The recent NZ census shows we are no longer a predominantly “christian country”. In fact, many people are quite godless. Yet in recent years the commercialism of Christmas has reached at an all time high. Some retail stores make more at Christmas than at any other time of the year.
People associate Christmas with the birth of Jesus Christ, yet there is no Bible command to observe his birth. Rather, the Lord himself commanded to remember his death (Luke 22:14-20), and this became the custom among early believers (1 Corinthians 11:23-29).
When was Jesus born? Certainly not on 25 December, which is winter time in Israel. In winter, the sheep are in shelter, not in the fields (Luke 2:8), when there is often snow. The Roman Casesar Augustus ordered a census of the Empire (Luke 3:1). He would not have ordered it in winter when it was difficult for people to travel to the place of their birth.
The other clue we have, is that the angel appeared to Zacharias when he was serving in the temple as a priest. Zacharias was of the division of Abijah; each division served at a certain time of the year. The angel then appeared to Mary to tell her about the birth of the Son of God (Luke 1:32,33). Jesus was born six months after John. These facts mean Jesus was born late September.
Why is 25 December commemorated? This is the date of the Roman sun-God Mithras. The cult of the sun-God was revered by Romans. As Christianity spread throughout the Roman Empire, taken up by a largely uneducated people, the customs of christianity and the current pagan religion were subjected to the process of syncretism – the merging of two incompatible ideas. “The newly empowered Church (during Emperor Constantine) used the cult of saints to win the hearts of ordinary people. Roman gods were replaced by Christian saints…” (The World of the Roman Emperor, Peter Chrisp). Or in the words of several historians, ‘the Catholic Church is more Roman than Christian’.
What do we do then? Get back to the true message of the Bible! Put away all reference to the pagan gods! (Joshua 24:15; 1 Corinthians 10:14-21). Worship God “in spirit AND truth” (John 4:24).