Some Facts About Christmas

Maurice Meredith
La Mesa, Calif.

Anyone who cares to present the facts about Christmas is on a thankless task, inasmuch as there is a great deal of sentiment attached to it. However, we would like to point out that there are two extremes. There are those who accept this as the time of Christ's birth, and make of it a day that is hallowed to a celebration of that event. On the other hand, there are those who, being cynical, can see no good in the season whatever.

Permit me to say that there is no harm, whatever, in singing songs that honor Christ, at any time of the year. Neither is there any harm in an exchange of gifts at any time of the year. And we know that socials, wherein Christians meet and enjoy clean entertainment, is a boon, anytime.

M'Clintock and Strong (Methodists), in their Encyclopedia of Biblical, Theological, and Ecclesiastical Literature, say: "The observance of Christmas, is not of divine appointment, nor is it of New Testament origin." (Vol. 11, p. 276)

Lyman Coleman (Presbyterian), in his splendid work, Ancient Christianity Exemplified, says: "The observance of the birth of Christ as a religious festival began in the fourth century in the church of Rome, and subsequently in the Eastern Church, on the twenty-fifth of December." (p. 539) To which he adds: "These festivals of the church accordingly, became an incongruous mixture of Judaism, paganism, and Christianity. As men are known by their gods, so the character of their religion is manifested by their festivals. The degenerate character of the church is partially indicated in this blending of heathen festivals and Jewish observances with religious festivals. These festivals had their origin in a corrupt age of the church, and are a manifest token of degeneracy." (p. 542)

The following paragraph is also taken from M'Clintock and Strong's Encyclopedia, and we quote it to show the excesses to which some have gone in observing Christmas. Is it any wonder there is so much drunkenness and revelry connected with it, when you see how professed Christians used to kecp it.

"In later ages many observances, some pleasant, others absurd, grew up around the Christmas festival. Among them are the following. It was customary to light candles of large size, and to lay upon the fire a huge log, called a Yule clog or Christinas block, a custom not yet extinct in some parts of England. Yule (from huel, a wheel) was a sun-feast, commemorative of the turn of the sun and the lengthening of the day, and seems to have been a period of pagan festival in Europe from ancient times. At court, among many public bodies, and in distinguished families, an officer, under various titles, was appointed to preside over the revels. Leland, speaking of the court of Henry VII, A.D. 1489, mentions Abbot of Misrule, who was created for this purpose, who made much sport, and did right well in his office. In Scotland he was termed the Abbot of Unreason; but the office was suppressed by an act of Parliament, A.D. 1555. Stow describes the same officer as Lord of Misrule. The Puritans regarded these diversions, which appear to have offended more against good taste than against morality with a holy terror. Prynne says, in his strong way (in Histrio-Maslix), 'Our Christmas lords of misrule, together with dancing, masks, mummeries, stage-players, and such other Christmas disorders, now in use with Christians, were derived from those Roman Saturnalia and Bacchanalian festivals, which should cause all pious Christians eternally to abominate them.

"The houses and churches were dressed with evergreens, and the former especially with mistletoe - a custom probably as old as the Druidical worship. Whether this festival was celebrated on December 25th is a subject of dispute. It was not until the sixth century that the whole Christian world concurred in celebrating the nativity on the same day." (ibid.)

We have no way of knowing what day of the year our Lord was born on. If God had intended for us to celebrate his birth, he would at least have told us when Christ was born. In fact, there is a great dispute as to which year he was born in. We know for certain it is not the year 1. And it is almost as certain that it was not on December 25.

Permit me to quote again from M'Clintock and Strong's Encyclopedia, in regard to the time of the year that Christ was born. "The Egyptians placed it in January; Wagenscil in February; Bochart in March; some mentioned by Clement of Alexandria, in April; others in May; Epipharilus speaksof some who, placed it in June, and of others who supposed it to have been in July; Wagenseil, who was not sure of February, fixed it probably in August; Lightfoot on the 15th of September; Scaliger, Casaubon, and Calvisius in October; others in November; and the Latin Church in December. It does not, however, appear probable that the vulgar account is right; the circumstance of the shepherds watching their flocks by night agrees not with the winter season. Dr. Gill thinks it was more likely in autumn, in the month of September, at the feast of Tabernacles, to which there seems some reference in John 1:14. The Scripture, however, assures us that it was in the 'fulness of time' (Gal. 4:4) ; and, indeed, the wisdom of God is evidently displayed as to the time when, as well as the end for which Christ came. It was in a time when the world stood in need of such a Saviour, and was best prepared for receiving him." (Vol. vi, page 861)

There are many things that are right and proper for Christians to do, which become sinful when turned into a religious practice. It is right to eat food, but wrong to make a religious festival. It is all right to observe davs, such as the 4th of July, Memorial Day, and Thanksgiving; but sinful to make of these a religious custom bound upon the church. Paul savs, "Ye observe days, and months, and seasons, and years. I am afraid of you, lest by any means I have bestowed labor upon you in vain." (Gal. 4:10-11) The fault is with those who attach significance to, these days. Paul practiced circumcision (Acts 16:3), but made nothing of it (Gal. 5:6).

Cleanliness is good and proper, and all Christians ought to wash their hands and bathe themselves. But whenever man assumes the authority to himself, and binds this upon his brother, the Lord shows us that he is condemned. (Read Mark 7:1-8) There is no one who can object to such acts of cleanliness, but there is furthermore, no person who bears any right to make of cleanliness a religious custom.

To the informed Christian, Christmas has no religious significance whatever. We may give gifts now, or anytimc. We may sing the songs that commemorate the nativity of Christ, now, or anytime. We may do anything else that is allowable within itself now, or any time. But we cannot attach any religious significance to such customs, any more than we can attach religious significance to the 4th of July, New Year's Day, or any other day, unauthorized by God. The only day that bears any religious significance is the first day of the week, in which our Lord and Saviour came forth from the grave. And we are not left in the dark as to how to celebrate it. The Bible plainly shows that we are to meet and worship, by eating the Lord's Supper, contributing of our money, singing, and praying. Every faithful Christian will do this every Lord's Day.

Truth Magazine II:3, pp. 1,3
December 1957