Keeping Christ in Christmas
"For unto you is born this day in the city of David a Savior, which is Christ the Lord." Luke 2:11
In 1980, while stationed in San Diego, CA, I read about a poll that was given at a college. The poll questioned 1,000 students about, "Why do we celebrate Christmas?" Not one gave the correct answer! This message is to help us understand the true reason for the season.
Around 1400 BC the prophet Balaam was asked to curse Israel. God would only allow him to go so far. It was Balaam who prophesied that a sign would be given for the future Messiah.
"I shall see him, but not now: I shall behold him, but not nigh: there shall come a Star out of Jacob, and a Scepter shall rise out of Israel, and shall smite the corners of Moab, and destroy all the children of Sheth." Numbers 24:17
Star Of Bethlehem
Many attempts have been made to explain the star of Bethlehem in scientific terms. Some scholars suggest a super nova or an exploding star as recorded by the Chinese about the time of Christ. Others argue that a rare alignment of planets in the sky signaled a highly unusual event to the wise men. The star first appeared to the wise men at the time of Christís birth.
"Saying, Where is he that is born King of the Jews? for we have seen his star in the east, and are come to worship him. When Herod the king had heard these things, he was troubled, and all Jerusalem with him." Matthew 2:2 & 3
The word "star" in this verse could be in reference to mean angels (Job 38:7, Rev. 12:4). Herod, who was clearly troubled by this event, demanded of the scribes and priests where the Christ would be born. They reported that, according to the prophet Micah, Bethlehem would be the place of his birth.
"But thou, Bethlehem Ephratah, though thou be little among the thousands of Judah, yet out of thee shall he come forth unto me that is to be ruler in Israel; whose goings forth have been from of old, from everlasting." Micah 5:2
This was the declaration of the promise that God would take on flesh and dwell among us. This event was one that the prophets of old longed to see.
Now, let's think:
● How many of the people that were in Jerusalem, who heard the wise men speak, went with them? None!
● How many of the chief priests and scribes who Herod had demanded to search the scriptures as to where the Christ would be born, went with the wise men? None!
"Carnal wicked hearts dread nothing so much as the
fulfilling of scripture."
We are not told how many wise men there actually were, but because of the three gifts, many believe that there were three men. "In the mouth of two or three witnesses that thy word may be established". Matt.18:16
When was Christ Born?
As to the year of his birth Jesus was around two years of age when king Herod was seeking his life. Historical records indicate that Herod died in 4 BC. This would suggest the date of his birth to be 6-7 BC. The time of the year is clearer now than ever before. The Bible gives us several clues:
● In Luke 1, it tells us that Zacharias was a priest in the "Course of Abia" which serves twice a year. The second ministration was in June. It was at this time that Gabriel told Zacharias that he would have a son. Using that as a time of conception for Elizabeth John would have been born in March, since he was 6 months older than his cousin Jesus (Matt 1:18), This would put Christ's birth around September.
● Sheppards were tending their sheep when the angels announced the
birth of Christ (Luke 2:8-11). This period of time would have fallen from summer to as late as September, due to the weather patterns.
● The taxation in Luke 2:1 would have taken place after the harvest
season around September. Records show that taxation did not take place in the winter.
These clues show that our Savior was born sometime in September not December. Many believe that if we knew the exact date of His birth, there would be those who would worship the date. I believe this would displease the Lord. We find no command in scripture by Christ or his apostles to celebrate His birth. In the 60 years of church history after Christ's ascension, recorded in the New Testament, we find that rather than celebrating his birth, the church commemorated his death through the biblically mandated observance of the Passover. Paul said this to the Corinthian church:
"For even Christ, our Passover is sacrificed for us: Therefore let us keep the feast, not with old leaven, neither with the leaven of malice and wickedness; but with the unleavened bread of sincerity and truth." I Corinthians 5:7-8
Why then do we celebrate Christmas on December 25th?
For over 300 years after the time of Christ the early church did not celebrate His birth. December 25th was based on the Roman Saturnalia, which was a pagan feast that lasted 3 days. This feast was in celebration of the sun god, Baal-Berith. It was believed that a log (Yule) was cast into the fire during the 3-day feast. Early the next morning an evergreen fir would emerge from the fire. They would adorn the tree with gifts of silver and gold. This ritual goes back before the time of the Exodus and prophets of the groves and was warned against in Jeremiah 10:1-5.
During the Reformation in England under Oliver Cromwell and with the early Pilgrims of colonial America, Christmas was outlawed. It wasn't because it was a crime to celebrate Christ's birth, but because they were focusing more on the rituals of the Roman Saturnalia. This included the giving of gifts, mistletoe (originally it involved committing immoral acts), Yule logÖ
There is also the commandment of having no other gods before me. How would you feel if a group of people celebrated your birthday three months late and when you arrived someone else was being honored in your place? This someone was loved by the world and even resembled you. For example:
● Your vesture was red (Rev 19:13)
● Your hair was white as snow (Rev 1:14)
● You thought you were the only one that knew the hearts of men, whether they were good or evil. (Proverbs15:3)
● You lived in the North (Isaiah. 14:13)
Can Christians truly celebrate Christmas?
Yes! First, let us remember that anything not brought under the guidelines of Scripture can lead to apostasy. Don't forget what happened to the brazen serpent that Moses used to save rebellious Israel (II Kings 18:4). Jesus warned us about allowing the traditions of men to be placed over the commandments of God.
Here are some ideas on how we can honor Christ at this time of the year:
● Keep gifts to three per person like the wise men did for Jesus.
● Instead of a tree, have a manger scene.
● Be together as a family. Donít get caught up in the commercialism.
● Use this time to help the needy. Suicides are the highest during this time of the year. This would honor our Savior. Remember this is supposed to be celebrating His day.
Donít be one of the thousands that have forgotten
the reason for the season!
Whatever you do, keep Christ in Christmas!