Redeeming Holy Days from Pagan Lies — Christmas

December 3rd, 2012 Post by

Of the major Christian Holy Days, Christmas, Easter and Pentecost are the high points in the Historic Church Year. On these Holy Days we celebrate God the Father’s gift of His only-begotten Son in the birth of Jesus Christ, we celebrate God the Son’s gift of His life, sufferings, death and resurrection at Passover/Easter, and we celebrate God the Holy Spirit’s gift of calling us to faith and dwelling in us through Word and Sacrament.

These Holy Days are also one of the main fronts in the battle against Christianity by people who wish to undermine Christianity. Part of undermining Christianity means undermining all the claims of Christianity about what the Bible teaches. The historical liturgical practice of the church has been the focal point of the application of Biblical doctrine to the faith and lives of the saints. By discrediting the liturgical practice of the Church the enemies of Christianity try to distract from biblical teaching for that day and discredit that teaching.

This is not to say that these liturgical practices or holiday traditions should be required in any legalistic way. This is to point out that the efforts of those who try to discredit the authenticity of Christian Holy days and seek to scandalize the traditions associated with those days do so to undermine the biblical doctrine the Church teaches through the observance of these Holy Days.

And so any Christian holy day that could be claimed is claimed by the anti-Christian groups. We have seen this with Halloween and we will see it with many other lesser Historic Christian celebrations.

There are two basic types of claims against each Christian Holy Day: The first type of claim is that the date itself was stolen from pre-Christian or pagan sources, and the second type of claim is that the traditions celebrated on that holy day are purported to be of pre-Christian/pagan origin.

So let us start with the date of Christmas celebration. We will look at two early documents from two Church Fathers, Clement of Alexandria and Hippolytus of Rome. Both of these wrote around the year 200 AD. They both put the date for the celebration of Christ’s birth at December 25th in our calendar. Some of the following is a bit technical. I apologize for this. But I think it is necessary for readers to have access to these resources and the arguments so they can understand what took place and correct the inaccuracies about when Christmas was first celebrated on December 25th.

When did the earliest Christians date the birth of Christ at December 25th?

In these paragraphs we are not trying to establish when the birth of Christ actually took place. We are trying to establish where and when the Church began to associate the birth of Christ with December 25th or January 6th.

The tradition of celebrating the Nativity of Christ on December 25th or January 6th was spread all across Europe, Africa, and Asia in the early Church. And the tradition was consistent. There was a difference between the Eastern Orthodox Christians and the Western Christians on which day should be emphasized. Should the Christian Church primarily celebrate the birth of Christ on December 25th, when His birth was announced to the people of Israel, or on January 6th when the Gentile Wise men, or Magai, visited him. Both days are celebrated in the Eastern and the Western Church. The Eastern Orthodox Church celebrates January 6th as the Baptism of Jesus rather than the visitation of the Wise Men. But both days were based on the early Church figuring from Scripture that Jesus was conceived in the Spring of the year at the time of the full moon of Passover.

The early Church emphasized March 25th the Festival of the Annunciation as the Incarnation of Christ. The old Catholic Encyclopedia is inaccurate in stating:

“The present date of the feast (25 March) depends upon the date of the older feast of Christmas.” [Holwek 1907]

The textual evidence from the early Church Fathers indicates the opposite.

In recent times there have been several helpful articles published on this topic. This article is indebted to Andrew McGowan’s article for Biblical Archaeology Review “How December 25 Became Christmas”, T. C. Schmidt’s wonderful work, and Roger Pearse’s work.

So, the question is, how early did the Church recognize December 25th as the Birth of Christ?

Before the year 200 AD writers in the Church had established several possible dates. These dates were based on the traditional understandings of when the world was created, the biblical texts, and some very complicated calculations involving solar and lunar calendars from different cultures. But by the time Clement of Alexandria wrote his “Stromata” during the period 193-215 AD: Clement wrote. [Stromata 1.21.145-146 ]

From the birth of Christ, therefore,
to the death of Commodus are, altogether,
194 years, 1 month, 13 days.
And there are those who have determined
our Savior’s genesis
not only the year,
but even the day, which they say took place
in the twenty-eighth year of Augustus
on the 25th of Pachon…

And treating of his passion, with very great accuracy,
some say that it took place
in the sixteenth year of Tiberius,
on the 25th of Phamenoth,
but others the 25th of Pharmuthi
and others say
on the 19th of Pharmuthi the Savior suffered.

