December 19, 2010
At Christmas time, one might notice or hear the pronouncement, Jesus is the reason for the season. Of course, such a message is meant to remind people of the sentiment of Christmas. The pronouncement does raise questions about the accuracy of biblical dates and the history of the Church year.
The Bible offers no date for the birth of Jesus. The placement for the nativity is still up for debate, as each year persons from different religious backgrounds argue about the time and place of Jesus’ birth. The presence of the Shepherds in the fields, keeping watch over their flock by night (Luke 2:8), suggests that the birth may have been at a time of the year when it was much warmer. During the years following Jesus’, the Church spared no effort to correctly date the exact birth of Jesus.
History records that by the fourth century, Church Leaders decided that they needed a Christian alternative to rival the popular solstice celebration on December 25th. It is said that the first recorded feast of the Nativity was held in Rome in A.D. 336. Church Leaders were directly challenging an up-start pagan religion by placing the Nativity on December 25th. The Mithras celebrated the birth of their infant god of light on that same day.
Church Leaders may have also had theological reasons for choosing December 25th. The Christian historian Sextus Julius Africanus had identified December 25th as Christ’s nativity more than a hundred years earlier. Since the Mithras celebrated their infant god of light December 25th and Jesus is the light of the world, it was seen as the good in Jesus, overcoming the evil that the Mithras were celebrating. Jesus signaled the beginning of a new era or a new creation.
The time to argue about the date of Jesus’ birth has long gone. The important thing is that he was born to save us from our sins. John 3:17 declares, “God sent not his son into the world to condemned the world, but that the world through him might be saved”. The important thing is not the exact date when he was born or even the place where he was born, but his mission to bring deliverance to the captives and set free ,those who are shackled. May this Christmas bring a new sense of awareness that we are celebrating the light of the world, which dispels every darkness. Point others to the light of the world , who is Jesus.