In the past few years, I have heard much talk and many pronouncements about December 25th and when and how Christians ought to celebrate the birth of Christ. I wish to address this as clearly as I can to help us and hopefully resolve any misunderstanding in the hearts and minds of God’s people.
First, let’s look at dates. It should be very clear to all of our hearts that no date is holy and no date is evil. A day is a day, and it is what we do on that day that is good or evil. The day is inconsequential! But with that said, let me state with absoluteness that our Lord Jesus Christ was born on a specific and knowable date. I have heard it stated that December 25th is not the date, but those who claim that only give generalities about when the date might have been. I find that very interesting. So we know when it is not, but we don’t know when it is? That is ignorance operating in what should be factual. Why would I state it that way? Because God is precise, not random! He has not left such an important date as the birth of his Son to randomness, as I hope to show clearly.
Some claim that Christians should not celebrate Christmas on December 25th because that was the date of a Pagan holiday co-opted into Christianity. Even if this were true, Pagan celebrations do not make a certain day Pagan any more than a day itself is made holy by God’s actions. The practices and actions are either Pagan or holy, but that is not determined by the date or day. And beyond that, there is significant doubt among scholars that this theory of why we celebrate Christmas on December 25th is even true. Paul Giovanetti writes in “The Birth of Jesus,”
A common supposition is Christmas was set on December 25th to coincide with Pagan festivals such as the Saturnalia, or other major events. In AD 274 the Roman emperor decreed a December 25th feast in honor of the birth of Sol Invictus, the Unconquered Sun. The theory suggests that early Christians conscripted this date in an effort to both redeem the date from Pagan dominance and to further the mission of evangelism.
If Pagans could convert their idolatrous feast days into celebrations of Christ, they might find it easier to convert their religion to Christianity as well. This theory has significant problems. The practice of Christianizing Pagan rituals seems to have begun only after the conversion of the Emperor Constantine, who reigned from AD 306 to AD 337 by the time of St Gregory, who was pope from AD 590 to AD 604. It was standard practice to convert Pagan shrines into Christian churches and Pagan holidays into feasts of Christian saints. There is virtually no evidence prior to the third century of Christians adopting Pagan practices or dates into their calendar. The December 25th date was already popular prior to this time. In addition, the earliest Christians did not speak of Christianizing the Saturnalia or other Pagan festivals. The earliest known assertion that this was the basis for the December 25th date does not appear until the twelfth century.
There is a more ancient theory of how December 25th was assigned as the date of Jesus’s birth. It is based on the belief in Judaism that key events would happen on the same date. As early AD 200 Tertullian calculated the date of the crucifixion as March 25th under the premise, unverifiable as it is, that Jesus was conceived and crucified on the same date, Tertullian concluded that he was born on December 25th, nine months after conception. This idea was widespread in Tertullian’s day. A document from North Africa dated around the time of Constantine, sets Jesus’s birth at the time of the winter solstice, again, calculating from the presumed date of his conception within the womb of Mary. Shortly thereafter, St. Augustine writes, “Jesus is believed to have been conceived on the 25th of March, upon which date he suffered, but he was born according to tradition upon December the 25th”…
While it is unarguable that certain elements of the modern Christmas celebration have been, “redeemed” from Pagan practices, it is difficult to sustain the argument that the December 25th date was.
Christ was absolutely born on a specific historical date and day. That is beyond question if you believe the Messiah to have been Jesus Christ. So to those who do not believe it was December 25th, I ask: When is it? What is the specific date of his birth? Does history give any help here? I do not allow Pagan practices on certain days to cause me to write off the date as being Pagan. No one of us should. If we’re practicing Pagan rituals, rites, or practices, then we are in sin. However, if Satan has covered over dates in which our God acted so as to obscure the truth of what God has worked in purpose, then we must see through Satan’s actions. What if rather than Christianity borrowing from Pagan feasts and holidays, the Pagan activities are actually meant by Satan to hide and obscure the holy activities of our God and King? Has Satan done this? Yes, he has. He has obscured the date and day of our Lord’s resurrection with Easter. This is and has been a common practice of Satan to cover up God’s activities with Pagan practices.
