Was Jesus Born On December 25th?
By Shane Pruitt
(This Article was picked up by The Christian Post)
It’s the age-old question, “Was Jesus born on December 25th”? Is this actually Jesus’ birthday? The answer is… We really don’t know when Jesus’ actual birthday was. Some Bible scholars say that Israelites didn’t celebrate birthdays, because it was more of a ritual from surrounding pagan cultures. In Bible times, they would have taken the advice of King Solomon literally, “A good name is better than precious ointment, and the day of death than the day of birth (Ecclesiastes 7:1 ESV).”
So, it still begs the question, “How did Christmas land on December 25th”? Most historians believe that it was a Christian response to the Roman pagan holiday called Saturnalia, celebrated from December 17th – 24th. Saturnalia was celebrated during the Winter Solstice, a time when days are the shortest between the sun rising and the sun setting. The days were characterized with lots of darkness, cold, and most of the vegetation and crops were dead during this time of the year. But, they knew the sun was always shining, and after the Winter Solstice the days would start to get longer again. Spring will always follow Winter, which means warmth, new life, and bright light were all on their way.
During Saturnalia, the Romans would worship the Sun-Undefeatable, while also exchanging gifts in honor of him. The light of the sun always defeats the darkness. One of the most heinous traditions of Saturnalia was every year when the festival began, the Roman authorities chose “an enemy of the Roman people” to represent the “Lord of Misrule.” Each Roman community selected a victim whom they forced to indulge in food and other physical pleasures throughout the week. At the festival’s conclusion, December 25th, Roman authorities believed they were destroying the forces of darkness by brutally murdering the innocent man or woman who they chose to represent “the forces of darkness”. Another, more favorable festival of Saturnalia was when slaves would be treated to a banquet, and served by their masters.
But, God is the great Redeemer. He is the only One worthy of our worship. All throughout history people have chosen to worship the creation over the Creator, and worship lies over the Truth. However, the Gospel is all about correcting false teachings, so many scholars believe this is why early Christians might have given the festival, Saturnalia, a new meaning – to celebrate the birth of the Son of God ‘the true unconquered Son’!
Jesus our great KING took the form of a servant to serve us, who were slaves to sin. He is the only Son-Undefeatable. He is the light of the world, who brings new life! He was the innocent One, who was sacrificed for us. That is the good news of great joy!
Just to be clear…Christmas to the believer is not just a date on the calendar (December 25th), but rather a truth that we believe in the Incarnation. The second person of the Trinity, also known as God the Son, became a human (but never stopped being God) to die as a human…for humanity. The full authentic Christmas story is Jesus was born in a Cradle, grew into a full grown man who died on a Cross, and is now a fully alive King who wears a Crown.
Jesus in a Cradle – Jesus was God in a cradle in Bethlehem. He was the picture of a promise keep throughout the Old Testament of a coming Messiah. The wise-men brought Him gold, frankincense, and myrrh. But He was bringing the world Peace, Love, Joy, and Hope!
Jesus on a Cross – This baby would grow up to be a full grown man that would take our place on the cross. He would give us the perfect picture of sacrifice, but three days later, He busted out of the grave. This wasn’t some lame gift that you had to return or regift. God give us His very best… Himsef!
Jesus with a Crown – Just like the Old Testament saints waited in anticipation for the 1st Coming of Jesus, the New Testament saints (the Church) is waiting in anticipation for the 2nd Coming of our King Jesus. But that Christmas day will look very different then the first Christmas day, because the first time Jesus came to earth – a few wise-men bowed before Him, but when He comes again every knee will bow before Him as King of Kings and Lord of Lords.
Christmas isn’t a date on the calendar, but rather, a lifestyle for the believer!