Christmas

 

Thismorning we are going to be talking about how Jesus relates to Christmas and the greatest gift that we can give to mankind. Christmas means many different things to different people and it one of the largest celebrated holidays in the world. From the latest information thatI have 98% of Americans celebrate this holiday. Christmas has always been a highlight in my life and it has different meanings to me. As a child I looked forward to opening up gifts and finding out what those mysterious objects were in that box but as I got older I began to appreciate being around my loved ones, eating good food and watching others open up their presents. I think most of us would agreethat the Christmas season is a wonderful time of the year to spend with our loved ones. That is what Christmas means to me.

 

However, there are many in the world who celebrate Christmas as Jesus birthday and this is what I want focus in on for just few min. I would like to answer a couple of questions. Is Dec. 25 Jesus birthday and does the Bible teach us to celebrate Jesus birth?

 

First of all I would like to say that the Bible in no way gives us a specific day that we can say that is Christ birthday but I do believe the Bible gives us enough information to show without a doubt that Christ birthday did not occur in the month of December. Before we look at some passages that bear this out I want to first point out that for the first 200 years of Christianity that there is no mentioning of Christians celebrating Jesus birth.

As the Encyclopedia Americana explains, "Christmas... was, according to many authorities, not celebrated in the first centuries of the Christian church, as the Christian usage in general was to celebrate the death of remarkable persons rather than their birth..." (1944 edition, "Christmas").

You see it wasnít until the 3rd and 4th century till Christians and the people of Rome began to celebrate the birth of Jesus and even then there was a great dispute on when it should be celebrated. During this time there were about 8 specific dated offered. Some thought it was in January, March, April, May, September and December. While December was the last date on the list it was the one that became accepted to celebrate Jesus birth. The Roman Catholic church made this an official celebration in 435 AD when the first Christ mass took place. This of course evolved into our word Christmas.

Now the most likely reason why December 25 was chose to celebrate Christ birth was because Rome celebrated this day as the birth of their son God. What Christians loved to do with Pagan Holidays was to replace them with something associated with God because they knew that people would not stop celebrating their Pagan holidays so it was easier to allow them to keep their celebration but give it a Christian flavor. So now instead of celebrating the birth of the sun God they would celebrate the birth of the son of God.

 

The Roman Catholic writer Mario Righetti candidly admits that, "to facilitate the acceptance of the faith by the pagan masses, the Church of Rome found it convenient to institute the 25th of December as the feast of the birth of Christ to divert them from the pagan feast, celebrated on the same day in honor of the 'Invincible Sun' Mithras, the conqueror of darkness" (Manual of Liturgical History, 1955, Vol. 2, p. 67).

This is how Jesus birth became associated with Christmas. Now lets take look at some passages that I believe make it clear that Jesus could not have possibly been born in the month of December.

Luke 2:1-And it came to pass in those days that a decree went out from Caesar Augustus that all the world should be registered.2 This census first took place while Quirinius was governing Syria.3 So all went to be registered, everyone to his own city.4 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,5 to be registered with Mary, his betrothed wife, who was with child.6 So it was, that while they were there, the days were completed for her to be delivered.7 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.

Here we have this great decree for a census. This would mean that all the people would have to travel to their own city. It is highly unlikely that they would have called for this census during the winter months when travel would be very difficult andmost people stay in their homes. Common sense would tell us they would choose a time of year when traveling would be easier. Some writers have suggested that the census would have most likely taken place sometime in Autumn. Whenever it occurred it should be easy for us to see that it would not have taken place during the winter months which means Jesus would not have been born in the month of December. Our next verse also shows that Jesus was not born in December.

8 Now there were in the same country shepherds living out in the fields, keeping watch over their flock by night.

Now we need to realize that it was common practicefor shepherds to keep their flocks in the field from late March to around the beginning of October, but in the cold and rainy winter months they took their flocks back home and sheltered them. As one commentator states:

Shepherds and their flocks would not be found "abiding" in the open fields at night in December, for the paramount reason that there would be no pasturage at that time. It was the custom then (as now) to withdraw the flocks during the months of (Oct.-Nov.) from the open districts and house them for the winter.

