Jerry C. Brewer
What the world calls “Christmas” is a mixture of mythology and religious error that the centuries have piled layer upon layer. In all of the New Testament, there isn’t one syllable of authority for celebrating December 25th as the anniversary of Christ’s birth. That date was set by a Catholic Bishop, Liberius of Rome, in the fourth century. According to Wayne Wyrick of Oklahoma City’s Kirkpatrick Planetarium,
Christmas grew out of the pagan Roman holiday known as “Saturnalia,” which celebrated the beginning of the sun’s return to the northern hemisphere. The decadence and boisterous activities of this Roman carnival was a perfect cover for persecuted Catholics to celebrate Christ’s birth without being detected by the authorities (“Christmas Falls on 25th Thanks to ‘Toga Party,’” The Sunday Oklahoman, Dec. 1, 1996, A24).
Bible students know the truth about the events surrounding Christ’s birth, but Catholics and Protestants who call themselves “Christians” have swallowed the mythology of Christmas and rejected plain Bible teaching. Unknown to most Protestants, their churches originally refused to celebrate Christmas because it is a Catholic holiday. It was not until well into the 1800s that Protestants stopped “protesting” the holiday (and most everything else Catholic). The following are some of the myths to be exploded that are perpetuated by nativity scenes on church building lawns this season:
“Jesus Was Born In A Manger”
Jesus was not born in a manger. “And she brought forth her firstborn son, and wrapped him in swaddling clothes, and laid him in a manger; because there was no room for them in the inn” (Luke 2:7, Emph JCB). Jesus was not born in a manger, but laid in one after He was born.
“Peace On Earth”
Politicians and gullible religious folks seize upon this season of the year and co-opt the phrase, “Peace on earth,” to promote cessation of political and military hostilities. But when the angels said, “Glory to God in the highest, and on earth peace, good will toward men,” (Luke 2:14), they announced the peace that comes through the Gospel, made possible by Christ’s atoning sacrifice, not the cessation of political animosities or military conflict. Consider what Jesus said about His mission on earth:
Think not that I am come to send peace on earth: I came not to send peace, but a sword. For I am come to set a man at variance against his father, and the daughter against her mother, and the daughter-in-law against her mother-in-law. And a man’s foes shall be those of his own household. He that loveth father or mother more than me is not worthy of me: and he that loveth son or daughter more than me is not worthy of me (Matt. 10:34-37).
Jesus said He did not some to send peace on earth. Did he contradict the angels? No. He spoke of the conflict within families that His Gospel would bring. The announcement of “peace on earth” by the angels is the peace that ensues between God and men when we accept His terms of salvation. It’s the same peace of which Paul wrote: “Therefore being justified by faith, we have peace with God through our Lord Jesus Christ” (Rom. 8:1). The myth of World Peace—a cessation of military conflict and all nations being at peace with one another—is perpetuated by Social Gospel advocates and is not supported by the Bible
The Visit of “Three” Wise Men
The nativity scenes displayed by Catholics and Protestants around our town usually consist of cut-out figures representing Joseph, Mary, the infant Jesus, and three Wise Men, who are either beside or upon camels, gathered around a manger. Religious mythology says the wise men visited the stable where Jesus was born. The Bible indicates they were never there on that night, and it is silent as a tomb on how many wise men there were. It merely says, “Now when Jesus was born in Bethlehem of Judea in the days of Herod the king, behold, there came wise men from the east to Jerusalem, saying, Where is he that is born king of the Jews?” (Matt. 2:1-2). How many wise men does this passage indicate? Obviously, more than one, since the plural, men, is used. The Bible does not indicate how many there were, only that there was more than one.
When The Wise Men Visited
Contrary to popular myth, the wise men came to Jerusalem much later than the night of Christ’s birth—in fact, almost two years later, and their visit was to a house where Joseph, Mary and Jesus lived (Matt. 2:11). That they came about two years after Christ’s birth is indicated by the fact that Herod inquired of them the time of the star’s appearance that signaled Christ’s birth. “Then Herod, when he had privily called the wise men, inquired of them diligently what time the star appeared” (Matt. 2:7). The word, “diligently,” is defined by Strong as “strictness; exactness” which means Herod sought the precise time when the birth occurred. Obtaining that information, he then had all male children in Bethlehem, age two years and under, murdered, “…according to the time which he had diligently inquired of the wise men” (Matt. 2:16). There was a span of two years between the birth of Christ and the arrival of the wise men. They did not come on the night of his birth.
“Babe” And “ Young Child”
In their announcement of Christ’s birth to the shepherds, the angels said, “And this shall be a sign unto you; ye shall find the babe lying in a manger” (Luke 2:12, 16, Emph. JCB). When Matthew recorded the visit of the wise men, he used a different word to describe the young Jesus. In Matthew 2:8, Herod ordered the wise men to search for the young child. That same term is used in Matthew 2:9, 11, 13, 14, and in all of these places it refers to the young Jesus. The Greek words, translated babe and young child are, brephos and paidon. Brephos (babe) is defined as, “a newborn child, unborn, infant, a babe.” Paidon (young child) is defined as, “a child, little child, young child; little ones; little boy, little girl.” When Matthew and Luke were inspired of God to write their respective accounts of events surrounding the birth and early life of Jesus, they were given two different words to describe Him at two different stages of His physical development. By the time the wise men arrived, Jesus was no longer considered a babe but a young child. That is why Herod had all children “from two years old and under” slain in Bethlehem.
The single greatest event in all of history is the death of Jesus Christ for the sins of the world. For that purpose, the New Testament instructs us to remember that event upon the first day of the week (Acts 20:7) by taking the unleavened bread and fruit of the vine in memory of the body and blood of Christ (Matt. 26:26-29).
O, that men adored the Christ of Calvary as much as their misguided adoration of the Babe in the manger! As important as it was, it was not His birth, but His death that saves men by His blood. Let us not be caught up in the mythology of “Christmas” which began as a Catholic/Pagan celebration with no basis in Holy Writ. Rather, let us remember the suffering and death of our Risen, Living, Triumphant Lord who now reigns over His kingdom, and who is coming again to judge the world.