December 25th was discussed at length by the Early Church Fathers, and was not chosen out of ignorance. There weren’t really any pagan traditions surrounding it. In some areas lacking culture they’ve begun to add such ignorant practices, but only after their culture long died. In Holland they have lots of great celebrations of other days, but nothing for December 25th. (more on that in a moment)
Only recently some non-Christian companies (like happened with Rockefeller in America after the great depression and 2 world wars) seized on the moment, when there simply wasn’t anything, people held onto what little money they had. So in America they had to revolutionize things to get people into the commercial spending again. They inserted anti-Christian hymns, took over radio and newspapers, and made a crusade to go after the kids with lights etc. These things all took attention away from Christ, and commercialized things in the city centers with decorations etc. So in Holland, while they don’t have ANY secular “jingle jingle etc” Christmas carols that are Dutch for “Christmas”, for the first time ever they have started decorating the areas of their malls, it wasn’t done for the first 10 of 13 years I lived there. Even now it’s very little decoration put up by companies, to try and spur sales. This was a dead cultural American import, finally arriving just in the last few years.
Really no one even knew about a Christmas trees in the Anglo Saxon areas till Queen Victoria made a picture of her family in front of a tree. Then everyone begun to want one, and the Rockefellers seized the moment to insert it as a fake / commercialized revolution of sales, seizing on the basest selfish intentions, making up something a bit like the ideas that started Kwanza in the last 5 years.
About the date for honoring Christ, it’s one of many. As it’s mathematical center of both the high holy day season’s main big days, so it’s worth a look. Most will at least agree it’s the advent of something very good in nature (which “by Him were all things created”, and “without Him was not anything made that was made”). As it’s a fact that 9 months after December 25th is the main date for the high holy day of Tabernacles (fall feasts of YAHWEH). Most people believe that to be the day of His birth (September 25th), and so on the darkest day (or winter solstice Dec 25th) Christ came as the biggest light of the world. Some say also because 9 months before December 25th is the most pivotal day of Passover (Spring Feast season, starting the holy calendar), that’s the reason the early church fathers clung to the March 25th date so long as the important day of the vernal equinox *used to start the year*. As that date (March 25th) is when there is equal light and darkness, and is nearing the days (other side of the sun now) when there begins to be more light than darkness. So some have counted the most stable spring feast date of March 25th as the actual conception day, with December 25th as Christ’s birthday.
Many hails on many days to celebrate the coming of our King into the world. All hail to our King Yahshua (Jesus Christ, the only begotten son of the God of Israel)!
Collossians 1:16-17 “For by Him(the Son) were all things created, that are in heaven, and that are in earth, visible and invisible, whether they be thrones, or dominions, or principalities, or powers: all things were created by Him, and for Him: 17 And He is before all things, and by Him all things consist.” (Also see Rom 11:36)
There are various spinoff branches of the neo-Culdee protestants who don’t keep Christmas because it’s unBiblical. In early America our neo-Culdees passed laws forbidding the keeping of Christmas. The public law stated that Christmas is pagan and therefore sacrilegious and any caught celebrating would get fined. While every community should have their right of self determination to include banning various practices within their territories, it may not be 100% the best approach for all communities.
Many orthodox communities do not keep any of the added pagan traditions together with Christmas (like decorating the tree etc). So none of them should be attacked simply for honouring our King on December 25th. This article is written to fester comradery within all branches of the Christian faith (one faith, one hope, one baptism).
Our approach is always in the positive. If they don’t get it now, they will get it later and we will all grow together. We’re always to esteem the other better than us, and to serve them. We should not separate from other members of the body of Christ just because they celebrate our King more on one day than another. However all who are in Christ will continue in Him, and will want to celebrate Him more and more. Lets encourage that to grow until we all come in the unity of the faith that was once delivered to the Old Testament Saints(holy / apart ones).
This article is mainly to address (and end) the division between two camps. One camp being those who keep the original Hebrew feasts and the other being those who don’t(or don’t realize they are). Many don’t realize that the Hebrew Feasts, Sabbaths, and the Dietary laws, were very popular within Christendom, and much of it is still in the official doctrine and practices of the church (although unpopular and unknown).
