident from the Roman church. So that blows the conspiracy theories that point the finger at Catholic popes for choosing the Dec 25th date.

1) PAGAN ORIGIN

Sextus Julius Africanus, a Christian historian in the late 2nd and early 3rd century AD, wrote a history of the world (Chronographiai 1) from creation to the year 221 AD and calculated that the world was created on March 25th. He believed that Jesus’ conception marked the start of the new creation and that it was fitting that it would be on exactly the same date. If the conception of Jesus was indeed on March 25th, accordingly his birth would be nine months later on December 25th.

While we may question Julius’ rationale and calculations, it is clear that his reason for choosing Dec 25th was not based on any association with a pagan festival.

1 The 5-book work is no longer extant, but copious extracts from it are found in the Chronicon of Eusebius.

1) PAGAN ORIGIN

Hippolytus in his own Chronicon makes similar claims to Julius Africanus:

Hippolytus indicates that Jesus was in fact born on December 25 because he claims that Jesus was born nine months from the anniversary of the creation of the world. Because the Chronicon indicates that the world was created on March 25, the vernal equinox, nine months from this date is of course December 25. From this we can safely say that, sometime between 202 and 211 AD, Hippolytus marked December 25th as the birthday of Jesus. This clearly had nothing to do with Pagan festivals, but was derived from the idea that Jesus was conceived on the Passover. 1

1 http:// chronicon.net/ blog/ chronology/ hippolytus-and-the-original-date-of-christmas/

1) PAGAN ORIGIN

Another reason why some early Christians chose Dec 25th as Jesus birth date is as follows.

Around 200 AD Tertullian noted Nisan 14 (March 25th) as the day Christ died.

Based on the Jewish concept of the “integral age” i.e. that great prophets were conceived on the same date as their death, some early Christians then concluded that Jesus was also conceived on that same date.

Nine months later takes us to Dec 25th as the birth date for Jesus.

Again this line of reasoning is based on assumptions that may be wrong – but this is a far cry from choosing a date rivalling a birthday for a pagan god.

1) PAGAN ORIGIN

An anonymous writing apparently from 4th century North Africa expresses this idea of the association of conception and death dates:

Therefore our Lord was conceived on the eighth of the kalends of April in the month of March [March 25], which is the day of the passion of the Lord and of his conception. For on that day he was conceived on the same he suffered. 1

Augustine (354–430) was also familiar with this idea:

For he is believed to have been conceived on the 25th of March... But he was born, according to tradition, upon December the 25th. 2

1 On Solstices and Eqinoxes 2 On the Trinity (c. 399–419)

1) PAGAN ORIGIN

The Chronography of 354 was a manuscript produced for a wealthy Roman Christian named Valentinus. It lists the various martyrs’ feasts for the year and records that Jesus’ birth was observed in Rome on December 25th. The document is also known as “The Philocalian Calendar” and although copied in 354 AD, it represented Roman practice in 336 AD.

An anonymous Christian treatise from North Africa in the 4th century states:

But Our Lord, too, is born in the month of December... the eight before the calends of January [25 December]... 1

1 del Solst. Et Æquin (II, p. 118, ed. 1588)

1) PAGAN ORIGIN

The Apostolic Constitutions mandate the celebration of Christ’s birth on Dec 25th. The dating of this document varies widely from the 2nd to 4th century.

Brethren, observe the festival days; and first of all the birthday which you are to celebrate on the twenty-fifth of the ninth month; after which let the Epiphany be to you the most honoured, in which the Lord made to you a display of His own Godhead, and let it take place on the sixth of the tenth month.

Some argue for an ancient date for the Constitutions based on the fact that its authors were still using the Jewish calendar. The “ninth month” in this calendar is Casleu, corresponding to December in our own.

1) PAGAN ORIGIN

Some maintain that Christmas was taken from ‘Saturnalia’. And so a typical article asserts, “Just a little research reveals that Christmas was actually adapted from a Roman celebration called Saturnalia. The Encyclopedia Romana explains that ‘at the time of the winter solstice (December 25 in the Julian calendar), Saturnus, the god of seed and sowing, was honoured with a festival.’”

