You Got Your Days Wrong

Dear Christmas

Think about this eighteenth day of December, the day when the cornerstone of the Lord’s Temple was laid. Think carefully. I am giving you a promise now while the seed is still in the barn. You have not yet harvested your grain, and your grapevines, fig trees, pomegranates, and olive trees have not yet produced their crops. But from this day onward I will bless you. (Haggai 2:18-19)

Read: Haggai 1:1-2:23, Revelation 11:1-19, Psalm 139:1-24, Proverbs 30:15-16

Relate: I think the people who decide the scheduling over at The One Year Bible need to make a few minor adjustments. I really like being able to read through scripture in the format and fashion they have set it up and each day’s reading seems to be pretty balanced for length. It is just that today’s Old Testament reading should have happened two days ago. They got their days wrong.

Speaking of getting their days wrong, I often hear around this time of year that Christians shouldn’t celebrate Christmas because it is really the pagan holiday Saturnalia. Hogwash. Saturnalia was December 17. Even in the decadent late Roman Empire days, when they tended to stretch out their excuses for depravity, the holiday only lasted until December 23rd. The early church had absolutely nothing to do with Saturnalia.

That doesn’t mean Christmas wasn’t overlayed on top of a pagan Roman holiday. It’s just that ignorant people (and even some “legitimate” history websites, have the wrong holiday. Christmas was celebrated on Deis Natali Solis Invicti. That translates to English as “The Day of the birth of the unconquered sun.” It was celebrated on December 25th and, yes, the symbolic connections abound.

Another common mistake. Even the people who get the holiday right tend to talk about the decision to celebrate Christmas then as if it were a “top down” decision. Again, hogwash. All evidence points to the fact that the holiday began to be celebrated for Christ as almost a grassroots movement and that the leaders at the top collectively shrugged their shoulders with a “hey, why not?” type attitude. The early church was far, far less authoritarian than many amateur historians would like you to believe.  (Yes, I’m looking at you Dan Brown and company)

Even Augustine said that there was a commonly held opinion by those of his flock that Jesus was born on December 25th. In a Christmas sermon he exhorted his congregation, “Let’s celebrate this day as a holiday not for the sake of the sun, which is observed by [pagan] believers as well as by ourselves, but for the sake of the One who created the sun.” Another ancient writer wrote, “It was a custom of the Pagans to celebrate on December 25th the birthday of the sun. On this day they kindled lights in token of festivity. In these solemnities and revelries the Christians also took part. Accordingly when the elders of the Church saw that the Christians had a leaning to this festival, they took counsel and resolved that the true Nativity should be solemnised on that day.”

React: Obviously, Jesus wasn’t really born on the 25th of December. So what? Although the evidence is shaky, I am among those who like to think He was born on the Day of Atonement 5BC. The thing is, no one really knows exactly. There’s all kinds of speculation and everybody seems to have solid evidence… too bad it doesn’t all point to the same day for everyone.

We don’t know today and the early church didn’t know either. Although I can imagine some of the disciples asking Jesus when His birthday was, it never made it into scripture. I can also imagine Jesus turning to Peter, winking, and saying, “What do you think it is?” Having a specific day set aside to celebrate the birth of Christ is a very good thing. You could say that one day is as good as any other, but since most of the Church world has been celebrating it on December 25th for at least the past 17-18 hundred years I tend to think that Christmas Day is much better than any other day. (BTW, for those in parts of the world who celebrate on January 7th, you’re still celebrating on December 25th, you’re just using the Julian calendar rather than the Gregorian calendar).

So even though today is the 20’th, not the 18’th… let’s follow Haggai’s advice. Let’s take a moment this Christmas season to remember that the Great Cornerstone has been laid. Laid in a manger to be exact. Let us celebrate the fact that Adam’s Seed is in that barn. God has come and lives among us. From this day, whenever it was, onward we have been blessed beyond measure.

Respond: 

God, I am so thankful that You came. Even though I know that it wasn’t on December 25’th, it was on Christmas Day. Whatever day it was, I chose to remember You, to celebrate You today and on every day that I draw breath. I especially chose to join with the world in rejoicing Your arrival on Christmas. Rather than nitpicking on the details, help me to bring honor to You by living a life of joy and celebration.

 

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21 thoughts on “You Got Your Days Wrong

  1. Praise God, Jesus Christ came in human form, lived, loved, gave His life as a sacrifice for man, was buried, arose from the dead and is ascended to heaven just as God’s Word prophesied, and in His time – not in man’s time. One day He’s coming to take us who believe and are His, to Himself according to His Word and time. That is what matters today – are we accepting and celebrating Him as Savior, living as “called out ones”, fulfilling the Great Commission, and soon we will be casting crowns at His feet. Glory to His name.
    Let us celebrate His first coming.

  2. Reblogged this on ChristianBlessings and commented:
    Praise God, Jesus Christ came in human form, lived, loved, gave His life as a sacrifice for man, was buried, arose from the dead and is ascended to heaven just as God’s Word prophesied, and in His time – not in man’s time. One day He’s coming to take us who believe and are His, to Himself according to His Word and time. That is what matters today – are we accepting and celebrating Him as Savior, living as “called out ones”, fulfilling the Great Commission, and soon we will be casting crowns at His feet. Glory to His name.
    Let us celebrate His first coming.

  3. Amen Beejai!

    There are some who would squabble. Let them join the Pharisees.

    Let us join the saints who bow at the feet of Jesus! Let us seek Him and His presence in our lives! Let us celebrate Him with us every moment of every day! And if we find another day to celebrate Him even more, then praise His Holy Name!

  4. “Obviously, Jesus wasn’t really born on the 25th of December. So what?”

