The Real Story of Christmas

By Frank Brown

The harvest season is past, autumn is history, and winter has arrived.  And, as in every winter for the past 4,000 years or so, a transformation has taken place all across our land.  Stores are decked out in gaily colored decorations of holly, mistletoe, wreaths, bells, bulbs and orbs, and evergreen trees. 

Images of a short, fat man dressed in a red suit are seen everywhere.  Millions of innocent little children have been told that this mythical creature is the giver of all good things, and they’d better be good, or he won’t visit them at midnight on the appointed day, with their favorite toy  (tickle me Elmo?!!).

Homes have been transformed.  Lights are strung all over the rooftops and eaves.  Big green wreaths with red berries have been placed on front doors.  A place was made in the living room or den for one of life’s true “necessities” at this time of year, a Christmas tree, decorated with some or all of the aforementioned items: lights, bulbs, orbs, fake icicles, probably a star on top, and gifts underneath it.

Parties are held.  There was mistletoe to kiss under, a wassailing bowl to drink from, and maybe even a yule log on the fireplace, and ham on the table.  It is a season of revelry, when drunkenness and debauchery are commonplace and accepted by almost everyone.  After all, it’s the season to be jolly, right?

Friends, think for a moment.  What does all this hoopla - all this riotous partying - this frenzy that overtakes us every year at this time - what does all this have to do with the gentle carpenter from Nazareth?  How does this honor Him?  What do we learn from it?  Do we somehow draw closer to Him because of it?  Or, do most people even give Him a serious thought, during this time?

The 25th of December is supposed to be the birthday of Yahshua the Messiah, our Savior, the Son of the most High El, Yahweh.  And all this feverish activity is supposed to be in His honor, and to His glory.  But is it?  Does He look down from Heaven on our efforts, and say, “What a nice bunch of people!  Look, Father, they’re celebrating My birthday!”? 

Is this observance commanded in the Bible?  Or, could the opposite be true?  Could it be possible that the celebration of such festivals is forbidden by Almighty Yahweh in His word?  And, does it really matter, anyway?

While I realize that most readers of this article already understand the origin and significance of Christmas, many others do not.  And, it never hurts to refresh our minds with the truth, does it?

Well, let’s answer these questions we have raised.  First off, our Savior was not born on, or anywhere near, December 25th.  Maybe you are one who never checked up on some of the observances that professing Christians practice.  So you may not know that Christmas originated in paganism, and that everything associated with it, from the mistletoe, wassailing, exchanging of gifts, holly wreaths, Santa Claus (St. Nicklaus), gaily decorated trees with lights and bulbs, eggnog bowls, and even the yule log, are all merely heathen, pagan inventions of men to honor gods which are not gods.  None of these customs have anything at all to do with our Savior, Yahshua the Messiah.

Now notice this!  When Yahweh expelled the pagan nations from Canaan before the advancing armies of Israel, He explained to His people that these pagans were losing their land because of their religious practices. They worshipped idols, the sun, the moon, the host of heaven; they worshipped fertility symbols and trees..

So, Yahweh warned His people not to worship Him in such fashion.  He told the Israelites in Deut. 12:29, “When Yahweh your El shall cut off the nations from before you, whither you go to possess them, and you succeed them, and dwell in their land (v. 30) Take heed to yourself  that you be not snared by following them, after they be destroyed from before you; and that you inquire not after their gods, saying, how did these nations serve their gods?  Even so will I do likewise.  (V.31) You shall not do so unto Yahweh your El:  ----- (V. 32) What thing soever I command you, observe to do it: you shall not add thereto, nor diminish from it.”

Yahweh strictly warned his people not to take up the ways of these people, not to worship Him with the symbols, ceremonies, and other practices of these pagans.  Yet, that is exactly what they did, and it is also exactly what we have done.  All these customs we follow today, were once used to honor false “gods” and idols.

Notice Jeremiah 10:2a:  Learn not the way of the heathen....v. 3: for the customs of the people are vain: for one cuts a tree out of the forest,....with the ax.  V. 4:  They deck it with silver and gold; they fasten it with nails and hammers that it move not.   Does this sound familiar?

We are told to worship Him as He commands, and to add nothing thereto.  Deuteronomy 12:32, What thing soever I command you, observe to do it: you shall not add thereto, nor diminish from it.          

There is no command in the Bible to celebrate the Messiah’s birth.  We are told, rather, to observe His death.

I Cor. 11:24, And when he had given thanks, he brake it, and said Take, eat; this is My body, which is broken for you: this do in remembrance of me.  25, After the same manner also, He took the cup, when He had supped, saying, This cup is the new testament in My blood: this do ye, as oft as ye drink it, in remembrance of Me.  26, For as often as ye eat this bread and drink this cup, ye do show the Master’s death till He come.

