It is Christmas time again! A time when people are busy shopping for themselves and for someone they care about.
For Iglesia Ni Cristo members, Christmas, which is celebrated by majority of Christians (and even non-Christians) every Dec 25th of the year, is a pagan festival. History convincingly shows that December 25 was popularized as the date for Christmas, not because Christ was born on that day but because it was already popular in pagan religious celebrations as the birthday of the sun. The Roman Catholics decided to “Christianize” that pagan holiday starting in 336 A.D. as a celebration of the birth of Christ.
Today in our generations, Christmas is celebrated in a commercialized way. People patronized Santa Claus more than the birth of Christ. Many Christians and non-Christians though, celebrate Christmas in the spirit of love and giving. I think that is the power of the Christmas in our time. Most Christians do not even know that Dec 25 originally came from a pagan festival. In my humble opinion it does not matter anymore. God commanded us not to worship other gods, that is not the case for celebrating Christmas in our time. To celebrate or not celebrate the birth of Christ I think is not really in the bible.
For many many years of being a member of the Iglesia Ni Cristo, I did not celebrate Christmas. I thought I missed a lot of the spirit of loving and giving.
If every celebrations is to be avoided because of pagan origin, people should not celebrate birthday at all. If you are religiously denying the spirit of love and giving during Christmas because of pagan’s origin, you are also guilty of pagan practices which is also a sin for celebrating your own birthday. How much more if you are a leader of a Church or an organization and you let your people celebrate your birthday?
The Birthday and the Bible
Birthday celebrations are mentioned in the Bible in a terrible event.
The first account is in Genesis. Pharaoh, the Egyptian king, celebrated his birthday by executing his chief baker (Gen. 40:1-23). God gave Joseph special understanding of a dream by Pharaoh’s butler and baker, that the baker would lose his life three days after Joseph interpreted the dream. Joseph understood that Pharaoh would use this occasion—his own birthday party—to put his baker to death. As the dream had foretold, the baker was hung at the party. Notice! This was a birthday party, nothing less! It was being observed by a pagan Egyptian Pharaoh — not a man of God.
In the New Testament, King Herod reluctantly ordered the beheading of John the Baptist (Matt. 14:3-11). In Matthew 14:6: “But when Herod’s birthday was kept…” During the dancing and merry-making at his birthday party, Herod got carried away and eventually made a promise that he did not want to keep. As a result, a great servant of God lost his life.
In Job 1:4: “went and feasted in their houses, every one his day; and sent and called for their three sisters to eat and to drink with them”. These parties were obviously not centered around any kind of celebration related to God, or Job would not have worried that his children may have sinned during these celebration feasts. He was not exactly sure what was going on in their minds, but the very celebration of their birthdays triggered great concern in him, Job 1:5, When a period of feasting had run its course, Job would make arrangements for them to be purified. Early in the morning he would sacrifice a burnt offering for each of them, thinking, “Perhaps my children have sinned and cursed God in their hearts.” This was Job’s regular custom.
Christmas In the Spirit of Christ
In Matthew 1:21 “And she will bring forth a Son, and you shall call His name JESUS, for He will save His people from their sins.” 22 So all this was done that it might be fulfilled which was spoken by the Lord through the prophet, saying: 23 “Behold, the virgin shall be with child, and bear a Son, and they shall call His name Immanuel,” which is translated, “God with us.”
The coming of Christ means “God with us“. He gave us access to God so that He will save us from our sins. In Matthew 1:21 “And she will bring forth a Son, and you shall call His name JESUS, for He will save His people from their sins.”
God has given us a gift of eternal life. In Romans 6:23 (NKJV) For the wages of sin is death, but the gift of God is eternal life in Christ Jesus our Lord.
John 3:16 (NKJV) “For God so loved the world that He gave His only begotten Son, that whoever believes in Him should not perish but have everlasting life.”
2 Corinthians 9:15 (NKJV) “Thanks be to God for His indescribable gift!”
God has a gift to us. A gift is not something you worked for, it is not something that you deserve because of your tireless effort performing sacrifices and duties in the Church. A gift is something you received out of love from someone, not because you desire for it or you sweat for it. Apostle Paul said your salvation is a gift from God not by your work [that includes your time and efforts performing church duties] so that you cannot use these works to justify your salvation.
Ephesians 2:8-9 (NIV) “8 For it is by grace you have been saved, through faith—and this is not from yourselves, it is the gift of God— 9 not by works, so that no one can boast”.
Most people do not know the gift of God is irremovable. In Romans 11:29 (NKJV), “29 For the gifts and the calling of God are irrevocable“. This clearly tell us that no man in this world can remove the gift of salvation given to us. Even if someone believe he has been given power to expel individuals from the Church membership, it cannot override God’s decision that his gift is irrevocable. God is always sovereign than man.
Let us then celebrate Christ in the spirit of God’s gift of the everlasting life. Let us celebrate love and act of giving in the spirit of Christ.