Christmas is not the monopoly of Christians. In fact considering its historical background it is still viewed by some people as nothing but a new label on something old. Thus for Christmas the cliché different strokes for different folks seems to apply quite well. The more popular view of Christmas as the birthday of Jesus Christ is often challenged in certain quarters even within Christendom. Reference is often made to the fact that considering the accounts of Jesus' birth in the Bible Christmas is farcical. There seem to be no way to arrive at the conclusion that Jesus was born on the 25th day of the month of December.
The Biblical account has it that the shepherds were out at night (Luke 2: 8), something which does not look likely on a 25th December night in the rocky and hilly plains of Palestine considering the cold. John Schoenheit of the Spirit and Truth Fellowship International is one of the people who believe that the birth date of Christ is September 3, and not December 25. Geza Vermes, in “The First Christmas” also writes that the birth of Christ may have occurred sometime prior to the spring of 4 BC. Penne Restad on the other hand notes in "Christmas in 19th-century America" that according to certain calculations made, Mary's conception is believed to have taken place in March, and that makes the 25th December date probable. Thus not seeing any Biblical basis some hold the view that it is “safer” not celebrating Christmas. They maintain that it is an act of apostasy and an embracing of paganism.
The counter argument to this often begins with the question – whether the birth of Christ is worth celebrating or not? Is the birth an accepted historical fact – even if the exact day remains uncertain? Does it do the church any good and does it help underscore any Christian and spiritual values? (To this the incident involving the sons of Aaron who were killed for doing what the Lord had not commanded [Lev 10:1] them is sometimes cited, as well as the incident involving Uzzah who died for an apparently well intentioned act-his attempt to stop he ark of God from falling 2 Samuel 6:6).
The other view(s) of Christmas tend to resonate more with what December 25th was originally noted for – nothing to do with Christ but revelries and merry making as the year ended and the sun appeared. It is also believed that the concept of Christmas was influenced in some ways by the feasts that existed then such as Sol Invictus and Saturnalia.
These are some common views and notions held of Christmas. These views especially those linking Christmas to Saturnalia (the worship of Saturn, around the time of the date of the winter solstice) are challenged by , who states that “the date of Christmas may derive from concepts in Judaism that link the time of the deaths of prophets being linked to their conception or birth. From this, early ecclesiastical number-crunchers extrapolated that the nine months of Mary's pregnancy following the Annunciation on March 25th would produce a December 25th date for the birth of Christ.”
Granted Christmas is accepted as celebrations marking the birth of Christ, more like a mass for Christ if you will, the word or term Christmas itself being derived from a Middle English term that meant Christ's mass. My question is which Christ and Jesus is the celebration about?
The Jesus who according to the Baha'i Faith was not the only-begotten Son of God; and who, according to Paul Twitchell of Eckankar, was just one of the many saviours and prophets who came to the earth to offer assistance to man and afterwards passed on to glory, and thus does not need to be put in a special category?
The Jesus concerning whom David Berg of The Love Family/Children of God argues regarding the probability of sexual relations between Him and Mary and Martha because he (David Berg) “saw Mary making love to him in a vision.”10
Is it the Jesus of the Jehovah's Witnesses (JWs)?
The Jesus who was created, and is the same as Michael, the archangel mentioned in books of the Bible such as Daniel (10:13; 12:1) and Jude (v. 9)? The Jesus who was a god, and not God, with an angelic background? Seventh Day Adventists (SDAs) also hold a view similar to that of JWs – the view of Jesus, as Michael, the archangel. The point of variation however appears to be the god or God belief though Adventists are historically believed to have had issues with Jesus' deity.11 1213 Their versions of the Bible - Adventists (Clear Word Bible) and Witnesses (New World Translation), reflect these views they hold.
Is it the Jesus of Christian Science?
The Jesus who is a historical figure and not God, who as material manhood was not Christ (the anointed One), who's blood could not atone for the sins of men? 14
Is it the Jesus of the Latter Day Saints (Mormons)?