Our Savior gave these instructions the night before He died the next afternoon.  It is an annual occasion, NOT quarterly, monthly, or weekly, as some practice.

Not only is there no command to observe our Savior’s birthday, no one knows for sure when it is.  If He had wanted it celebrated, don’t you think He would have left instructions?  At least the date?  Why do you suppose the Scriptures don’t say when He was born?  Could it be that He didn’t want it celebrated?  Remember the scripture about not adding to or taking from His word?

One thing is certain, however. He was not born on or anywhere near the 25th of December.  That date had for 2,000 years or so before His birth, been celebrated as the birthday of the SUN-GOD.  In ancient Rome, it was a festive occasion, much like today’s. After the Roman Empire adopted Christianity as the state religion, they tried to induce the pagan residents of their kingdom to give up their pagan ways and worship “Iesous,” pronounced, “EEAYSOOS.”  (This is what Yahshua sounds like in Greek.   The “I”, forerunner of the modern “J”, has the “Y” sound; they have no “sh” sound, and an “a” ending is feminine in Greek, so they changed it to a masculine “s.”  Note that the original King James Bible and its predecessor, the Geneva Bible, both used “I’s” (which were pronounced with a “Y” sound. The “J” was not yet invented).

But the pagans would not give up their festive, licentious annual holidays, Easter, Saturnalia, Brumalia, Samhain (Hallowe’en), Valentine’s day, etc., so the Romans let them keep these days, and just changed their names to sound more “Christian.”  Instead of Dec. 25th being called the birthday of the sun-god, it became known as the birthday of the SON OF GOD. 

Even the most cursory examination of any encyclopedia article on Christmas, or the many articles that appear in newspapers and magazines this time of year, will verify these facts. But sadly, it seems that most people are already aware of these truths, but just don’t care.  They fail to see the importance of following the Scriptures in their worship of their Maker. They don’t understand that He WILL NOT accept worship that honors or has ever honored false gods and idols.  This breaks the First and Second of the Ten Commandments. 

Part of the apathy associated with the origins of the Christmas customs stems from the fact that probably a majority of those who celebrate Christmas are not in the least religious.  That is, while many of them might claim to be Christians in a nominal sense, in practice they seldom attend church or assembly, or let the Bible have any real authority in their daily lives.  Most are Bible illiterates.  My own cousin, a Methodist, once stated that it was Noah who led the Israelites out of Egypt.  Another, a public figure, stated in a speech that the Israelites wandered in the wilderness for 400 years.  When I mentioned to him that the actual figure was 40 years, he refused to believe it, saying that he had checked his figures with a minister before giving the speech. So much for nominal Christian ministers and their Bible knowledge!

Which brings up another point.  Surveys show that a majority of today’s seminary graduates (tomorrow’s pastors and teachers) do not take the Bible seriously.  Most do not believe that the Messiah will ever set foot on this earth again (Zech. 14:4).  Many don’t believe that He was born of a virgin (Luke 1:26-35).  They are almost unanimous in declaring that the Laws set in motion by the Creator are “done away,” that the seventh day Sabbath was for the Jews only, and magically changed to Sunday when the Savior died.  The Bible, simply put, holds no authority for them.  They refuse to be bound by its requirement that only those who repent, accept the Savior’s sacrifice for their sins, and then OBEY, will be saved (Acts 2:38, 5:32).

But you, brother or sister, don’t have to be swept along with the tide of public opinion.  You don’t have to follow the traditions of men.  We must work out our own salvation with fear and trembling, as the Apostle Paul wrote.  No one else can obtain salvation for us.  Our Savior, Yahshua, is the only way (Acts 4:10-12). 

Sin is the transgression of the Law (1 John 3:4).  If the law were done away, there would be no sin.  Yahshua didn’t do away with the law, He released us from the death penalty we had incurred for breaking that law.  He died in our stead, paying the penalty for us, then was resurrected that we might have life, sending the Holy Spirit to dwell in the minds of those who will obey (Acts 5:32, Romans 8:9).  It is necessary to have the faith of Yahshua, and also to keep the commandments of Yahweh Rev. 14:12), in order to be saved.

If you are keeping the Commandments, and have faith in Yahshua’s sacrifice to save you, you will not be trying to worship the Most High, Yahweh, like the pagans worshipped their idols.  We are told to “come out of Babylon  (this world’s glittering society) that we be not partakers of her sins and receive not of her plagues” (Rev. 18:4).   Taking part in these worldly holidays is just one way those who don’t know or don’t care (or who don’t think Yahweh cares) are incurring the wrath of Yahweh.  They will ultimately bring curses upon themselves and their loved ones, if they don’t repent and turn from their evil ways.

But, you may say, if we are not to observe these days that were originally dedicated to false gods, then what are we to do?  And, how do you know that our Savior was not born on December 25?  Especially in light of the fact that the Bible does not say when He was born?