Indeed, others say
that he came to be on the 24th or 25th of Pharmuthi.”

The important line is  “our Savior’s genesis.” The month of Pachon in the Egyptian calendar at that time corresponded to March in the Julian Calendar.

Christ’s genesis, or conception on the 25th of Pachon was in what our calendar would equate with March 25th. The celebration of Christ’s birth would be nine months later: December 25th, in our calendar. ANF 2:333 translates “birth” rather than “conception”. The translation of “genesis” as conception is consistent with Clement’s usage of this word in other contexts, for example:

“It is not therefore frequent intercourse by the parents, but the reception of it [the seed] in the womb which corresponds with genesis.” (Clement of Alexandria Stromata 3.12.83.2)

For more information on the interpretation of the greek “genesei” as “conception” see http://chronicon.net/blog/chronology/hippolytus-and-the-original-date-of-christmas/

This first evidence from Clement of Alexandria Egypt strongly suggests that before his writing the Stromata there were people in the Church who had already fixed December 25th as the birth of Christ.

A second example from the same period is Hippolytus of Rome (170 – 235).

Between the years 202 and 211 A.D. the Church Father Hippolytus wrote in his Commentary on Daniel (section 4.23.3) about the date of the birth of Christ.

For the first advent of our Lord in the flesh,
when he was born in Bethlehem,
which happened eight days before the kalends
of January [December 25th],
on the 4th day of the week [Wednesday],
while Augustus was reigning
in his forty-second year,
but from Adam five thousand
and five hundred years.
He suffered in the thirty third year,
8 days before the kalends of April [March 25th],
the Day of Preparation
the fifteenth year of Tiberius Caesaer

(The Greek text can be found in volume 9 of Migne’s Patrologia Gracae)

This evidence from Hippolytus of Rome shows that by the end of the 2nd century, the same era as Clement of Alexandria, Christians in Europe as well as Africa recognized December 25th as the date of Christ’s birth.

The fact that December 25th had been established for Christ’s birth by the end of the 2nd century is important for refuting claims made by modern pagans and others about Yule and Sol Invictus which we will cover in future articles.

There are other authors to consider, such as Julius Africanus (early 3rd century). Ephrem the Syrian (lived about 306-373 AD), and St. John Chrysostom (347-407 AD).

We’ll look at them as we have opportunity in the next few articles on the date and traditions of Christmas.

We’ll need to look at claims about Sol Invictus, the Winter Solstice, and Yule. For traditions we hope to cover Christmas Trees, Santa Claus, Caroling, and things associated today with Yule like mistletoe, Yule Logs, and the 12 Days of Christmas.






Rules for comments on this site:


Engage the contents and substance of the post. Rabbit trails and side issues do not help the discussion of the topics.  Our authors work hard to write these articles and it is a disservice to them to distract from the topic at hand.  If you have a topic you think is important to have an article or discussion on, we invite you to submit a request through the "Ask a Pastor" link or submit a guest article.


Provide a valid email address. If you’re unwilling to do this, we are unwilling to let you comment.


Provide at least your first name. Please try to come up with a unique name; if you have a common name add something to it so you aren't confused with another user. We have several "john"'s already for example.  If you have a good reason to use a fake name, please do so but realize that the administrators of the site expect a valid email address and also reserve the right to ask you for your name privately at any time.


If you post as more than one person from the same IP address, we’ll block that address.


Do not engage in ad hominem arguments. We will delete such comments, and will not be obligated to respond to any complaints (public or private ones) about deleting your comments.


Interaction between people leaving comments ought to reflect Christian virtue, interaction that is gracious and respectful, not judging motives.  If error is to be rebuked, evidence of the error ought to be provided.


We reserve the right to identify and deal with trollish behavior as we see fit and without apology.  This may include warnings (public or private ones) or banning.