The claim is based not on any recorded documentary evidence, but on circumstantial evidence – the dates are supposedly the same. In reality the Roman feast of Saturnalia was held on the 17th Dec and later expanded with festivities through to 23rd Dec. 1 In other words it was a week-long festival ending two days before December 25th. The dates do not match up.

1 http:// en.wikipedia.org/ wiki/ Saturnalia.)

SATURNALIA?

Others have claimed that Christmas was borrowed from the “Dies Natalis Solis Invicti” which means “the birthday of the unconquered sun” which was on the Dec 25th.

Sol Invictus (“Invincible Sun”) was the official sun god of the later Roman empire. In 274 Aurelian made it an

SOL INVICTUS' BIRTHDAY

Aurelian, personification of Sol, defeats the Palmyrene Empire

official cult alongside the traditional Roman cults… A festival on 25 December is sometimes thought to be responsible for the date of Christmas. 1

1 http:// en.wikipedia.org/ wiki/ Christmas

And so this theory states that the Roman Church chose Dec 25th as the date of Jesus’ birth in order to have a substitute feast for the sun-god feast. Others see in this some more sinister form of syncretism where the feast was a combination “pagan-Christian” feast.

SOL INVICTUS' BIRTHDAY

Dedication slab representing the Sun god Sol Invictus, crowned by solar rays

Modern Sol scholar, Steven Hijmans, is associate professor of Roman Art and Archaeology at the University of Alberta. He has compiled a detailed study on the Roman sun god. 1 Yet Hijmans agrees that there is no evidence that the 25 Dec Sol Invictus celebration precedes that of Christmas.

While the winter solstice on or around the 25th of December was well established in the Roman imperial calendar, there is no evidence that a religious celebration of Sol on that day antedated the celebration of Christmas… 2

1 http:// ualberta.academia.edu/ StevenHijmans 2 “Sol, the sun in the art and religions of Rome”, 2009, pp. 587–588

SOL INVICTUS' BIRTHDAY

Steven Hijmans

Some have tried to argue that Aurelian lifted (or attempted to lift) Sol to prominence in the pantheon, but the evidence is quite lacking. Aurelian did construct a temple to Sol, but there is no evidence that December 25 was chosen as the festival date. Earlier festivals to Sol were already in place, the traditional dates being August 8/9 or August 28 …The inscription of the dedication of the temple of Sol does not in fact mention a date, and the earliest evidence for its connection to December 25 comes around 80 years later. 1

1 http:// blog.deviantmonk.com/ christian-mythstory-christmas/

SOL INVICTUS' BIRTHDAY

Steven Hijmans writes that “there is no evidence that Aurelian instituted a celebration of Sol on that day [December 25]. A feast day for Sol on December 25th is not mentioned until eighty years later, in the Calendar of 354 and, subsequently, in 362 by Julian in his Oration to King Helios”. 1

He concludes, “None of this tells us when the natalis invicti of December 25th entered the Roman calendar, but on this evidence we must acknowledge that it is a real possibility that it did not do so until after the bishop of Rome first celebrated Christmas on that day – a pagan reaction to a Christian feast, perhaps, rather than vice versa.” 2

1 Hijmans op. cit p. 588 2 Ibid., p. 592

SOL INVICTUS' BIRTHDAY

The first to allege that Dec 25th was originally a celebration of Sol Invictus was a non-Christian, Julian – the last pagan Roman Emperor. Raised a Christian, he turned to paganism, earning his reputation as “the Apostate”. Renowned for his hatred of Christianity, he attempted to reverse all the pro-Christian reforms of his uncle Constantine (the first Christian Roman Emperor).

SOL INVICTUS' BIRTHDAY

Emperor Julian (330-363 AD)

Julian claimed that the Dec 25th date for celebrating Sol Invictus was instituted by Numa Pompilius (8th c. BC), the mythical second king of Rome. Julian was one of the great (failed) culture warriors of his day, and ruthlessly wasted imperial funds trying to combat and defame the Christian traditions which were becoming more and more firmly entrenched in Roman culture. Paganism was dying quickly in Julian’s time and the emperor was at pains to find ways to revive worship of the gods. Harnessing the significance the Dec 25th date already had for the Christians was a last ditch attempt to grant a little dignity to the demonic forces which the Church had been openly insulting for fifty years. 1

1 SOURCE: https:// www.circeinstitute.org/ blog/ december-25th-day-christ-was-born-8-arguments

SOL INVICTUS' BIRTHDAY

In AD 362, Julian wrote that he had spent 20 years in the way of Christianity and 12 in the true way, i.e. the way of Helios (the sun god). 1

Yet Christians who are making the claim - that Christmas was the birthday of the sun god - are unwittingly using an argument that originated from an infamous Christian apostate.