First off, He DID give us annual Holy Days, as well as the weekly 7th day Sabbath.  Christians call them all “Jewish,” and refuse to observe them, saying they are all part of the law, and therefore done away with under the New Covenant

Well, it is true that they are part of the Law, but definitely not “done away with.”  There are many instances where the apostles and others in the New Testament observed them, including the Messiah Himself.  And, remember, He is our example - we are to walk in His footsteps

(1 Pet 2:21)  For even hereunto were ye called: because Messiah also suffered for us, leaving us an example, that ye should follow his steps:

In the 23rd Chapter of Leviticus we find all of Yahweh’s Holy Days, starting with the weekly Sabbath.  Then, listed in order, are the Passover, Days of Unleavened Bread, Pentecost (Feast of Weeks), Trumpets, Day of Atonement, the Feast of Tabernacles and the Last Great Day.  There are a total of 19 days, of which seven are High Sabbaths, that we are to observe annually.

Passover, the preparation day for the Feast of Unleavened Bread, is the 14th day of the first month in the Biblical calendar (Springtime, not the dead of winter).    Feast of Unleavened Bread, a 7-day festival, begins on the 15th of this same month, Abib, and ends on the 21st.  The first and last days are High Sabbaths.

Feast of Weeks (Pentecost), a one-day High day which comes 50 days after the Wave Sheaf is offered.  This is the High day that was being observed in Acts 2, when the Holy Spirit was given to the Apostles.  If they had not been keeping this Festival, they would not have received the anointing of the Holy Spirit.

Feast of Trumpets, a one-day High Sabbath which comes on the first day of the seventh month, Tishri.  This is generally late September to mid-October on our Roman calendar.

Day of Atonement, on the 10th day of this 7th month.  This is a fast day, not a feast day; a day when we abstain from food and drink for 24 hours.  It, like all days, begins at “even,” or the end of the light part of the day.  See Leviticus 23:27-32.

Feast of Tabernacles, Tishri 15 through 21.  The first day is a High Sabbath.          

Last Great Day, called    the “8th day of the Feast,” is also a High Sabbath, and is on the 22nd of Tishri.

These days picture Yahweh’s plan of salvation for His creation.  There is ample Biblical evidence that they were kept by the New Testament converts.  For example, note the following scriptural references:  Luke 2:41-42, He kept the Passover as a child.  1 Cor. 5:7-8, Paul said Yahshua our Passover is sacrificed for us, therefore “let us keep the Feast (of unleavened bread).”  Acts 12:1-4, recounting Peter’s arrest during the days of Unleavened Bread.  Note in verse 4, the King James version, last part, “... intending after Easter to bring him forth to the people.”  This is probably the most blatant intentional mistranslation in the entire Bible.  The original word is the Hebrew “Pesach,” Greek “Pascha,” and means, of course, Passover.  Acts 2:1, all the disciples were gathered together to keep the Feast of Pentecost.  In Acts 20:6 is the account of a large group of disciples, including Paul, who kept the days of Unleavened Bread.  Then in verse 16 of this same chapter, Paul is hurrying to be in Jerusalem for the Feast of Pentecost.  Then in 1 Cor. 16:8, he said he would wait at Ephesus until Pentecost.  In Acts 18:21, he said, “I must by all means keep this feast that cometh in Jerusalem...,”  This is thought by scholars to be the Feast of Tabernacles in 52 CE (Common Era).  And in Acts 27:9 reference is made to the Fast being now already past.  Biblical commentaries and scholars agree that this is a reference to the Day of Atonement, which comes in the fall of the year, when sailing on the Mediterranean is dangerous, even now. 

Secular history also records that the majority kept these days until pressure from Rome forced them to either stop, be killed, or hide out and keep them secretly.  Many did just that.

Since the Bible doesn’t come right out and tell us when the Messiah was born, are there any clues to the date of His birth?  Yes, there are!  And some very convincing ones, at that. 

First off, as we have seen, December 25, the approximate time of the winter solstice back then (when the sun reaches its most south-ward point in its annual journey before beginning to move back to the north), was chosen hundreds of years after Yahshua’s birth because it was already being observed as the birthday of the “Invincible Sun.”

Secondly, according to Bible commentaries and other sources, shepherds with their sheep and other livestock were not left out in the fields during the winter.  Palestinian winters are harsh and cold. Winter is the rainy season, and no one stayed outside with flocks then.  Shepherds and their flocks were always brought in by around the middle to last of October.

All chronology points to our Savior having been born around the last of September to mid or late October at the latest.  But the most accurate indicator of all as to the date of His birth, is to be found in the Scriptures themselves.  Note especially the account of His birth in the gospel of Luke. 

