CHRISTMAS – To Celebrate Or Not?

Written by Les Dahl on December 10, 2013. Posted in Uncategorized

 

Christmas is a season of great celebration, overwhelming

     commercial inundation and much religious controversy.

Let’s start with the obvious.

No mention is made of December 25 or Christmas in the Bible.

In fact, no indication is given of Jesus’ exact date of birth.

 

Nor is there any suggestion that 1st century Christians

     celebrated Jesus’ birth.

In fact, early Christians kept Jewish feasts and holy days,

     especially Passover, fulfilled by Yeshua the Lamb of God.

The closest incident to celebrating the ‘birth’ of Jesus in the

     Bible is the prophetic declarations made by Simeon and Anna

     when Jesus was brought into the temple for dedication on his

     eighth day. (Luke 2:22-38)

So how did we get Christmas December 25?

Long before Christmas was established, Europeans celebrated

     the winter solstice (Dec. 21), when light once more pushed back

     the encroaching darkness of winter, bringing with it the promise

     of spring and new life.

Under Roman rule, these celebrations centered around Saturnalia—

     a ‘Mardi Gras’ type revelry in honor of Saturn, the Roman god of

     agriculture.  Wild partying and feasting began on Dec. 17 and

     continued through to a New Year’s bash in the first week of January.

In the midst of these festivities was December 25, the most

     sacred day of the year for many Roman soldiers, government

     officials & upper class citizens. It was the birthday of Mithra,

     god of the unconquerable sun.

First Century Christians paid little mind to the pagan festivities.

They were on a mission: “Let the whole house of Israel know beyond

     doubt that God has made him both Lord and Messiah – this Yeshua,

     whom you executed on a stake!” (1)

Severe persecution of Christians only intensified their passion.

Their message spread like wild-fire throughout the Roman world.

A  familiar cry arose everywhere Christians went, “These men who have

     turned the world upside down have come here also … saying there is

     another king, Jesus.” (2)

Christians infiltrated every nation and ethnic group, challenging

     every religion and culture. Meeting in house churches, Christians

     celebrated their new-found freedom, joy and love in Christ so

     different from anything they had ever known. Converts readily

     left their paganism to embrace the Kingdom of God.

As Constantine became Emperor of Rome in the 4th century, he

     accomplished what no other emperor before could. He changed

     the face and structure of Christianity thereby curbing its power.

Declaring Christianity the state religion, Constantine outlawed

     house churches replacing them with state-owned ‘church’

     buildings and state-appointed clergy. He forbade the celebration

     of Passover, replacing it with the celebration of Easter. Rather

     than outlaw pagan customs, his church leaders absorbed them.

December 25th was designated as the ‘Feast of the Nativity’,

     celebrating the birth of Jesus.  After morning Mass, however,

     celebrants joined friends and neighbors in Saturnalia festivities.

     By the eighth century, Christmas spread throughout Europe.

December 25th Christmas had become a common-ground celebration

     for pagans and Christians.

Does this mean we Christians should not celebrate Christmas?

     Let’s hold judgment until we will see some

     interesting twists and turns in the history of ‘Christmas’ recounted

     in part 2 of this exposé .

Blessings, 

Les Dahl

 

(1) Acts 2:36 (CJB)

(2) Acts 17:6 (ESV)

Image courtesy of digidreamgrafix / FreeDigitalPhotos.net

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