  1. December 3rd, 2012 at 08:46 | #1

    There is a website totally devoted to this question on which I found a very good work by a pseudoname author “Pastor Fido” who wrote as an Anglican in 1652, Festorum Metropolis was the title, but it was published in English. Its on the sidebar of this link.

    http://dec25th.info/

    Really since 1652 there hasn’t been any need to write any more on the topic, Pastor Fido cleaned house then but sadly to no avail.

    Merry Christmas !!

  2. Carl Vehse
    December 3rd, 2012 at 09:05 | #2

    When did the earliest Christians date the birth of Christ at December 25th?

    In these paragraphs we are not trying to establish when the birth of Christ actually took place. We are trying to establish where and when the Church began to associate the birth of Christ with December 25th or January 6th.

    So, the question is, how early did the Church recognize December 25th as the Birth of Christ?

    Just to make sure the distinction is not lost between asserting December 25 (or January 6) as the actual date of the birth of Christ and the Church’s recognition of December 25 as the date for celebrating the birth of Christ, the question might be better phrased,

    So, the question is, how early did the Church recognize December 25th (or January 6) as the date for celebrating the Birth of Christ?

    For traditions we hope to cover Christmas Trees

    Presumably, the Rev. Heinrich Christian Schwan (1819-1905) will be included in the discussion of the history of the Christmas tree tradition.

  3. Rev. Mick Mathews
    December 3rd, 2012 at 10:33 | #3

    Dear Pastor Abrahamson,
    Thank you for this series. As you continue to write about the origins of Christian holy days, let me also encourage you to be careful about the Christian origins of our dating system. You have wisely avoided replacing BC and AD with BCE and CE (“before the common era” and “common era”) as some modern scholars do to downplay the importance of Christ’s coming. However, you have fallen into a common error of placing “AD” after a date. “AD” is the abbreviation for the Latin phrase “Anno Domini,” meaning “in the year of the Lord,” and properly comes before the date number, as in AD 200.

  4. Rev. Josh Osbun
  5. Johan Bergfest
    December 3rd, 2012 at 11:57 | #5

    This is an interesting article but, in my opinion, it misses three very important points. The first is that we do not know Jesus’ birthday. The second is that whether or not we commemorate important dates on the Christian calendar on dates that coincide more or less with pagan celebrations that preceded Christianity is of little consequence. The real threat from secular society is the degree to which Christian celebrations have been co-opted by capitalism and the degree to which Christians have gone along with it. And, the third, for practicing Christians, Christmas and Easter, like our Baptism, ought to be an every day celebration. Daily we remember that God’s promises to us have been fulfilled in the person of Jesus Christ and those promises already are fulfilled before Jesus’ birth, death and resurrection.

  6. jb
    December 3rd, 2012 at 18:26 | #6

    Johan –

    I can roll will your first and third points. Taking the third, every day is Good Friday and Easter and Christmass if we are attuned to what really matters.

    You first point, nah, we don’t have a specific date, but there is much to back the popular opinion of Dec. 25th. Most of all, Alfred Edersheim, who really got it, and had a clue.

    Worth a Google.

    As to your assertion that secular societies and capitalism have co-opted Christmass – please explain to me precisely how how either became, or made themselves, substitutes for the living God come in the flesh named Jesus.

    Answer: Neither, as nothing else since the first Christmass has been able to “co-opt” Christ. It is only we as poor, miserable sinners that have been co-opted, not Christmass.

    So – Have a very merry one, my friend! jb

  7. helen
    December 3rd, 2012 at 18:35 | #7

    @Johan Bergfest #4
    The real threat from secular society is the degree to which Christian celebrations have been co-opted by capitalism and the degree to which Christians have gone along with it.

    “Capitalism” couldn’t have done a thing to Christian celebrations if Christians weren’t as fond of “gifts” at Christmas and new clothes at Easter as anyone else. If that and food is our main focus, we do it to ourselves and confuse our children.

    Let us first have Advent, jb!

  8. Johan Bergfest
    December 3rd, 2012 at 19:05 | #8

    jb :
    You first point, nah, we don’t have a specific date, but there is much to back the popular opinion of Dec. 25th. Most of all, Alfred Edersheim, who really got it, and had a clue.

