Christmas Holiday Celebration
By: The John Ankerberg Show
Should Christmas be a holiday for Christians to Celebrate? Some say NO!
The Origin of December 25th
First off, we can all agree that we do not know the exact date of Christ’s birth. The Jehovah’s Witnesses and other legalistic groups attack the observance of Christmas, charging that it is pagan and not for Christians. No one can deny that this observance has been abused by those in the world, but should this stop Christians from observing it in a proper manner?
Secondly, we can all agree that pagans celebrate on this date. We would be hard-pressed to find a day to celebrate that did not have pagan roots. Every day of our week, indeed our entire calendar is “pagan!”
However, most would agree that these pagan roots have lost their significance. Christians do not refuse to honor Jesus just because of pagan roots, since these pagan roots have no significance to them. Why, then, choose December 25th to celebrate Christ’s birth?
In the “Israel My Glory” magazine of December-January 1986-1987, there appeared an article called, “Why Do We Celebrate Christmas on December 25th?” Since Christianity has its roots in Judaism, and not in paganism, let’s look to the Jewish roots for the origin of our date, as did this article.
A full explanation of the Jewish observance of Chanukkah (also called Hanukkah) is given, which is a major holiday for Jews to this day. Although it was not one of the seven biblical holidays, it nevertheless is of great significance. It is also called “The Festival of Dedication,” or sometimes “The Festival of Lights.”
John 10:22,23 records that Jesus was walking on the porch of the temple during this observance. He had nothing to say against it, and judging by His location, may have been participating, even though it was not commanded in the Bible.
On page 5, the article continues, “December 25th is almost certainly not the actual date for the incarnation. Shepherds in Israel would not have been out in the fields tending their flocks at night in December.” Therefore, why choose this date?
First, it was on the 25th day of the Hebrew month Kislev (corresponding to our December) that Antiochus chose to desecrate the Temple and establish worship of his god because it was already an existing heathen holiday. Therefore, l and 2 Maccabees go out of their way to stress the fact that it was exactly three years later, to the day, that the Temple was cleansed and rededicated (the 25th of Kislev).
Now when the Church, long after the actual date of the incarnation had been lost in antiquity, chose the date to commemorate the incomparable occasion when deity dwelt within a human body, what better association than the Temple, where deity had also dwelt, and the 25th of Kislev, which was an already established date commemorating the cleansing and rededication of the Temple as a dwelling place for God?
The Church did not choose December 25th because it was an ancient heathen holiday, but because of the Jewish feast of Chanukkah that occurred on that date, and the added significance that Jesus gave to it. This date eloquently testified to the fact that at the birth of Jesus deity was dwelling in a human body (Temple) and shining out to give light in the midst of darkness. The great Hebrew-Christian scholar, Alfred Edersheim, whose writings on this period of time are still classic, shared this thought, “The date of the feast of Dedication (Chanukkah)—the
25th of Kislev—seems to have been adopted by the ancient church as that of the birth of our blessed Lord—Christmas—the dedication of the true temple which was the body of Jesus.”
We would do well to look at the Jewish roots of our Christmas (which means “Christ is sent”) and act accordingly.
The Origin of the Christmas Tree
Our custom of the lighted Christmas tree reportedly originated with Martin Luther, a great man of God. While walking in the moonlight and thanking God for sending his Son, he saw an evergreen tree covered in hoarfrost shining in the moonlight. He cut the tree down and brought it inside, and decorated its branches with lit candles to remind all that Christ is the light of the world, and the tree is symbolic not only of the tree Christ died on, but of the “Tree of Life” referred to in Revelation.
The feeble attempt of some cults to link the Christmas tree with Jeremiah, chapter ten, is cleared up when we read it in context. Here a woodcutter takes a tree, carves it into an idol, and worships it. The Christmas tree has never been worshipped yet in a Christian home!
Is Christ’s Birth Important?
The cult groups like to minimize the importance of Christ’s birth, just as they have minimized Christ, making him less than Almighty God manifest in the flesh in their theology. Some groups teach that He is only “a god” or the Archangel Michael. Others deny the One God revealed in three Persons (the Trinity). It is common to find the observance of Christ’s birth or Christmas also minimized or prohibited by these same groups.
The Christmas-haters also usually refuse to render to Jesus the worship He is due. Many refuse to follow the Bible example of prayer to Jesus as well. It is no surprise that they refuse to honor the observance of His birthday by believers.
However, this same birthday was marked in the Bible prominently. The actual birthplace of Jesus was foretold in Micah 5:1, “But you, Bethlehem Ephrathah, though you are small among the clans of Judah, out of you will come for Me one who will be ruler over Israel, whose origins are from of old, from days of eternity.”
Besides foretelling the birth of Jesus, Micah also gives us valuable insight into the nature of Jesus Christ, showing that His origins are eternal, not created as some cult groups teach. The Hebrew word here for “eternity” is “olam.” “Olam” also is used of YHWH (Jehovah) in Psalms 90:2. Only God is eternal.
The foretelling of Jesus’ birth was an exciting and much-anticipated Event: “…Therefore the Lord Himself will give you a sign: The virgin will be with child and will give birth to a son, and will call Him Emmanuel” (Isaiah 7:13,14).
Matthew 1:23 points out that the meaning of Emmanuel is “God with us.” That is “Ho Theos” (“The God” in Greek) is with us! Let’s believe the inspired word and not attempt to downgrade Jesus to something less than Almighty God manifest in the flesh!
Isaiah 9:6 presents this exciting view of Christ’s birth: “For to us a child is born, to us a son is given, and the government will be on His shoulders. And He will be called Wonderful Counselor, Mighty God, Everlasting Father, Prince of Peace.”
Since God saw fit to have the angels sing and rejoice at the birth of Christ (Luke 2:13,14), and we are commanded to “honor the Son even as we honor the Father” (John 5:23), we make no apology to the cults for celebrating the birth of our Savior, Christ the Lord, on a most appropriate day.