By: Cougan Collins
Most Americans celebrate Christmas every year. It is one of my favorite holidays because you get to be around your family, eat good food, and the presents are fun too. Most people are happier and kinder during this time of year. Many religious groups celebrate Christmas as Jesus’ birthday, and they have special Christmas programs.
I am thankful for any holiday that makes people think more about Jesus, but sometimes people turn their traditions into fact. For example, there is no way to assign December 25th as Jesus’ birthday because the Bible does not tell us when He was born. In the first 200 years of Christianity, there is no record 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").
When Christians began to celebrate Jesus’ birthday around the 3rd and 4th century, there was a great dispute on when it should be celebrated. Around eight specific dates were offered in January, March, April, May, September, and December. Of course, December 25th was the final choice. The Roman Catholic Church made this an official celebration in A.D. 435 when the first “Christ mass” took place from which the word “Christmas” was coined around the eleventh century.
The most likely
reason December 25 was chosen was because
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).
While we do not know when Jesus was born, the evidence we have suggests that Jesus was not born during the winter months. In Luke 2:1-8, we learn that there was a census and that shepherds were out in the field keeping their flock by night. Most scholars agree that a census would not have been made during the wintertime because that was a difficult time to travel. It was also a common practice for shepherds to bring their flocks in from the field around Oct. and Nov. to house them for the winter. Most scholars agree that Jesus was most likely born around springtime or possibly in the fall because that is when a census would have most likely taken place.
Most Christmas plays get Jesus’ birth wrong as well because they have the shepherds and the wise men together when Jesus was in the manager. However, only the shepherds were there (Lk. 2). The wise men did not see Jesus until later when He was living in a house (Mt. 2:11).
While Jesus’ birth is important and we should be thankful for it, let us not turn human tradition into fact because the Bible never tells us to celebrate the birth of Christ and it does not tell us when He was born. However, the Bible does tell us to remember His death every first day of the week as we partake of the Lord’s Supper (1 Cor. 11:23-26). We invite you to worship with us at the Lone Grove Church of Christ