For many people throughout the world, the Christmas season is the happiest and busiest time of the year. Millions of believers in Christ celebrate December 25th as a special religious holiday because they believe it marks the date of Christ's birth. Businessmen often take advantage of the giving of gifts at this season to make an extra profit. Some religious people protest at this "commercializing" of Christmas because they feel that a sacred, holy day is desecrated by it. Their protests are often voiced in slogans such as “Put Christ back into Christmas." Few people, however, including many believers in Christ, are aware of the fact that the Bible is completely silent concerning any special festivities to commemorate the date of Christ's birth.
The Bible does not give us the date of the birth of Jesus! It was likely to have been no later than the third week in October, because shepherds in that region never kept the sheep out at night after that time. It was too cold. Scholars confess that they do not know the actual date of Christ's birth. For more than 300 years following the close of the New Testament, Christmas was kept on various dates. In 354, the bishop of Rome decreed that December 25th, a pagan feast day in honour of the god, Saturn, should be observed by Christians in honour of Christ’s birth. However, in the East, this date was not accepted; and for centuries, January 6th was celebrated as the birthday of Jesus, particularly in Egypt. Some branches of the Eastern Orthodox Church keep January 6th as Christmas day.
It is interesting to note also that many of the festivities connected with Christmas had their origin in paganism, not in the Bible. Many of them came from Catholicism also. For example, the name "Christmas" itself comes from "Christ" and "Mass" referring to the worship of the Roman Catholic Church. The Christmas tree originated in Scandinavia. The pagans of that part of the world worshipped trees before they became believers in Christ. Decorating with mistletoe originated with the ancient Celtic priests, called Druids, who used mistletoe as charms to ward off evil spirits. The burning of yule logs, which is customary in many countries, came from the ancient Norsemen who burned a log once a year in honour of Thor, god of Thunder. See the World Book Encyclopedia for other examples of the pagan influence in Christmas customs.
The Bible gives two accounts of the birth of Jesus. They are found in Matthew 1 and 2 and Luke 2. No mention is made of the date. No command is given for our Lord's birthday to be observed in any way. No example is found in the New Testament of any celebration of Christ's birth. Rather, the New Testament emphasis is on the death and resurrection of Christ. His sufferings and death made possible the forgiveness of our sins. His resurrection declared the complete satisfaction of the Father in Christ’s offering for sin. As stated in Romans 4:25, “who has been delivered for our offences and raised for our justification”. The Lord's supper is to "show the Lord's death till he come"(I Corinthians 11:26). The only day in any marked out as “special” in the New Testament is the Lord's Day, Sunday, the first day of the week (Acts 20:7;1 Corinthians 16:2; Revelation 1:10). Even that day is not now to be kept as a legal Sabbath. Scripture distinctly warns against the keeping of days. See Colossians 2:16, and Galatians 4:10 as a start.
It is not Christ’s birthday and Scripture is deliberately silent on it. Those who keep it do so without Scriptural authority. However I respect the conscience of the “weak brother” – see Romans 14. I do not mow my lawn on Christmas Day, so as not to offend others. I am free to do so myself. It is just another day to me.
Should we observe the Christmas holiday in any way at all? There is nothing wrong with enjoying the holiday at Christmas, just as one would enjoy any other legal holiday during the year. If one wishes to have a dinner and get together with family and friends, there is certainly nothing wrong with this. But to honour December 25th as Christ's birthday, and thus as a special holy day, is to speak where the Scriptures are silent and to follow the traditions of men rather than the Word of God.
MM January 2008; article adapted from www.tftw2.org/tracts/Christmas.htm