This being the case there is no way that Jesus was born during the winter months because these Shepardís were still out in the field with their flocks at the time of Jesus birth. Just to make a side note here. Notice Luke tells us that the Shepardís saw Jesus in the manager, however in many of the Christmas plays that we have today they make it out to be 3 wise men who bring gifts that saw him in the manager when in fact Mat. 2. tells us that Jesus was already born then these wise men were starting their journey to find Jesus. By the way there is no way tell if there were 3 wise men or more. Then in verse 11 we see that these wise men went into their house where Jesus was and not the stable. So putting that all together the Shepards saw Jesus at his birth in manager and the wise men see him much latter after his birth when he is living in own home.

Another interesting fact about Jesus birth is the year that he was born. Now again many think today that Jesus was born on 0 AD. However there is no 0 A.D. instead we go from 1 B.C. to 1 A.D. In 525 AD Pope John 1 asked a scholar named Dionysis to create a new calendar and he started the calendar when he thought Christ was born but he was wrong because he missed Christ Birth by at least 4 years because we know from history that Herod the Great died in the spring of 4B.C. and according to Godís Word Jesus was alive during his reign which puts Christ birth somewhere around 5 or 6 B.C.

Now while I cannot give you a specific day of when Christ was born I can tell you based on my study that Jesus was most likely born around late March or the month of April and he could have possibly been born in the month of September Now if you would like to know how have came to this conclusion I will be more than happy to show you an article that narrows this down but I will tell you these dates are based upon a lot of assumptions and I certainly would not be dogmatic about it. But one thing I do know if Jesus had wanted us to celebrate his birth on a yearly donít you think that he would have made the date of his birth clear or told us when celebrate it? You see the Bible in no way tells us to observe Jesus birth. If it did the Bible would tells when to do so. However Jesus does make it clear on what he wants us to do to remember him.

1 Corinthians 11:23 For I received from the Lord that which I also delivered to you: that the Lord Jesus on the same night in which He was betrayed took bread;24 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."25 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."26 For as often as you eat this bread and drink this cup, you proclaim the Lord's death till He comes.

You seewe are to remember him on a weekly basis as partake of the Lords Supper which reminds us of his death on the cross and life he lived for us so that we could be made free. So this is why I do not believe that Christians should celebrate December 25 as Jesus actual birthday. Now let me tell you what I am not saying. I am not saying that we should treat Jesus birth as piece of paper that we wad up and throw into the waste basket. No insteadwe should rejoice and be thankful on a daily basis for Jesus birth and the perfect life he lived on this earth so that he could be that perfect sacrifice at his death for you and I. We need recognize that Jesus being associated with Christmas on Dec. 25 is man made and not God made.

Now I will tell you that I am very thankful for Christ birth and death today just like I am thankful for it everyday. However to me as I keep the custom of Christmas I simple celebrate this day as day I spend with my loved ones and yes opening up those mysterious boxes

Now I will say this I am happy when anything gets people thinking more about Jesus and certainly Christmas at least is a small way makes some start thinking about what Christ has done for us. So for that small part of it I am thankful.

Well now that we have examined how Jesus and Christmas came about now I want talk about gifts. As I think back I have many found memories of Christmas presents I received as a child. One year I received a helicopter and another year a VCR and thought these thingswere wonderful gifts but eventually these presents got old and they broke. But one of the greatest gifts that we could ever give is found right here in this package. In fact you could say that this gift will never grow old and it will never be broken and it truly is the gift that keeps on giving. What is it?

It is the Word of God.

Friends this is truly the greatest gift that we have we and received and that we give to other. The words in these pages comes by the inspiration of God. Paul makes this clear in:

 

1 Corinthians 2:12 Now we have received, not the spirit of the world, but the Spirit who is from God, that we might know the things that have been freely given to us by God.13 These things we also speak, not in words which man's wisdom teaches but which the Holy Spirit teaches, comparing spiritual things with spiritual.

 

So the words that were spoke by these men and profit of old were not there own words they were Godís words. Peter also bears this out.

 

2 Peter 1:20 knowing this first, that no prophecy of Scripture is of any private interpretation,21 for prophecy never came by the will of man, but holy men of God spoke as they were moved by the Holy Spirit.

 

So there is no doubt Paul summarizes the scriptures this way.

 

2 Timothy 3:16 All Scripture is given by inspiration of God, and is profitable for doctrine, for reproof, for correction, for instruction in righteousness,17 that the man of God may be complete, thoroughly equipped for every good work.

 

You see the Bible is our pattern our guide book given to us by God so that we understand how we got here and what our life is all about and how we can be saved in eternity. God has given us his word because he loves us and he wants to understand his word.

