Why We Do Not Celebrate Christmas
The ‘Fisherman of Christ’ Fellowship does not celebrate Christmas, nor accept 25th of December as the birth date of Jesus Christ. Our stand is that Christmas should not be celebrated at all. We would like to share with our Fishers readers our reasons for taking this stand.
The Birth Date of Jesus Christ
As early as the 5th century AD there were many debates and speculations on the actual date of Christ’s birth. Three dates were suggested: 25th March, 8th June and 25th December. These dates were based upon some special traditions and not upon facts. Thus they were not considered valid.
The early Christians showed no interest in the date of Christ’s birth. Some went to the extent of saying that such a matter did not deserve attention. Among those who advocated such a view was Clement of Alexandria. He openly rebuked those who speculated on the birth date of Christ as being superstitious. Another scholar, Origen, in 245 AD commented that whoever thought of celebrating the birth of Christ was indirectly regarding Jesus as a Pharaoh.
The Bible does not record the actual date of Christ’s birth. The theologian Luke, for instance, in his account of the birth of Christ went into great details of the historical background but made no mention about the date of birth. I strongly believe that this was a deliberate omission by the writers of the Bible, being as they were under the inspiration of the Holy Spirit. It could not have been due to the lack of facts since the authors of the Four Gospels were contemporaries of Christ. Furthermore, two of them, namely Matthew and John, were also members f the Twelve disciples. We also know that Mary, the mother of Jesus, lived with the disciples and that James, the brother of Jesus, was one of the leaders of the early church. If the four Gospel authors had wanted to, they could have easily obtained facts regarding the birth of Christ through His mother and brothers. It must be that the reason for their silence on this matter is that they did not wish Christians to celebrate Jesus’ birth.
The Attitude of the Early Church
The book of the Acts of the Apostles and early church history make no mention of celebrating Christmas. In fact, it was not until the 3rd century AD that the date of the birth of Christ was discussed. The actual celebration of His birth began only in the 5th century.
If it was important for the church to celebrate the birth of Christ, then why did the early church fail to do so? We cannot deny the fact that the early Christians loved the Lord deeply and were more fervent then us in adhering to His teachings. Actually the celebration of the birth of Christ started at a time when there were heretical religious beliefs and low moral values.
Some said the circumstances at that time did not permit the early church to celebrate Christ’s birth. Perhaps the early Christians were afraid of persecutions and did not want to celebrate Christmas. Again, such reasoning is unfounded. The early believers faced numerous persecutions and had accepted them as testifying to a glorious Lord. Certainly they were not lacking in their obedience to Christ’s commands to practice baptism and the breaking of bread. In obeying these two commands, they suffered trials such as being driven out of the synagogue and being forced to relinquish their Jewish identity. They were treated as Gentiles and were denied their wealth once they got baptized.
When they remembered the Lord on the Sabbath, they were accused before the Roman government of being cannibals, because they “ate the flesh of Christ and drank His blood”. In spite of this, the early Christians were unafraid and stood firm. Clearly, the reason Christmas was not celebrated was that it was not deemed to be necessary.
The Teachings of The New Testament
We have seen that the Gospels and Acts are silent on the celebration of Christmas. The epistles contain no teachings on this practice. On the other hand, throughout the New Testament we are charged to keep two commands related to the death of Christ. One is baptism and the other is the breaking of bread. No other day is highlighted for remembering Christ, other than the first day of the week, when the Christians were told to gather for the breaking of bread.
We do take into consideration that if no clear instruction is given in the Bible, it does not imply that nothing can be celebrated. However, we must check our motives and methods in all that we do, and these should never contradict the teachings of Scriptures.
The Origin of Christmas
The 25th of December was originally a date for celebrating a particular Winter festival in Europe (Editor: please see the article on “Christmas and Christians”), It was by no coincidence that Christmas happens to fall on the same day as this festival, for it was to remember it. The term “Christmas” was given when the Roman Catholic Church accepted such a celebration. When Emperor Constantine of Rome proclaimed Christianity as the State religion, many flocked to the Catholic Church calling themselves :Christians” either to gain favour with the king of for some material gains. Their lives were unchanged and they still lived like unbelievers.
They openly celebrated the winter festival, until Pope Gregory I decreed that neither the image nor the religion of the pagans were to be removed. Instead, the Church was told to introduce Christians beliefs into the pagan religions in other to enable pagans to worship the true God together with the false gods. Pagans were allowed to celebrate their various festivals with Christian meanings attached. Among the many customs and traditions brought into the Church by the Pope’s order was the Winter festival, to which the name “Christmas” was given. Other practices were adopted by the Church such as the decorations, and giving of presents and big feasts.
We believe that the Church (Christians) should separate herself from the world, in accordance with the teaching of Bible (2 Cor 6:14-18, James 4:4,9). The Bible gives us no instruction to celebrate the birth of Christ. Moreover, the origin of Christmas and the way it was celebrated reveals that it is a pagan festival> Christmas was unmistakably brought into the church because of the weakness of the Catholic Church and the desires of the people. Those who are discerning and want to follow Christ at all cost should know what stand to take on this issue.
Huang Ee Yuen
(This article was first published in Fishers 101)