|Volume 17 Number 12 December 2015||
Mark N. Posey
It was priceless! I was in Wal-Mart last week, and I saw a little boy secretly lifting a toy over into the shopping cart as his mother was looking the other way. She turned just in time to see it fall in and said, “Derek, what are you doing? You know Christmas is almost here. We can’t buy that today.” To which he replied, “But mom, I want to get me this for Christmas.” I had to laugh and say under my breath, “At-a-boy!” Since then, I’ve thought long about that scene and decided that there are some things I want to give myself for Christmas – not physical things, but spiritual things. Consider the following.
I want to give myself a greater faith in the provisions of God.
God provides all of our needs (Philippians 4:19). We shouldn’t think that the Philippians were wealthy benefactors of Paul who could easily spare the money. As Paul described them in 2 Corinthians 8, it is plain that their giving was sacrificial. This promise meant something to them! The promise is to supply all your needs, but it is all your needs (not a promise to go beyond needs). In this, the promise is both broad, and yet, it is restricted.
I want to give myself a greater hope in the promises of God.
God is faithful and true in everything that He says and does. So, you can count on the promises of God in the Bible to be absolutely trustworthy. Christians draw great hope from the words of the well-known song, “Standing on the Promises of God” (cf., 2 Peter 1:4; Hebrews 6:12; 10:23). Read Romans 4:19-21. The promises of God don’t depend on our abilities, but instead they depend on God’s ability. Abraham was 100 and Sarah was 90 when Isaac was born. They themselves had zero ability to bear children. The key was Abraham’s confidence that God had power to do what He had promised.
I want to give myself a greater love for the person of God.
The strongest thematic message in the Bible is God’s love in redeeming man through Jesus Christ. Everything revolves around God’s love. God, Who created the universe by His Word, is the source of love, which is love in its truest, purest and perfect form. Therefore, we love because He first loved us (1 John 4:19). Let us grasp how wide, long, high and deep the love of God is. God’s love endures forever (Psalm 118:1). The earth is filled with God’s love (Psalm 119:64). His love is even better than life (Psalm 63:3), and it surpasses knowledge (Ephesians 3:18; cf., Romans 8:38-39).
What Does Christmas Mean to Us?
Webster’s Dictionary gives the following definition of Christmas: “Christ’s Mass. An annual church festival, kept on December 25 in memory of the birth of Christ, celebrated generally by special gifts, greetings, etc.”
Around the world, religious people observe the “Christmas Holy Day.” Serious New Testament Christians are concerned to know if this religious observance is approved by the Bible.
We look in vain in the Bible for any mention of Christmas, or any celebration of the birth of Christ by the early church. We find instead of any annual religious festival to celebrate the birth of Christ, an emphasis upon His life, His teachings and His sacrificial death. Neither the Scriptures nor the early centuries of church history indicate that the apostles celebrated Christ’s birth. There is no doubt that many of our present-day Christmas-New Year customs have little relevance to biblical Christianity. As a matter of fact, such things as the commercialism, the drunkenness, the highway deaths and the general letdown in morals that have come to be associated with the so-called “holiday season” obviously have no basis in New Testament Christianity whatsoever.
December 25 was designated by the decree of Liberious, bishop of the church in Rome, in A.D. 354. The date was widely and hotly disputed by others. Days in nearly every month were set forth for the birth of Jesus Christ. Why was December 25 selected over others? “The Western Church ordered the feast to be celebrated on this day of the Mithraic rites of the birth of the sun” (Americana). “The pagan Saturnalia and Brumalia were too deeply entrenched in popular custom to be set aside by Christian influence. The pagan festival with its riot and merry-making was so popular that Christians were glad of an excuse to continue its celebration with little change in spirit or manner” (Schaff-Herzog, Vol. 3, p. 48). The very name Christmas reveals its Roman Catholic origin.
This writer is not Roman Catholic, but a Protestant in the true sense of the word – one who protests! I protest pagan practices being called Christian, when in reality there is no biblical authority for such.
Much more could be said about the origin of Christmas, but let’s conclude by looking at some of the facts and fictions about the birth of Christ. First, look at the facts. It is a fact that a male child named Jesus was born in Bethlehem of Judea about 2,000 years ago and became the most influential man in history. Even without biblical evidence it can be established by historians such as Tacitus, Suetonius, Pliny the Younger and Josephus, whose writings are available in English today, that Jesus lived.
It is a fact that Jesus was virgin born (Isaiah 7:14; Matthew 1:18-25). Witnesses testifying to this include Mary, Joseph, Matthew, Luke, Elizabeth, John the Baptizer, Peter and John. It is a fact that Jesus was born in a stable (Luke 2:1-7). The innkeeper turned them away, just as many yet turn Christ away. Archaeological discoveries have confirmed the validity of Luke’s reference to the census at the time of the birth of Christ. It is a fact that angels announced His birth to shepherds who were in the fields keeping watch over their flock by night (Luke 2:8-14). It is a fact that wise men came from the East to worship Jesus (Matthew 2:1-2). These were evidently priests and philosophers from the Euphrates Valley. While they possessed the learning of the East, they enjoyed divine guidance in this instance. These wise men were Gentiles, but they were the first to pay homage to Jesus. It is yet true that the Gentile world, rather than the Jewish, honors the Christ.
Second, what are some fictions about Christmas? It is fiction that Christ was born on December 25. The first mention of December 25 as the birthday of Jesus was in 354 A.D., and then there was no indication that the day was celebrated in any special way (Encyclopedia Britannica). It is fiction that there were three wise men. They brought three gifts (gold, frankincense, myrrh), but the number of the men is not recorded in the Gospel accounts. The same man could have brought more than one gift, or several men could have brought the same gift. We, beloved, need to recognize the silence of the Scriptures.
It is fiction that the wise men came to the manger, as most Christmas scenes portray. Joseph, Mary and Jesus were living in a house by the time of their visit. “And when they were come into the house, they saw the young child with Mary his mother, and fell down, and worshipped Him; and when they had opened their treasures, they presented unto Him gifts; gold and frankincense, and myrrh” (Matthew 2:11). The family fled by night to Egypt following their visit (Luke 2:22). Jesus, as a male child, was dedicated to God by His mother with a prescribed sacrifice after 40 days of her purification (Leviticus 12). Thus, Jesus was more than 40-days-old when the wise men came, and subsequently, Joseph, Mary and Jesus fled to Egypt.
It is fiction that Christ has authorized us to remember any one day in honor of His birth. We honor His death and resurrection every first day of the week when we observe the Lord’s Supper. “And upon the first day [every week has a first day – Sunday] when the disciples came together to break bread, Paul preached unto them ready to depart on the morrow; and continued his speech until midnight” (Acts 20:7; cf., 1 Corinthians 16:2).
In view of the above observations, we do not attach any special religious significance to December 25. We enjoy the holiday (not holy day) as we do other national holidays, but our hearts swell with thanksgiving every day of the year (not seasonally) that God gave His Son to die for the sins of the whole world (John 1:29).