 

1 Timothy 2:3 For this is good and acceptable in the sight of God our Savior,4 who desires all men to be saved and to come to the knowledge of the truth.

 

But it up to you and I to accept Godís Word because he will not force us follow it because he loved us enough to give us a free will. We need to realize just howpowerful Godís word is.

 

Hebrews 4:12 For the word of God is living and powerful, and sharper than any two-edged sword, piercing even to the division of soul and spirit, and of joints and marrow, and is a discerner of the thoughts and intents of the heart.

 

It is so powerful that it will remain forever.

 

Matthew 24:35 "Heaven and earth will pass away, but My words will by no means pass away.

 

Here we see that even heaven andearth disappear Godís word will stillbe there. The reason why weshould stand up take note of the God inspired word is because it teaches how to be saved so that we can eternity in heaven instead of hell.

 

Romans 1:16 For I am not ashamed of the gospel of Christ, for it is the power of God to salvation for everyone who believes, for the Jew first and also for the Greek.17 For in it the righteousness of God is revealed from faith to faith; as it is written, "The just shall live by faith."

 

James 1:21 Therefore lay aside all filthiness and overflow of wickedness, and receive with meekness the implanted word, which is able to save your souls.

 

Do you see why word of is the greatest gift we have received and the greatest gift we can give? As we study Godís word we can see the great love that God has for us how sent his only begotten son to live and to die upon this earth for sole purpose of giving the opportunity of being saved. It is a gift that we do not deserve but God offers it to us anyway.

 

When Jesus had raised from the dead and declared that all authority had been given to him over heaven and earth he commands his disciples to do this in,

 

Matthew 28:19"Go therefore and make disciples of all the nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit,20 "teaching them to observe all things that I have commanded you; and lo, I am with you always, even to the end of the age." Amen.

 

You see this is how one becomes a disciple of Christ is by being taught the Word of God and by being baptized into of the possession of the father the son and the holy Ghost and thisis message that you see taught throughout the NT. For example Peter and the rest of the Apostles taught the same message at the birth of the church in Acts 2. As they began to proclaim Jesus death burial and resurrection notice the response of some of these listeners.

 

Acts 2:37 Now when they heard this, they were cut to the heart, and said to Peter and the rest of the apostles, "Men and brethren, what shall we do?"38 Then Peter said to them, "Repent, and let every one of you be baptized in the name of Jesus Christ for the remission of sins; and you shall receive the gift of the Holy Spirit.

 

Now as you take a complete look at the word of God in the NT you will see that that as people went about giving the greatest the greatest gift ever they would tell people that they must believe the Jesus was the son of God and they would tell them they must repent and turn to God and follow the pattern that he has made in his word. They would also tell them that they must confess Jesus as their Lord and then finally they would tell them if the want to be a disciple of Christ and they wants their sins removed then they must submit themselves to water baptism in the name or by the authority for the removal of the sins. You see it as the point of baptism that God adds you to his church and it not until you are baptized that you receive the gift of the Holy Spirit which is described by Paul this way:

 

Ephesians 1:13 Ö. you were sealed with the Holy Spirit of promise,14 who is the guarantee of our inheritance until the redemption of the purchased possession, to the praise of His glory.

 

Now you know how you must be saved but it doesnít stop there because we continue to grow in our faith and knowledge of Godís Word and remain faithful to himuntil the day we die. I believe David summarizes the attitude that Christians should have in:

 

Psalm 119:9 How can a young man cleanse his way? By taking heed according to Your word.10 With my whole heart I have sought You; Oh, let me not wander from Your commandments!11 Your word I have hidden in my heart, That I might not sin against You! 12 Blessed are You, O LORD! Teach me Your statutes!13 With my lips I have declared All the judgments of Your mouth.14 I have rejoiced in the way of Your testimonies, As much as in all riches.15 I will meditate on Your precepts, And contemplate Your ways.16 I will delight myself in Your statutes; I will not forget Your word.17 Deal bountifully with Your servant, That I may live and keep Your word.18 Open my eyes, that I may see Wondrous things from Your law.

 

I hope this lesson this morning has taught you more about Jesus and how he relates to Christmas and most of all I hope that you will walk this morning with greater appreciation of the gift that we have all received from God himself. I hope that we will always strive to allow God gift to be our guide.