Christmas, should it be celebrated ?
Should Christmas be celebrated and if so, when? Others reject its celebration on December 25 as others claim Jesus’ birth was on a September/October. While millions throughout the world are celebrating Yuletide season, some in the Christian world are conflicted. What should we do? What should be our response to those who recognize different dates of Jesus’ birth? And, for that matter, to anyone who summarily discredit Jesus birth?
Historical and Biblical vignettes
The birth of Jesus started in Bethlehem but this has been prophesied by prophets and referred as “seed“,all the way from Genesis 3:15:
“And I will put enmity between thee and the woman, and between thy seed and her seed; it shall bruise thy head, and thou shalt bruise his heel.“
“In addition to celebrating the winter solstice a few days before December 25, Romans in 273 AD already celebrated two festivals on the very day: natalis solis invicti (the “birth of the unconquered sun”) and the birthday of Mithras, the Iranian god of the sun. According to Christianity Today, church leaders thought it would also be a fitting time to honour the son of God. Besides, as Ace Collins, author of Stories Behind the Great Traditions of Christmas, said in a PBS segment, the existing Roman holidays were filled with drinking and debauchery, so this new holiday was a way to teach heathens a lesson about sin and redemption. After Emperor Constantine converted to Christianity and declared tolerance for the religion, Western Christians officially began celebrating December 25 as the birth of Jesus in 336 AD. Those in the Eastern Church continue to recognize another day, January 6, as Christ’s birthday, but nowadays most everyone agrees on the date.“(1)
The arguments against December 25 can be summarized into:
“First, shepherds were in the fields watching their flocks at the time of Jesus’ birth (Luke 2:7-8;no flocks out in the snow?). Second, Jesus’ parents came to Bethlehem to register in a Roman census (Luke 2:1-4). Such censuses were not taken in winter, when temperatures often dropped below freezing and roads were in poor condition. The biblical accounts point to the fall of the year as the most likely time of Jesus’ birth, based on the conception and birth of John the Baptist. It was during this time of temple service that Zacharias learned that he and his wife, Elizabeth, would have a child (Luke 1:8-13). After he completed his service and traveled home, Elizabeth conceived (Luke 1:23-24). Assuming John’s conception took place near the end of June, adding nine months brings us to the end of March as the most likely time for John’s birth. Adding another six months (the difference in ages between John and Jesus (Luke 1:35-36)) brings us to the end of September as the likely time of Jesus’ birth.“(2).
The arguments for December 25 is expressed by:
“J. Stormer, PCC [Pensacola Christian College] Update (Winter 1996), cited by G. E. Veith, “Evidence December 25 is the right day,” has argued for December 25 as a possible date of Jesus’ birth on the basis of the course of temple duties for the clan of Zechariah, the father of John the Baptist (Luke 1:5;8, 1 Chron 24:10). He argues that the 24 courses of the priests each served for one month. However, he did not document that claim, and the OT does not indicate the length of priestly service. Clues in the Mishnah suggest that each course served for one week—not one month—by rotation (see, for example, the note on m. Taanith 2:6 in Danby’s translation of the Mishnah). Josephus and the Talmud confirm that the courses each lasted one week (Joachim Jeremias, Jerusalem in the Time of Jesus [Philadelphia: Fortress, 1979], 119). If, then, the priestly service lasted one week, not one month at time, this causes their entire chronology to break down. Most likely, therefore, each course of the priests served for one week, from Sabbath to Sabbath, two different times each year. Since we cannot be sure whether the course mentioned in Luke was the first or second annual course, and other difficulties are present as well, the information concerning Zechariah’s temple service in Luke 1 is hardly adequate for pinpointing the time of Jesus’ birth.”(3).
With all the questions about the specific date, one may take this advice:
“In any case, our Christian faith should not rest on Christmas (which, after all, with all its trappings is only a human tradition), much less on the date of Christmas as December 25, but rather on the reason for the season—the virgin-born, divine-human Son of God, who came to save sinners by dying a sacrificial, substitutionary death on the cross and rose again on the third day (1 Cor 15:3–4)”(Ibid. 3).
