You’ve probably heard that there is no evidence as to the exact date of the birth of Jesus. You may have also heard that December 25th was chosen by Christians in the 4th century because it was a date when pagans celebrated one of the Roman gods. The theory is that Christians took that date to celebrate Jesus’ birth thinking it would make it easier for pagans to accept Christ. And they say that Christians adopted pagan rituals into celebrating Christ’s birth.
Recently, I read two articles written by scholars saying there really is “no record of a pagan holiday on or around December 25th.” That theory is not found in any early Christian writings. In fact, one writer said, “It’s not until the 12th century that we find the first suggestion that Jesus’ birth celebration was deliberately set at the time of pagan feasts.”
Andrew McGowan of Berkeley Divinity School said there is evidence from the early centuries that the date was chosen like this. Tertullian (one of the early church fathers) estimated that Jesus’ death based on the comparison of the Hebrew calendar with the Roman calendar would have been on March 25th. That came to be the celebration of the annunciation when Gabriel told Mary that she would be pregnant with Jesus. And Christians believed Jesus died on the same day he was conceived and then was born exactly 9 months after his conception which would be Dec. 25th.
Another belief among Christians today is that the letter x as in xmas is part of an assault on Christianity. But the truth is x was used in the 4th century as an abbreviation for the name of Christ. The Greek word Christos begins with the letter Chi which looks like an English X. It was done to save room on parchment which was so expensive then. And “Xmas” had become popular early in the 11th century.
So there are certain myths Christians hear and popularize for various reasons. But the truth of the matter is that Jesus was born. He was born to die so that we could live forever.
The Bible does not forbid celebrating the birth of Jesus. And those who believe it is sin, shouldn’t celebrate it (whatever their reasoning – even if it is based on myths about the origins of Christmas being adaptions of pagan religions). Some don’t celebrate it because it isn’t commanded in Scripture. Well, that’s true – but there are many aspects of the way we worship that are not commanded parts of Christian worship in the New Testament (like the use of buildings, instruments and hymnals to name a few).
For those of us who do worship Jesus and praise Him for His birth, I think we have good company. Mary worshiped God about the coming birth of Jesus. Shepherds marveled in wonder at the news the angel brought. The prophet Simeon praised God when he held Jesus 40 days after he was born as did the prophetess Anna. Take time to reflect on the wonder of the incarnation of God – Immanuel “God with us” (Matt. 1:23).