A few years ago I was asked to visit a gentleman who was interested in knowing more about our faith. During this visit I was asked if I celebrated Christmas. When I replied that I did not, he became very angry and obstinate that I could not believe in “Jesus” if I didn’t celebrate His birthday! Needless to say, the meeting did not end well as he began to berate and condemn me for “not following Scriptural protocol by celebrating the Savior’s
birthday.”

Each year at this time for most people in our movement they are faced with having to defend themselves against well meaning Christians who cannot comprehend why we “don’t do Christmas!”

For most, especially the newer ones among us it is a heart wrenching time. With these articles and with the teachings that will be happening during Jewish Roots we hope to be able to help in the transition. The aritcles are not meant to insult or “convert,” but rather to place the truth out there for those who may not truly understand. As with all things at Beit Shofarot we ask that you let your conscience guide you as you learn more Truth.

Christians around the globe celebrate Christmas as surely the Bible instructs us to do – right?

The answer will shock you!

Most people never reflect on why they believe what they believe or do what they do. We live in a world filled with customs, but few ever seek to understand their origin. We generally accept them without question. Most people basically do what everyone else does-because it is easy and natural!

But let’s examine the roots of Christmas. Let’s look at why people follow the customs associated with it. Why is it kept on December 25th? Did the early New Testament Church keep it? This article is filled with facts from history that, when placed together, paint a complete picture. Let’s avoid all assumptions and only accept what can be PROVEN!

Pagan Origin

In 1990, the Solon, Ohio (a Cleveland suburb) school board banned all nativity and other Christmas scenes on any school property because they felt it violated the separation of church and state. They were challenged in court when outraged parents opposed them, feeling that Christmas was being stolen from their children and the community. The board lost the case! The citizenry had contended that Christmas was a worldwide tradition that was not part of, and transcended, religion. It was deemed to be secular-a part of virtually all cultures worldwide.

The court decision affirmed that Christmas has no Christian roots! However, the court’s opinion also noted that Bible reading and prayer obviously are associated with Christ-ianity-a remarkable admission! The court concluded that Christmas-keeping and manger scenes could remain because they are not really part of either Christianity or religion-but prayer and Bible reading, which are, must remain excluded from schools!

Nearly all aspects of Christmas observance have their roots in Roman custom and religion. Consider the following admission from a large American newspaper (The Buffalo News, Nov. 22, 1984): “The earliest reference to Christmas being marked on Dec. 25 comes from the second century after Yeshua’s birth. It is considered likely the first Christmas celebrations were in reaction to the Roman Saturnalia, a harvest festival that marked the winter solstice-the return of the sun-and honored Saturn, the god of sowing. Saturnalia was a rowdy time, much opposed by the more austere leaders among the still-minority Christian sect. Christmas developed, one scholar says, as a means of replacing worship of the sun with worship of the Son. By 529 A.D., after Christianity had become the official state religion of the Roman Empire, Emperor Justinian made Christmas a civic holiday. The celebration of Christmas reached its peak-some would say its worst moments-in the medieval period when it became a time for conspicuous consumption and unequaled revelry.”

Christmas itself is not mentioned in the Bible anywhere. Nor is there a commandment instructing us to celebrate Yeshua’s birthday. Luke tells us the story of His birth and we can also read that the “wise men” came and offered gifts to the king after His birth but not on His birthday. But even these factors do not instruct us to celebrate Christmas.

Consider these quotes from the Catholic Encyclopedia, 1911 edition, under “Christmas”: “Christmas was not among the earliest festivals of the Church…the first evidence of the feast is from Egypt.” Further, “Pagan customs centering around the January calendar gravitated to Christmas.” Under “Natal Day,” Origen, an early Catholic writer, admitted, “…In the Scriptures, no one is recorded to have kept a feast or held a great banquet on his birthday. It is only sinners (like Pharaoh and Herod) who make great rejoicings over the day in which they were born into this world” (emphasis mine).

The Encyclopedia Americana, 1956 edition, adds, “Christmas…was not observed in the first centuries of the Christian church, since the Christian usage in general was to celebrate the death of remarkable persons rather than their birth…a feast was established in memory of this event [Christ’s birth] in the fourth century. In the fifth century the Western Church ordered the feast to be celebrated forever on the day of the Mithraic rites of the birth of the sun and at the close of the Saturnalia, as no certain knowledge of the day of Christ’s birth existed.”

There is no mistaking the origin of the modern Christmas celebration.

It was 300 years after Yeshua before the Roman church kept Christmas, and not until the fifth century that it was mandated to be kept throughout the empire as an official festival honoring “Christ.”

Was Messiah Even Born on December 25th?

The Messiah in all likelihood was born in the fall of the year. Many have mistakenly believed He was born around the beginning of winter-December 25th! They are wrong! Notice the Adam Clarke Commentary, volume 5, page 370, New York edition: “It was custom among Jews to send out their sheep to the deserts about the Passover [early spring], and bring them home at the commencement of the first rain.” The first rains began in early-to-mid fall. Continuing with this same quote: “During the time they were out, the shepherds watched them night and day. As…the first rain began early in the month of March-esvan, which answers to part of our October and November [begins sometime in October], we find that the sheep were kept out in the open country during the whole summer. And as these shepherds had not yet brought home their flocks, it is a presumptive argument that October had not yet commenced, and that, consequently, our Lord was not born on the 25th of December, when no flocks were out in the fields; nor could He have been born later than September, as the flocks were still in the fields by night. On this very ground, the nativity in December should be given up. The feeding of the flocks by night in the fields is a chronological fact…

Luke 2:8 explains that when Yeshua was born, “there were in the same country shepherds abiding in the field, keeping watch over their flock by night.” Note that they were “abiding” in the field. This never happened in December. Both Ezra 10:9-13 and the Song of Solomon 2:11show that winter was the rainy season and shepherds could not stay on cold, open fields at night.

Numerous encyclopedias and Christian Theologians plainly state that the Messiah was not born on December 25th! The Catholic Encyclopedia directly confirms this. In all likelihood, the Messiah was born in the fall! A lengthy technical explanation would prove this point.

Since we now know that December 25th was nowhere near Yeshua’s actual birth date, where did the festival associated with this date come from?

“In the Roman world, the Saturnalia (December 17) was a time of merrymaking and exchanging of gifts. December 25 was also regarded as the birth date of the Iranian mystery god Mithra, the Sun of Righteousness. On the Roman New Year (January 1), houses were decorated with greenery and lights, and gifts were given to children and the poor. To these observances were added the German and Celtic Yule rites when the Teutonic tribes penetrated into Gaul, Britain and central Europe. Food and good fellowship, the Yule log and Yule cakes, greenery and fir trees, gifts and greetings all commemorated different aspects of this festive season. Fires and lights, symbols of warmth and lasting life, have always been associated with the winter festival, both pagan and Christian” (Encyclopedia Britannica, 15th ed., vol. II, p. 903).

A final quote about the selection of December 25th as the birth date of Yeshua is necessary. Note an article in The Toronto Star, December 1984, by Alan Edmonds, entitled, “We owe a lot to Druids, Dutch”: “The Reformation cast a blight on Christmas. By then, of course, clever ecclesiastical politicians had adopted the Pagan mid-winter festival as the alleged birth date of Jesus, of Nazareth, and thrown in a few other Pagan goodies to make their takeover more palatable.”

December 25th was not selected because it was the birth of the Messiah or because it was even near it. It was selected because it coincided with the idolatrous pagan festival Saturnalia-and this celebration must be carefully examined.

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