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By: Erwin J. Gorgonio

This is an article that appeared in the December 2002 issue of the God's Message Magazine

ONE OF THE most celebrated occasions or holidays, especially in the Western world, is what many call Christmas. In various countries, people observe the 25th of December as the day of gift-giving, toys for children, family traditions such as putting up of Christmas trees and Christmas lights and the holding of various festivities that are associated with Christmas.
Millions of people around the world observe this day because they believe that it is in true celebration of the birthday of the Lord Jesus Christ. They celebrate Christmas believing that it is a "Christian" thing to do.
In view of this, some accuse or criticize members of the Church of Christ of not being "true Christians" because we do not participate in the Christmas traditions. Some even say that the members of the Church of Christ do not respect or honor Christ because they do not remember Him on the alleged day of His birth.
 
Traditions
We must first clarify that, in general, some traditions can be helpful in many ways. Following traditions is the way by which culture is passed on from generation to generation. When it is a person's birthday, it has been a tradition to greet him on that day or to even celebrate with him to remember joyous occasion in his life. However, we must understand that there is a limit to observing traditions. Our Lord Jesus Christ Himself declared:
 
"He said to them 'All too well you reject the commandment of God that you may keep your tradition'." (Mk. 7:9, New King James Version)
 
To follow traditions is wrong when doing so opposes the commandments of God. When traditions go against the teachings of the Bible, we ought to readily reject them. We must remember that traditions may even be used to deceive people and lead them away from God and from Jesus Christ. Apostle Paul warned:
 
"Beware lest anyone cheat you through philosophy and empty deceit, according to the tradition of men, according to the basic principles of the world, and not according to Christ." (Col. 2:8 Ibid.)
 
The birth of Jesus
 So, what's wrong with the tradition of celebrating the birth of Jesus Christ on December 25? Is he 25th of December really the birth of our Lord as many have been taught to believe? According to Smith's Bible Dictionary:
 
"The date of the birth of Jesus, and the month and the day, have each been the subject of much debate, without any definite settlement. The various opinions have ... suggested nearly every month in the year." (p. 158)
 
As Bible scholars admit, there is no definite date of the birth of Jesus. There is neither proof that it is the 25th of December nor is there any biblical account that states the date of Jesus' birth. Thus, the alleged date of Christ's birth is a mere fabrication.
 
One might argue that since there is no biblical account of the actual date itself, then it might still be December 25. Is that a plausible argument? No, it is not. Even though the Bible does not record the specific date, there is, however, an account of their conditions of the surroundings at the time of Jesus' birth, which make it unlikely that it was in the month of December. The Book of Luke records:
 
"Joseph also went up from Galilee, out of the city of Nazareth, into Judea, to the city of David, which is called Bethlehem, because he was of the house and lineage of David, to be registered with Mary, his betrothed wife, who was with child. So it was, that while they were there, the days were completed for her to be delivered. And she brought forth her firstborn Son, and wrapped Him in swaddling cloths, and laid Him in a manger, because there was no room for them in the inn. Now there were in the same country shepherds living out in the fields, keeping watch over their flock by night." (Lk. 2:6-8, Ibid.)
 
We must take note in the biblical passage that there were "shepherds living out in the fields, keeping watch over their flock by night." We must also remember that when Jesus was born, a census was being taken by the Roman government. This time frame shows that Christ was not born in December because of the season when these events transpired. This is further proven in the Catholic Encyclopedia:
 
"Origin of Date? Concerning the date of Christ's birth the Gospels give no help; indeed, upon their data contradictory arguments are based. The census would have been impossible in winter... Authorities moreover differ as to whether shepherds could or would keep flocks exposed during the nights of the rainy season... The well-known solar feasts, however, of Natalis Invicti, celebrated on 25 December, has a strong claim on the responsibility of our December date."(vol. 3, pp. 726-727)
 
Catholic authorities themselves admit that Christ must not have been born in December because the season described in the Scriptures is nothing like December in that part of the world. Moreover, the origin of the December 25 celebration is from the Roman solar feast of Natalis Invicti or Natalis Solis Invicti, a pagan feast. What is the feast of the Natalis Solis Invicti? According to Collier's Encyclopedia:
 
