Why december 25th?
Except for the fact that Yeshua (Jesus) was born, not much else about the Christmas season even remotely resembles what we can glean from the Bible. How this remarkable event that changed the course of all history was transposed into the celebration we call Christmas is an astounding story. Any thinking person must acknowledge that Santa Claus, Christmas trees, and flying sleighs are a suspicious way to celebrate the birth of the King of kings and the Lord of lords. The birth of He who "led captivity captive," in whose name every knee shall bow, indeed the very Savior of the world, is celebrated in a most peculiar way. This is the story.
The first suspect in this charade is the date. Was Yeshua born on or even around December 25th? Scripture gives us the following account.
- LUKE 2:1-8 "And it came to pass in those days, that there went out a decree from Caesar Augustus, that all the world should be taxed… And all went to be taxed, every one into his own city…And so it was, that, while they [Mary and Joseph] were there, the days were accomplished that she should be delivered. And she brought forth her firstborn son, and wrapped him in swaddling clothes, and laid him in a manger; because there was no room for them in the inn. And there were in the same country shepherds abiding in the field, keeping watch over their flock by night."
It should be noted that many if not most, indeed nearly all critics of the late nineteenth and twentieth centuries completely discarded these passages as invented and fabricated by an unknown writer, decades, perhaps even centuries after the actual event. Their reason for believing that this record was a fable was simply because they had no evidence that these census' even existed. But thanks to diligent efforts by various historians and researchers in the lands of the Orient, we now know that they did exist, exactly as Luke had defined them. For further corroboration on this, see The Bearing of Recent Discovery on the Trustworthiness of the New Testament, by William M. Ramsay, pages 222- 300.
It is curious that Mr Ramsay explains for us that the ancient census was in some respects different than our modern censes'. A notable example is that for us the census was taken where we currently resided, but in the Roman Empire they were to register at the place of their birth. Also, they were allowed the entire year to find a convenient time to return to their ancestral home.
- "A year was open for the census; and people might present themselves at their place of origin for registration at any time during the year; but the later months of the year were most frequently used. . . .The Romans tried to cope in another way with the difficulty of numbering the people who might be far from home, viz. by bringing them at some time during the enrollment-year to their proper and original home; and they permitted them to come for enrollment at any time during the year." (from page 274, The Bearing of Recent Discovery on the Trustworthiness of the New Testament)
Howbeit, winter time in Israel is cold and wet and not a good time for travel (MATTHEW 24:20). It would have been unwise for Joseph to have chosen late December for him, his wife and infant son to return to Bethlehem so as to be registered. Perhaps this places our first question mark upon this date. Unless we can find in Scripture something that suggests a winter birth, perhaps we should rethink the traditional date which we have all been taught. There is excellent documentation for an autumn birth, most favorably September 11th (see Jesus Christ Our Promised Seed, Victor Paul Wierwille) or perhaps September 29th (See The Companion Bible, E. W. Bullinger, appendix. 179).
From his book, Was Christ Born in Bethlehem?, page 194, William Ramsay has this interesting comment concerning LUKE 2:8, where Luke notes that the shepherds were watching over their flock by night;
- In Asia Minor, at least, the pasturing of the flocks by night takes place only during the hot season and not in the winter. The sheep will not eat under the hot sun; they will stand idly in a dense crowd in any place where the semblance of shade can be found during the day, and during the night they scatter and feed. In cold weather they seek food during the day.
Because of this and other factors, he considers the birth of Christ to have occurred sometime between August and October.
One might naturally ask how Yeshua could have been born in September when all of Christendom celebrate His birth on December 25th? On the other hand, if there is no place in Scripture that states He was born on December 25, where did that date originate? Who first attached December 25th as the birth date of the Savior of the world? Where did the idea that Yeshua was born on December 25th come from?
Well, the winter solstice is the time of the year in the Northern Hemisphere when the sun at noontime appears to be at the farthest southern point in the sky. It occurs around December 21st and was an important event to ancient man. The Sun was commonly worshiped as the giver of life. As it descended southward in autumn, winter set in and to all those living in the northern hemisphere, the earth seemed to die. The pagans annually held feasts and celebrations to their gods assuring the Sun's return and the rebirth of life again in the spring. Some of these were the Babylonian Zagmuk festival, the Persian Sacaea celebration, the Greek festival in honor of Kronos, and the Roman Saturnalia festival. It was the Roman Emperor Aurelian (212?-275) who set aside the day of December 25th as "Dies Natalis Invicti Solis," the "Birthday of the Unconquered Sun".
In A.D. 312, after the Roman Emperor Constantine reportedly sees a vision and converts to Christianity, he ends the persecution against the Christians and sets about to unify Rome under one common religion. Because by the fourth century little remains of the true teachings of Paul and the other Apostles, all that is relegated by Rome is accepted, either willingly or reluctantly, by many in the Church. It was an almost seamless change to say that Yeshua, who was at the time thought by some to be GOD, was the true "unconquered Sun" who was born on December 25th. The Roman Catholic Church perpetuated the fable and so today we celebrate our Lord's birthday as December 25th.
We must consider one last issue before we pass on this subject. If it is true that our Lord was born in September, then when should we suppose that He was conceived? When was "the Son of the Highest" conceived in the womb of the Virgin Mary? If you count backwards nine months from September, you arrive at December. Was His long awaited birth indeed announced to Mary during this winter solstice?
Let us consider and ponder a brief quote from a paragraph from The Companion Bible.
- 3. The fact of the Birth of our Lord having been revealed to the shepherds by the Archangel Michael on the 15th of Tisri (or Ethanim), corresponding to September 29, 4 B.C.-the first day of the Feast of Tabernacles-must have been known to believers in the Apostolic Age. But "the mystery of iniquity" which was "already working" in Paul's day (2nd THESSALONIANS 2:7) quickly enshrouded this and the other great fact of the day of the Lord's "begetting" on the first day of the Jewish month Tebeth (corresponding to December 25th, 5 B.C.)- as well as other events connected with His sojourn on earth, -in a rising mist of obscurity in which they have ever since been lost.
So how about the Christmas Tree? From whence comes this absurd tradition of going into the wood and cutting down a perfectly good tree, bringing it home and erecting it in one's living room, decorating it with tinsel, ornaments, a star on top and finally placing gifts around its trunk? It must have its origins somewhere?! Well, lets first consider what Jeremiah wrote.
- JEREMIAH 10:3-4 For the customs of the people are vain: for one cutteth a tree out of the forest, the work of the hands of the workman, with the axe. They deck it with silver and with gold; they fasten it with nails and with hammers, that it move not.
Sounds suspiciously familiar doesn't it? Why would Jeremiah find it necessary to write about such a strange custom? If we today didn't wholly accept the customs surrounding our own Christmas Trees, we would no doubt find it hard to believe anyone would do such a strange thing as Jeremiah described above. Yet they did and what follows is why.
During the winter months, all plants seemed to die, except the evergreen. Somehow it managed to remain green all through the year. The pagans therefore assumed there must be something holy about this tree. They would therefore dress it up with "silver and with gold", even offering gifts unto it, placing them at the tree's base.
When these pagans adopted the religion of the Roman Catholics, they brought with them this strange custom. Of course no one claims that this custom is from the Scriptures. That matters not, even though the Holiday is suppose to be a celebration of the birth of Christ. What matters to most people is their customs and their traditions. Therefore, they remain wholly blinded to the great truths hidden in the Holy Book.