It’s that time of year again and, as usual, the controversies rise to the top. It is my goal to simply celebrate the season, celebrate the birth of Jesus, celebrate the friendships I have, and celebrate the family I have.
There are always many discussion concerning the real birthdate of Jesus. The truth: We will never know; neither the Bible nor history tells us anything. Certainly, many have attempted to deduce the birthdate but truthfully, we will never know. Could it have been December 25? Possibly, but there are 364 other days it could have been too. The Catholic church, (you know, the one from which most of us “descended”) has laid claim to the December 25 date since before the middle of the fourth century. And many of the Orthodox church hold that the birth occurred on January 6. The reasons for these dates are many but typically relate to the dates of the Passover season or the Feast of Tabernacles and the sentiment during the middle fourth century that dates and events were cyclical and occurred with relation to each other.
Of course other theories abound, including the concept that the Church borrowed the dates from pagan practices of the times. While this sounds good and feasible … and even diabolically conspiratory … all probability points away from this because the early Church was a body of people which chose to steer far away from anything pagan. (Certainly, there did come a flood of pagan practices to be related to Christmas but these came also in the fourth century after dated Christmas celebrations began.)
The greater truth is this: the date of Christ’s birth really doesn’t matter; let’s celebrate Him all year long.
Now there is something to be said of the adaptation of certain pagan practices.The Roman Empire was built not only on its strength, but also on its syncretism, or ability to adapt what was already found in a place with those practices and principles of the Roman Empire. In other words, they would adapt the current gods of a conquered land into their own panorama of gods, and this even included the adaptation of certain buildings purposed for the worship of these gods into the worship of other gods. We can see this in the invasion of Israel by the Romans. Israel could have bowed under Rome’s pressure like every other country did EXCEPT that Israel WAS NOT willing to incorporate their God into the Roman worship of many gods; they KNEW that God Himself had declared that He was THE ONLY God, that He was ONE, and that Israel should worship NO OTHER. Therefore, the Jews WOULD NOT abide by the addition of other gods and customs because of their reverence and fear of the one, true God.
So, although Christmas now occurs in the season of year that is recognized as a season of Saturnalia and other pagan practices related to the solstice, it probably originated as a December 25 (or January 6) celebration purely out of respect and desire to honor Christ.
Again, if we choose to celebrate Him all year long, we will definitely cross some days that coincide with pagan celebrations … so don’t worry too much about it.
Another controversy that takes place at this time of year is that of the place of the birth of Christ. Some say that there was no room for Him in the inn, others say there was no private room for Him in the family household, and others say there was no available space in the family guest room. In all probability, a more proper understanding of the place of His birth is that it DID occur in a home, although it more accurately took place in the animal-keeping area of the home … probably under the house in a hollowed out place. It might even have been a natural cave that a house was built upon … the main thing is that it was a place where animals were kept. It was dirty. It was lowly. It was smelly. But it was a portrait that the Messiah was born to relate to all humankind.
I have had the privilege to go to Israel three times. I have seen two different places that tradition says were the burial places for Christ. I have seen at least two places where he was said to have been born in … one being a church and the other being a cave. I am told that there are other places where He might have been born and where He might have been buried. (By the way, in both places claiming to be the Tomb, He is not in either one … His IS RISEN!)
The point with ALL of this is that we need to simply worship the savior, the King of Kings and the Lord of Lords. We are not to revere a date, a place, or a tradition; instead, we are to worship Him.
So wherever you are, whatever day of the year it is, and whatever you are doing, why don’t you stop for a moment and praise Him … and thank Him … and exemplify Him.
If this has resonated with you, please drop me an email at firstname.lastname@example.org. Thanks.