"The choice of December 25 was probably influenced by the fact that on this day the Romans celebrated the Mithraic feast of the Sun-god (natalis solis invicti), and that the Saturnalia also came at this time. The indications are that the Church in this way grasped the opportunity to turn the people away from the purely pagan observance of the winter solstice to a day of adoration of Christ the Lord. Both St. Cyprian and St. John Chrysostom allude to this thought in their writings." (vol. 6, p. 403)
 
Even if the Catholic Church would reason out that the Christmas celebration was an attempt to bring people to the adoration of Christ, the fact still remains that December 25 was selected not because it is the Lord's birth date but because of a pagan celebration - a day in which pagans believed that it was the time of the rebirth of the sun. It came from an oriental cult that worshiped the sun-god, Mithras. Moreover, rather than bringing people closer to Christ, Christmas further draws people away from God and Jesus. The various traditions associated with Christmas are not Christian teachings but an assortment of various pagan practices.
 
Pagan practices
What are some of the traditions that people all over the world continue to observe during the Christmas season, which is also called the Yuletide? The putting up of Christmas trees and the decoration of Christmas lights. There is also the perennial myth of Santa Claus bringing gifts and toys to all the children throughout the world. Let us examine some of these traditions.
Some may wonder where the term "Yule" came from, since it is also used as an equivalent of the term "Christmas." The Dictionary of Christian Love and Legend defines the word "Yule":
 
"The modern form of the Old English word geol, related to the Old Norse jol, a heathen and then Christian period of feasting about the time of the winter solstice. It had been revived in popular usage as the equivalent of Christmas, as in 'yuletide' and 'yule-log'." (p. 270)
 
Christmas Tree. The origin of the Christmas tree is nowhere to be found in the Bible because it is neither a Christian tradition nor a commandment of God. There is no connection between the birth of Christ and the Christmas tree.
 
"Beware lest anyone
 cheat you through philosophy
 and empty deceit ..."
 
What is the true origin of the Christmas tree? In Collier's Encyclopedia, it states:
 
"Some authorities consider the Christmas tree a survival of pagan tree worship and trace it to ancient Rome and Egypt. ... The use of evergreens to decorate homes at Christmas time has an unmistakable pre-Christian origin. During the celebration of the Roman Saturnalis, laurel and other greens and flowers were used extensively for processions and house decorations." (vol. 6, p. 404)
 
Christmas Lights.
The Christmas lights are so adored by many and are done in various ways in different parts of the world. From simple candlelights at the windows of houses to extravagant illumination in shopping malls, people all over the world embraced this tradition as part of Christmas. But is it in remembrance of the momentous birth of the Lord? Collier's Encyclopedia explains its history:
 
"Christmas candles may have had their origin in the Jewish feast of the Rededication of the Temple (Hannukah). In the Middle Ages it was customary to set up a candle in the center of a laurel wreth and keep it burning on Christmas Eve and every night during the season. The custom was particularly cherished in Ireland, where candles were placed in the windows of homes on Christmas Eve ... The custom was brought to America by Irish immigrants in the nineteenth century. From it derives the present-day custom of decorating homes and public buildings with lights of all kinds." (Ibid.)
 
Santa Claus.
Although Christmas is supposed to be the celebration of the birth of Christ the Savior, the more prominent figure well-known in various cultures and better associated with Christmas is Santa Claus. However, if we look at the origin of Santa Claus, this is what we will find:
"Nicholas, Saint (lived 4th Century), Christian prelate, patron saint of Russia, traditionally associated with Christmas celebrations. According to tradition, Nicholas was a native of Patara, in the ancient district of Lycia, Asia Minor (now Turkey). He became archbishop of the metropolitan church in Myra, Lycia. Legend tells of his surreptitious gifts to the daughters of a poor man who was about to abandon them to prostitution. From this tale has grown the custom of secret gifts on the Eve of Saint Nicholas. Because of the close proximity of dates, Christmas and Saint Nichola's Day are now celebrated simultaneously in many countries. His feast day is December 6.
 
