Often this time of year, we hear people talk about “the true meaning of Christmas.” Presumably, they are making reference to the birth of our Saviour, and the joy we should feel as we celebrate the gift his birth brought us. But what is really the true meaning of Christmas?
First of all, what does Scripture teach us about celebrating birthdays? Ecclesiastes 7:1 tells us that the day of death is better than the day of birth. Job 1:4-5 recounts how Job’s sons celebrated their birthdays and Job made a sin sacrifice as a result, likening the birthday celebration to cursing God in their hearts. The only other birthday celebrations we see in Scripture were by pagans who killed people on their birthdays. Pharaoh celebrated his birthday by having the baker hanged (Genesis 40:20-22), and John the Baptist’s beheading arose out of incidents involved with Herod’s birthday celebration (Mark 6:21,27). With this background, do you think Yahshua (Jesus) really wants us to celebrate his birthday at all? There is certainly no command to do so, no Biblical record of his date of birth, and no example by him or his disciples.
Here is what we do know about his birth. Zechariah, father of John the Baptist, was performing temple duties when he was given the vision that he would have a son. By referring to the temple schedule in his family line, the exact week is pinpointed to the Hebrew month of Sivan 12 through 18. Add the forty weeks of Elizabeth’s pregnancy, John the Baptist would have been born in the spring, around the time of Passover. Since Elizabeth was six months pregnant when Mary conceived, we can do the math to determine that Jesus was conceived in the month of Kislev, which coincidentally (or maybe not) his conception would have fallen at the time of Hanukkah, the festival of lights. He is, after all, the light of the world (John 8:12). Continuing nine months later, we know that Jesus would have been born in early fall, at the time of Tabernacles.
Since we don’t know the exact date of his birth, but know it was not in winter, why is December 25 celebrated as his date of birth? What is the significance of that date? December 25 was the ancient world’s solstice, the date of the “birth” of the sun. Therefore, December 25 is actually the birthday of the pagan sun god, hardly a day the God of Heaven would want us memorializing. Put yourself in God’s shoes: Would you want your children celebrating your birthday (something you already despise) on the date of your worst enemy? Would you feel honored?
The same is true with Christmas trees and wreaths. Early pagan rituals included Tammuz (the sun god’s son) being sent into the forest and placing a gift on a tree at the time of the winter solstice, as an offering to his father, Nimrod. Since the tree branches were a symbol of the sun god, the act of decorating with trees or wreaths (branches of trees twisted into the circular shape of the sun) became a pagan ritual. Jeremiah 10:2-4 cites this specific heathen custom (bringing trees into your house and decorating them) as a delusion that God warned his people not to learn.
What about Santa, whose name is just an anagram of satan? All Christians know you can’t find Santa in the Bible, but yet we treat him as some cherished character who we teach our kids to adore. What does Santa teach? Just the opposite of what Scripture teaches: Righteousness by works, instead of by faith. Have you been naughty or nice? If you’ve been nice, you get a gift (compares to heaven), but if you’ve been naughty you get a lump of coal (which compares to the burning in Hell). This contrasts with the truth that our true reward is a free gift, not based on works (Ephesians 2:8-9).
Before you inundate me with emails telling me that I’m the grinch who stole Christmas, please consider that the true grinch is the one who is stealing the truth of Yahshau’s birth, and replacing it with pagan symbols. Then consider who you are really honoring when you take part in the Christmas season. Jesus is NOT the reason for the season, and if you are truly his follower, you will walk as he walked (1 John 2:6) and learn not the way of the heathen (Jeremiah 10:2).