By Pastor Michael Frisbee, DD/DM
In a couple of days, we will be gathering with family and friends to celebrate the holiday of Christmas. This holiday has become increasingly secular and commercialized over the past few decades. Less and less is the focus on the birth of Jesus Christ, and the gift of Salvation He represents, and later would be sacrificed and resurrected to fulfill that prophecy.
There are a number of myths regarding Christmas and the tying in of Christ’s Birth to it.
Christians have always celebrated Christ’s Birth.
For the first several centuries of Christianity, the birth of Jesus was not celebrated. The earliest Christians viewed the celebration of birthdays, by definition, to be a pagan practice. Christians were discouraged from celebrating their own birthdays, so it is unlikely they celebrated Christ’s. This was true as late as the turn of the 5th century. Of course, by Augustine’s time, some Christians were observing Christmas, and were in the process of pegging it to their calendar, coincidentally at around the time of the winter solstice, which also happened to have been a time-window in which other, older pagan holidays had been celebrated. For a number of reasons this happened to be a convenient time of the year for holidays, so it had long been used for that purpose; first by pagans, then by Christians. It’s quite natural and understandable that they did so.
Christmas customs are centuries old.
This is quite false. We think of things like giving gifts as an old Christmas tradition. From the time Christmas was first observed by the Church, intermittently in the 4th century, then more steadily by the middle of the 5th and on into the Middle Ages, the only Christian activity performed on Christmas was the celebration of a special Christmas mass. Within the first few centuries these special Christmas masses were attended only by clergy, not the congregation. Christmas trees, decorating and feasting were all much-later developments. Giving gifts had been a custom in some pagan holidays, but it did not become a Christmas custom until the Middle Ages, and even then this was not consistent.
Christmas is celebrated by all Christians.
This claim is ridiculous on its face. Even now, there are some Christians who refuse to celebrate it, such as Jehovah’s Witnesses. Historically, there have been Christian sects who also did not celebrate it, and they even repressed it where they could. The truth is that the only holiday that all Christian sects have in common, is Easter. Even then they don’t all observe it on the same date. Most sects also observe Pentecost in some way, even some that don’t observe Christmas.
Christmas has always been celebrated on December 25
This is not true, not only because not all Christians have designated December 25 as “Christmas,” but because not even all of those who do, actually celebrate that day. Some Christian sects assign Christmas to days other than December 25. Other sects celebrate Epiphany, the annual commemoration of the visit of the Magi, in preference to Christmas. This is more common in Orthodox Christianity, but it’s found even among some western Christians, among many Hispanic cultures for example, which celebrate what they call “Three Kings Day.”
The most sacred holiday on the Christian calendar is Christmas.
Undoubtedly this statement is untrue. The most sacred holiday for Christians, is Easter, the day which commemorates Jesus’ resurrection. Easter was celebrated long before Christmas ever was, to the point where its dating was a point of contention among Christians a couple centuries before Christmas was a thought. Easter was observed on varying dates as early as the middle of the 2nd century, and dating it was discussed at the Council of Nicaea in 325 CE. At that time it was noted that Christmas was merely a mass that was held annually, and attended only by clergy, only in some places. It was not a “holiday” in any conventional sense, not even in terms of the Greco-Roman culture of that period.
Jesus was born in December near the time of Christmas today.
Although it’s not impossible, it seems unlikely. The Bible does not specify a date or month. One problem with December is that it would be unusual for shepherds to be “abiding in the field” at this cold time of year when fields were unproductive. The normal practice was to keep the flocks in the fields from Spring to Autumn. Also, winter would likely be an especially difficult time for pregnant Mary to travel the long distance from Nazareth to Bethlehem.
A more probable time would be late September, the time of the annual Feast of Tabernacles, when such travel was commonly accepted. Thus, it is rather commonly believed that Jesus’ birth was around the last of September. The conception of Christ, however, may have taken place in late December of the previous year. Our Christmas celebration may well be recognized as an honored observation of the incarnation of ‘the Word made flesh’ (John 1:14).
Legend Of Santa Claus
Santa Claus has become indispensable to secularized version of Christmas. There has hardly been a Christmas when children have not waited for their kind and beloved Santa. The stories related to Santa Claus have managed to gain much popularity amongst people all over the world. Santa Claus, the noble saint with his big belly and red outfit, wanders around homes spreading the message of optimism and prosperity. He is depicted with a long white beard which is a sign of his worldly wisdom.
The story traces the kind deeds of St. Nicholas in his city. It took form hundreds of years back when Nicholas was born to a wealthy Christian family in Myra, now located in modern Turkey. The legends of his good deeds and helpfulness soon made him the Bishop of Myra. He wished to see his people satisfied and happy and would even travel at night to ensure the same. One night, during his visits, he overheard a family complaining about their misfortunes and poverty which was compelling them to sell their three daughters as slaves or prostitutes. Nicholas could not stand their plight and threw three purses of gold from the chimney in to their house secretly. Such instances were common and only made him more popular. He was referred to as the 'Patron Saint of Children and Sailors'. Every year on December 6th, that is the death anniversary of St. Nicholas, families prepare feasts in honor of the memory of St. Nicholas. Owing to the respect for his great nature, it is also considered good fortune to get married on the same day.
Tomorrow night, Saturday Dec 24th from 7 pm to 9 pm, Reverend Mark Hunnemann and I will delve even deeper into Christmas myth and the Birth of Jesus Christ during our “The Paranormal Christian” radio show. Join us for a light hearted discussion on these topics, with calls from our listeners, and some great Christmas music. Tune in at http://www.TheParanormalChristian.com