So It's Christmas
No calendar date has more significance to most Americans than December 25. To many it is a highly religious day celebrating the birth of Christ. To others it is a secular holiday … a day off, a day for travel and family and friends. So it’s “Christmas.”
In this lesson, we will look at four aspects of the day: (1) the birth of Christ;
(2) the date of Dec 25. ; (3) the celebration of the birth of Christ (religiously); and (4) the celebration of the day from a non-religious viewpoint.
First, where is the only authentic record of the birth of Christ? The universal answer is “your New Testament.” Was Jesus born? The birth of Jesus is a Bible truth revealed (Matt 1:18-25). It is one revealed event designed to convince all men that Jesus is the Christ, the Son of the living God. Whatever men may believe about Christmas and the celebration of Christmas or about December 25; let all men believe that Jesus is the Christ, the son of God. And let all men believe in the miraculous virgin birth of the son of God.
Let us also emphasize that in the common celebrations of Christmas as occur this time of year, there are things that people have been taught which are not taught in the Bible.
Let us briefly list the events about Jesus’ birth as they are taught in the holy record:
(1) The virgin birth of Christ in a manger in Bethlehem (Matt 1:25 and Luke 2:1-7).
(2) Shepherds visited Jesus shortly after He was born (Luke 2:8-20). Since shepherds did not keep flocks in the winter; He was likely born between April and October.
(3) In Luke 2:21 there is the record of Jesus’ circumcision the eighth day according to the Law of Moses.
(4) His presentation in the city of Jerusalem according to the Law (Luke 2:22-38).
(5) The visit of the wise men (magi) (Matt 2:1-12). In the Bible record, we read of three gifts, gold, frankincense and myrrh; however, the number of wise men is not recorded. Three wise men is only a traditional belief. The traditional pictures show the animals of the stable around with the wise men; however the word of God says that the wise men came into the house and there they worshipped Jesus (Matt 2:11).
Again, the effort of Herod to kill all males from two years and under would indicate this event occurred much later than the immediacy of Jesus’ birth (Matt 2:16). When the shepherds came, they found a “babe.” When the wise men came, they found “a child.” And the wise men didn’t bump into any shepherds either.
Those traditions and “manger scenes” showing the wise men and shepherds around one manger conflate two really unrelated stories!
(6) The trip to Egypt (Matt 2:13-15).
(7) The slaughter of the male children (Matt. 2:16-18).
(8) The family returned to Nazareth (Matt 2:19-23; Luke 2:39).
And (9) in chronological order, is the story of the family going to the Passover at Jerusalem when Jesus was 12 years old (Luke 2:41-52).
And all the other stories you hear about the Jesus as a child (doing miracles) lie strictly in the realm of human fiction!
The next logical question is. “Does the New Testament record anywhere the birth date of Jesus? The answer is no! There is no indication of any day, date, month or year that Jesus was born.?” Where then does the date of December 25 come from? This requires us to study the secular historians...
“No sufficient data, however, exists for the determination of the month or day of the event.” (The New Schaff-Herzog Encyclopedia of Religious Knowledge, III:47)
“As to whether our Lord's birth really occurred on December 25 ancient authorities are not agreed. Clement of Alexandria says that some place it on April 20, others on May 20, whereas Epiphanius states that in Egypt Jesus was believed to have been born on January 6.” (The New Unger's Bible Dictionary)
“It is impossible to determine the exact date of the birth of Christ, either from evidence of the gospels, or from any sound tradition.” Collier’s Encyclopedia (1975, Vol 6, p 403)
So, from where did the date come?
“The day and month of Jesus birth are also uncertain. There is no certainty as to the month or day of the birth. The Christmas date, Dec 25, is first met with in the West in the 4th century (the Eastern date was January 6) and was then possibly borrowed from a pagan festival.” (The International Standard Bible Encyclopedia).
“Christmas was not among the earliest festivals of the church... The first evidence of the feast was from Egypt.... From the fourth century every Western calendar assigns it to 25 December... Concerning the date of Christ’s birth, the gospels give no help.” (The Catholic Encyclopedia; 1908 Ed Vol 3, pp 724-728).
Many other sources could be used; but the above should be adequate. One logical question follows: in all the words of inspiration, how much trouble would it have been for the Holy Spirit to have inspired one Bible writer to have written just a phrase to identify the day of the year?
Secondly, how many other words would it have taken to reveal an observance of His birthday in New Testament times? Instead, the scriptures tell us everything that pertains to life and godliness (2 Pet 1:3). So, if the Bible does not record it, we don’t need to know it.
So why do we not celebrate Christmas (the birth of Christ or the date) as a religious holiday. (1) The celebration and the date had human origins. It was not a First Century church practice. (2) Since the Bible is silent about it, we cannot add to what is revealed any religious observance (Rev 22:18-19). Neither can we take away from the word of God.
The events that Christians commemorate in the life of Christ are his death, burial and resurrection (in the keeping of the Lord’s Supper).
Many days have ancient significance; but because we call it “Sunday” does not mean that we are worshipping the sun.
Finally, let us speak of secular observances at this time of year. I am speaking of activities to which one attaches no religious significance whatever! Many take the day off from work. Some go to Grandma’s. Most eat a turkey dinner, etc.. But such is not a memorial to the birth of Christ.
Paul referred to the day of Pentecost (Acts 20:6; 1 Cor 16:8); but that date never began a religious holiday for Christians. Today, circumcision is practiced by many Gentiles without religious meaning (Gal 2:3; Acts 16:3). You see... a thing can be religious to someone without being religious to someone else.
Incidentally, the same argument can easily be established from the New Testament practice of eating meats sacrificed to animals.
In conclusion, remember the following:
1. Man has no right to establish any day as a memorial to the birthday of Christ in the absence of God’s establishing it.
2. Men have no right to bind prohibitions of practice upon men who do not place any religious significance on the observation to begin with. This again is binding where God has not bound.
3. In all these things, we, as Christians, must be careful in what we do and that we do not cast some stumbling block before our brethren.