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WHAT MAKES IT IMPORTANT?
by David L. Brown Th.M.[This article may be reproduced provided it is reproduced in
its entirety, including this notice. It may not be reproduced for resale.
The printed pamphlet is available from Logos Communication Consortium,
Inc. P. O. Box 173, Oak Creek, WI 53154.]
© 1980, David L. Brown,
What Makes Christmas Important?
IS IT THE DATE?
Some mistakenly think that December 25th was the day Christ was born.
The honest truth is, that no one is exactly sure when Christ was born. The
Bible is strangely silent on the issue!
Let me share with you some interesting historical notes. Did you know
that the Apostolic and early churches did not even celebrate the birthday
of Christ? The only recognition of his birth that I have been able to find
was a century after Christ had ascended to heaven. An early churchman from
Rome urged the people in his congregation to sing musical prayers,
praising God for the birth of the Lord Jesus. No specific date was
connected with his encouragement.
It is curious to note that Eastern Orthodox Churches believe Christ was
born on January 6th and Armenian Churches celebrate his birth on January
One Bible Scholar, Frank R. Klassen, believes that Christ was born on
April 1, 5 B.C. In fact it is his theory that this accounts for "APRIL
FOOLS' DAY," because those who remembered Christ's real birthday were
heckled as "APRIL FOOLS."
Is that possible? I can tell you this from my research. .. No one is
able to determine the origin of April Fools' Day! It IS possible, yet no
one knows for sure.
HOW DID CELEBRATING CHRISTMAS ON DECEMBER 25TH GET
Many Roman Catholics would like to point to Pope Liberius, who in 354
A.D. decreed Christmas to be celebrated December 25th. In reality it was
the Roman Emperor, Constantine who declared December 25th to be Christ's
birthday in the year 336 A.D. What was his reason for this? It was based
on political pressure! Many zealous church members urged the decree.
Why December 25th? That day was already observed as a heathen
holiday..."THE FEAST OF SATURN, BIRTHDAY OF THE UNCONQUERED SUN." This
pagan feast began two weeks of festivities which included feasting,
drinking, abstention from work, special musical presentations and the
exchanging of gifts.
You will remember that Constantine was the first "Christian" emperor of
the Roman Empire. As a result of a vision of the cross, inscribed with "In
hoc signo vinces" which in Latin means by this emblem shalt thou conquer
in 312 A.D., Constantine gave full support to Christianity and proclaimed
it the official religion of the Empire. It is said he even ordered his
army to ride on horseback through a river to "baptize" them into
Christianity. It was Constantine's desire to "Christianize" December 25th
so that people would not have to lose a holiday and could honor Christ,
the Light Of The World instead of the pagan god Saturn and the Sun!
You can see December 25th is a MIXED BAG. It is NOT the day that makes
WHAT ABOUT THE NAME?
Where did the name "Christmas" come from? It comes from the Latin
"Christes Masse" of Christ's Mass. This grew out of the Roman Catholic
feast day by that name in the A.D. 1 00's. "Christmas" is not found in the
Bible, nor is it a prescribed scriptural holy day.
It is NOT the NAME that makes Christmas important! So what makes it
IS IT SANTA CLAUS?
This "Jolly Old Wit" never existed. How did we get him then? Well, it
took a lot of beating around the bush actually. Here's how it goes . . .
There was a churchman named Nicholas in Myra, which is in Asia Minor. He
lived in the A.D. 300's. Not a lot is known about Nicholas, except he gave
his possessions to the poor children in his parish. He was "sainted"
supposedly because he brought two children back to life who had been
viciously murdered. ln medieval times he was the Roman Catholic Patron
Saint of children, merchants and seafarers.
St. Nicholas had a special day December 6th, which coincided with an
ancient Roman Holiday at which time secret gifts were given. I have been
unable to find any information revealing when this Roman tradition of
secret gift giving was transferred to Christmas day with "Saint Nick"
regarded as the giver. But it seems that the transition took place in
Colonial American times.
We do know the Dutch brought him to the American Colonies as "Sante
Niklass" . . shortened and run together, forming SanteKlas or Santa Claus
as we say it today. Dutch children expected the friendly fellow to visit
them on the eve of December 5th and would place their wooden shoes in
front of the fireplace to be filled with goodies by the next morning.
