What is Christmas?
Christmas is the festival observed on December 25 celebrating the nativity of Jesus Christ. Christmas Eve is called, in Celtic, the Night of Mary; in Germany, the Holy Night; in Portugal, the Pasch of the Nativity; and in old English, Yule Merriment. Christmas day is observed by nearly all churches in the world except some few.
The day (December 25th) is celebrated throughout nearly the whole of Christendom as the birthday of our Savior. It is an event which forms the center and turning-point of the history of the world. It is, of all the festivals, the one most thoroughly interwoven with the popular and family life, and stands at the head of the great feasts of the Church. It continues to be, in the entire world, and in the greater part of Christendom, the grand jubilee of children, on which innumerable gifts celebrate the infinite love of God in the gift of his only-begotten Son.
The birth of our Savior was exactly as predicted by the prophecies of the Old Testament (Isa 7:14; Jer 31:22). He was born of a virgin, of the house of David, and of the tribe of Judah (Matt 1; Luke 1:27). His coming into the world was after the manner of other men, though his generation and conception were extraordinary. The place of his birth was Bethlehem (Mic 5:2; Matt 2:4,6), whither his parents were wonderfully conducted by Providence (Luke 2:1,7). The time of his birth was foretold by the prophets to be before the scepter or civil government departed from Judah (Gen 49:10; Mal 3:1; Hag 2:6,7,9; Dan 9:1:34). But the exact year of his birth is not agreed on by chronologist, even if many are of the opinion that Jesus came into this world about the four thousandth years ago yet the precise season of the year, the month, and day in which he was born can’t be ascertained.
The celebration of Christmas has sometimes been opposed as pagan by religious leaders. New England Puritans considered Christmas “popish” idolatry, and the Massachusetts General Court in 1659 passed an act against its celebration, though the law was repealed in 1681. At least since the mid-nineteenth century the celebration has gained in popularity so that today it extends well beyond Christianity itself. German Christmas customs, such as the Christmas tree, were brought to America by nineteenth-century immigrants and are now firmly established in North American culture.
If we are not sure of the day of the Lord’s birth then,
Where did Christmas originate?
Just as we said above, the date for the celebration does not in any way accurately mark the birthdate of Jesus, the day and month of the birth of Christ are nowhere stated in the Gospel history, and cannot be certainly determined. Here are suggestions made in relation to the origin of Christmas:
– Some writers do trace it to the Feast of Dedication celebrated by the Jews.
– Some as others, to the heathen Saturnalia.
– Jablonski endeavors to show that it originated with the Basilidians in Egypt (Opuscula, 2:372).
- To others, the festival may represent a Christian appropriation of a “Birthday of the Invincible Sun” instituted at Rome on this day in A.D. 274 by the emperor Aurelian, and the influence of Constantine is often cited in favor of such borrowing from pagan culture.
- Some also assert that the Christian festival may antedate Constantine’s conversion and mark the date nine months after March 25, a date already assigned to Christ’s crucifixion and to his conception at the Annunciation to Mary. Sources from the fourth and following centuries support the latter explanation.
When should Christmas be celebrated?
From the early times of Christmas celebration, many dates have been suggested for that celebration. For instance, Pope Julius confirmed the birthday of our Lord to be kept on December 25; and Chrysostom, in the 4th century, speaks of the feast as of great antiquity; Clement of Alexandria, in the beginning of the 3rd century, speaks of it, but refers it to April 19th or 20th, or May 20th. Epiphanins reckons it on January 6th, but Augustine on December 25th. That is, probably, as kept on December 25th, the day hitherto observed having been January 6th. The Latins, and Africa, and the Greek Church, generally, however, held the Nativity on December 25th, as appears from Jerome, Augustine, Chrysostom, Basil, and Gregory Nazianzus. The Orientals in Egypt, Cyprus, Antioch, and Palestine appear to have observed, for a time only, January 6th, as the feast of. The Nativity and-Epiphany, or Theophania, name equally applicable to both, as Gregory Nazianzen observes. However, about the beginning of the 5th century the Nativity was commemorated, in the East, on December 25th, and the Epiphany on the later day. In the 6th century, beyond doubt, East and West agreed in their observance.
The Egyptians placed it in January; Wagenseil in February; Bochart in March; some, mentioned by Clement of Alexandria, in April; others in May; Epiphanius speaks of some who placed it in June, and of others who supposed it to have been in July; Wagensell, who was not sure of February, fixed it probably in August; Lightfoot on the 15 th of September; Scaliger, Casaubon, and Calvisius in October; others in November; and the Latin Church in December.
My Little commend here is that, if the knowing the exact time of Jesus birth was important, God would have preserved the record for it.
IS CHRISTMAS CELEBRATION RECOMMENDED IN THE BIBLE?
