Where did we get the word?
Christmas the word is NOT found in the Bible. It derives from "Christ + Mass," that is, from the Mass Roman Catholics celebrate in honor of Christ’s birth on the night of December 24. Surprisingly, there is NO mention in the New Testament of any celebration of the anniversary of the birth of Christ! The accounts of Jesus' birth in the Bible are relatively brief. In contrast, roughly one third of each Gospel is devoted to the the last week of Jesus' life. To those who wrote the New Testament, Christ’s death is more important for our salvation than His birth. One factor that likely leads to the world focusing a bit more on this cherished winter holiday than Easter is that, in general, most societies (certainly the more prosperous ones) tend to celebrate births and not deaths.
Where did we get the DATE for the holiday?
The early Christians commemorated annually Christ’s death and resurrection at Passover, but we have no clear indications of an annual celebration of Christ’s birth. The date of Christ’s birth did not become an issue in the church until sometime in the fourth century A.D. At that time the dispute centered primarily over two dates for Christ’s birth: December 25 promoted by the Church of Rome and January 6, known as the Epiphany, observed by the Eastern churches. As Oscar Cullmann points out:
"Both these days were pagan festivals whose meaning provided a starting point for the specifically Christian conception of Christmas." (The Early Church, (1956), page 35)
The ultimate adoption of the 25th of December to celebrate the birth of Christ is perhaps the most explicit example of the influence of pagan Sun-worship on the Christian liturgical calendar. It is a known fact that the pagan feast of the dies natalis Solis Invict — the birthday of the Invincible Sun, was held on December 25th. Even after the church transformed and "christianized" the pagan day to celebrate the SUN into the day to celebrate the SON, it STILL had problems with those practicing what the day originally meant! Both Augustine (Sermo in Nativitate Domini 7) and Leo the Great (Sermon 27, In Nativitate Domini) had to strongly reprimanded those Christians who at Christmas were worshipping the Sun rather than the birth of Christ.
In his dissertation The Cult of Sol Invictus, Gaston H. Halsberghe states:
Why would the church of Rome feel the need to adopt the SAME DAY used to celebrate the birth of the Sun to celebrate the birth of Jesus? Mario Righetti, a renowned Catholic liturgist who is the author of the standard four volumes set on Storia Liturgica—A History of Liturgy, writes:
"The authors whom we consulted on this point are unanimous in admitting the influence of the pagan celebration held in honor of Deus Sol Invictus on the 25th of December, the Natalis Invicti, on the Christian celebration of Christmas. This influence is held to be responsible for the shifting to the 25th of December of the birth of Christ, which had until then been held on the day of the Epiphany, the 6th of January. The celebration of the birth of the Sun god, which was accompanied by a profusion of light and torches and the decoration of branches and small trees, had captivated the followers of the cult to such a degree that even after they had been converted to Christianity they continued to celebrate the feast of the birth of the Sun god." (page 174)
"After the peace the Church of Rome, to facilitate the acceptance of the faith by the pagan masses, found it convenient to institute the 25th of December as the feast of the temporal birth of Christ, to divert them from the pagan feast, celebrated on the same day in honor of the "Invincible Sun" Mithras, the conqueror of darkness." (Manuale di Storia Liturgica, 1955, II, page 67.)
It is a recognized fact that the adoption of December 25th to commemorate Christ’s birth was influenced by the pagan celebration of the return of the sun after the winter solstice. The date of December 25 is totally devoid of Biblical meaning and is grossly inaccurate as far as the actual time of Christ’s birth.
'Tis the season to steal
According to the National Retail Federation, the retail industry will lose an estimated $3.48 billion due to return fraud occurring during the 2011 holiday season. Return fraud occurs when a customer requests a refund either for merchandise that has been stolen or has been purchased with stolen money, or is returned for refund using a counterfeit receipt.
Does the Bible state when Jesus COULDN'T have been born?
Simple logic states that Jesus could NOT have been born in the month of December or even in November. Christ’s ministry began when He was about thirty years of age (Fall of 26 A.D.):
"Now Jesus Himself began His ministry at about thirty years of age . . ." (Luke 3:23, NKJV)
Jesus' ministry lasted for three and one-half years (42 months) until His death on Passover in early April. (for more information see our detailed timeline of Jesus' last week). If we backtrack 6 months from the time of Jesus' death we arrive at an early October / late September time frame for his birth - a far cry from the popularized December date.
Jesus' birth could not have occurred in winter for other reasons. From November to February shepherds in Israel did not watch their flocks at night, in the fields, due to the weather. During this period they brought their flocks into a protective corral called a "sheepfold." Shepherds would not have been in Bethlehem's fields to hear the announcement of Jesus' birth (Luke 2:8-12) if he was born in the cold of winter.
When and why did Mary and Joseph travel to Bethlehem?
Why were Mary and Joseph in Bethlehem at the time Jesus was born instead of at their home in NAZARETH? The simple answer is TAXES. The Romans, who controlled the land of Palestine, decreed a census would be taken to find out who lived in the land and what they owned so that they could be taxed. The King James Version Bible states:
"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] this taxing was first made when Cyrenius was governor of Syria.) And all went to be taxed, every one into his own city.
"And Joseph also went up from Galilee, out of the city of Nazareth, into Judaea, unto the city of David, which is called Bethlehem; (because he was of the house and lineage of David:)" (Luke 2:1-4, KJV)
When did the census enacted by the Roman Empire on Palestine take place? Commenting on the first few verses of Luke 2, the second edition of the Holy Bible in Its Original Order states:
"In his account of the birth of Jesus Christ, Luke records a major historical event of that time . . . The taxation and census decree by Caesar Augustus was carried out according to the Jewish custom which required that such taxes be collected after the fall harvest (See Unger’s Bible Dictionary, Chronology, New Testament, pages 199-200). Thus, Luke’s record of this taxation reveals that the birth of Jesus took place during the AUTUMN." (Holy Bible in Its Original Order, Appendix E, When was Jesus Christ Born?, page 1261)
Barney Kasdan in his book God’s Appointed Times wrote regarding Rome and its taxation policies:
"The Romans were known to take their censuses according to the prevailing custom of the occupied territories. Hence, in the case of Israel, they would opt to have the people report to their provinces at a time that would be convenient for them. There is no apparent logic to calling the census in the middle of winter. The more logical time of taxation would be after the harvest, in the fall," (God’s Appointed Times (Baltimore, MD, 1993), page 97)
When it came to taxes Rome knew what it was doing. It commanded a taxation census be taken when the people of the land had the free time (right after the big Fall harvest), the money (from the harvest) and weather to permit them to travel. Carrying out such a census in the cold of winter, when travel was difficult (and people had more excuses), doesn't make much sense.
Where did we get the images and symbols?
The clear non-Biblical origin of all the images and symbols of the holiday are openly reported and discussed by newspapers, magazines, television shows, books, encyclopedias, Web sites, etc. etc. Below are some brief examples of what some commonly available resources have to say about these images and symbols: