CHRISTMAS: FROM HEAVEN OR MEN
Garden City, Michigan church of Christ Bulletin
To many people Christmas is full of religious significance as a time to honor Christ and His birth. Yet, what is the origin of Christmas? This is an important question to those who desire to worship and serve God according to the Scriptures. Jesus asked those who were questioning Him concerning the baptism of John if it was “from heaven or men” (Luke 20:4). The chief priest and elders who opposed Jesus had only human authority for much of their doctrine and practices. The baptism of John was of divine authority, yet had been wrongfully rejected by them. All religious practices and observances today, including Christmas, must submit to the test Jesus required—is it from heaven or men?
When one searches the Scriptures he neither finds the term “Christmas” nor the birth of Christ being celebrated under any other name. In fact, to learn of the origin of Christmas one must go to the encyclopedia rather than the Bible. The encyclopedia tells of a Catholic pope by the name of Liberius who, in the middle 300’s AD, ordered that December 25 be adopted as the official day to observe the birth of Christ. The pope said, “We have a Mass for every saint, but there is no Mass for Christ.” Thus, he decreed the observance of “Christ Mass” (Christmas) day. For many years, in fact for many centuries, Christmas(s) was strictly a Catholic holiday (holy day). Eventually various Protestant churches began to borrow this holiday, making it a religious observance. It is plain to see that the religious observance of Christmas did not originate from the inspired teaching of Christ or His apostles and is thus not from heaven, but from men.
Reading the accounts of the birth of Jesus in Matthew and Luke, one finds nothing about the observance of that day. Neither is there found the mentioning of a day, month or year it took place. Concerning the month and Christ’s birth one will find that Luke mentions there were shepherds with their sheep in the field at the time of Christ’s birth. Most Bible scholars agree that the mentioning of this fact probably means it was during the spring or summer, not winter, that Jesus was born. However, the exact date is unknown.
We must have divine authority for all that we do in our worship lest our worship be in vain. Jesus warned against vain worship declaring, “This people draweth nigh unto me with their mouth, and honoureth me with their lips; but their heart is far from me. But in vain they do worship me, teaching for doctrines the commandments of men” (Matthew 15:8-9). Whatever we do in word or deed we must do all in the name (i.e. by the authority) of the Lord (Colossians ). To fail to do this is to break fellowship with God (2 John 9).
Is the blessing of the birth of Christ worth remembering? Of course the answer is yes. But the Bible places the emphasis upon His atoning death rather than upon His birth. Only one day is exalted above other days in the New Testament Scriptures—the first day of the week. This is the day of Jesus’ resurrection which declared Him to be the “Son of God with power” (Romans 1:4). It is on this day that disciples are commanded to partake of the Lord’s Supper to remember the death of Jesus until he comes again (1 Corinthians -29; Acts 20:7).
The observance of Christmas as a religious holiday restricts thoughts concerning the birth of Christ to just one time during the year. To the Christmas- observing person a sermon on the birth of Christ during June would seem completely out of place. The singing of “Silent Night” in August is unheard of—”That’s a Christmas song!” Should we not contemplate and thank the Lord for the birth of Christ throughout the year?
Many times we hear pleas to put Christ back in Christmas. Such pleas come from sincere people who want to honor Christ, but realize most people’s observance of Christmas fails to do this. It can be seen from the Scriptures and from secular history that Christ was not in Christmas from the beginning. Thus, the plea should not be to put Christ in Christmas, but to put Christ in our lives, worshipping and honoring Him as He has directed in the Scriptures. It is then that Christ will be truly honored, and love and benevolence will not be seasonal, but seen in our lives year round.