The belief that Santa Claus enters the house through the chimney
developed from an old Norse legend. The Norse believed that the pagan
goddess Hertha appeared in the fireplace and brought good luck to the
It was not until relatively recently that our present day Santa Claus
really developed as we know him. In 1822 an American minister named
Clement C. Moore first described Santa complete with fur-trimmed suit and
his reindeer powered sleigh, for his children in a poem called "A Visit
From St. Nicholas." In 1823, at the bidding of friends, Moore published
his poem calling it "THE NIGHT BEFORE CHRISTMAS" in the Troy, New York
Sentinel. This well loved poem is the foundation of our present day Santa
As interesting as the Santa Claus is, and the history surrounding him,
it is NOT SANTA that makes Christmas important!
ARE THE TRADITIONS OF CHRISTMAS WHAT MAKES IT IMPORTANT?
There are many interesting traditions that surround the Christmas
season. You could write an entire book on them. I want to consider just a
few of them and explain their origin.
THE CHRISTMAS TREE
An early Roman ritual was to exchange green tree branches on January 1.
They believed this would bring them good luck.
The Scandinavian people once worshipped evergreen trees. They believed
godlike spirits inhabited them so people brought trees into their homes to
please the spirits and seek their blessing. When the Gospel of Christ
reached the Scandinavian people they made the evergreen tree part of their
The Old Testament prophet Jeremiah also mentions ancient pagans making
idols out of trees and worshipping them. in Jeremiah 10:3-5. This is a
reference to Asherah poles, not the "Christmas" tree.
But how did the "Christmas Tree" get to where it is today? Germans are
responsible for bringing the Christmas tree to the New World. The German
theologian and reformer Martin Luther (14831546) was perhaps the one who
popularized the "Christmas Tree" as we know it. The tale goes . . . One
clear, brisk Christmas Eve, Martin Luther was walking home under the
starstudded sky. It was so wonderful. As he walked he tried to think how
he could catch the beauty of that eve and bring it home to his children.
Suddenly he thought of a large evergreen tree gleaming with candles. He
proceeded to find a tree, cut it down and take it home to decorate it. His
children were delighted.
Hence we have the beginnings of our modern day "Christmas Tree" with
all the trimmings.
As interesting and beautiful as Christmas Trees are, they are NOT the
reason Christmas is important!
No one seems to know how it became a part of Christmas. Originally it
was a pagan symbol of erotic passions. Ancient Celtic, Druid Priests
(witches of sorts) used it as a charm to symbolize erotic passions.
Primitive Britons thought it possessed magical healing properties,
while early Romans regarded mistletoe as a symbol of peace and goodwill.
Somehow from all of this came our modern custom that a woman passing
under it should be kissed and if unmarried it was a sign that she was soon
This certainly is NOT what makes Christmas important!
It was the ancient custom of the Norse and Anglo-Saxons to burn a huge
oak log once a year in honor of "THOR -- God Of Thunder. "When these
people were reached with the Gospel of Salvation in Christ Jesus, they
"Christianized" this custom and made it a part of their Christmas,
There IS more to Christmas than burning a big log ... surely!
THE CHRISTMAS CARD.
Are these little jewels what makes Christmas special? This year
Americans will spend close to $1 billion on the cards and another $500
million for mailing them! Wow . . . ouch! Yet it was not until 1 865 that
Louis Prang of Boston printed and sold Christmas Cards in the United
Is that what makes Christmas important?
IS IT THE SPIRIT OF GIVING?
Many will agree that this practice has gotten somewhat out of hand.
Christmas is over commercialized. The "spirit of indulgence" has become
the rule, with credit card bills to prove it. Christmas is the MERCHANTS
DELIGHT and the CLERK'S DESPAIR, not to mention the post Christmas return
rat race! $10 billion will likely be spent in America this Christmas for
over 1 billion gifts, plus $150 million worth of wrapping paper. Don't
even ask me about the booze that will be bought and consumed between
Christmas and New Year's Day.
What would the Puritans of early America say if they saw Christmas
today? In colonial times they called its celebration "Romish Rags" because
of the features of paganism it involved. They even passed "Blue Laws"
forbidding the keeping of Christmas, making minced pies and cooking plum
pudding. A little harsh? I think so! But the big question still remains.
WHAT MAKES CHRISTMAS SPECIAL?
Strip off the day, the name, Santa and the reindeer, the tree,
mistletoe, Yule logs, cards and all the commercialization and what do you
have left? Some would say, "Just one BIG EXCEDRIN HEADACHE!" And they
would be partially right, because when it comes right down to it, for
many, December 25th is just an excuse to have a party, get drunk, spend
money they don't have or need elsewhere, overeat and take time off work.
For others it is a time of "Christmas Neurosis," loneliness, fear,
despondency and emotional stress.
Why not chuck the whole mess in the trash can?