    It makes for interesting conversation. But, the popular opinion is just that…an opinion with zero theological significance.

    jb :
    As to your assertion that secular societies and capitalism have co-opted Christmass – please explain to me precisely how how either became, or made themselves, substitutes for the living God come in the flesh named Jesus.
    Answer: Neither, as nothing else since the first Christmass has been able to “co-opt” Christ. It is only we as poor, miserable sinners that have been co-opted, not Christmass.

    Agreed. But, I thought that was implicit in the reference to how Christians have gone along with the commercial side of Christmas.

    Your comment does raise a larger question. How is it that folks who understand that nothing can co-opt Christ from Christmas because they profess that nothing can separate us from the love of God in Christ Jesus, feel so compelled to defend Christmas from those who would suggest that the festival was preceded by a pagan festival; from those who would substitute “happy holidays” for “merry Christmas” in the market place; from those who would object to displays of the creche at public expense; etc. ?

  9. jb
    December 3rd, 2012 at 19:15 | #9

    Johan –

    Your last paragraph doesn’t matter.

    Celebrate over and against anything and all. At least we don’t have a Herod sending out troops to kill little boys.

    As to Edersheim – have you read The Life and Times of Jesus the Messiah?

  10. Johan Bergfest
    December 3rd, 2012 at 19:27 | #10

    jb :Your last paragraph doesn’t matter.

    I disagree. In my opinion, Christians bear false witness to the significance of the birth of Christ by the manner in which it has mounted a defense against the so-called “war on Christmas”.

    jb :At least we don’t have a Herod sending out troops to kill little boys.

    No.

    I’m a combat veteran. I wish that statement were true.

    jb :
    The Life and Times of Jesus the Messiah?

  11. jb
    December 3rd, 2012 at 19:37 | #11

    Johan –

    Pray tell . . .

    Just how are Christians supposed to mount a “war on Christmas” – except, by celebrating it all that much more? Be careful, my friend, that you do not accuse where no accusation is due.

    I sing Christmas hymns in Walmart in July, and I love seeing Christmass decorations out even before the ghosts and goblins of Halloween. I talk to people in the Christmas aisle in September, and they are excited about Christmass, and most are not excited about a spending frenzy, but in discussion, they get it about Jesus and his birth. What we so often miss in our attempts to keep Jesus so pure is that Jesus did not do so Himself. He was God in the flesh everyday! Christmass EVERYDAY.

    And thus, so should we be about Christmas everyday.

    You didn’t answer my “Q” about Edersheim’s book. You won’t read it and all its footnotes by Christmass this year, and maybe not digest it fully by Christmass next.

    In any case – I am having my usual blast with the Birth of Jesus. I do so most days, but all the lights and parties and gifts this time of year just make it so much better!

    Pax – jb

  12. Rev. Josh Osbun
    December 4th, 2012 at 06:55 | #12

    Johan Bergfest :
    It makes for interesting conversation. But, the popular opinion is just that…an opinion with zero theological significance.

    December 25th has incredible theological significance. The date was determined according to the crucifixion. Like all things, this date points us back to the cross of Christ. It might be the right date and it might not. What it is, however, is a confession of the saving faith. Unfortunately, most people completely miss that.

  13. December 4th, 2012 at 08:39 | #13

    jb :

    I sing Christmas hymns in Walmart in July, and I love seeing Christmass decorations out even before the ghosts and goblins of Halloween. I talk to people in the Christmas aisle in September, and they are excited about Christmass, and most are not excited about a spending frenzy, but in discussion, they get it about Jesus and his birth.

    I can understand the secular world preparing for Xmas by getting product in line to be sold. We do need to purchase our gifts and decorations before we wrap them and put them up. I can even see saying happy Xmas to someone during Advent, as you may not see that person before Xmas and it should be a happy one. Santa should be jolly and expected on Xmas eve. Just, please don’t equate this with a Christmas celebration or bring this in to the church.