We have on one side, the ones keeping the feasts are attacking the others, calling them ignorant and all sorts of things. However, those insinuations are the only things ignorant, as the pagan practices are shunned by the orthodox, and actually all the Biblical feasts (and numerous additional Christian celebrations) are celebrated and encouraged. We will only win when we side on the positivity and cite these references of truth. It was encouraged in all branches of Christianity, as it is also in the Bible, to celebrate Christ, as it all points toward His victories that we are to learn are to be fulfilled personally as well as nationally by the believers.
Popularity of false propaganda (on either side), and illiteracy are not excuses for the ignorance in either of these camps. Some of the facts stare us all right in the face and yet haven’t been realized.
Take for example this Biblical depiction of the visit of the Wise men, Christ actually was not an infant. This tells so much about the true orthodox.
There are many popular myths and fables surrounding the Christian religion that simply aren’t present in any of our texts or held up by any facts. The factual and Biblical narratives are often far from what is simply popular and commercialized.
Regarding “The Three Wise men” the Bible text never said it was three, it just said “wise men”, it also doesn’t say how old he was when they arrived, although the word there used in the text can mean several years old as a young boy (not an infant). The Scriptural also does indicate their caravans were so great, weighed down with so much gold, frankincense and myrrh they were hauling, that it caused Herod to call for a holocaust of all young Hebrew males.
Much can be shown about the actual birthdate of Christ. However it suffices to say we enjoy all the chances we get to hail our great King of Kings (Yahshua) the only begotten Son of the God of Israel, who will soon return to be our judge. We realize He also fulfilled many prophecies, and many Scriptures say He is a sun, and we as born again will grow as big as the sun. So being that it’s the date of the rebirth of the sun (December 25th) is Biblical. Some say He was conceived on this date, and not born. In any case we celebrate His coming into the earth, and what we all must do as being born again and look forward to the coming Kingdom of Christ on earth.
Some say Christmas is sacrilegious because some pagan gods were also born on December 25th, and also were crucified on the Biblical feast of Passover(same as Easter). That doesn’t necessarily disqualify Christ or this birth date, as He had foretold that many pretenders had come before Him but the sheep didn’t hear their voices, and that they were only robbers.
John 10:8 “All that ever came before me are thieves and robbers: but the sheep did not hear them.”
The pagan gods were all fakes, and only Jesus is the real. He literally did ascend up into heaven etc.
The Hebrew feasts were more the celebration dates, such as the “Great Birthday” on September 25th (Trumpets). It is more likely December 25th was the conception date. Most traditions point to this time of Epiphany as being the conception date.
In any case, here are a few references to show the date of December 25th wasn’t so popular early on as a feast or birthdate for any God, let alone Christ.
Saint John Chrysostom admitted Christmas was not part of his church’s tradition in a sermon:
St. Chrysostom in a Christmas sermon, delivered at Antioch in the year 386, said, ” it is not ten years since this day [Christmas Day on December 25] was clearly known to us, but it has been familiar from the beginning to those who dwell in the West.” “The Romans who have celebrated it for a long time, and from ancient tradition, and have transmitted the knowledge of it to us.” (Addis WE, Arnold T. A Catholic Dictionary: Containing Some Account of the Doctrine, Discipline, Rites, Ceremonies, Councils, and Religious Orders of the Catholic Church. Benziger Brothers, 1893. Original from Columbia University, Digitized Sep 15, 2009, p. 178)
Within the First Century and even as we see 4th Century church, they hadn’t yet heard of the December 25th holiday.
Many aren’t familiar that Saturday(the Hebrew Sabbath) had long been the primary day of worship in the Orthodox Church. Read more: http://christsassembly.com/2015/05/honoring-of-the-sabbath-in-the-historic-orthodox-church/
Polycarp (died circa 156AD) wrote in favor of keeping the Biblical seventh day Sabbath, Passover, the Days of Unleavened Bread, Pentecost, and the Last Great Day of the Feast of Tabernacles.