Simply because Christmas is more than a day of traditionalism,
commercialism, materialism and indulgence. CHRISTMAS REVOLVES AROUND A
PERSON, THE LORD JESUS CHRIST. CHRISTMAS IS A TIME TO EXALT HIM AND WHAT
HE HAS DONE FOR THE WORLD. CHRIST IS WHAT MAKES CHRISTMAS SPECIAL!!!
Christmas in this day has come to include Christ, at least in some
measure, despite those who would try to isolate Him from it. The world is
at least aware of Christ. Millions sing Philips Brooks' lovely verses, "O
little town of Bethlehem... O come to us, be born in us, our Lord
Immanuel." Millions more will repeat, "unto us a child is born. Unto us a
son is given. And His name shall be called WONDERFUL... "
Don't abandon Christmas & don't be overcome with the evils of its
abuse, rather overcome the evils with good (Romans 12:21). Look at
Christmas as an opportunity to EXALT CHRIST. I am reminded of Paul's
letter to the Roman believers dealing with "special days --Romans 14:5 One
man esteemeth one day above another: another esteemeth every day alike.
Let every man be fully persuaded in his own mind.
It is not the day that is important, nor the customs that are observed.
What IS IMPORTANT is revealed in the next verse, He that regardeth the
day, regardeth it unto the Lord; and he that regardeth not the day, to the
Lord he doth not regard it...Romans 14:6 If we are going to celebrate
Christmas, we are to celebrate it in a Christ honoring way! This is what
has happened much of the time concerning Christmas. When the Gospel of
Christ reached pagan people they "Christianized" their traditions and
redirected them to point to Christ. I do not necessarily agree with the
reemphasis in some cases but I do know Christ is to be lifted up,
magnified & exalted. Today we need to do the same...PUT CHRIST IN
FIRST PLACE. Make HIM preeminent. because HE IS WHAT MAKES CHRISTMAS
CONSIDER WHY CHRIST MAKES CHRISTMAS IMPORTANT
The "Greatest Gift" of Christmas is Christ. Matthew 1:21 tells US why
-- "...call his name JESUS: for he shall save his people from their sins."
Again in Matthew 1:23 we find that he was to be called EMMANUEL, which
means "God with us." Christ was born of the Virgin Mary as God in human
form to save us from the guilt, penalty, power and ultimately the presence
of sin. This is why the Apostle Paul referred to Christ as the
"Unspeakable Gift" in 2 Corinthians 9:15. Even the Apostle John tells us
why Christ came ". . .the Father sent the Son (Christ) to be the Savior of
the world (mankind) . . for God so loved the world (mankind),that he GAVE
his only begotten Son, that WHOSOEVER BELIEVETH in Him should not perish,
but have everlasting life." I John 4: 14 and John 3:16. Dr. Luke wrote
"For unto YOU is born this day in the city of David a Savior, which is
Christ the Lord." Luke 2:1 1. Christ is the ONLY Savior! Neither is there
salvation in any other: for there is none other name under heaven given
among men, whereby we must be saved. Acts 4:12
DO YOU NEED A SAVIOR?
You do if you are a human being! Why? "Because all have sinned and come
short of the Glory of God." Romans 3:23.
"The wages of sin is death; but the GIFT OF GOD is eternal life through
JESUS CHRIST our Lord." Romans 6:23.
Christmas can mean forgiveness of YOUR sins and an abundant NEW LIFE
for you. If you have not received Jesus Christ, the risen Son of God, God
in the flesh, why don't you ask Him to forgive your sins .. why don't you
repent and turn to Christ and ask Him to Save you right now?
Dear Lord Jesus,
I know that I am a sinner. Thank you for dying on the cross for my
sins. I now choose to turn from my sins and open my life and receive you
as my Savior and Lord. Take control of my life and help me to be the kind
of person you want me to be. Amen.
Does this prayer express your personal desire? If so, pray it sincerely
and Jesus Christ will come into your life as he promised. The Bible says
in John 1:12 "But as many as received him (Christ),to them gave he power
to become the sons of God, even to them that believe on his name."
A CHRISTMAS PLAN
Oh, one other thing. Why not get your Bible out this Christmas season
and read the account of Christ's Birthday found in Matthew 1:18 to 2:23
and Luke 1:26 to 2:20. Read it to the whole family too.
What makes Christmas important? THE LORD JESUS CHRIST.
"Be not overcome with evil, but overcome evil with good." Romans 12:21.
[God's Free Gift to You]
[Preparing for the Holy One]
[The Marvelous Message of Christmas]
[Twas The Night Before
[What is Important
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