    Advent is such an important season. It’s a time of fasting and repentance. A time to concentrate on the last four things: Death, Judgment, Heaven, and Hell. I love Christmas, but I know the difference between Christmas and Xmas. Xmas Belongs to the world. Christmas belongs to the Church. Just as the Crucifixion is necessary for the Resurrection, so is Advent necessary for Christmas. As the orthodox say Oh! Blessed Fall! Advent is a time to remember that what we justly deserve is the present and eternal punishment of our Lord, and that Jesus is coming to bring that judgment upon us. Let’s not be like the foolish virgins off celebrating Xmas. Christmas is the miracle that that judgment, that death, is presented to us in the form of a helpless and loving baby. The baby that Stephen, the Holy Innocents and John gave their lives for.

    I was in Macy’s a little before Thanksgiving. Most of the decorations were up, but Santa wouldn’t be there until Thanksgiving. Even so I stood under the sign that flashed “Believe.” I couldn’t help but wonder in what does Macy’s want me to believe. I asked a handful of employees. “Believe in Macy’s.” All you need to believe at the Xmas season is Macy’s. To believe in Christmas One must believe in the incarnation of God in his death and resurrection, in the promise of the world to come.

    I sometimes can be heard singing Christmas carols in the summer, and I even slip every now and then in Lent, but consider what is lost when we skip the wonderful Hymns and songs of Advent. How much richer are the twelve days of Christmas when we’ve prepared for them with: O Come, O Come, Emmanuel, But For You Who Fear My Name, O Savior, Rend the Heavens Wide, Comfort, Comfort Ye My People, Hail to the Lord’s Anointed, Macht Hoch Die Tür, Intonent hodie (on Saint Nicholas Day), Gabriel’s Message, Hark the Glad Sound! the Savior Comes, Joseph and Mary (The Cherry Tree Carol)? How much more meaningful are Saint Stephen’s Day and Holy innocents when we hear The Wren Song and the Coventry Carol sung for the first time this year?

    Don’t get me wrong. I’ll probably be singing Fairytale of New York as I walk home from Midnight Mass, and I’ll have enjoyed songs about cold, snow, sleigh rides and skating through out the frigid nights of Advent, but I’ll be celebrating the New Year for four weeks as I remember my mortality, and my lust for Hell, that I deserve God’s judgment, and the promise of heaven. Thank God for Advent, the Incarnation, Epiphany, Jesus’ Death, and Resurrection, Pentecost, and all of our feasts and commemorations in their proper seasons. When we keep the season of Advent in the world as well as the church we are united with the poor, the stressed, the estranged. We can sit with them and be judged. We can take them by the hand to the manger on Christmas eve. When they ask us “What is Christmas?” We can tell them because we’ve been with them.

  14. December 4th, 2012 at 08:51 | #14

    @Johan Bergfest #4

    I agree. The date on which we celebrate is really unimportant.

    It seems that every year some time about December twenty first someone throws down this challenge: You know Jesus wasn’t born in the winter. He was really born in the summer. Christmas is really a Pagan solstice celebration.

    I’m not really quite sure what this challenge is supposed to do. Is it supposed to shake my faith? Is the fact that there are other traditions that celebrate their rites at the same time as I remember the birth of Christ supposed to make me doubt the truth of the Incarnation?

    I had an epiphany. After I finished Matins I started reading the Apology of the Augsburg Confession, specifically the section on the Church, and this quotation stood out:

    Many people ridicule all religions, or if they accept anything, accept only what agrees with human reason and regard the rest as mythology, like the tragedies of the poets.
    –Philip Melanchthon, Apology of the Augsburg Confession translated by Jaraslov Pelikan

    I prefer to be unreasonable. One of the wonderful things about Christianity is its ability to acculturate folk customs and imbue (or baptize) them with a certain grace. The fact of the matter is this: Nobody knows when Jesus was born, but truth be told the Incarnation is remembered and celebrated at Christmas, whether that is December twenty fourth/twenty fifth, or January sixth.

    One of my favorite Carols for Gaudete Sunday is The Cherry Tree Carol (this version is by The Seeger Sisters) in which Joseph gets angry with Mary for her surprise pregnancy until Jesus speaks up from within the Virgin’s womb. (Quite an epiphany for Joseph.)

    8. Then Joseph took Mary
    All on his left knee,
    ‘Oh tell me, little Baby, ,
    When thy birthday will be.’

    9. ‘The sixth of January
    My birthday will be,
    The stars in the elements
    Will tremble with glee.’

