Tuesday, 18 December 2012

Christmas: The Birth of Christ

"She will bear a Son; and you shall call His name Jesus, for He will save His people from their sins."
(Matthew 1: 21, NASB)

Just over the weekend, I received a question from an old friend of mine in regards to Christmas. His question was: "Can you prove from scripture that Jesus is the reason for a pagan holiday?" This of course lead to a series of exchanges between he and I. Yes, Jesus is the "reason" for a pagan holiday. For the Lord Jesus Christ came into the world to turn the darken hearts of men "from idols to serve the living and true God" (1 Thess. 1: 9, KJV). It is true however, that today's tradition of the Christmas holiday is a mixture of Christian and pagan beliefs. This is something that Christians need to be aware of. Sadly, many are not. Let us consider in this blog a couple examples where Church tradition is wrong about Christmas. 

When was Jesus Born? 

Many Christians and non-Christians are told that Jesus was born on December 25th. However, the Bible does not support this claim. Actually, the Scriptures are silent on when Jesus was born. Nevertheless, the Bible does show us the season when Christ was born. It was in the Spring of the year when the shepherds were out in the field with their flocks; which was the time when the angels appeared unto the shepherds and proclaimed the good news of the birth of Christ (see Luke 2: 8-12). Writing on the birth of Jesus, noted Christian author Robert Surgenor made this statement: 

"Was Jesus born on December 25th? The fable says, Yes, but, surprisingly, God is silent on the date. In fact, it wasn't in December at all, but rather in the spring, for at the time of Jesus' birth "there were in the same country shepherds abiding in the field, keeping watch over their flock by night" (Luke 2:8). Shepherds never were out in the field in December! The greatest celebration of the sun-god was on December 24-25 in connection with the winter solstice. In 350 A.D. Rome sought to turn away their people from this festival by declaring December 25 the official date of Jesus' birth, celebrated with festivities and a mass - thus Christ's Mass, or Christmas!" [1] 

History bears out this fact that it was the Holy Roman Catholic Church that instituted this date for the birth of Christ. Their intentions were good in trying to change the pagan holiday on December 24 to the 25 to a Christian holiday. The problem is that the ancient as well as the modern Catholic Church is a mixture of Christian and pagan beliefs. Christians need to adhere to the Word of God in relation to when Christ was actually born, instead of going by the Catholic tradition of when Christ was born. 

Now having said that, I really don't see a problem with Christians celebrating Christmas on December 24-25th of each year. There is nothing in Scripture to forbid the Christian from celebrating Christmas on this particular date. So long as the believer keeps his or her focus on keeping Christ's birth central during the holiday season. Reflecting on why Christ came into the world would be a good start. Christians should leave the pagan aspects of Christmas out of their holiday, such as Santa Claus and his eight magical flying raindeer. Christian parents should never perpetuate the lie by telling their children that Santa Claus exists, when they well know he does not. For to "lie" is a sin.  

Was it the Shepherds or Wise Men who came to the Manger? 

Another fable that is believed by many people who are not familiar with the Scriptures is that it was the wise men [ or the Magi] who visited the baby Jesus at the manger and presented gifts to Him. This is depicted in the Nativity scene at Christmas time, which of course is not true. It was the shepherds who visited the baby Jesus at the manger, not the wise men (see Luke 2: 15-20). There are some who have said that the “wise men” and “shepherds” are two terms for the same people who were at the manger. Still others argue that both the “shepherds” and the “wise men” were at the manger. So how does one reconcile such arguments? Simple, by turning to the Scriptures to see what it says about the matter. It is important to note that Matthew 2: 1-12 and Luke 2: 8-12, 15-20 are not the same account. For it was the shepherds alone who had visited the infant Jesus at the manger (see again Luke 2: 15-20); whereas, the magi came from the far east following “His star” which lead them to Jerusalem to enquire where the Child Jesus was. According to the time in Matthew 2 the magi never arrived on the scene to visit Jesus until after the manger; around 1 ½ to 2 years later when the star lead them to the house where Mary and Joseph and the Child Jesus were (see Matthew 2: 9-11). How do we know the Child Jesus was around 2 years old when the magi visited Him? This can be seen in Matthew 2: 16, “Then when Herod saw that he had been tricked by the magi, he became very enraged, and sent and slew all the male children who were in Bethlehem and all its vicinity, from two years old and under, according to the time which he had determined from the magi.” (NASB).  

“No. The wise men never visited the manger scene as many Christmas plays, cards, or pictures may display. Luke 2 depicts how the shepherds were at the manger scene, but the wise men were only mentioned in Matthew 2. The wise men came from the far east when they saw the star which appeared when Christ was born. With the distance that the wise men traveled from the Persian Empire, the journey could have taken up to 2 years. When the wise men finally arrived before the Christ child, He was with His mother in a "house" not a stable or manger scene. Furthermore, Matthew 2:8,9 depicts Christ to be a "young child" not a "babe" as it says in Luke 2. In the Greek, "young child" is defined as a young boy or infant, around the age of a toddler. Therefore, the group of wise men came to Jesus Christ as a young boy and worshiped Him as the One true Messiah, God Himself who came to save all men from their sin by dying on the cross and rising from the dead three days later. He did this for you and for me!”[2]

[1] Robert E. Surgenor, The Birth of Jesus: Amazing Fables & Facts!, (The Gospel Messenger, Leaflet tract).
[2] C. Hainsaw, Did the Three Wise Men visit the Manger or not?, (wiki.Answers.com).

No comments:

Post a Comment