Friday, December 21, 2012

December 25




This coming Tuesday we will be celebrating Christmas, the Incarnation, His coming in the flesh and anticipating His return at the end of time.  We celebrate His birth on December 25, but why the 25th of December?  Is it because Jesus was truly born on that day of the year?

From the very first years of Christianity there’s been disagreement as to when exactly our Lord was born.  Historical documents and even Catholic tradition disagree with each other as well.  I personally believe the Church chose this date and did so for a reason.

Many individuals, even certain groups of Christians accuse the Catholic Church of setting the date in celebrating the birth of Jesus Christ on December 25 to accommodate the pagans of the day.  While its true that many festivals were being celebrated at, or near, Dec 25 doesn’t necessarily mean that the Church chose that date to counteract those pagan festivals or even worse to introduce pagan ideas into the Catholic religion.  It does make one wonder, doesn’t it?   

We know that December 25 already hosted two other related festivals: natalis invicti (the Roman “birth of the unconquered sun”), and the birthday of Mithras, the Iranian “Sun of Righteousness” whose worship was popular with Roman soldiers.  The winter solstice, another celebration of the sun, fell just a few days earlier December 21.

Of the three possibilities, what influenced the Church in choosing December 25 in helping newly converted Christians to remain in the Catholic Church?  In my opinion, I believe it would be all three festivals.

Isn’t Jesus Christ the utmost Ruler of the world surpassing the ‘unconquered sun’?  He is indeed the unconquered Son.  And the same applies to the “Sun of Righteousness”, isn’t Jesus the True Righteous One?  We see definite parallels here and it would therefore make sense to set the celebration of our Lord and Righteous one on that same day.

Even more striking is when we look at the celebration of the winter solstice, which is the shortest day of the year.  Pagans celebrated this day to commemorate the lengthening of the days identifying it as the beginning of a new year.  What many haven’t noticed though is that the shortest day of the year is indeed on December 21 but the days don’t begin to lengthen for another 4 days.  The start of the lengthening of days is what I believe is the most compelling reason in choosing December 25 as the day to celebrate the Incarnation because Jesus is indeed the light of the world (John 9:5).  Therefore celebrating His birth on the day of the year when the daylight hours begin lengthening seems to be a perfect choice.
Ultimately, we don’t know exactly what day of the year our Lord was born.  And His Church doesn’t need to be historically accurate in choosing a date to celebrate His birth so long as we don’t forget what we are celebrating when that day of the year arrives.

Merry Christmas and
God Bless
Nathan

7 comments:

  1. There is actually good reason for December 25, and the best reasons have nothing to do with supplanting a pagan holiday. For one, Annunciation is on March 25 and was held in higher regard of a holiday than Christmas in the early Church, and from here we see 9 months later is December 25. The Pope likes this option and says so in his new book, especially considering March 25 was held by the Jews to be the first day of Creation. Some have said that Passover happened to fall on March 25, which again makes the date significant for the Annunciation.

    Another argument which I thought was very good (but I cannot find the YouTube movie at the moment) goes something along these lines:

    Jesus had a public ministry for 3 and 1/2 years, which means if we count back from Calvary 3.5 years (Jewish months) we come to about November 8. Since Luke tells us that Jesus was on the verge of turning 30 in the 15th Year of Tiberius, this means that Jesus turned thirty somewhere between November and December, since 30 is the age when one becomes a Rabbi. And since Jesus was gearing up for public ministry by first getting Baptized and then 40 Days in the Desert plus 7 of temptation, this fits for putting the end of the 47 Days on the cusp of his turning 30 so he can begin public ministry without further delay. So November 8 plus about 47 days puts us on December 25.

    The attack on December 25 began with Puritans, who hate holidays as a "Catholic thing", especially since it's about ChristMASS. Secularists took up this banner to attack Christianity in general.

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  2. Nick, you make some very good points.  However, there is no possible way any of those dates can be verified; not the least of which is because the calendar has changed at least twice since Christ was Incarnate.  But, I agree that there are good reasons the Church chose December 25th for the celebration of the birth of Christ, none of which have to do with pagan rituals.  Thank you for the theory and the information.

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  3.  Thanks for posting Nick!  You might also look at the article I posted back in 2007 (not by me).  It posits some very good possibilities for the date of Christmas being Dec. 25th - which have nothing to do with paganism:
     
    http://cathapol.blogspot.com/2007/01/calculating-christmas.html

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  4. Jesus being born on the Solstice (regardless of how it's dated) does harmonize well with Creation, as well as John's comment: "he must increase as I must decrease".

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  5. I wonder why my comment is not showing up here?  In the admin console it shows up, but not online.  Hmmm.

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  6. Here is what I posted several days ago as a response to Nick's post:
    Thanks for posting Nick!  You might also look at the article I posted
    back in 2007 (not by me).  It posits some very good possibilities for
    the date of Christmas being Dec. 25th - which have nothing to do with
    paganism:
     

    http://cathapol.blogspot.com/2007/01/calculating-christmas.html 

    ReplyDelete
  7.  Your comment has shown up. Now I'll go take a look at that link!

    ReplyDelete

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