    In her discussion of this carol Elizabeth Poston writes:

    The allusion in stanza 9 to Christ’s birthday is in keeping with the song’s antiquity. 25 December was appointed by the Roman emperor Aurelian in 274 as the festival in Rome of the unconquered sun (natalis soils invicti), celebrations of the winter solstice that were transformed by the Christian church into the festivals of Christmas and Epiphany in which various pre-Christian elements survived. The date of Christ’s birth, near to the Feast of the Passover, is unknown. The first mention of the Feast of the Nativity as being on 25 December occurs in a Roman almanac for Christians of A.D. 354, although Christmas had been celebrated on that date in Rome since at least eighteen years earlier. In the eastern part of the Roman Empire the birth and the baptism of Jesus were celebrated on 6 January, the day on which Christmas is still observed by the Armenian Church. In the course of the fourth century the celebration of Christmas on 25 December was adopted in the east except by Jerusalem. In the west its observance on that date spread from Rome to become general in the sixth century, the two great Christian festivals of winter remaining closely linked in the Twelve Days of Christmas.
    –Elizabeth Poston, The Second Penguin Book of Carols (Harmondsworth, Middlesex, England: Penguin Books, 1970)

    This may seem like a reason to doubt the veracity of Christian customs, but as I read on, in the Apology, I came to this discussion of the date on which Easter should be celebrated:

    The apostles wisely admonished …neither to destroy evangelical liberty nor to impose a necessity upon consciences, since they [state] not to be bothered even if there has been a mistake in the calculation. …A difference in human observances does not harm the unity of faith.
    –Philip Melanchthon, Apology of the Augsburg Confession translated by Jaraslov Pelikan

    Facts may make us doubt, but the truth is that traditions imbued with grace can only strengthen faith. Truly Jesus is the Unconquered Son; born of a virgin at the turning of the year; adored by Zoroastrian wizards; baptized in the Jordan; the one who, in Cana, turned the water in to wine; the one who overcame death, and hell, and will return.

  15. Paul of Alexandria
    December 4th, 2012 at 10:02 | #15

    BTW, folks, I highly recommend listening to some of the interviews on Issues, Etc. with Andrew Steinmann (http://issuesetc.org/guest/andrew-steinmann/),
    particularly http://issuesetc.org/2012/05/29/1-an-ancient-earthquake-and-jesus-crucifixion-dr-andrew-steinmann-52912/
    and the 6- part Biblical Chronology series. Per this post, listen to
    http://issuesetc.org/2011/10/14/biblical-chronology-part-4-the-birth-of-christ/.
    BTW: Jesus died April 2, 33 AD, 3:00 PM. That we can precisely date.

    Dr. Steinmann has a book out covering all of this: “From Abraham to Paul: A Biblical Chronology” (http://www.cph.org/p-18805-from-abraham-to-paul-a-biblical-chronology.aspx)

  16. December 4th, 2012 at 10:17 | #16

    Paul of Alexandria :

    BTW: Jesus died April 2, 33 AD, 3:00 PM. That we can precisely date.

    …as I read on, in the Apology, I came to this discussion of the date on which Easter should be celebrated:

    The apostles wisely admonished …neither to destroy evangelical liberty nor to impose a necessity upon consciences, since they [state] not to be bothered even if there has been a mistake in the calculation. …A difference in human observances does not harm the unity of faith.
    –Philip Melanchthon, Apology of the Augsburg Confession translated by Jaraslov Pelikan

  17. Paul of Alexandria
    December 4th, 2012 at 11:12 | #17

    @Erich #15
    Well, 1) we can do so; and 2) my point was more to the fact that Christmas, while nice, is secondary to Easter in importance. That’s all.

    Oh, and this: Christianity is predicated on the actuality of its assertions. The Gospel writers go to great pains to present their evidence for the life and teachings of Jesus in the manner of evidence to be presented in a court of law and stress in several places that these are actual events that happened to actual people in recorded history, not “cleverly designed fables”. When non-believers accuse us of believing in something that is no better than the “Flying Spaghetti Monster” we can say: “If the FSM had as much documentation as Jesus does, I’d believe in him too.”