The Reason for the Season
Indeed, our focus should be directed on the “reason for the season“. And to understand the reason for incarnation, one has to begin with the question, who the God/Elohim Creator of everything, the invisible and visible. Without first addressing this, one would miss out as to who, really, is this person Jesus whose birth the world is celebrating. This was none other than El Shaddai, aka, YHVH, the one who incarnated into flesh-composed human , the man-Jesus. The Elohim Creator (Gen. 1:1) is the same El Shaddai/God Almighty( Ex. 6:3, 6-7) to Abraham, Isaac and Jacob; but to Moses he is called YHVH. Paul, speaking of man-Jesus, wrote in Col. 1:16, 17
“For by him were all things created, that are in heaven, and that are in earth, visible and invisible, whether they be thrones, or dominions, or principalities, or powers: all things were created by him, and for him: And he is before all things, and by him all things consist”.
Similar identified person and pre-eminence were echoed in John 1:1-3,14
“In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God. The same was in the beginning with God. All things were made by him; and without him was not any thing made that was made.” …And the Word was made flesh and dwelt among us…the only begotten of the Father.”
The Elohim in Genesis, the Creator of all, is the same as El Shaddai, YHVH and man-Jesus. Yet, it was the Father who caused Jesus to be the proximate Creator, as in,
Hebrews 1:2 says, “In these last days he has spoken to us by his Son, whom he appointed heir of all things, and through whom also he made the universe.”
It was “through” Jesus that the Father created everything. Jesus was the proximate Creator. That said, why will a most powerful Creator, spirit-composed, chose to be flesh-composed, a human, lower than “angels“, as in,
Ps. 8:4-7 “What is man, that thou art mindful of him? and the son of man, that thou visitest him? For thou hast made him a little lower than the angels, and hast crowned him with glory and honour. Thou madest him to have dominion over the works of thy hands; thou hast put all things under his feet”
This was quoted by Paul also in,
Hebrews 2:6-7″“But there is a place where someone has testified:What is mankind that you are mindful of them,a son of man that you care for him? You made them a little lower than the angels;you crowned them with glory and honor”
Why El Shaddai/YHVH incarnated?
In general, someone trades off a powerful position with something better. But, for him to become human and “lower than angels” that he also created, sounds unconventional. Unless, there is something in being human that eventually be better choice for him. In Heb 1:2, after Jesus’ resurrection as Son of God, he was “appointed heir of all things.” And in Ps. 8:4-7, Jesus was prophesied after resurrection as Son of God to be “crowned him with glory and honour. Thou madest him to have dominion over the works of thy hands; thou hast put all things under his feet”.
From the preceding, one can deduce that YHVH CREATOR, as powerful as he was, had limits; and what was referred as glory, honor, dominion overall were granted to him afterwards. Certainly better position than before creation. Moreover, he became a begotten, then born of God as Son; a position he did not have before, although prophesied. Does John 3:16 help to provide an answer, too? Here it is,
“For God so loved the world that he gave his one and only Son, that whoever believes in him shall not perish but have eternal life.”
Notice that it was the Father’s love that initiated the love that emanates from Jesus. The consistent narrative is that the Father wanted to create everything and he caused YHVH/Jesus to do it. Similarly, the Father wanted to show love to the world and he expressed it through Jesus. On both counts, Jesus agreed voluntarily and is “one” with the Father.
But, how is this incarnation an expression of love for the world? It still begs the question, what in being human is an expression of love? And, how is this a better trade-off for the Creator YHVH? If one looks back at biblical history, lowering himself to being human for Jesus is only a preliminary path to “create the spirit-composed kingdom of God”. He is the “beginner and finisher” (Heb. 12:2;Rev. 22:13), the “precursor” ;” (Heb. 6:20) of what is to become of humans. Note, that as a human being, Jesus was flesh-composed and became spirit-composed at resurrection. And, only after resurrection (during his life) did the Father give him the creative power of the Holy Spirit for humans to be “one” with the Father, as spirit-composed beings and in choosing right from wrong. Other humans will follow this track that he walked. He was a trail-blazer in creating a God-kingdom made of spirit-composed beings, higher than angelic position and “one” with the Father and Son in deciding which is right or wrong. This was planned by the Father and YHVH/Jesus voluntarily “signed on” to this strategy.
Man sinned from the garden of Eden. He did not follow God’s guidance not to “eat the fruit wherein there is knowledge of good and evil.” (Gen. 2:16-17). Adam wanted to be “like God knowing good and evil” by his own “works” of eating the fruit himself. He did not know that another Adam, the second Adam(Jesus), has already been chosen by the Father, as a pioneer/trailblazer, to “eat the fruit“, the human to take on that specific task, for mankind. Adam did not follow the command not to eat that he sinned and brought death to mankind. It was violating the command that made his action sinful and not the “eating of the fruit” per se. He was not informed that in the future through Jesus, this “like God knowing good and evil” will be achieved. The Father chose the man-Jesus to do it, not by his own power, but by the power of the Holy Spirit given to him and under the mechanism of his faith, belief and trust, not by his own works, so “no man can boast“, even man-Jesus (Eph. 2:8-9; I Cor. 1:29). The man chosen has to be “from above”, heavenly; not come “out of the ground”, earthy (John 3:31;8:23).