The Second Century Bishop Polycrates of Ephesus was spokesman for the whole of Asia Minor, and indicates his synod of Bishops convened for the purpose of defending the literal celebration of the Hebrew feasts. In his letter to the Roman Bishop Victor, he earnestly defended all the old testament aspects of keeping Passover, including removing leaven out of your house etc. In the letter he names his succession as the 8th Bishop since the Apostle John and his willingness to disobey the external pressures to change the observance of the feast to come in line with Roman festival days. His letter is very telling, and I suggest any get a copy of it. It can be found online, as was copied originally by Eusebius, and is in “The History of the Church, Book V, Chapter XXIV”,Verses 2-7 . Translated by A. Cushman McGiffert. Digireads.com Publishing, Stilwell (KS), 2005, p. 114).
Also see deeper analysis of his synod in Polycrates, Bishop of Ephesus. Translated by Alexander Roberts and James Donaldson. Excerpted from The Ante-Nicene Fathers (Alexander Roberts and James Donaldson, editors); American Edition copyright © 1885. Copyright © 2001 Peter Kirby.There you may read the letter made Pope Victor to excommunicate him and all Bishops of Asia Minor from the Roman church.
However history demonstrates that for the next several centuries Asia-Minor continued to follow the Hebrew festivals exactly, rather than change anything according to any new festivals of the church.
Saint Apollinaris, Bishop of Hierapolisalso wrote in favor of the Biblical Hebrew festival dates,
The 3rd-4th Century Saint and Bishop Methodius of Olympus declared ” …these things, being like air and phantom shadows, foretell the resurrection and the putting up of our tabernacle that had fallen upon the earth, which at length, in the seventh thousand of years, resuming again immortal, we shall celebrate the great feast of true tabernacles in the new and indissoluble creation, the fruits of the earth having been gathered in, and men no longer begetting and begotten, but God resting from the works of creation. …For since in six days God made the heaven and the earth, and finished the whole world, and rested on the seventh day from all His works which He had made, and blessed the seventh day and sanctified it, so by a figure in the seventh month…, the great resurrection-day, it is commanded that the Feast of our Tabernacles shall be celebrated to the Lord……..” (Methodius. Banquetof the Ten Virgins (Discourse 9, Chapter 1). Translated by William R. Clark.From Ante-Nicene Fathers, Vol. 6. Edited by Alexander Roberts, James Donaldson, and A. Cleveland Coxe. (Buffalo, NY: Christian Literature Publishing Co.,1886.) Revised and edited for New Advent by Kevin Knight. <http://www.newadvent.org/fathers/062309.htm
It wasn’t until late in the 4th Century that John Chrysostom, began to make great strides against the public’s observance of the Hebrew feasts(the feasts of YAHWEH). Using mercilous and dishonourable tactics He slanders what is called “the Feasts of YAHWEH” that h eadmits were observed by the whole of Asia Minor, and he calls these mere “jewish festivals”. He wrote several “Homilies against the Jews” where he admits that the majority did not keep the Roman festivals, but kept the the Biblical and Hebrew festivals of YAHWEH.
In 387 at Antioch John Chrysostom dissented,
“…Jews are soon to march upon us one after the other and in quick succession: the feast of Trumpets, the feast of Tabernacles,the fasts. There are many in our ranks who say they think as we do. Yet some of these are going to watch the festivals and others will join the Jews in keeping their feasts and observing their fasts.” (John Chrysostom. Homily I Against the Jews I:5;VI:5;VII:2. Preached at Antioch, Syria in the Fall of 387 AD. Medieval Sourcebook: Saint John Chrysostom(c.347-407) : Eight Homilies Against the Jews. Fordham University. http://www.fordham.edu/halsall/source/chrysostom-jews6.html12/10/05).
He further proclaimed,
“The wicked and unclean fast of the Jews is now at our doors. Thought it is a fast, do not wonder that I have called it unclean…But now that the devil summons your wives to the feast of the Trumpets and they turn aready ear to this call, you do not restrain them. You let them entangle themselves in accusations of ungodliness, you let them be dragged off intolicentious ways.”(John Chrysostom. Homily II Against the Jews I:1; III:4.Preached at Antioch, Syria on Sunday, September 5, 387 A.D.)
