December 25th: A joyful day to celebrate the Messiah coming to earth or a hijacked pagan holiday? Does the date really matter? And how did it become 25th December anyway, since Yeshua most likely came during the Fall Feasts? Every year the level of rage regarding Christmas seem to be getting higher, and the tone of the debate shriller. Here in Israel, Christmas is a regular working day, with the rare Christmas tree found in Christian Arab areas, and objections about idol worship whenever they come close to Jewish quarters. Messianic believers tend to downplay the holiday that celebrates the birth of our Messiah since Christian holidays have often been associated with Christian persecution of the Jewish people.
However, as we shall see, there is also good reason to say that there is nothing wrong with Christmas decorations and celebrations or even the very date December 25th. Let me explain. It is true that many pagans those who do not worship the God of Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob have worshiped false deities with certain trees, foods, and so on, but does this render those trees and foods unholy?
Even if they are deceased. But what if the tradition originated with pagan practice and Byzantine Christianity tried to co-opt those holidays, neutralizing the traditions by super-imposing Christian stories over the top of existing feasts? I would say it is debatable. If there are cts of a culture that are not harmful, it is quite right to maintain them when we are born again; certain foods, decorations, or ways of having fun.
Fireworks are used for all kinds of occasions and for all kinds of reasons. They are not wrong - they are neutral.
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The question is, what is being celebrated? The way different cultures celebrate special times is not so much the problem as the focus of the celebration itself. Some point to Jeremiah 10 as a warning against taking in a Christmas tree and decorating it, but that passage is clearly talking about fashioning that tree into a carved wooden idol, and then worshiping it. Quite a different thing. There is nothing wrong with fir trees themselves, or even with decorating them in a festive manner, so long as we worship God alone.
The significance of fir trees goes way back further than any Greek or Roman tradition. In the Bible they are symbolic of eternal life, and are first mentioned in the Bible in the context of worshiping the one, true God. David was taking the ark of the covenant up to Jerusalem and fir trees feature for the first time in the story:.
Similarly, these fir trees broshim in Hebrew make up part of the temple itself 1 Kings 6. In fact, if you follow it through the Bible, fir trees represent upright and honorable worshipers of God. Hosea What a special symbolism lies behind this evergreen tree that God created - it represents the righteous believer and eternal life!
This is exactly what the incarnated Messiah came to give us as a gift - His own righteousness, and life with Him forever. Why did the church start celebrating on December 25th? Moreover, we do not have conclusive evidence the pagan festivals were celebrated on that specific date at that point in time.
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It was not until AD that we have any clue that Sol Invictus was celebrated on that date. By this point, the rapidly growing church was a force to be reckoned with, and scholars like Thomas J.
Talley argue it is more likely that Sol Invictus was moved to that date by Roman Emperor Aurelian to compete with Christianity . Saturnalia was said to be celebrated on 17thth December, according to ancient sources . There were pagan holidays in December, yes, but there is no early evidence of them being celebrated on the 25th.
In other words, it is not a verifiable fact that Christians co-opted Christmas from the pagans. There are suggestions that Yeshua was conceived during Hanukkah and born in the Fall, at the Feast of Tabernacles, or conceived during Passover in the Spring and born late December, based on calculations about when we think Zechariah the priest was serving his turn at the temple.
However, priests sometimes had to serve in the temple in addition to their scheduled turns during major feasts, for example so we can make educated guesses, but it is difficult to pinpoint that moment.
Now that we have made such great strides forward with technology, we are in the very privileged position to be able to go back and look at what was happening in the night skies, thousands of years ago. Our understanding of space, particularly the movements of the planets and stars, now enables us to literally see what was in the sky as the wise men made their way to Israel from the East.
God set a giant clockwork in motion when he created the universe, and so predictable are the patterns of the skies that when Rick Larson determined he was going to get to the bottom of the odd story of the star, he made some wonderful discoveries.
By this point, Yeshua was no longer a newborn, but it does present another possibility about where the date might have come from. As Peter urges us in 1 Petergentleness and respect are important qualities to maintain if we are to be a good witness. Gentleness is also a fruit of the Spirit, and whatever our views on Christmas, if we are truly walking with God we should be full of love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, gentleness, and self-control.
There is room for different approaches and opinions, different choices and practices when it comes to Christmas. The main thing is that we honor Yeshua first of all, and others as well. Paul explains this principle very well in Romans chapter 14, where he encourages us to be aware we will each be accountable before God, but not to judge others for their decisions. I know, and am persuaded in the Lord Yeshua, that nothing is unholy in itself; but it is unholy for the one who considers it unholy.
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