God gave us incontrovertible proof of His purpose in the very heavens for all to see. What the Pagans witnessed and Satan twisted was the glory of God declared in the heavens to give a permanent record of God’s eternal purpose and plan. The Bible teaches this plainly.
The heavens declare the glory of God;
And the firmament shows His handiwork.
2 Day unto day utters speech,
And night unto night reveals knowledge.
3 There is no speech nor language
Where their voice is not heard.
4 Their line has gone out through all the earth,
And their words to the end of the world.
20 For since the creation of the world His invisible attributes are clearly seen, being understood by the things that are made, even His eternal power and Godhead, so that they are without excuse, 21 because, although they knew God, they did not glorify Him as God, nor were thankful, but became futile in their thoughts, and their foolish hearts were darkened. 22 Professing to be wise, they became fools, 23 and changed the glory of the incorruptible God into an image made like corruptible man—and birds and four-footed animals and creeping things.
Now let me say clearly that whether we celebrate Christ’s birth and resurrection on specific days or not is not important! What is important is whether we are celebrating Christ within us as our new life every day including the spring date of Easter or December 25th. We can see the point clearly that Christ is bigger than a day or date, but if people wish to celebrate Him (not a date) on a particular day, that is not sin. Celebrating an evil practice of paganism is sin, but celebrating Christ is never a sinful practice. The question is who are you celebrating, not what. I desire to celebrate Christ every day of the year in my heart, including on December 25th, November 24th, January 18th, and every other day on the calendar.
We can study the meaning of the Star of Bethlehem and the astronomical and historical proof it gives us that Christ was born on December 25th (and I encourage you to*), but remember, Jesus was a person with an actual birthday known to many people. That is a fact and should be beyond argument. Who would have known the date? The answer is simple: Mary and Joseph, Elizabeth and Zachariah and their son John the Baptist, the other children of Mary and Joseph, and the extended family of Mary and Joseph all would have known the date. The many shepherds who were there, the wise men who came from the east and those whom they told in Jerusalem, the angels who appeared in the heavens announcing the birth, Simeon and Anna due to the specific time Christ was brought to them all would have known exactly as well. The 12 apostles would have only had to ask Jesus, and Mary, Jude, and James (brothers of Jesus) were in the early church, so the date was known through them. I will stop here by simply saying that his birth was not an unknown date or day. The truth is that it has been lost, but worse obscured by demonic scheme.
Why does it even matter? I do not say this simply so that you will celebrate something. I’m simply trying to point out that the day and date and were there in history and known by a large number of people at the time. Did those who knew the date celebrate it? This is not clear from the Scripture. Of course, Christ in the inner man matters most, not how we do or do not celebrate outwardly; however, in time, large parts of the church began to celebrate Christ’s birth, and they celebrated it on December 25th. Why? Because of what had been handed down by those who knew the date, some of whom were there on the date or must have heard from those who were there. Remember also that Luke 2:17-18 says the shepherds made known what the angel had told them about the child.
Christ’s coming was the awaited fulfillment of God’s promise to mankind and prophetic utterances both Biblically and before the Bible. It was both the known birthday of a child, and an eternal shift foretold in the stars and marked in the heavens. I have personally been studying other proofs of the time of Christ’s birth. I am not an expert in astronomy by any means, but I am studying others who are experts and believers in Christ. You can as well if you wish, starting with this chapter from The Gospel in the Stars by Joseph Seiss*, and I hope you will, for He who created the heavens and all their starry hosts placed His testimony in them. Astrology has been and is Satan’s attempt to hide the astronomical fact that the heavens declare the glory of our God and Savior Jesus Christ.
*Joseph Seiss devotes an entire chapter in his 1882 book The Gospel in the Stars to the question of the Star of Bethlehem, the Magi from the East, the historical and astronomical proofs we can observe, and the conclusion we can draw. The writing may be a little dense and difficult for modern readers, but if you are interested in further study about the date of Christ’s birth and why we celebrate it on December 25th, you can read the entire public domain chapter here.
You might also be interested in this poem the Lord gave Donna about the testimony of Christ in the stars: The Stars Do Speak