|Vol. 16 No. 12 December 2014||
Sunny David, Guest Editorial
Millions of people around the world every year celebrate December 25th as a special religious “holy day” because they believe it marks the date of Christ’s birthday. It may, however, come as a surprise to you to learn that Christmas is a religious observance of wholly human origin. The Bible, which is the source of learning about Christianity, is completely silent concerning any special festivities to commemorate the date of Christ’s birth. The observance of Christmas did not originate in the apostolic age, and thus, it is without divine sanction. As a matter of fact, the word Christmas, which means “Mass of Christ,” does not even once appear anywhere in the Bible. Furthermore, it is not possible to determine in what month, on what date or on which day Jesus was born.
The Bible gives two accounts of the birth of Jesus, and they are found in Matthew chapters 1 and 2, and in Luke 2. No mention is made of Christ’s date of birth. We are living in the year of our Lord, A.D. (Anno Domini) and all the time before His birth on earth is known as B.C. (before Christ). All people on earth, therefore, accept and admit advertently or inadvertently when they write a date on any piece of paper or document that almost two thousand years ago Jesus Christ was born on earth. Yet, in what month and on what day or date Christ was born, the Bible is silent. No command is given for Christ’s birthday to be observed in any way. In addition, no example is found in the entire New Testament of any celebration of Christ’s birth. Therefore, inasmuch as there is neither precept nor example for its observance, faithful Christians do not keep or observe or celebrate Christmas as a religious festival.
Christmas is pagan in origin. More than three hundred years after Christ was born, some believers in Christ began observing Christ’s birthday because they were influenced by the pagan society around them, which was observing certain days of the year to celebrate special days in commemoration of their gods and goddesses. First they began celebrating the birthday of Christ on different days of the year, such as, January 6, March 18, 20, 24, April 2, 17, May 20 etc., but in A.D. 354 the Bishop of Rome declared that December 25th should be observed by Christians in honor of Christ’s birth. This corresponded to a pagan feast day that was observed throughout the Roman Empire in honor of Saturn, a Roman God of agriculture, and Brumal. “The Pagan Saturnalia and Brumalia were too deeply entrenched in popular custom to be set aside by Christians who were influenced by the Pagan festival with its riots and merrymaking and was so popular that ‘Christians’ were glad of an excuse to continue its celebration with little change in spirit and manner” (Schaff-Herzog Encyclopedia of Religious Knowledge). However, the date of December 25th was not accepted by some, and therefore, some began celebrating Christmas on January 6th, as the Eastern Orthodox Church does even today. It is also interesting to note that many of the festivities and things connected with Christmas, such as the Christmas tree, the Yule-log, Santa Claus or Father Christmas, etc., had their origin in paganism.
On the other hand, if God desired people to celebrate His Son’s birthday, then He would have certainly revealed it to us in the Bible, just as He has revealed every other thing that we need to know, believe and practice. He would have told us when and how we should observe Christ’s birthday, just as He has told us to commemorate Christ’s death on the first day of the week by partaking of the Lord’s Supper; His faithful followers observe it everywhere on the first day of every week (Matthew 26:26-28; Acts 20:7; 1 Corinthians 11:23-26). Yet, there is neither a command nor an example about observing and celebrating Christmas. God has not even revealed the day, date or month in which Christ was born. Why? God knows man’s idolizing tendency, and perhaps this may be the reason why God has not revealed in which month, on what day or on which date Christ was born. He doesn’t want man to glorify, worship and give importance to a particular day, remembering Him only once in a year as most people do today. Christmas is the only day of the year when almost all church buildings are full with worshippers; that is the day when most people become more religious, loving, kind, forgiving and giving. Christmas Day has become so important, influential and powerful for most people today that they sing, “A man will live forever more because of Christmas day.” Christianity is not “once a year” religion. Christ said: “If anyone desires to come after Me, let him deny himself, and take up his cross daily and follow Me” (Luke 9:23).
Although Christmas is observed and celebrated today with much zest, enthusiasm, excitement and fanfare by people all over the world, this does not mean that it is right and acceptable to God. God is happy only when people do those things that He has commanded (1 Samuel 15:22). God has given us the Bible to be our guide in all religious matters, faith and practice. Popular opinions and human traditions are not a safe guide. Christ said, “These people draw near to Me with their mouth, and honor Me with their lips, but their heart is far from Me. And in vain they worship Me teaching as doctrines the commandments of men” (Matthew 15:8-9).
