A nativity scene has become like an Australian endangered species, while Christmas trees and coloured lights are decked all over the place. Our beloved Santa can be found in many department stores making children smile and laugh.
I was brought up believing that Jesus, the son of God, was born on Christmas day but the whole deal had been hijacked by commercialism and the guy in the red suit – which was fine with me because I scored lollies and presents from Santa. Jesus was less attractive to me as a child because he didn’t give me presents; also there was a distinct lack of reindeers.
Since becoming a Christian, I wanted to know the significance behind Christmas. Also, I needed answers to two questions: Is Christmas based on Jesus’ birth? And, as a Christian, is it appropriate to celebrate Christmas?
Firstly, where does Christmas originate from?
According to the Book of Luke from the Bible, it tells us that on the night that the shepherds were informed of Jesus’ birth, they were out in the fields watching their flocks. This happened in spring time during the lambing season. Knowing this leads us to place Jesus’ birth in spring rather than in winter: many scholars say this occurred in March or April, with some saying October… but definitely not December. So if Christmas is not based on Jesus, on what then?
Historically, Christmas is based on pagan Sun Festivals. Basically, ancient peoples throughout the Northern Hemisphere celebrated nature festivals during the winter solstice (the beginning of the days lengthening and warmer weather), around December 22nd. During these December festivals people would light bon fires, decorate trees and celebrate.
Christmas goes back as far as early 300s. A Roman Emperor Aurelian proclaimed Mithraism: worship of the sun god as the official state religion. Often the religion of a king became the religion of the people. Also, by A.D. 337, the celebration of Christmas on December 25th had been firmly established. In that year, Emperor Constantine was baptised on Christmas Day and encouraged Christians to celebrate Christ’s birth during this time. The Mithraic cult and Nature Festivals like Brumalia and Saturnalia threatened Christianity, so this could have led to the churches throughout Europe observing “Christ’s Mass’, on December 25th, to combat pagan festivals.
So Christmas is a fusion of sun worship, pagan festivals, traditions, commercialism, with a religious significance: granted it is not the correct day, but nevertheless the day chosen to celebrate Christ’s birth. By the way, there is no Biblical directive to celebrate Christ’s birth or death.
Christians complain that Christmas is too pagan, non-religious people complain that it is too religious and everyone complains that it is too commercial.
Knowing the origins and meaning behind Christmas, I have decided to celebrate Christmas because it is a meaningful family celebration: presents are shared and everybody eats and drinks too much.
So what is the take home message here?
If you are a Christian then celebrate Jesus every day and not twice a year. Enjoy Christmas once a year, but enjoy Jesus every day.