My wife and I accepted Jesus Christ as our Savior back in 1983 and shortly afterward started attending an independent fundamental Baptist church. I had a burning desire to read as much as I could about the religious system we had left, Roman Catholicism, and how it compared with Scripture. Some of the books and pamphlets I ordered focused on the pagan origins of “Christian holidays,” cautioning believers not to participate.
When I was a Catholic I already knew that Christmas was not the actual birthday of Jesus. According to the Bible the shepherds and their flocks were still in the fields during the night when Jesus was born, meaning the actual birth date was probably before October.
The Catholic church doesn’t dispute that the December 25th date isn’t Christ’s actual birthday. Pagan Rome celebrated Saturnalia, a week-long festival replete with orgies in honor of the god, Saturn, from December 17th to the 25th, which coincided with the Winter solstice. The institutionalized church adopted the festival and rechristened it as Christ’s birthday. Several of the holiday’s customs can be traced back to their pagan origins.
Millions of cultural/nominal Christians and even non-Christians will be celebrating Christmas on the 25th. There’ll be lots of decorations, gift giving, office parties, singing of carols, and packed church services. But most people won’t be contemplating who Jesus really is and the reason why He came to this world. Most don’t want to know. People love their traditions, rituals, and liturgies but don’t you dare mention Jesus within a casual conversation! They openly scoff at an invitation to accept Jesus as their Savior. “Me? One of those born-agains? Ha! Not in a million years! Now please pass the egg nog.”
When we were new believers we decided not to celebrate Christmas for a couple of years because of its connection with paganism. Extreme? I don’t know. Can any reader of God’s Word imagine Paul, John, Peter, or the other writers celebrating the reformed Saturnalia as the Lord’s concocted birthday?
“Formerly, when you did not know God, you were slaves to those who by nature are not gods. But now that you know God—or rather are known by God—how is it that you are turning back to those weak and miserable forces? Do you wish to be enslaved by them all over again? You are observing special days and months and seasons and years! I fear for you, that somehow I have wasted my efforts on you.” – Galatians 4:8-11
But looking back I think not participating in Christmas may have hindered our witness more than it helped. After all, who doesn’t celebrate Christmas? Our families thought we must be members of a cult! So we relented and went with the flow in a limited way. We still do.
But every day with my Lord and Savior is the same for me. I don’t celebrate one day over the other. But I also understand that for many of my Evangelical brothers and sisters, Christmas and Easter are very special celebrations and that’s fine. And hopefully we can all use the Christmas celebration as an opportunity to speak to others about WHY He came.
Help us, Lord, to use this holiday to tell someone about the GOOD NEWS of salvation by God’s grace through faith in Jesus Christ alone. Thank you for coming here to die for our sins and for the free gift of salvation you offer to all those who accept you as their Savior.
“One person esteems one day as better than another, while another esteems all days alike. Each one should be fully convinced in his own mind. The one who observes the day, observes it in honor of the Lord. The one who eats, eats in honor of the Lord, since he gives thanks to God, while the one who abstains, abstains in honor of the Lord and gives thanks to God.” – Romans 14:5-6
“I have become all things to all people so that by all possible means I might save some. I do all this for the sake of the gospel, that I may share in its blessings.” – 1 Corinthians 9:22-23