It’s Christmas again, and usually at this time of the year some Christians become conflicted about the celebration of this holiday because of its ancient pagan ties. Here is a little history lesson submitted by Dave Lindsey of Indianapolis, IN, that I thought you might enjoy as it gives some historical perspective to Christmas.
Our modern Christmas holiday came down through history via the Roman Empire. Prior to the Edict of Milan in 313 AD, Christianity was illegal in the Roman Empire. Emperor Constantine I converted to Christianity and it eventually became the official religion of Rome. The Romans had many pagan holidays, and over time many were Christianized and were given new names. At the time of Constantine’s conversion, Romans worshipped a sun god called “Sol Invictus”, and each year at the winter solstice (a time when the daylight hours began to increase), there was a celebration of the sun’s rebirth. This would correspond to late December on our Gregorian calendar. Over time this special holiday became what Christians recognize as the birth of the “son” of God, Jesus Christ, even though the actual time of Christ’s birth was most likely in the early Fall in the Jewish month of Tishri. All the other things associated with our modern form of Christmas, like Santa, elves, trees, and lights, come from cultural tradition and folklore.
So if Christmas has its roots in a pagan holiday, what should the Christian attitude be toward this holiday? Celebration of a holiday called “Christmas” is not mentioned in the Bible, but Romans chapter 14 deals with what the Christian perspective should be in regard to food, drink, and “special days.” It says, starting in verse 5, “One man considers one day more sacred than another; another man considers every day alike. Each one should be fully convinced in his own mind. 6He who regards one day as special, does so to the Lord” (Rom. 14:5-6 NIV).
Under the Mosaic Law there were many feasts, and Sabbath days that were required to be observed by the Jews. After some of the Jews converted to Christianity, they continued to observe the Sabbaths, but did so in light of the teachings of the Apostle Paul: that they were free from observing those days through the accomplishments of Christ, because he fulfilled the righteous requirements of the Mosaic Law through sacrificing his life on the cross.
Still, some of the Jewish converts continued to observe the Sabbaths as special, in light of those facts. Nowhere in the Bible does Paul teach the Gentile converts to observe the Sabbath, but he is instructing them not to judge a brother or sister in Christ because they are now regarding the Sabbath as a special day “to the Lord” (Rom 14:10). When we acknowledge Christmas as special because of the birth of Christ, and are doing so “to honor the Lord”, then that is in accordance with Scripture.
We are not declared righteous through any outward show of piety by observing special days, or through dietary restrictions. We are declared righteous through the redemptive work of our Lord Jesus Christ (Romans 5:1). For that reason, he is worthy of our honor every day.
God Bless and Merry Christmas