As sin in the garden of Eden (Gen. 2:17) condemned man to second-death(4,5), the Father accounted all human sins to first-Adam and imputed this death (eternal, irreversible) to one man, Jesus, the second-Adam (Rom. 5:12-21). This was planned from the foundation of the world, before any man did any good works. Jesus , our Passover, believed in this plan and was then crucified and died for us. For which, we were reconciled to the Father and justified. But, through the “faith of Jesus“, in the promise of his resurrection from eternal death, the Father then resurrected him and gave him a “gift of the Holy Spirit” for us to subsequently receive starting at Pentecost that year.
Without YHVH incarnating into a human, this imputation to one man that came “from above” would not have happened, and the consequence of Adam’s sin, i.e. eternal death, would not have been passed-over for mankind’s reconciliation with the Father. Having been reconciled, we are “saved by/through his life”, as in,
Romans 5:10-11 “For if, when we were God’s enemies, we were reconciled to him through the death of his Son, how much more, having been reconciled, shall we be saved through his life! Not only is this so, but we also rejoice in God through our Lord Jesus Christ, through whom we have now received reconciliation.”
Notice that reconciliation was based on belief of Christ that what the Father promised from the foundation of the world, would take effect, regarding imputation of his death to that of mankind. We now received reconciliation through Jesus’ death, which already occurred. But, salvation (which was also promised) is still future, i.e., shall be saved. But how?
Holy Spirt of Power
Having the power of the Holy Spirit is the key to salvation from eternal death. Without it, humanity is doomed. This is the gift promised before the foundation of the world by the Father and believed by Jesus to be given to him for mankind, after resurrecting him from eternal death. This is the power to fulfill the prophecy of John referring to Jesus in:
Mark 1:8 “I baptize you with water, but he will baptize you with the Holy Spirit.”
With this power received by Jesus from the Father, he can then(not before) give it to whoever he so pleases and chooses. Those with “spiritual hearing” (Rom.10:17) will believe and they will be baptized in the Holy Spirit, not with water. And, with this power-tool, aka, Holy Spirit, our “weak body” (Matt. 26:41) will be energized to overcome evil, choose good vs evil towards sanctification. Only “overcomers“(Rev. 2:7; 11, 17; 3:5,12,21; Rom. 2:7), those who “bear fruits of the Holy Spirit” (John 15:2; Matt. 7:19) will eventually receive “in a twinkling of an eye” (I Cor. 15:52) the glorious spirit-composed bodies reserved from heaven. And, with that, salvation from eternal death is achieved and so will Hosea’s prophecy (Hosea 13:14) echoed in Paul’s musing, as in:
I Cor. 15:55 “Where, O death, is your victory? Where, O death, is your sting?”
Not knowing the exact date of Jesus’ birth, whether December, September/October, all should have a respectful and humble response and “get off our high-horse” of claiming moral superiority and a monopoly on truth. Everyone must stop bickering about the date of Jesus’ birth and accept the only fact that it did happen. Instead, celebrate the reason for incarnation, the birth of man-Jesus, at anytime, be it December 25 or otherwise. Failure to celebrate may marginalize the significance of this historic birth, as others have disparaged any date. This incarnation is so monumental for anyone to minimize as it begins the process of reconciliation, justification and future salvation, through his resurrection, “by his life”. Jesus believed on the promises of the Father regarding imputation of all sins of mankind to one human Adam so that the consequence of that sin (eternal death) be accounted to Jesus’ death leading to our reconciliation/justification. Having been reconciled to the Father, humans can now undergo the process of salvation “by his life” through the power of the Holy Spirit given as a gift to Jesus, post resurrection, and subsequently for us to be “baptized in”.
1. When was Jesus born? Retrieved 12/25/17 from https://www.livescience.com/42976-when-was-jesus-born.html
2.When was Jesus Christ born. Retrieved 12/25/2017 from https://www.ucg.org/bible-study-tools/bible-questions-and-answers/when-was-jesus-christ-born-was-jesus-born-on-december3. Was Jesus born December 25? Retrieved 12/25/2017 from https://www.biblicalfoundations.org/was-jesus-born-on-december-25-with-c-l-quarles/