There is no historical record for the celebration of Dies Natalis Solis Invicti on December 25 prior to AD 354, the only ancient source for it being a single mention in the Chronography of 354 2 (i.e. during the reign of Julian the Apostate).

1 https:// en.wikipedia.org/ wiki/ Julian_(emperor) 2 http:// en.wikipedia.org/ wiki/ Christmas

SOL INVICTUS' BIRTHDAY

Furthermore the very same codex also lists “natus Christus in Betleem Iudeae” for the day of 25 Dec. The phrase is translated as “birth of Christ in Bethlehem of Judea.” 1

So Christians were not replacing an ancient pagan holiday. In AD 354 there were 2 separate feasts on the same day, one pagan and the other Christian. Yet while we find earlier mention of Christmas celebrations, this is the first mention of the pagan one. The first record of Sol Invictus being celebrated on 25 Dec comes two generations after the legalization of Christianity and more than 150 years after Christ’s birth was first dated to 25 Dec. So who copied who? It’s more likely the pagan celebration was a co-opting of Christmas (by Julian), not the other way around.

1 https:// taylormarshall.com/ 2012/12/ yes-christ-was-really-born-on-december.html

SOL INVICTUS' BIRTHDAY

One document, sometimes misquoted to support the notion of Dec 25th being chosen as Christmas because it was the ‘birthday’ of the sun god, states “O! The splendid and divine Providence of the Lord, that on that day, even at the very day, on which the Sun was made… Christ should be born.” 1

However the full quotation shows that the author believed the sun god’s birthday to be March 28th, not Dec 25th.

… divine Providence of the Lord, that on that day, even at the very day, on which the Sun was made, 28 March, a Wednesday, Christ should be born. For this reason Malachi the prophet, speaking about him to the people, fittingly said: “Unto you shall the sun of righteousness arise, and healing is in his wings.” [Malachi 4:2]

1 “De pasch. Comp.”, xix - wrongly attributed to 3rd century church father Cyprian

SOL INVICTUS' BIRTHDAY

The allegation that early Christians worshipped the sun god or a donkey’s head were old ones that also originated from misinformed pagans as early as the 2nd century AD. Tertullian (160-220 AD) writes disparagingly.

But a few more lies to dispose of. We don’t worship an ass-headed god - we leave that to you, and your Anubis cult. 1

This, perhaps, is your grievance against us, that, when surrounded by cattle-worshippers of every kind we are simply devoted to asses! 2

A few of the more refined of you think we worship the sun. Again, that is your practice, not ours. Instead we worship the one God, the creator. 1

1 Apologeticum 2 Ad Nationes

SOL INVICTUS' BIRTHDAY

By the 4th century Dec 25th was considered to be the sun god’s birthday. An anonymous Christian treatise from North Africa titled “On Solstices and Equinoxes”, states:

But Our Lord, too, is born in the month of December... the eight before the calends of January [25 December]... But they call it the ‘Birthday of the Unconquered’. Who indeed is so unconquered as Our Lord...? Or, if they say that it is the birthday of the Sun, He is the Sun of Justice.

However this excerpt clearly shows that this was not reason the date was chosen as a Christian celebration. The writer merely notes that the date Jesus was born was the same as the current day for the sun god’s birthday and he attributes this to Providence.

SOL INVICTUS' BIRTHDAY

John Chrysostom believed the date to be Dec 25th based on calculations around Zechariah’s priestly service from Luke’s gospel – not because he was trying to choose a substitute celebration for the sun god’s birthday.