  18. December 4th, 2012 at 12:17 | #18

    @Paul of Alexandria #16

    I quite agree.

    I would only quibble, and it is a quibble, that one cannot get to Easter without the Crucifixion, in the same way that one cannot get to either without the Incarnation.

    Paul of Alexandria :
    @Erich #15
    Christianity is predicated on the actuality of its assertions. The Gospel writers go to great pains to present their evidence for the life and teachings of Jesus in the manner of evidence to be presented in a court of law and stress in several places that these are actual events that happened to actual people in recorded history, not “cleverly designed fables”.

    Here is where I have another quibble, and that is that they never set down dates, and I’m really unconcerned with dates, and niggley details. For me there is a difference between facts and Truth. I’m more concerned with Truth. Certainly there is an historic Jesus, but as I stated above: Facts may make us doubt, but the truth is that traditions imbued with grace can only strengthen faith. Truly Jesus is the Unconquered Son; born of a virgin at the turning of the year; adored by Zoroastrian wizards; baptized in the Jordan; the one who, in Cana, turned the water in to wine; the one who overcame death, and hell, and will return.

    As far as the FSM… I could not believe in it, as even if it were a factual being, there would be no Truth in its saving grace.

    Let me state again that I agree with you that there is an historic Jesus, and that Easter is of primary importance.

  19. Johan Bergfest
    December 5th, 2012 at 07:00 | #19

    jb :
    Just how are Christians supposed to mount a “war on Christmas” – except, by celebrating it all that much more? Be careful, my friend, that you do not accuse where no accusation is due.

    I didn’t suggest that Christians should mount a “war on Christmas”. I referenced a defense to the presumed “war on Christmas”. And, I agree that the best defense is the celebration. We do that in our families. We do that in worship. We do that by proclaiming the Gospel. From that perspective, I’d suggest that insisting on public displays of creches, making shopping choices based on which stores greet customers with “merry Christmas”, vigorously defending December 25, etc. etc. are activities that are inconsistent with an appropriate celebration of Christmas.

    Rev. Josh Osbun :
    December 25th has incredible theological significance. The date was determined according to the crucifixion. Like all things, this date points us back to the cross of Christ. It might be the right date and it might not. What it is, however, is a confession of the saving faith. Unfortunately, most people completely miss that.

    Christ’s birth has incredible theological significance. I agree that December 25 fits the liturgical year and I value the liturgical year. Although the liturgical year might be an important tradition, the dates on that calendar are arbitrary. Christians have, with good reason, developed a church year that pivots around Passover. But even that is somewhat arbitrary because our understanding of how to date Passover does not always correspond with the way that Pasach is determined in the Jewish tradition.

  20. Rev. Josh Osbun
    December 6th, 2012 at 07:22 | #20

    Johan Bergfest :
    Christ’s birth has incredible theological significance. I agree that December 25 fits the liturgical year and I value the liturgical year. Although the liturgical year might be an important tradition, the dates on that calendar are arbitrary. Christians have, with good reason, developed a church year that pivots around Passover. But even that is somewhat arbitrary because our understanding of how to date Passover does not always correspond with the way that Pasach is determined in the Jewish tradition.

    December 25th wasn’t chosen arbitrarily. It wasn’t chosen because it “fit the liturgical year.” It was chosen because the date of Christ’s death was determined according to the Jewish calendar. The date of His death (and subsequently His conception) was determined as March 25. December 25 is exactly nine months after the date of His death. There is nothing arbitrary or convenient about that. It is a proclamation of our Lord’s death.

    It’s highly suspect that Dec. 25 is actually when He was born, of course, so I suppose you could claim “arbitrary” to a certain extent. But the selection of the date was very deliberate.

  21. Paul of Alexandria
    December 6th, 2012 at 08:41 | #21

    @Erich #18
    “They never set down dates”? They sure did. You just have to remember that they weren’t using our calendar. And it came to pass in those days that a decree went out from Caesar Augustus that all the world should be registered. 2 This census first took place while Quirinius was governing Syria. Any time that you see “in the reign of” or “while X ruled” or “during the festival of” they’re giving the date. The New Testament especially is full of chronological anchor points.

