Howard Mooney - The Origin of Christmas

December 25th was originally a pagan festival. It was a time in which they celebrated the birth of Sol, or the return of the Sun on its northern journey. Most of the activities associated with Christmas have been carried over from that pagan holiday. It was not until the year 354 that the Catholic Church first associated the birth of Jesus with December 25th. In so doing, they allowed the people to the same day, and celebrated it in the same manner, only under a different name. The following on Christmas is condensed data, found in the "New Standard Encyclopaedia." It gives more:

Christmas: The festival commemorating the birth of Christ, observed in most countries on December the 25th. The term Christmas is derived from the Latin 'Christes masse' meaning Christ's mass. History: In the first few centuries of Christianity, there was no uniform celebration of the birth of Christ, because the exact date was unknown. Churches variously celebrated the event on January 2, March 25, April 18, and May 20. The adoption of December 25, as the birthday of Christ, was decreed by Bishop Liberius of Rome, in 354. This date was probably chosen because it coincided with the pagan festival of the winter solstice. The Romans observed Saturnalia, the feast of their god Saturn, at that time. The Germans, Gauls, and Britons celebrated Brumalia on December 25. The Norsemen held their Yule feasts between December 25 and January 6. Many of the customs of these festivals later on became a part of Christmas.

In the Middle Ages, the church opposed the traces of paganism, surviving in the popular Christmas customs, and counteracted by creating special Christmas masses. The church also introduced the nativity plays, manger songs, and Christmas carols. During the restoration period in England, the puritans, of New England, also forbade the celebration of Christmas. Origin of the customs: with the exception of Christmas greeting cards, which were first used in 1846, nearly all the holiday customs can be traced to a non-Christian origin. The Christmas tree, usually an evergreen, is derived from the Roman saturnalia, and the Norse worship trees. It was in Germany, in the sixteenth century, that the tree was first used as a symbol of Christmas. The custom was brought to England and the United States in the 19th Century. The mistletoe was the sacred plant of the druids, priests of ancient Britain Gaul. The Yule log symbolised protection against evil spirits, in the Norse festivals.

The above information is very enlightening. It helps one to understand how misleading the modern story of Christmas really is. It also gives one a glimpse of the great bondage, brought on the world, by the traditions of men. This should help us to appreciate, more fully, the glorious liberty we have in Christ. It should help us to keep from the spirit of hysteria that grips the world at this season. It also gives us a wonderful opportunity to let our light shine. When people can see that our homes and lives are different, from those in the world around us, it assures them that we have something better to live for. You might enjoy reading these notes, and it may answer some questions you may have. We have discussed this subject with a number of our friends and all seem to appreciate the information. In general, we have found that when our brethren learn the facts, of such things, they form their own conclusions and make their own separations. This is better than for us to lay down laws for them to abide by.

A few more facts about Christmas:

This holiday will be celebrated as the birth of Christ. Yet......

a. During this season, there will be more domestic violence, more alcohol-related injuries and death, more debt incurred, and more marital infidelity than at any other time of the year!

b. Office parties soon become drinking parties, reveling, etc.

c. And this is how men should remember the birth of Jesus?

Men are far more interested in observing their religious days (Christmas, Easter) than they are in observing the Lord's Day (Hebrews 10:25).

a. Human memorials of Christ's birth versus Lord's memorial of His death (I Corinthians 11:23-26).

b. Christ will only accept honor given Him in God's way - John 4:23-24.

We should be concerned with Christian's involvement in the activities of Christmas:

a. Is the religious observance of Christ's birth authorized by God?

b. What is the history of this religious holiday?

c. What is the Christian to do at this time of year?

d. What are we teaching our children about Christmas?

We want to be "the faithful" who come before God as He commands!

THE BASIS FOR THE RELIGIOUS OBSERVANCE OF CHRIST'S BIRTH: MAN OR GOD?

A. The Bible Does Not Reveal The Date Of Christ's Birth. 1. Matthew 2:1; Luke 2:1 - Days of Herod the Great (37-4 BC) and Caesar Augustus (27 BC-14 AD). 2. Luke 2:8 - Shepherds in fields watching flocks:

a. Summer months.

b. Song of Solomon 2:11 - Winter marked by cold and rain.

c. December is not "the time of Christ's birth!"