    Amen. I see so many useless arguments on here about this subject. Had on on my blog between two commenters. One refused to celebrate the holiday at all, and the other said if you didn’t believe it was the 25th then you were a cult member.

    Sheesh. Keep it about Jesus right?

  5. Pingback: Fear of the Dark | Shiny Thoughts

  6. Well, at least we realize, at it’s origins, Christmas is pagan. So what are we to do with it? Let every man go along with his conscience.
    Christmas is the case of the usurper usurpation. Yeah, it’s pagan. Tammuz’s b’day to be exact. It is a Sun celebration.
    Christ wasn’t born that day. In fact, Christ never told us when he was born. That’s exactly the point. Christ is born within each one of us on any given day of the year. And he usurps Tammuz on the 25th of December as well.
    Hmmm. Something worth noting, if not worth celebrating.

    • At its origins Christmas is a celebration of the birth of Christ. Considering that the earliest references to Deis Invictus Natalis Sol don’t appear until the mid second century it is even possible that Christmas predates it. It isn’t likely, but it is possible. Either way, the day was chosen in part because of the name and part because it falls roughly nine months after the Day of Atonement.

  7. I wish I could remember where I read it. It must have been Foxe’s Book of Martyrs or Eusebius. But it is quite clear that Christmas did not come up until several centuries after Christ, around the time of Constantine. This was a time in which Christians were trying to reconcile themselves as the new state religion. Much overlying went on during this period. It was the pontiff of Rome that made the decision to overlay Tammuz’s birthday with the Christian symbolism. As to the reason why the Latin appears later, it is because it primarily comes from the region of Rome and Latin names were virtually unheard of prior to that time period. References go back thousands of years before that in other ancient languages concerning the baby Sun God, all the way back to Babylon where it originated.

    • First of all, I want to thank you for engaging in discussion here. If in what I say beyond this any frustration tends to bleed through, understand it is not directed at you but at the abundance of garbage from pseudo historians popping up more and more every holiday season. Please don’t read everything you see on the internet.
      Speaking of which, I wouldn’t necessarily credit either Fox’s Book of Martyrs or Eusebius as great primary sources either. Corroborating, sure, but not primary. Foxe didn’t write until the 16th century in England and as a general rule, the closer he got to his present time the more accurate he was. Eusebius wrote his Church history 324 AD. It was pretty much a polemic to convince Constantine to adopt Christianity as the only religion not just one among many. This was written just three years after Constantine decreed that Christians and pagans should both celebrate December 25th together. Obviously, anything Eusebius had to say on the issue would be severely biased.
      On that note, when Constantine issued his decree he had done so under the authority he had as Pontifex Maximus. This title was used by the succession of Emperors all the way down to the late fourth century. Although Tertullian used it as a derogatory term for other bishops he disagreed with, nobody dared to have the audacity to assume the similar title, Supreme Pontiff, used by popes now until well after the capital of Rome had moved eastward. Even then, it was not a title used exclusively by the bishop of Rome and we have others being designated with that title as late as 449 AD or beyond.
      The earliest written association of Christmas with December 25 was by Julius Africanus who lived in the late second-early third century. Sol Invictus’ association with December 25’th was not made official until 274 AD. This is at the earliest thirty-five years after Africanus. By this time between 20-25% of the city of Rome had converted to Christianity so it is very possible that the pagan date was adopted or changed to try and combat (or usurp) the growing Christian movement. Also, as I quoted in the devotional, Augustine and other writers already had accepted the association of Christmas with December 25’th as a fait accompli. Christmas was a grassroots thing adopted at various times by various churches. The evolution of the early church is hardly the orderly, top down type edicts you might get by reading Eusebius. Remember, he was trying to convince Constantine that church and empire were compatible.
      Now, with regard to Tammuz. Actually, he was a Sumerian god adopted by a host of other cultures including that of Babylon. Pretty much every culture had a god for all of the major elements. Certainly the sun would top this list. There are no base roots between Tammuz and Helios/Sol. The two were born of different cultures with different roots. Obviously, as time and interaction brought these two cultures together some similarities cropped but this is a late innovation. The attributes of pagan gods has always been a… flexible thing. Tammuz does have a date associated with his death, summer solstice, but nothing associated to his birth or rebirth.
      So how did December 25th come to be associated with Christmas? For that, we go back to Africanus. Without going into his long (and flawed) chronology of Daniel’s 70 weeks, Africanus placed the conception of Christ at March 25. Fast forward nine months and, voila, December 25. It is a somewhat convoluted Biblical explanation but an explanation it is. The only question we cannot answer is if he created these dates to fit with an already associated practise or if the practice began popping up in various cities as a result of his chronology. It most certainly was not an edict by a non-existent pontif of Rome delivering an edict ex cathedra.

      • Actually I’m not replying from things I’ve seen on the internet, but from knowledge I’ve gleaned from actual books I’ve read over the years from the closest sources I could get to actual occurrences.
        As to this discussion, thank you for engaging as well as it lends more light upon the subject. However, as you have also noted, Africanus’ random date has no more viability than any other. The date is not known and that is something we should take note of and be aware. As long as this remains the case, one must ask themselves, what are we actually celebrating and why?

    • Whether it was the “pontif of Papal Rome” or the “pontif of Imperial rome”, we know of a certain that it was introduced and embedded into Christianity. Infact, it was done to ascertain the comfort of the Roman Christian converts. BLESSED LOVE

  8. I would clearly state that one who “celebrate”, celebrate but don’t speak as of a fact that the true KING was born on the 25 December. Yes, there are many calculation, but then what if everyone would celebrate their Messiah, on what soever date presumed.? In fact it is not declaration that the Jews ever celebrate BIRTHDAYS.

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