John Chrysostom preached a sermon in Antioch c. 386 which established the date of Christmas as December 25 on the Julian calendar since the conception of Jesus (Luke 1:26) had been announced during the sixth month of Elisabeth’s pregnancy with John the Baptist (Luke 1:10-13) as dated from the duties Zacharias performed on the Day of Atonement during the seventh month of the Hebrew calendar Ethanim or Tishri (Lev. 16:29, 1 Kings 8:2) which falls in September-October. 1

1 http:// en.wikipedia.org/ wiki/ Christmas

SOL INVICTUS' BIRTHDAY

Chrysostom’s basis for observing the December 25th was as follows:

Zacharias entered the temple on the Day of Atonement.

He thus received announcement of John's conception in September.

In Elizabeth’s sixth month Jesus’ birth was announced (Luke 1:24-31) i.e. 6 months later, in March, Christ was conceived.

Jesus was thus born 9 months later in December.

Incidentally the line of reasoning is fairly sound except than an assumption is made that Zacharias was serving on the Day of Atonement. This would necessitate that Zacharias was the high priest, 1 but Luke doesn’t say this. Luke calls Zacharias a priest and indicates that he was a member of one of the 24 priestly divisions listed in 1 Chron 24, while the high priest was not. In fact Zacharias was chosen by lot amongst other priests to burn incense (Luke 1:8-9), while the high-priest’s duties on the Day of Atonement day were prescribed by the law (Lev 16), and not given him by lot.

1 In addition we know the high priests around the time of Jesus’ birth were Simon ben Boethus (23-5 BC), Matthias ben Theophilus (5-4 BC), Joazar ben Boethus (4 BC), Eleazar ben Boethus (4-3 BC), Joshua ben Sie (3 BC - ?) and Joazar ben Boethus (?-6 AD) - SOURCE: http:// en.wikipedia.org/ wiki/ List_of_High_Priests_of_Israel

SOL INVICTUS' BIRTHDAY

However the fact remains that Chrysostom was not choosing Dec 25th because of any links to pagan festivals. He did it on that basis - mistaken or not – of calculations based on a Biblical passage.

His MOTIVE is clear from the documents we have today – i.e. a genuine attempt to calculate the actual time of Jesus’ birth based on the Scriptural record.

Chrysostom further argued that the celebration was no novelty in his day; because Dec 25th was being observed as a feast celebrating Christ’s birth from Thrace (in South- east Europe) to Cadiz (in Spain).

John Chrysostom (c. 347-407 AD)

SOL INVICTUS' BIRTHDAY

BECAUSE THE DATE WAS ORIGINALLY THE DATE OF A PAGAN HOLIDAY, THEREFORE ALL CHRISTMAS CELEBRATIONS ARE PAGAN.

As mentioned, there is no direct evidence that the date was derived from a pagan holiday. And the circumstantial evidence based on similarities of dates is also very shaky.

Using this same circumstantial logic we could say that we shouldn’t go to church on Sunday (because the sun was honoured by pagans on that day) or Saturday (because the pagans honoured Saturn on that day) or on Monday, Tuesday, Wednesday, Thursday or Friday (because pagans honoured the Moon, Tyr, Wodin, Thor and Frija respectively even naming the week days after them).

1) PAGAN ORIGIN

Even if Christmas was chosen as a substitute Christian celebration to replace an existing pagan celebration – it doesn’t follow that Christmas is now a pagan celebration.

The relationship between early Christianity and the Greco-Roman world is extremely complex. Christianity was born into that world and it is true, that at times, there was some form of integration with the culture around it. Sometimes this integration may have been conscious and intentional. At other times it may have been unconscious. When it was deliberate, it was sometimes a compromise with the cultures, language and rituals in order to give them new (Christian) meaning.

A PAGAN DAY?

Q: So is Dec 25th evil?

A: Day are morally neutral and cannot be ‘evil’ or ‘good’. The same day can be used for either good or evil.

Q: Even if Dec 25th was originally a day used to celebrate pagan gods would it be wrong to substitute it and celebrate Christ’s birth on the same day?

A: Consider the equivalent problem in the early church where some felt that food offered to idols shouldn’t be eaten by Christians. Paul shows that food (like days) are morally neutral and this remains a question of conscience. What if Dec 25th was a day “offered to idols”? Is it now off-limits to Christians who want to celebrate Jesus’ birth on that day?

A PAGAN DAY?

