There is an undeniable, God-given instinct to sit by a fire on the brief days of winter and snuggle loved ones during those seemingly interminable nights. For thousands of years, human society followed the seasons in an effort to stay alive and feed their families. When a family had planted, tended, harvested, and stored the sweat of their brow for the year, it was time to celebrate in late fall and rest during the days of frost and cold.
As comforting as the fire may be, the real feeling of warmth comes from being gathered together for Christmas and New Year’s Day. There is a reason we sing, “Over the river and through the woods, to grandma’s house we go!” Don’t get me wrong, there is still work to do on a farm. Animals need feed, water, and milking. Plus, when it’s cold enough to store meat outside, it’s the perfect day for hog-killin’ or calf-killin’. “That ham ain’t just gonna jump on your plate all by itself!”
As the earth lies dormant, human beings have more time to spend together. For Christians, it is a time to remember all these things are blessings from God, “He who supplies seed to the sower and bread for food will supply and multiply your seed for sowing and increase the harvest of your righteousness.”-II Corinthians 9:10. When the flood ended, the Lord promised Noah and all who would come after him, “While the earth remains, seedtime and harvest, cold and heat, summer and winter, day and night, shall not cease.”-Genesis 8:22.
While people sense the truths of God from observation (Romans 1:20-21; Jude 10). Those who have forgotten God and are not blessed with the knowledge of his revealed will, attribute all these things to pagan deities1. In western Europe, the Yule festival was celebrated during December and January in honor after the Viking god Odin whose name Jólnir, means “the Yule one.” In many pagan cultures the winter solstice was seen as a victory by the sun over death. As the days got shorter leading up to December 21st, there was fear the sun would disappear. The solstice marked the return of the light. In the Roman empire, this victory was credited to Saturn and a week-long, drunken party ensued. Romans also associated their winter festivals with the Persian god of the sun called Sol in Latin.
If all this sounds vaguely familiar, it is because leaders in medieval Christianity could not stop their new converts from celebrating their pagan festivals. As Christianity became the official religion of kings, their subjects were forced, at least nominally, to become Christians. So, to make everybody happy, the church in Rome slapped a New Testament truth onto a very carnal, pagan festival. These winter festivals were repurposed as a celebration of the virgin birth of Jesus and renamed Christmas.
If you have ever wondered why Christmas is celebrated on December 25th, now you know. The roots of Christmas are not Christian. They are pagan and frankly, embarrassingly drunken and sensual. The reason December 25th is not mentioned in the Bible is because the Christians of the Bible did not celebrate a festival or feast day surrounding the birth of Jesus. How would we celebrate? When should we celebrate? How can we have unity if the word of God doesn’t tell us how all Christians should celebrate in one Spirit?
Why should any church proclaim a date for Christ’s birth they know to be a fraud? How can we expect our children to grow in faith when they find out we have based what some call the holiest day of the year, on a lie? Those questions are rhetorical. Nothing should be required of a Christian for which there is no New Testament book, chapter, and verse. No worship of God should be proclaimed for which God has not given instruction.
Celebrate the holidays as a time for family, blessings, and gifts. But please don’t add a religious holiday to the church. If God wanted us to perform a Christmas play, he would have told us in his word.
The virgin birth of Jesus by the Holy Spirit is worthy of our praise to God. But it is not a part of the worship of Christ’s church. For that reason, you will search in vain for a Christmas play at North Second Street. What you will find is the simple gospel and simple worship of a simple church dedicated to telling the truth and letting that set us free.