“So also the Law fixed the feast of Tabernacles.” (JohnChrysostom. Homily IV Against the Jews IV:3. Catholic Christians of AntiochTurning to Sabbath and The New Moon Day and Other Holy Days. 387 A.D.)
However, as far as all the Holy Days go, John Chrysostom wrote infavor about another “festival of YAHWEH”, which he wrongfully has been calling “Jewish days” “:
When, it says, the day of Pentecost was fully come: that is, when at the Pentecost, while about it, in short. For it was essential that the present events likewise should take place during the feast, that those who had witnessed the crucifixion of Christ, might also behold these… And, it says, there were dwelling at Jerusalem Jews, devout men. The fact of their dwelling there was a sign of piety: that being of so many nations they should have left country, and home, and relations, and be abiding there…for it was Pentecost. (Chrysostom J. The homilies of S. John Chrysostom, Archbishop of Constantinople: on the Acts of the Apostles, Volume 1, Homily IV. John Henry Parker, 1851. Original from Harvard University. Digitized, Apr 12, 2008, pp. 53, 55, 56).
John Chrysostom was the first to get the Orthodox in Constantinople to observe Christmas on December 25:
We may take it as certain that the feast of Christ’s Nativity was kept in Rome on 25 December… It was introduced by St. John Chrysostum into Constantinople and definitively adopted in 395 (Thurston. H. Transcribed byRick McCarty. Christian Calendar. The Catholic Encyclopedia, Volume III.Published 1908. New York: Robert Appleton Company. Nihil Obstat, November 1,1908. Remy Lafort, S.T.D., Censor. Imprimatur. +John Cardinal Farley,Archbishop of New York).
Lets take a look about the real day in the Didascalia.
Didacalia, Book VIII. excerpt, Upon Which Days Servants are Not to Work.
XXXIII. “Let them rest on the festival of His birth, because on it the unexpected favour was granted to men, that Jesus Christ, the Logos of God, should be born of the Virgin Mary, for the salvation of the world.”
Didascalia, Book V, XIII. “Brethren, observe the festival days; and first of all the birthday which you are to celebrate on the twenty-fifth of the ninth month; after which let the Epiphany be to you the most honoured, in which the Lord made to you a display of His own Godhead, and let it take place on the sixth of the tenth month; after which the fast of Lent is to be observed by you as containing a memorial of our Lord’s mode of life and legislation. But let this solemnity be observed before the fast of the passover, beginning from the second day of the week, and ending at the day of the preparation. After which solemnities, breaking off your fast, begin the holy week of the passover, fasting in the same all of you with fear and trembling, praying in them for those that are about to perish.”
Within the 1st Century Didascalia it makes reference to the Roman Calendar and that YAHWEH is using the Roman Nobility. For sure it was on the equinox, that corresponds with the Hebrew day of Feast of Tabernacles. The world also celebrates on these days throughout the world without knowing it was the joyful day of His birth. In the Didascalia it specifies celebrating His birth on the 25th of the 9th month to be celebrated. (September 25th is the usual time of Equinox and Fall Feasts as well). It says in order, the next feast to have most honored (not being the most kept, but most honored), is Ephiphany. Epiphany meaning manifestation He was the Son of God. Traditionally it’s believed it was the date He was conceived by the Holy Spirit. It is also when the Holy Spirit descended in front of everyone, and He was proclaimed as His most beloved and only begotten Son, for the crowds to hear from the mouth of God the Father in heaven. That is the official opinion in most church doctrine. The Epiphany was also traditionally when the Wise(Magi) came to visit Jesus (Yahshua). The word for his age at their visit indicates he was not an infant but was a young boy, and not just days after his birth when the Magi arrived. So we celebrate His birthday with the Fall Feasts of God. Some say that could mean he was also born on the feast of Trumpets which is often landing on the Didascalia date of the 25th of September.
Yours in Christ
Rev Dr Stephen MK Brunswick