Authored by Marie Story
There’s no historical record of the date of Jesus’ birth. There has been speculation—some say it was in the spring, others say it was in the fall—but no one really knows for sure what day He was born. There’s no historical evidence that He was born on December 25th. We’re also pretty sure there wasn’t a Christmas tree, turkey, or carolers in attendance. So why do we celebrate His birthday on December 25th? And what’s the deal with the tree, and the carolers, and all the rest of our modern traditions?
People really only began celebrating Jesus’ birth on December 25th around 350 AD. It then took hundreds of years before Christmas was widely accepted by Christians as a celebration of Jesus’ birth, mainly because many of our modern Christmas traditions have their roots in ancient pagan history.
December 25th was originally the celebration of the birth of the son of Isis, an Egyptian goddess. Partying, feasting, and the giving of gifts were all part of this celebration.
The Romans celebrated the annual winter solstice with eating, drinking, and merrymaking. From Rome also comes the tradition of carolers—or “mummers,” as they were called. The mummers would dress up in costume and would go singing from house to house entertaining their neighbors.
The Christmas tree comes from common tradition throughout Europe, as evergreen trees were revered as symbols of good luck. The druids used evergreens as a religious symbol and actually worshiped trees themselves.
As people all across the Roman Empire were converted, many of their traditions got incorporated into the Christmas holiday.
So why am I telling you all this? Well, people have taken these points and used them to cast Christmas in a negative light. Unbelievers have often used these facts to knock Christianity, saying it’s just a “copycat” religion. On the other side of the spectrum, some Christians have shunned Christmas altogether because of the pagan background of various Christmas traditions. Both of these reactions are sad, I think.
As I read a bit about the history of Christmas and where we get our various Christmas traditions, it left me with a different feeling altogether. To me, it shows one of the most fundamental truths about Jesus: He comes to you where you are at.
Jesus understands the wide variety of cultures and backgrounds, and instead of requiring people to drop everything that they know and enjoy, He becomes a part of our world. Jesus simply wants to be part of our lives, and He’ll do whatever it takes to reach us.
Jesus meets you where you are. He doesn’t create a huge learning curve in order to reach Him. He doesn’t require you to change before He accepts you. He doesn’t wait until you’ve achieved a certain level of perfection before He receives you. All you have to do is receive His love, and He does the rest. He meets your needs and makes it easy for you to love and understand Him.
Jesus says that He’ll accept whoever comes to Him, and no matter who you are, He will not reject you.1 It’s not an exclusive club with strict requirements. If you come to Him, He’ll accept you with open arms. Even more than that, He’ll adapt to meet your needs.
As I read about the life of Jesus, it was interesting to see how He adapted to meet the needs of each person He came in contact with. When He was with Nicodemus—an intellectual, high-ranking member of the temple clergy—Jesus spoke to him in ways that piqued his interest and challenged his intellect.2 When Jesus was with the children, He took them in His arms and talked with them.3 When He was with the publicans and sinners, He went into their homes and ate and drank and laughed with them.4 A couple of times after teaching big crowds, He knew their most important concern was their hunger—so He fed them.5
Whether with a crowd or one on one, Jesus did whatever was necessary to reach each person and show them that He loved them.
This is the way that Jesus lived and died, and the whole reason He came to earth. He became like us. He took on a human body and got down and messy with us. He dealt with daily life, hunger, and fatigue. He may have felt discouraged at times. But He went through our human experience so that He could feel what we feel and understand the things that are important to us.
He can take the things that you know and love—the things that are important to you, like your Christmas traditions—and give them even greater meaning.
So as you enjoy your Christmas celebrations, as you open gifts, sing carols, and eat good food, let those things remind you of Jesus’ deep love for you. Take each of those traditions that you enjoy and let them point you back to the great gift Jesus gave each of us by coming to earth, living, and dying for us.
1 John 6:37.
2 John 3:1–21.
3 Mark 10:13–16.
4 Matthew 9:10.
5 Matthew 14:13–21; Mark 6:30–44; Luke 9:10–17; John 6:1–15.
Read by Amber Larriva. Music by Andrew V. Copyright © 2011 by The Family International