Rom 8:4-7 So then, about eating food sacrificed to idols: We know that an idol is nothing at all in the world and that there is no God but one. For even if there are so-called gods, whether in heaven or on earth (as indeed there are many “gods” and many “lords”), yet for us there is but one God, the Father, from whom all things came and for whom we live; and there is but one Lord, Jesus Christ, through whom all things came and through whom we live. But not everyone knows this. Some people are still so accustomed to idols that when they eat such food they think of it as having been sacrificed to an idol, and since their conscience is weak, it is defiled.

CHRISTIAN LIBERTY

Paul shows that we have Christian liberty:

1 Cor 10:25-26 Eat anything sold in the meat market without raising questions of conscience, for, “The earth is the Lord’s, and everything in it.”

But he also encourages us to act in love towards those with weaker consciences in regards to disputable matters:

1 Cor 10:28-30 But if anyone says to you, “This has been offered in sacrifice,” then do not eat it, both for the sake of the man who told you and for conscience’ sake - the other man’s conscience, I mean, not yours. For why should my freedom be judged by another’s conscience? If I take part in the meal with thankfulness, why am I denounced because of something I thank God for?

CHRISTIAN LIBERTY

In an article “Christmas is Not Pagan” Dr. Bucher writes:

I have not written this essay to condemn the “Christmas is pagan” crowd. And I certainly haven’t written it to convince them that they must celebrate Christmas. Christians have never been commanded to celebrate Christ’s birth annually. Therefore they are free to do so or not do so. I have written this essay, however, to those dear Christians who have been falsely taught that celebrating Christmas is celebrating paganism, and they are wracked with guilt because of it. My message to them is: you are doing nothing wrong to celebrate the birth of God’s Son; in fact, praising and thanking God for the gift of His Son is beautiful worship in the sight of God. 1

1 http:// www.orlutheran.com/ html/chrmas_pagan4.html

CHRISTIAN LIBERTY

Q: So in conclusion, should we celebrate Christmas?

A: Like the question that troubled the early church about meat offered to idols, it falls into the category of questions of conscience.

We are free to do so, provided we keep the focus on Jesus’ birth. We also shouldn’t condemn those who prefer to refrain based on their association (whether valid or not) of Christmas with pagan festivities.

Likewise those who refrain shouldn’t self-righteously judge the man who exercises his Christian liberty in this regard. As the saying goes: “IN ESSENTIALS, UNITY; IN NON-ESSENTIALS, LIBERTY; IN ALL THINGS, CHARITY.”

CONCLUSION

This ministry is not an attempt to prove conclusively that 25th Dec is the birth date of Christ.

Rather it shows that the claims that 25th Dec is a holiday borrowed from pagans are baseless and that the “evidence” submitted by those who make these claims would not hold up in any modern court of law.

We have also seen that the association of the Christmas tradition with a pagan celebration was an invention of an infamous apostate from the church - in one of his attempts to destroy the newly-legalised Roman church and to elevate the status of paganism.

Furthermore 25th Dec is not a sinister invention of a 4th century pope or emperor, but dates back to at least the 2nd century AD.

CONCLUSION

Christ is born on the darkest day of the year. Adjusting the date slightly for minor cultural/calendar differences and changes to the earth itself over the last two thousand years, Christ is born about the time of the Winter Solstice, the shortest day of the year. From the day Christ’s face first shines on creation, the world becomes increasingly bright. Christ is the Light Who enlightens all men, and once that light emerges from the darkness of the womb, the knowledge of God grows in man. Thus, the December 25th date allows us to see man at harmony with the heavens; as the heavens become enlightened, so does man. The birth of Christ begins the reconciliation of God and Man— Heaven and earth mutually reflect the light emanating from the other. 1

1 https:// www.circeinstitute.org/ blog/ december-25th-day-christ-was-born-8-arguments

CONCLUSION

COPYRIGHT INFORMATION

Unless otherwise stated, Scripture quotations are taken from the NIV:

THE HOLY BIBLE, NEW INTERNATIONAL VERSION®, NIV® Copyright © 1973, 1978, 1984, 2011 by Biblica, Inc.™ Used by permission. All rights reserved worldwide.

Scripture quotations taken from the NASB:

New American Standard Bible®, Copyright © 1960, 1962, 1963, 1968, 1971, 1972, 1973, 1975, 1977, 1995 by The Lockman Foundation Used by permission. (www.Lockman.org)




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