Image source: Author
Jesus was not born on December 25, he was born in September or October. During the reign of Emperor Constantine of Rome, who converted to Christianity about 300 years after the resurrection, he seized the pagan festival of Saturnalia celebrating the Sun-god, and turned it into a celebration of Jesus. I did a study on the origins of Christmas during this season last year and it is all available on this blog. Why did Constantine seize the season and the Church went along with him?
Genesis 1:14-15 (The Living Bible) says: “Then God said, “Let bright lights appear in the sky to give light to the earth and to identify the day and the night; they shall bring about the seasons on the earth, and mark the days and years.” And so it was.”
Later on King David says in Psalm 19:1-4 (The Living Bible): “The heavens are telling the glory of God; they are a marvelous display of his craftsmanship. Day and night they keep on telling about God. Without a sound or word, silent in the skies, their message reaches out to all the world…”
The mid-winter celebration which the Romans dedicated, to their god Saturnalia, celebrated the return of daylight to Europe after the long nights during winter. The return of longer days meant the people were able to return to farming and spending time outdoors. It was like returning back to life after death. If we follow the Biblical teaching that the seasons were created by God to teach us about him – what does the mid-winter transition from darkness to light teach about God?
To Emperor Constantine and the Church, the mid-winter transition from darkness to light, and the joy it brought to society, resembled the ministry of Jesus in bringing light into a dark world. At home, when I set up my Christmas tree with my children, I put emphasis on the lights on the tree including the starlight, as you can see in the picture above. Christmas is a Western European Church celebration of the mid-winter season when they move from long nights to long days.
The Church all over the world adopted this Western European Church tradition, of associating Jesus with the mid-winter festival of light. To be sure, the pagan celebration of mid-winter with its eating, drinking, and sexual excesses did not end, it continued side-by-side with the Christian celebration; this has caused some Christians to reject and refuse to celebrate Christmas. To Christians who do celebrate Christmas, remember, Jesus is the reason Christians celebrate Christmas!
To God be the glory, at all times, in Jesus name, Amen!