Proverbs 30:6 reads, “Do not add to His words, lest He rebuke you, and you be found a liar.” An apostle of Christ, at 2 John 9 wrote, “Whoever transgresses and does not abide in the doctrine of Christ does not have God. He who abides in the doctrine of Christ has both the Father and the Son.” Is Christmas in the doctrine of Christ? We must also remember what the apostle Paul said to some Christians who were observing particular days and seasons which were not intended for them. “But then, indeed, when you did not know God, you served those which by nature are not gods. But now after you have known God, or rather are known by God, how is it that you turn again to the weak and beggarly elements, to which you desire again to be in bondage? You observe days and months and seasons and years. I am afraid of you, lest I have labored for you in vain” (Galatians 4:8-11). The basic reason for not observing Christmas, Easter or any other special religious “holy day” is the simple fact that the Bible, and the New Testament in particular, nowhere teaches us to do so. The Bible is God’s book of inspiration and revelation, and it alone should be our guide in all religious matters, faith and practice. We should not offer to God “holy days” and worship of human pagan origin.
[Editor’s Note: Brother Sunny David is a well-seasoned and decades of service experienced evangelist residing in New Delhi, India. He with his brother Francis David and nephew Vinay David are outstanding workers for Jesus Christ in the pulpit, on TV, in public meetings and from house to house. Brethren Sunny and Francis are also elders of the congregation that they serve in New Delhi. Brother David’s article above is stellar, much needed and exactly correct from the biblical perspective. We highly recommend brother Sunny as well as his excellent lesson herein. ~ Louis Rushmore, Editor]
“I always do my best to have a clear conscience toward God and men” (Acts 24:16). Such was Paul’s assessment of his life to Felix, in defense of the Gospel by which he lived, for which he was charged by the Jews. The term translated “best” literally means to exert all one’s diligence, study and industry; to endeavor, to strive with all one’s energies. When Paul, then, said he did his best, that’s exactly what he meant; he offered his best to God in seeking to live as God wanted. This is evident in what he said to the Galatians; “I have been crucified with Christ and I no longer live, but Christ lives in me. The life I now live in the body, I live by faith in the Son of God, who loved me and gave Himself for me” (Galatians 2:20).
Paul did such because of the depth of love he had for the God who had offered him the best in everything. The course of Paul’s life, while he thought it was pleasing to God, was not. Christ’s death on the cross was for him as much as for anyone else. God’s grace was as available to Paul as much as for anyone else. The promise of eternal life in Christ was as available to Paul as much as it is for anyone else. Paul understood this great love God had for him, and from love for God, he gave himself to Him, in love, doing his best for Him. Not that Paul would ever reach perfection in the flesh, but he devoted himself completely to God, that God could fulfill His purpose in Paul, which was the salvation of his soul. “For I am the least of the apostles, unworthy to be called an apostle, because I persecuted the church of God. But by God’s grace I am what I am, and His grace toward me was not ineffective. However, I worked more than any of them, yet not I, but God’s grace that was with me” (1 Corinthians 15:9-10).
Does God deserve anything less than the best from us today? Certainly we will not reach perfection in the flesh either, but in view of all God is, all that He has done, is doing and will do for us, does He not deserve our best? If we understand the price of our salvation in Christ, should not our love for God and His Son prompt us to offer ourselves to seek God, to be what He desires of us, that He might bless us now and eternally? “Brothers, I do not consider myself to have taken hold of it. But one thing I do: Forgetting what is behind and reaching forward to what is ahead, I pursue as my goal the prize promised by God’s heavenly call in Christ Jesus” (Philippians 3:13-14). To pursue means to follow or press hard after. Should we do less?
Jesus said, “Make every effort to enter through the narrow door, because I tell you, many will try to enter and won’t be able” (Luke 13:24). To “make every effort” conveys the idea of straining every nerve to the uttermost towards the goal, or to do one’s best. How well do we do? Is what we offer Christ in daily Christian living our best? When one is inconsistent in worship, but not in other pursuits, is that one’s best? When one gives miserly to God, but generously to oneself, is that one’s best? If one has plenty of time for television, but no time for Scripture, is that one’s best? If physical desires always come before spiritual activities, is that one’s best? We must define our lives by God’s will for us, not by the world around us.
God told the people of Judah, “Cursed be the one who does the LORD’S work negligently” (Jeremiah 48:10). The Hebrew term for “negligence” means a lack of diligence or attention, lazy, inadequate action or work. God offers His best for us every second we live. Why not resolve now to do better in living for Him, doing one’s best for Him and in love for Him? “Look carefully then how you walk, not as unwise but as wise, making the best use of the time, because the days are evil. Therefore do not be foolish, but understand what the will of the Lord is” (Ephesians 5:15-17).