Monday, December 18, 2017
Should Christians celebrate Christmas?
That may seem like an odd question since most Christians celebrate the birth of Christ at Christmas, right? But the problem is, most Christians do not know the origin of Christmas. Before you read on, please know that this is not a post of condemnation. In fact, my hope is that it will not only inform, but bless you. So let's continue.
From early Christian writings and the New Testament, it would appear that the early Christians did not celebrate the birth of Christ at all. The first known "Christmas" celebration happened after Emperor Constantine took Christianity off the "punishable by death religion list" and made it, not only legitimate, but the religion of the Roman Empire.
We could argue forever whether Constantine was ever a Christian as he claimed to be, but in my mind, despite legalizing Christianity, he caused the most harm to the Christian church as anyone before or after him ever did. You see, he had an empire to appease and for centuries the Romans had worshiped various pagan gods in temples with certain ceremonies and holidays of their own. If Constantine got rid of all that, the people would have revolted. So, what did he do? He combined Christianity with the pagan temples, priests, and rituals, and hence the Holy Roman Empire was born.
For example, for centuries Romans had celebrated the pagan feast of Saturnalia, a tribute to the god, Saturn, toward the end of December. The rituals involved a sacrifice to the god, gift-giving, banquets and various parties which included gambling and much "public dissipation". In addition, Saturnalia had absorbed other pagan practices from Babylon and Turkey such as yule logs, mistletoe, hot cross buns, and evergreen trees. When Constantine legitimized Christianity, rather than do away with this popular festival, he merely combined it with Christian ideas and named it the birthday of Christ.
For centuries, Christians refused to celebrate Christmas because they knew of its pagan origins. But time has a way of numbing the memory and roughly 600 years later, Christians started celebrating Christmas along with all the pagan rituals that went with it.
When was Jesus really born? Many scholars have done excellent work on this question, using Scripture to prove that Jesus was most likely born sometime in our September. This is based on when John the Baptist was first conceived and then how long after that Jesus was conceived. If that is true, (and it seems highly likely from Scripture that it is) then Jesus was most likely conceived in Mary's womb (by the Holy Spirit) sometime in December. In fact, it's quite possible that the Holy Spirit placed Jesus inside Mary's womb during the Jewish Hanukkah celebration.
Okay, so what is Hanukkah about? Back in 168 BC, Israel was under the domination of a cruel Syrian dictator named Antiochus Epiphanes (a precursor of the antichrist). He had desecrated the Temple in Jerusalem by sacrificing a pig on the altar and erecting a statue of Zeus in the Holy Place. Judah Maccabee and his brothers led a revolt and recaptured their desecrated Temple and began a cleansing process to make it fit for worship again. But they didn't have enough Holy Oil to complete the required 8-day purification ritual. They prayed and God made the small amount of oil they had last the full 8 days. Every year in December, the Jews celebrate this miracle. It was originally called the Festival of Lights
Would it be awesome to think that Jesus (the light of the world) was conceived during the Festival of Lights? Now, we know that life begins at conception. Scripture is quite clear.
“Before I formed you in the womb I knew you;Before you were born I sanctified you; Jeremiah 1:5
For You formed my inward parts;You covered me in my mother’s womb. Psalm 139:13
So, Jesus's actual entrance onto planet earth was at His conception, not His birth, right? Hence, perhaps we really are celebrating His coming to earth to save us during the right month!! Read Here for more detailed information on this topic
All that to say, me and my family still celebrate Christmas. We still put up a tree and have stockings and yule log cakes (yum). And we exchange gifts and have parties, etc... However, the focus of our celebrations is Jesus. We explain to the young ones the reason we are celebrating, we read the story of Jesus's birth, we tell them it is Jesus's birthday and He is God's best gift to us. We do not focus at all on Saturn or Santa. Are we still celebrating a pagan holiday? Some may still say so. It's really a matter of the heart.
I will let God be my judge in the end.
Have a very Merry Christmas, everyone!