You will notice an absence about the “birth of Jesus” in our worship today. For some that seems not only very odd, but nearly “unchristian.” Across the land the birth of Jesus is preached, praised and proclaimed in plays and manger scenes. Thousands will make their way to Bethlehem this week as a solemn homage to the birth of Christ.
So why don’t we do anything here? Do we have a “thing” against Christmas? Are we closet “Scrooges?” Are we “anti-fun?” None of those are the reasons. Let me explain why we don’t make a big deal about the birth of Jesus.
- The birth of Jesus really happened. Two of the four gospels tell of the events surrounding his birth. Since it is a part of the gospel, it is to be preached. We need to preach the birth of Jesus. God intended this story to be told to all generations, no matter what date is on the calendar.
- We don’t know when Jesus was born. The date everyone uses, December 25th, was chosen after a vote between several other dates. It wasn’t officially recognized as Jesus’ birth until centuries after the New Testament was completed and not by God, but by man. December 25th happened to be a pagan holy day. Some felt the need to use that date and so it was chosen. The word “Christmas” comes from the expression, “Mass for Christ.” It is descended from Catholic scholars who wanted a mass for the birth of Jesus.
- Jesus, most likely, was not born in December. That time of year is cold and wet. The shepherds were in the field and Caesar had ordered a census which required all male Jews to travel to the place of their birth (Luke 2:1-4). It is unlikely he would have ordered this at a time when the majority could not travel because of bad weather.
- Every holy day that God decreed was identified by God. The Lord revealed which day of which month and what exactly he wanted done. The Sabbath day, the day of Atonement, the new moons and in the New Testament, even the Lord’s Supper falls under this guidance. God declared when, where and how the holy day was to be observed. With the birth of Jesus, God declared nothing about observing it. He never told us what day or what month, or what we are supposed to do on that day.
Everything we do is specified by God. There are no examples of the apostles or the early Christians celebrating the birth of Jesus. All other holy days God declared exactly what to do. Ancient Israel was told to take a certain animal (the age, sex, and condition of the animal was declared by God) and to sacrifice it in a special way. God said nothing about the birth of Jesus. Are we to sing, “Happy birthday?” Are we to put on a play? Are we to rent some donkeys and make a manger scene? No one knows. God never said! He always tells His people what He wants. God’s silence must be respected. The emphasis is on the death of Jesus.
- Would there be anything wrong with having a special day to honor his birth? Why not ask Cain? Or, ask the sons of Aaron. They were involved in honoring God in ways he had not declared and he disapproved of what they did. But if we honor his birth, what about remembering his preaching? How about a day to remember his miracles? How about a day to remember his healings? How about a day to remember his compassion? How about a day to remember his power? How about a day to remember his prayers? Instead of all this, why not just do what the Father requested and preach his gospel and remember the death, burial and resurrection? This is what the early church did. The emphasis in the Bible is what happened after that baby grew and was offered upon the cross of Calvary. The death of Jesus is the theme of the New Testament.
- What about presents? What about lights, trees, snowmen, reindeer, Santa, Frosty the snowman and so forth? Keeping Christ out of it and not honoring the day as a religious festival, Christmas can be a holiday, like the 4th of July in which we gather with family, make memories and share traditions. It can be a very dear and special day for us. But let’s not seek to put Christ back into Christmas…he was never in it to begin with.