Around two thousand years ago in a town called Nazareth, an angel named Gabriel appeared to a young woman named Mary. Mary, set to be wed to a man named Joseph, was a virgin. The angel told Mary that she was pregnant with the son of God. Mary was scared but the angel said the angel said to her, “Mary, do not be afraid. You have found favor with God. See! You are to become a mother and have a Son. You are to give Him the name Jesus. He will be great. He will be called the Son of the Most High. The Lord God will give Him the place where His early father David sat. He will be King over the family of Jacob forever and His nation will have no end.” (Luke 1:30-33) Mary couldn’t believe this and left town to stay with her cousin. She came back to Nazareth when her stomach was showing signs of pregnancy. Joseph was so confused and hurt but the Bible says this in Matthew 1:19-24 “Joseph her husband, since he was a righteous man, yet unwilling to expose her to shame, decided to divorce her quietly. Such was his intention when, behold, the angel of the Lord appeared to him in a dream and said, “Joseph, son of David, do not be afraid to take Mary your wife into your home. For it is through the holy Spirit that this child has been conceived in her. She will bear a son and you are to name him Jesus, because he will save his people from their sins.” All this took place to fulfill what the Lord had said through the prophet: “Behold, the virgin shall be with child and bear a son, and they shall name him Emmanuel, which means “God is with us.” When Joseph awoke, he did as the angel of the Lord had commanded him and took his wife into his home.” The Roman Emperor Augustus called for a census to be taken but everyone needed to travel back to where they were born to do it. So Joseph and Mary, who was days away from giving birth, had to travel about 70 miles from Nazareth to Bethlehem as that is where Joseph’s family was from. Upon arriving in Bethlehem, they couldn’t find a place to stay. The inn was full, and all the additional space in people’s rooms were also taken. However, it wasn’t uncommon for people to keep their animals in their house for heat. The animals would stay on the bottom level where the family was upstairs and the warmth from the animals was how the people stayed warm upstairs. So the only place available was in a manager with animals. It was in this manger, surrounded by animals that Mary gave birth to the Son of God, Jesus. Luke 2:8-20 says “And there were shepherds living out in the fields nearby, keeping watch over their flocks at night. An angel of the Lord appeared to them, and the glory of the Lord shone around them, and they were terrified. But the angel said to them, “Do not be afraid. I bring you good news that will cause great joy for all the people. Today in the town of David a Savior has been born to you; he is the Messiah, the Lord. This will be a sign to you: You will find a baby wrapped in cloths and lying in a manger. Suddenly a great company of the heavenly host appeared with the angel, praising God and saying, “Glory to God in the highest heaven, and on earth peace to those on whom his favor rests.” When the angels had left them and gone into heaven, the shepherds said to one another, “Let’s go to Bethlehem and see this thing that has happened, which the Lord has told us about.” So they hurried off and found Mary and Joseph, and the baby, who was lying in the manger. When they had seen him, they spread the word concerning what had been told them about this child, and all who heard it were amazed at what the shepherds said to them. But Mary treasured up all these things and pondered them in her heart. The shepherds returned, glorifying and praising God for all the things they had heard and seen, which were just as they had been told.” In Matthew 2: 1-12, the Bible shares the story of the three wise men:
“Now after Jesus was born in Bethlehem of Judea in the days of Herod the king, behold, [a]wise men from the East came to Jerusalem, saying, “Where is He who has been born King of the Jews? For we have seen His star in the East and have come to worship Him.” When Herod the king heard this, he was troubled, and all Jerusalem with him. And when he had gathered all the chief priests and scribes of the people together, he inquired of them where the Christ was to be born. So they said to him, “In Bethlehem of Judea, for thus it is written by the prophet: ‘But you, Bethlehem, in the land of Judah, Are not the least among the rulers of Judah; For out of you shall come a Ruler, Who will shepherd My people Israel.’ ” Then Herod, when he had secretly called the [b]wise men, determined from them what time the star appeared. And he sent them to Bethlehem and said, “Go and search carefully for the young Child, and when you have found Him, bring back word to me, that I may come and worship Him also.” When they heard the king, they departed; and behold, the star which they had seen in the East went before them, till it came and stood over where the young Child was. When they saw the star, they rejoiced with exceedingly great joy. And when they had come into the house, they saw the young Child with Mary His mother, and fell down and worshiped Him. And when they had opened their treasures, they presented gifts to Him: gold, frankincense, and myrrh. Then, being divinely warned in a dream that they should not return to Herod, they departed for their own country another way.”
As Christians, we hold this story so close to our heart as it is the story of the birth of our savior. Jesus is the reason we are forgiven and he truly is the reason for Christmas. But there are some things about this story that don’t make sense as to why we celebrate this day in December. Let’s just jump into the pagan picking of the date December 25.
For starters, the Bible actually never mentions what day or time of year Jesus was born and what’s more is that early Christians didn’t celebrate Jesus’s birth. The first recorded Christmas was celebrated on January 6. It is assumed that the date was picked because of the assumed date of crucifixion on April 6 but no one really knows why that date was calculated or where they got the calculations to begin with. Soon enough, during the mid-fourth century at some point, the date of Christmas was moved to December 25. Why? Well some people said it was because the pope declared it so but James George Frazer, an anthropologist, published the following in his 1992 edition of “The Golden Bough” and as published on Bartleby.com:
“An instructive relic of the long struggle is preserved in our festival of Christmas, which the Church seems to have borrowed directly from its heathen rival. In the Julian calendar the twenty-fifth of December was reckoned the winter solstice, and it was regarded as the Nativity of the Sun, because the day begins to lengthen and the power of the sun to increase from that turning-point of the year. The ritual of the nativity, as it appears to have been celebrated in Syria and Egypt, was remarkable. The celebrants retired into certain inner shrines, from which at midnight they issued with a loud cry, “The Virgin has brought forth! The light is waxing!” The Egyptians even represented the new-born sun by the image of an infant which on his birthday, the winter solstice, they brought forth and exhibited to his worshippers. No doubt the Virgin who thus conceived and bore a son on the twenty-fifth of December was the great Oriental goddess whom the Semites called the Heavenly Virgin or simply the Heavenly Goddess; in Semitic lands she was a form of Astarte. Now Mithra was regularly identified by his worshippers with the Sun, the Unconquered Sun, as they called him; hence his nativity also fell on the twenty-fifth of December. The Gospels say nothing as to the day of Christ’s birth, and accordingly the early Church did not celebrate it. In time, however, the Christians of Egypt came to regard the sixth of January as the date of the Nativity, and the custom of commemorating the birth of the Saviour on that day gradually spread until by the fourth century it was universally established in the East. But at the end of the third or the beginning of the fourth century the Western Church, which had never recognised the sixth of January as the day of the Nativity, adopted the twenty-fifth of December as the true date, and in time its decision was accepted also by the Eastern Church. At Antioch the change was not introduced till about the year 375 A.D.