It is historically certain that the Christmas festival proper “is of comparatively late institution. This may doubtless be accounted for in the following manner. In the first place, no corresponding festival was presented by the Old Testament, as in the case of Easter and Pentecost. In the second place, the day and month of the birth of Christ are nowhere stated in the Gospel history, and cannot be certainly determined. Again, the Church lingered at first about the death and resurrection of Christ, the completed fact of redemption, and made this the center of the weekly worship and the Church year.
The observance of Christmas is not of divine appointment, nor is it of N. T. origin. The day of Christ’s birth cannot be ascertained from the N. T., or, indeed, from any other source. The fathers of the first three centuries do not speak of any special observance of the nativity.
Even if the celebration of the Jesus’ birth isn’t directly recommended in the Bible, the church very early decided to integrate a day for celebrating Christ’s birth in her calendar of activities. The birth of Jesus was celebrated in the Eastern Church by A.D. 220, but not in the Western until the fourth century; the Eastern Church finally adopted the Christmas festival from the Western (about A.D. 380). From the West the observance of the day passed to the Eastern Church in the 4th century; as Chrysostom says, the feast was unknown at Antioch tell years before the time he was preaching, Some writers trace the observance to the 2nd century, about the time of the emperor Commodus. The final observation It that as soon as the early church adopted the day of the Lord’s birth and incorporated it in her calendar, the day of Christ’s nativity was kept with the same veneration and religious solemnity as the Lord’s day; for they had always sermons on this day, of which there are many instances in the early Christians writings.
Some characteristics of Christmas celebration in the early church
– It embraced Christmas eve, or Vigils, which were celebrated with especial solemnity, because, though the precise day of Christ’s birth could not be ascertained, it is certain that he was born in the night (Luke 2:8).
– A manger was set
– A sermon was preacher
– There was a solemn communion; for Chrysostom, in this very place, invites his people to the holy table, telling them “that if they came with faith, they might see Christ lying in the manger, for the holy table supplied the place of the manger; the body of the Lord was laid upon the holy table, not as before, wrapped in swaddling clothes, but invested on every side with the Holy Spirit” (Chrysostom, Hom. 31, de Philogonio, 1:399).
– for solemnity to be more universally observed, liberty was granted on this day to servants to rest from their ordinary labors, as on the Sabbath and the Lord’s day.
– All fasting was as strictly prohibited on this festival as on the Lord’s day; and no one, without suspicion of some impious heresy, could go against this rule,
– Finally, to show all possible honor to this day, the Church obliged all persons to frequent religious assemblies in the city churches, and not go to any of the lesser churches in the country, except some necessity of sickness or infirmity compelled them so to do.
– It was celebrated with all the marks of respect usually bestowed on high festivals, and distinguished also by the custom, derived probably from heathen antiquity, of interchanging presents and making entertainments
MY LAST WORDS ON CHRISTMAS
It’s true that in later ages many observances, some pleasant, others absurd, grew up around the Christmas festival. But whether you choose to celebrate Christmas or not is not a problem because the Bible says that no man should be judge on account of the observation of a day, (Col 2:16-18). The problem is with the way we celebrate Christmas. Many of us are like the people who went to celebrate the birthday of a king and were so carried by the festivities that they forgot to acknowledge and honor the king.
Let me contrast two stories:
A professor of psychology in one of the great universities gave a word suggestion test to his class of 40 students. He instructed them to write the word “Christmas,” and all the class did so. “Now,” said the professor, “right after the word ‘Christmas’ write the first thought that flashes through your mind regarding that day.” When the papers were turned in, such answers were given as “tree,” “holly,” “mistletoe,” “presents,” “turkey,” “holiday,” “carols,” and “Santa Claus,” but not one had written, “the birthday of Jesus.”
As there was no room for the baby Jesus in the inn, there is no room for Him today in the celebration of Christmas.
Contrastingly, two missionaries were captured and imprisoned in the same cell but forbidden to speak to each other. Christmas came. One of the missionaries, shivering and silent, sat on the floor covered with hay. As he was playing with bits of hay around him, he thought that he discovered a silent way of communicating with his friend. He spelled out the word Immanuel. As soon as his friend saw the word, immediately he lit up with joy. They were captives, but they both believed that God was with them and that ultimate triumph would be theirs.
This Christmas let us find a variety of ways of showing to others that God is indeed Immanuel, God with us.
God bless you, share this article with others
-McClintock and Strong Encyclopedia, Electronic Database. Copyright © 2000, 2003, 2005, 2006 by Biblesoft, Inc. All rights reserved.)
-Dictionary of Christianity in America, edited by Daniel G. Reid, Robert D. Linder, Bruce L. Shelley and Harry S. Stout. © 1990 by InterVarsity Christian Fellowship/USA; published by InterVarsity Press. All rights reserved.)
– A Treasury of Bible Illustrations Copyright © 1995, 1998 by AMG International, Inc. All rights reserved. Used by Permission.)