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Merry Christmas, Merry Xmas -- Christian Confusion and the Whole Nine Yards

Editor's Note: I realize that it is not only after Christmas, but that we have already moved into the New Year. I didn't run across this article until shortly after Christmas last week, but decided to go ahead and use it in the bulletin now anyway. Questions arise every year about the "Christmas season," and what it means. I thought that the article by Brother Blount (who preaches for a small church in Wichita, Kansas) sums up the response to those questions about as completely as anything that I have ever read. Even if you have no use for it now, file it away and save it for the 2011 holiday season. GCK

Well, this year is a lot like most years. Some are desperately trying to "put Christ back in Christmas." Some are trying to kick Christ out of everything to do with our civilization. Some are so mixed up they don't know which way to jump.

Sometimes I must confess I am the latter. Here's my dilemma. As a Christian, I am absolutely compelled to stand up for my Lord and Christianity in general. However, what most people consider to be "Christianity" is not truly Christianity. Ironically, those wishing to attack Christianity, often end up attacking Catholicism or some other denominational variant instead.

With Christmas in mind, let's pick one example of confusion.

The Nativity Scenes

In recent years, there has been a full court press against the public display of nativity scenes. Those attacks are intended to drive Christianity from the public spectrum. Ironically anyone who has a respect for the Bible is going to be loathe to defend the nativity scenes (regardless of the motives of those attacking them!). These same Christians (myself included) may aggressively wish to defend the fact that Christianity played a huge role in developing our culture, and it's eventual success.

Why can't I defend the nativity scenes? Let me count the ways.

  1. Angels over the manger. The angels appeared to the shepherds in the field. Luke 2:8ff. The angels spoke to the shepherds. Then, "When the angels had gone away from them into heaven," (Luke 2:15) the shepherds went to the manger and saw it all.

    Were the angels around all this? You bet. Do I have a right to place them at the manger when the Word of God doesn't say they were there?

  2. The three wise men. How many wise men? The bible doesn't say. Many of the oldest traditions hold that there were 12 instead of three. It is thought that tradition eventually settled on three wise men because of the three gifts.
  3. The three wise men at the manger. Note that here is a major discrepancy. The wise men didn't make it to the manger. They didn't go to the manger.

    Consider Matthew 2:11. "After coming into the house they saw the Child with Mary His mother; and they fell to the ground and worshiped Him. Then, opening their treasures, they presented to Him gifts of gold, frankincense, and myrrh."

    How "late" were they? Well, the Bible records that Ezra made what appears to be the same journey. It took Ezra four months.

    Ezra 7:9. "For on the first of the first month he began to go up from Babylon; and on the first of the fifth month he came to Jerusalem, because the good hand of his God {was} upon him."

  4. The star over the manger. The angels told the shepherds that the shepherds should look for a child, not a star. The star was for the Magi.

    Matthew 2:9. "After hearing the king, they went their way; and the star, which they had seen in the east, went on before them until it came and stood over {the place} where the Child was. (10.) When they saw the star, they rejoiced exceedingly with great joy. (11) After coming into the house …"

The Day of Christ's Birth

If we were supposed to celebrate Jesus' birth should said celebration be on December 25, January 6, September 11, September 29, March 24 in August, or November?

I tend to think the best guess is actually in late September. This guess is based on the fact that we can date when Zacharias was in the temple making his offering. Luke 1:5. "There was in the days of Herod, the king of Judaea, a certain priest named Zach arias, of the course of Abia: and his wife was of the daughters of Aaron, and her name was Elisabeth."

The fact that he was of the course of Abia placed his time of service in the last half of June, 1st half of July. (See I Chronicles 24 for the list). Here is a link explaining the line of reasoning: ( Note: I do not endorse the religious persuasion of the folks on that link. Only that their approach is reasonable on this particular subject.

December 25th is purely pagan. It goes all the way back to Nimrod the original founder of rebellious religions. The Romans observed it in connection with Mithra worship etc. December 25 was adopted for Jesus' birthday celebration because "Christians" kept slipping out to participate in pagan rituals.

Here's the bottom line. We often inadvertently pass on selective ignorance from generation to generation.

The Word of God (Jesus John 1:1) didn't establish Christmas. This holiday is hopelessly tangled up in a jumble of myths, pagan rituals, and "Christian" wishful thinking.

Two Final Thoughts

  1. Rather than crying out against the commercialization of Christmas, maybe we should wonder if the merchants of the world aren't entitled to Christmas. A good historical study will show that the Christmas we know today was mostly a product of their input.
  2. Maybe the reason it is so difficult to put "Christ back in Christmas" is that if the Lord had wanted to be there, He would have said, "Do this in remembrance of Me." He didn't! For comparison consider what Jesus did say in telling us to remember him in the "Lord's Supper." See 1 Corinthians 11:24. "And when he had given thanks, he brake it, and said, Take, eat: this is my body, which is broken for you: this do in remembrance of me."

So, how much about the holiday of Christmas is "Christian?' Really, none of it. But then there is nothing Christian about the 4th of July either. It is a secular holiday that is part of our culture. As long as we separate the religious fantasy from the secular festivities, so be it. Enjoy your paid time off from work to be with your family!

Honor Jesus, not because of the Christmas holiday. Honor Him because He first loved us and laid down His life for us!