The Jesus whose brother is Lucifer? The Jesus who married Mary and Martha, and who by obedience and intelligence attained the status of God? 15
If Jesus came as a savior for us all then all of us can celebrate Christmas. But the question still remains – Granted we are celebrating the birth of Jesus, which Jesus, and who's Jesus?
Not all the groups mentioned celebrate Christmas. The Jehovah's Witnesses for instance see it as an expression of paganism, not all Adventists celebrate Christmas, some do and some do not. Mormons do celebrate Christmas. It is however possible and plausible for people to hold an erroneous view of Jesus and yet celebrate Christmas.
Warren Smith, a former New Ager notes that there are actually attempts to reinvent Jesus Christ, and that what is actually happening is the invention of false Christs.16
He could not have said it any better. Undiscerning Christians and (even non-Chrisitans) have so easily bought into some of these conceptions and notions. Others have been raised and fed on carefully crafted and intricately woven fables and tales; that, unfamiliar with the truth it is hard for them to realize they are in error. Even as we celebrate Christmas I will urge that people who claim to be Christians examine themselves and the beliefs they espouse to check if they are at variance with what the Bible teaches or not. In 2 Corinthians 11:4 Paul warns about other Jesus being preached and presented to believers. He also sends a note of caution in verses 13-15 about the devil and his agents parading themselves as agents of light. And continues in 1 Timothy 4, that in the latter days that is going to be more like the trend, deception will be high – there will seducing spirits and false doctrines.
The Apostle Paul attests to the fact that Jesus was God and not angel or created being, saying “and without controversy great is the mystery of godliness: God was manifest in the flesh, justified in the Spirit, seen of angels, preached unto the Gentiles, believed on in the world, received up into glory.” (1Timothy 3:16). Jesus Himself acknowledged that He was the Christ, the Anointed One (Matthew 16:17).
The reason for His birth was to bring salvation and deliverance to men. I pray that is what we will truly experience in this season.
By Isaac Karikari ([email protected])
Page, Ruth C. "Celebrating Christmas in New Hampshire." Historical New Hampshire 37, no. 2/3 (Fall 1982): 121-149.
Schoenheit , John W. 2010. Was Jesus Really Born on December 25th? / Does the Bible Say When Jesus was Born? http://www.stfonline.org/pdf/sower/oct-dec-sower-2010- high.pdf (accessed 22 December 2010).
Vermes, Geza. "The First Christmas." History Today 56, no. 12 (December 2006): 23-29.
Restad, Penne. "Christmas in 19th-century America." History Today 45, no. 12 (December 1995): 13.
Dee, James H. "They Say 'Merry Christmas'—and You Say …?." Free Inquiry 30, no. 6 (October 2010): 56-57.
Murray, Alexander. "Medieval Christmas." History Today 36, no. 12 (December 1986): 31.
Salusbury, Matt. "By Jove! It's Christmas." History Today 59, no. 12 (December 2009): 6-7.
Murray, op. cit.
10 False Views of Jesus Christ (Examples of “Re-defining” Jesus Christ)
www.spiritual-research-network.com/.../falseviewsofjesus_compilationlist.pdf (accessed accessed 22 December 2010)
11 Jehovah's Witnesses
http://www.lcms.org/graphics/assets/media/CTCR/CTCR%20EVAL%20JEH%20WIT.pdf (accessed 22 December 2010).
12 Chinnici, Giovanni. The Seventh Day Adventist Church.
http://www.freewebs.com/thechinnicis/Bible%20Studies/The%20SDA.pdf (accessed 22 December 2010)
13 Burt, Merlin D. “History of Seventh-day Adventist Views on the Trinity” Journal of the
Adventist Theological Society 17, no. 1 (Spring, 2006): 125-139
14 The Deity of Jesus Christ http://www.chosenjrhigh.org/pdf/The%20Deity%20of%20Jesus%20Christ.pdf(accessed 22
15 Cowan, Marvin, W. The Pre-Mortal Christ of Mormonism. Ankerberg Theological Research Institute. (2006): 1-3.
16 Smith, Warren, B. Reinventing Jesus. http://www.newagetograce.com/RV.pdf (accessed 23 December 2010)