Human speculation over date:

a. Clement of Alexandria - November 18, 3 BC. / May 20.

b. Hippolytus - January 2, March 25 or April 2, finally December 25.

c. Others - January 6; March 28; April 18 or 19; Every month!

d. "No sufficient data, however, exists for the determination of the month or day of the event" - (The New Schaff-Herzog Encyclopedia Of Religious Knowledge, Reprint 1977, III:47).

God would have told us if He had wanted us to know! (Deuteronomy 9:29)

B. There Is No Biblical Authorization For The Celebration Of Christ's Birth.

1. Historical record does not authorize celebration of the event!

a. Baptism of Jesus; Crucifixion, Resurrection, Ascension......

b. Silence of Bible must be respected by men!

c. The Religious Celebration Of Christ's Birth Is Based Upon Human Authority, Not Divine Authority - Matthew 21:23; II Timothy 3:16-17; Colossians 3:17; II John 9-11; Galatians 1:8-9.

THE ORIGIN OF CELEBRATING THE BIRTH OF CHRIST.

A. Definition Of "Christmas" - "Mass Of Christ."

1. Catholicism - Celebration of the birth of Christ by a special mass.

2. This festival created to counter pagan festivals:

a. Roman Saturnalia (December 17-24) - Honored Saturnus, a pagan god. A time of gluttony and licentiousness.

b. Roman feast of Mithrand, the Sun god (December 25).

B. Clearly, The Festival Of The Birth Of Christ Began In Post-Apostolic Times.

1. Encyclopedia Of Religion & Ethics, III: 601 - "There is no evidence of the existence of a Feast of the Nativity before the 4th century."

2. Shaff-Herzog Encyclopedia, III:47 - "There is no historical evidence that our Lord's birthday was celebrated during the apostolic or early post-apostolic times."

3. How December 25 was selected for celebrating Christ's birth:

a. Liberius, Bishop of Rome, declared Dec. 25 celebrated as Christ's birthday in 354 AD.

b. "There can be little doubt that the Church was anxious to distract the attention of Christians from the old heathen feast days by celebrating Christian festivals on the same days (Encyclopedia of Religion & Ethics, III: 607).

c. "The indications are, that the Church in this way grasped the opportunity to turn the people away from a purely pagan observance of the winter solstice to a day of adoration of Christ the Lord" - Collier's Encyclopedia.

4. The observance of Christ's birth began in Catholicism and paganism, not Christianity!

5. "Human in its origin, arbitrary and irrelevant in its time, and Pagan in its ceremonies, it clearly has no claims whatever upon the true Christian." (W.K. Pendleton, Millennial Harbinger, 1848, p.22).

WHAT IS THE CHRISTIAN TO DO?

A. He Cannot Participate In The Religious Additions Of Men - II John 9-11. 1. II John 9-11 - Breaks fellowship with God; Fellowships errors of men.

2. Galatians 4:8-11 - Religious days of OT wrong to observe...What of those started by men in 4th century?!

3. II Corinthians 6:14 - Don't be forced into adding to God's will for your life!

B. Use The Opportunities Of The Season To Explain Why You Do Not Celebrate Christmas As The Birthday Of Christ - Matthew 5:13-16 (verses 11-12).

1. Cf. School activities, work events, neighbors.

2. People are surprised, but generally respectful of your convictions. But, you must live by your convictions regardless of how others react.......do not compromise your faith!

C. A Christian Can Observe Portions Of The Christmas Holiday Non-Religiously.

1. Many things which may carry religious meaning can be practiced non-religiously: a. Circumcision - Acts 16:1-3.

b. Washing hands; Eating meats sacrificed to idols, etc.

2. Romans 14:5,23 - Without violating God's authority or one's conscience!

a. Festive, joyous season of goodwill, exchanging gifts, visits, helping the needy, many seasonal traditions which have no inherent religious significance.

b. Galatians 6:10 - Of course, these should be everyday attitudes and actions!

3. Christmas can be observed non-religiously, even though some will be observing it religiously!

Conclusion

1. The basis for observing Christmas as the birth of Christ is man's religious authority (Catholicism and paganism). It started centuries after the time of Christ. It is not commanded in anyway in the New Testament.

2. While we fully believe in the virgin birth of Christ and thank God for it, God has not authorized us to celebrate the birth of Jesus, and to do so is a violation of His holy will! (Colossians 3:17; Galatians 1:8-9)

3. Let us truly be faithful to Christ this holiday season, and every day of the year!