Christmas was originally a pagan celebration. What, now, makes it a holy celebration? In Revelation it warns all to be careful to not be taken in by Satan's trickery and guise.
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I would say that, even though the exact date of Christ's birth is not given in Scripture, and although many aspects of how Christmas is celebrated today are influenced by practices or considerations having pagan roots (which sometimes had their basis in what I would consider to be an acceptable desire to save Christians from persecution by coinciding with pagan observances), the birth of the Savior is nevertheless certainly an event worthy of celebration (just as the angels celebrated it originally (Luke 2:8-14)), and the appropriateness of that celebration would be within the control of each individual Christian. I think that, as long as Christians are focused on the Biblical events as the basis for the celebration, and on worship, gratitude, and praise to God for them, then the incidental use of symbols or dates once characterizing pagan practices (which can just as easily be converted to an association with Christian symbolism or beliefs) do not detract from the propriety of the occasion.
I would start by saying that December 25 was not borrowed and had no connection to pagan gods or ideas, as some have argued - these were invented years later. Although Jesus wasn't born on Christmas day, the celebration of His birth on December 25 can be traced back as early as 3rd Century Donatists, a North Africa Christian group named after their leader Donatus of Casae Nigrae. The 17th and 18th Centuries secular enlightenment scholars were among the first to suggest that Christmas is deeply-rooted in paganism (i. e. Sol Invictus, winter solstice or Saturnalia festivals) and reasons for December 25 celebration. However, upon closer examination, Sol Invictus was initially celebrated August 9 and 28, winter solstice falls on December 21 and Saturnalia on December 17 to 23. But why December 25 celebration for Christ’s birth? It appears that early Christians celebrated the annunciation (announcement to Mary that she was with child) on March 25 - add nine months of pregnancy and you arrive to December 25. Now, should Christians celebrate Christmas on December 25? First, the Bible does not contain a command to keep Christmas as a sacred day - the only sacred day in the Bible is the Sabbath (Ex 20:8-11). While it might be a public holiday, Christmas is not a biblical holy day. And then there are concerns about pagan elements in this holiday which are nothing new. The Puritans led English Parliament ban in 1644 Christmas, as a festival with no biblical justification and a time of wasteful and immoral behavior. Charles II lifted the ban in 1660. The Colonial America from 1659 to 1681 outlawed Christmas. More recently, secular elements of society have faced-off with religious groups over nativity scenes and crosses on public property, as well as the alleged war on Christmas. Aside from its pagan elements introduced along the way, most people understand that Christmas celebrates the birth of Jesus. But in practice, people spend more time shopping than celebrating the life of our Savior. Frosty the Snowman and Rudolf the Red-nosed Reindeer compete for attention with wise men and shepherds. From “Black Friday” to “Cyber Monday” and Christmas Eve, materialism tends to overshadow the simple stable. Having said that, I believe that there is absolutely nothing wrong with taking time to meditate and celebrate the incarnation of our Savior. It is a mystery that testifies to the fact that the Son of God became “flesh” (John 1:14). The Creator became a creature in order to save us from the power of sin and death (Matt 1:21). That's something worth celebrating!
There is no Biblical mandate to celebrate anyone's birthday, let alone Christ's. As a 1st century Jew it is quite doubtful that He would have ever celebrated His own birthday, as that was not part of Jewish culture to do so. As such it is also a bit doubtful that Jesus would be up in heaven having a birthday celebration every year, as scripture seems to imply that the holidays we keep in the New Jerusalem will be based in the times and seasons and Holy Days given by God to the Jews (Zech 14:16, Ezekiel 45:21, Isa 66:23.) So if we chose to commemorate Jesus' birthday, we would need to do so with the understanding that we would be celebrating on His behalf - but it isn't likely a celebration He Himself is engaged in nor ever asked for. Birthday parties in general are held to mark someone getting older with a party on the anniversary of their birth. Jesus, however, died and rose again with a new Spiritual body. It's implied that our new spiritual bodies will essentially be ageless and eternal as we will receive them along with eternal life. Jesus is not getting 'older' in heaven, then - His body is not suffering decay or aging. Furthermore, while Jesus came in flesh at the appointed time in history, that was not His true beginning. Jesus, being God, is eternal. The concept of 'birthday' can gloss over this divine aspect of Christ. When the angels announced the birth of Christ, note that their focus was not about celebrating Christ's birthday, but that that day the Redeemer had finally arrived! "Today in the town of David a Savior has been born to you; he is the Messiah, the Lord." Luke 2:11 Christ had finally come to bring salvation to man. He came in truth and fulfilled prophecy; not in the traditions of how man wished to serve God or to serve Himself with a fun party. "Since the children have flesh and blood, he too shared in their humanity so that by his death he might break the power of him who holds the power of death—that is, the devil—and free those who all their lives were held in slavery by their fear of death. For surely it is not angels he helps, but Abraham’s descendants. For this reason he had to be made like them, k fully human in every way, in order that he might become a merciful and faithful high priest in service to God, and that he might make atonement for the sins of the people. Because he himself suffered when he was tempted, he is able to help those who are being tempted." (Heb 2:14-18) How amazing that Christ lowered Himself to become human in order to suffer for us and save us! That's far more reason to celebrate than a birthday. Even the visiting Magi, who probably arrived when Jesus was already a toddler, came to worship the new king - not celebrate his birthday (Matt 2:1-12.) Here are a few more things to consider: - Man has no freedom to ascribe lies to God. When we share the gospel, it should be the simplicity of the good news alone and not shrouded in layers of deceit and traditions. While these may seem good for the moment, as their feel-good message attracts a lot of people, the true power of the gospel is in the message that all men are sinners in need of a savior; that Christ came, but came specifically to die for man that man could be in relationship with God. Unfortunately, the standard Christmas narrative often places iconic imagery and tradition ahead of the facts of scripture or the testimony of fulfilled prophecy. While some can keep in mind that these are traditions, there are still many (especially children) who think that it's fact that Jesus was born in a stable by an Inn, or in winter, or on Dec 25th, or that the Magi visited Jesus on the day of His birth, etc. - Christmas like many other holidays has syncretic roots, where pagan customs were 'Christianized' to make a new holiday. This is like if your spouse didn't know their birthday, so you just took your ex's birthday and all the things your ex liked and celebrated with those. Is this the best possible way to celebrate?
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