Luke 1:5, There was in the days of Herod, the king of Judaea, a certain priest named Zacharias, of the course of Abia: and his wife was of the daughters of Aaron, and her name was Elisabeth.  Note that phrase, “of the course of Abia.”  Zechariah was to become the father of John the Baptist.  He was also a Levitical priest.  The priesthood had been divided up into 24 courses during the days of King David, with each course serving one week in the Temple at Jerusalem twice in the year.  When an annual festival came, they all served.  See 1 Chronicles 24.

Abiyah’s service, the 8th, would have been in late Spring, just before the Feast of Weeks, or Pentecost.  Now let’s read on in Luke 1:8, And it came to pass, that while he executed the priest’s office before Yahweh in the order of his course,...  v.13, But the angel said unto him, Fear not, Zacharias, for thy prayer is heard; and thy wife Elisabeth shall bear thee a son, and thou shalt call his name John.  Vss. 23-24, And it came to pass, that, as soon as the days of his ministration were accomplished, he departed to his own house.  And after those days his wife Elisabeth conceived.  Vs. 26, And in the sixth month (of her pregnancy, not the 6th calendar month) the angel Gabriel was sent from Yahweh unto a city of Galilee, named Nazareth, to a virgin espoused to a man whose name was Joseph, of the house of David; and the virgin’s name was Mary.  Vs. 36, the angel told Mary: and behold, thy cousin Elisabeth, she hath also conceived a son in her old age: and this is the sixth month with her, who was called barren.

So we see that John the Baptist was 6 months older than Yahshua the Messiah.  Since Zachariah his father served in the Temple in the 8th course, which fell during Pentecost time, late May to mid-June, he would have served two weeks before he could go home.  So, as we just read, he went home as soon as his service was over, and his wife Elizabeth conceived.  This would have been around mid-June to the first of July on our Roman calendar. 

Now, by simply counting forward nine months, we see that John would have been born around mid-March to mid-April.  Then, Yahshua’s birth, six months later, would have been around mid-September to mid-October; in all likelihood during the fall Holy Days, and possibly on the Feast of Trumpets, the very first Feast Day in the fall season.

Another Biblical support for this is in the fact that He died at Passover time (Spring), and that He was 33-1/2 years old when He died.  Simply by counting back 33-1/2 years, brings us to the Fall season for the date of His birth.

So, brethren, remember that the “Yule” or solstice season was originally a festival to honor the Sun-god, to implore him to return back to the northern climes with his life-giving warmth.  This was long before Messiah was born.  But to placate the pagans, who were being forced to become “Christians,” the Church allowed them to keep their pagan festivals, but gave them Christian sounding names.  The Catholic Encyclopedia confirms this merger in Volume 3, page 727:  The well known solar feast of Natalis Invicti, celebrated on December 25, has a strong claim on responsibility for our December date.”  Note, Natalis Invicti means Nativity or birth of the “Invincible Sun.”

I have a book called, 4,000 years of Christmas, which traces the winter solstice celebration of the birth of the sun god back into ancient Babylon and Egypt, 2,000 years prior to the birth of the Messiah.  Strangely enough, they used many of the very same customs in use today: evergreen trees, lights, orbs, gift exchanging, partying etc.

All this revelry truly has nothing to do with the gentle Savior from Nazareth who came to live a perfect life in our stead, and then die as payment for our sins..  This season has nothing to do with Him.  Yet people proclaim, “Let’s put Christ back in Christmas.”  But He never was in Christmas, and He never will be.

Some say, “well, we do it for the children.  What’s the harm in that?”  Two things:  First, they are taught to look to a mythical non-being for good things, instead of the Savior.  You are teaching them the way of the heathen (Jer. 10:2) This is idolatry. 

Second, you are teaching them a lie, then expect them to tell the truth.  We are admonished to turn from our evil ways and start following true righteousness.

Acts 3:19, Repent ye therefore, and be converted, that your sins may be blotted out....

Acts 26:20, (Paul telling King Agrippa that he had taught Jews and Gentiles) that they should repent and turn to Yahweh, and do works meet for repentance.

Matthew 7:21-23, Not everyone that saith unto me. Lord, Lord, shall enter into the Kingdom of heaven; but he that doeth the will of my Father which is in heaven.

Many will say to me in that day, Lord, Lord, have we not prophesied in thy name? And in thy name have cast out demons? And  in thy name done many wonderful works?  And then will I profess unto them, I never knew you: depart from me ye that work iniquity.

Matthew 15:8-9, This people draweth nigh unto me with their mouth, and honor me with their lips, but their heart is far from me.  But in vain they do worship me, teaching for doctrines the commandments of men. 

If you are one who is serious about wanting to please your Heavenly Father, then give up these pagan practices, tell your kids the truth, and begin to obey your Heavenly Father.  It’s not easy to buck public opinion and face the opposition of family and friends.  But then, who are we trying to please?  Peter said we ought to obey Yahweh rather than men (Acts 5:29).                    <*>       

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