"The Christian figure of Saint Nicholas replaced or incorporated various pagan gift-giving figures. He was called Sankt Nikolaus in Germany and Sanct Herr Nicholaas or Sinter Klaas in Holland; in both countries he was depicted wearing a bishop's robes. The feast day of Nicholas was traditionally observed on December 6. After the 16th century Protestant Reformation, German Protestants encouraged veneration of the Christkindl (Christ child) as a gift giver on his own feast day, December 25. When the Nicholas tradition prevailed, it became attached to Christmas itself." (Microsoft Encarta Online Encyclopedia 2001, http://encarta.ms.com)

To honor Christ is to remember His painful sacrifice
Thus, the Christmas that the world celebrates is not truly the birth of Jesus Christ nor is it even a true celebration of His life. On the contrary, Christmas celebrations are in direct opposition to the commandments of God. As Apostle Paul warned the Christians:
 
"Having nothing to do with godless myths and old wives' tales; rather train yourself to be godly." (I Tim. 4:7, New International Version)
 
Apostle Paul also described the sins of the Israelites, which we must not repeat:
 
"These events happened as a warning to us, so that we would not crave evil things as they did or worship idols as some of them did. For the Scriptures say, 'The people celebrated with feasting and drinking, and they indulged themselves in pagan revelry'." (I Cor. 10:6-7, New Living Translation)
 
To follow such celebrations is to make same errors as did the ancient people of Israel who "indulged in pagan revelry."  Such activities may be cloaked under the guise of so-called Christianity, but in reality, they lead us away from the true teachings of the Holy Scriptures.
 
The proper way of remembering Christ
To remember Christ is not by means of celebrating the pagan revelries and of teaching children myths and legends.  Apostle Paul teaches us the proper way of remembering Him:
 
"And when He had given thanks, He broke it and said, 'Take, eat; this is My body which is broken for you; do this in remembrance of Me'.  In the same manner He also took the cup after supper, saying, "This cup is the new covenant in My blood.  This do, as often as you drink it, in remembrance of Me'." (I Cor. 11:24-25, NKJV)
 
Christ Himself commanded His disciples to partake of the bread and drink of the cup by means of the Holy Supper to remember the sacrifice He made for us.  To honor Christ is not by adhering to pagan traditions, but by remembering His painful sacrifice - His enduring of the shame and humiliation from His oppressors, and His agonizing death on the cross - that we may be worthy to God.
 
As true followers of Christ, we, members of the Church of Christ remember Him not by putting lights in our windows once a year.  Jesus Christ taught this:
 
"You are the light of the world.  A city that is set on a hill cannot be hidden. "Let your lights so shine before men, that they may see your good works and glorify your Father in heaven." (Mt. 5:14, 16, Ibid.)
 
True disciples shine as lights.  We must live righteously, filled with good works that are truly pleasing to God and to Jesus Christ.  Do we just live this way once a year?  Can we be true followers of Christ by just following and living righteously one day out of the entire year?  Christ also commanded:
 
"Then He said to them all, 'If anyone desire to come after Me, let him deny himself, and take up his cross daily, and follow Me'." (Lk. 9:23, Ibid)
 
As long as we live and as long as we want to follow Christ, we should obey His teachings every single day of our life.  This was exemplified by Apostle Paul himself in his dedication to his ministerial duty and faith.  He wrote:
 
"My deep desire and hope is that I shall never fail in my duty, but that at all times, and especially right now, I shall be full of courage, so that with my whole being I shall bring honor to Christ, whether I live or die." (Philip. 1:20, Today's English Version)
Members of the Church of Christ follow the true teachings of the Scriptures.  Others may misunderstand us for not celebrating Christmas, but the teachings in the Holy Scriptures prevail in our life, for this is the  true way of remembering and honoring our Lord Jesus Christ.
 
References
Collier's Encyclopedia.  Vol. 6, New York, USA: Crowell-Collier Publishing Company, 1964
Melford, JCJ, Dictionary of Christian Lore and Legend. London: Thames and Hudson Ltd. 1983
Microsoft Encarta Online Encyclopedia 2001,
http://encarta.msn.com
Smith, William. Smith's Bible Dictionary. USA: Thomas Nelson Publishers, 1987
The Catholic Encyclopedia. New York: the Encyclopedia Press, Inc. 1913.