  22. December 6th, 2012 at 11:38 | #22

    @Paul of Alexandria #21

    You are correct that these are ways of putting a parerga about the events, but not quite a date. It’s more like saying that something happened while Reagan was President.

    I still quibble back with:

    I’m really unconcerned with dates, and niggley details. For me there is a difference between facts and Truth. I’m more concerned with Truth. Certainly there is an historic Jesus, but as I stated above: Facts may make us doubt, but the truth is that traditions imbued with grace can only strengthen faith. Truly Jesus is the Unconquered Son; born of a virgin at the turning of the year; adored by Zoroastrian wizards; baptized in the Jordan; the one who, in Cana, turned the water in to wine; the one who overcame death, and hell, and will return.

    and

    Let me state again that I agree with you that there is an historic Jesus, and that Easter is of primary importance.

  23. jb
    December 6th, 2012 at 19:36 | #23

    Erich –

    Going along with St. John, a fairly reputable authority, I would suggest that the Incarnation is first – and the most important part of who we ARE . . .

    Beloved, do not believe every spirit, but test the spirits to see whether they are from God, for many false prophets have gone out into the world. By this you know the Spirit of God: every spirit that confesses that Jesus Christ has come in the flesh is from God, and every spirit that does not confess Jesus is not from God“.

    The Resurrection is our great hope – but it is not OUR fulfillment as of yet. We are still the Church Militant, not yet the Church Victorious.

    If we have the Incarnation by faith, we shall, like Job, see God with these eyes.

    Easter will only be “primary” on the Last Day, when our Resurrections will completely fulfill the Resurrection of Jesus.

    Pax

  24. jb
    December 6th, 2012 at 22:19 | #24

    Erich –

    We are. by of faith inf the Lord Jesus Christ, already part of the eschaton. Not merely the world, but the kingdom to come.

    So, while we struggle with th Old Adam this side of the veil. we are, “with the angels and all the archangels and all the company of heaven. ” The best of both worlds, and still, knowing what we know. perhaps the worst!

    We as those in Jesus take what comes our way. Some days, it seems glorious beyond comparison. Other days it is like bumping into one of my snowbirds in Dollar General as I did today – who – bless her heart, said I “was making her Christmas.”

    I flow with my flock. What I “feel” is immaterial. What most feel in this season is really immaterial. What IS – that Christ took on flesh and dwelt among us – that “In Joy, He took opon Himself the Cross, scorning it’s shame” . . .

    We are not worthy, yet God counts us worthy by faith.

    We have an “odd God” – thank God!

    The Holy Crucifix is my ultimate goal in life. Should God call me home, I WILL claim the Resurrection as my own.

    It is. But only on that day.

    Pax – jb

  25. December 7th, 2012 at 10:42 | #25

    jb,

    As I stated above:

    …one cannot get to Easter without the Crucifixion, in the same way that one cannot get to either without the Incarnation.

    Dare I compare it to the Trinity?

  26. Kathrine
    December 27th, 2012 at 12:10 | #26

    Capitalism is not a sin.

  27. Daryl
    August 10th, 2013 at 09:51 | #27

    Doesn’t Jeremiah 10 talk about Christmas tree? I mean isn’t the workman the one who cuts down that tree with an ax? Please respond.

  28. Carl Vehse
    August 10th, 2013 at 11:20 | #28

    @Daryl #27: “Please respond.”

    Explanations are given in the LCMS FAQ on Christmas trees (p. 4) and in the Our Redeemer Lutheran Church (LCMS) article, “Jeremiah 10 and the ‘Pagan’ Christmas Tree.”

If you have problems commenting on this site, or need to change a comment after it has been posted on the site, please contact us. For help with getting your comment formatted, click here.
Subscribe to comments feed  ..  Subscribe to comments feed for this post
Anonymous comments are welcome on this board, but we do require a valid email address so the admins can verify who you are. Please try to come up with a unique name; if you have a common name add something to it so you aren't confused with another user. We have several "john"'s already for example. Email addresses are kept private on this site, and only available to the site admins. Comments posted without a valid email address may not be published. Want an icon to identify your comment? See this page to see how.
*

Notify me of followup comments via e-mail. You can also subscribe without commenting.