Summary: We are going to look at a few of the traditions that surround the Christmas season.
OPENING JOKE: “RATS” A minister once enlisted four children to help him preach his Christmas sermon on “The Star.” He gave each child one of the four letters to hold up so he could make a point on each letter of the word “Star.” When the children stepped forward and turned around, they were in reverse order. The congregation nearly fell out of their pews as they read: “RATS.”
INTRODUCTION: Tonight we are going to look at a few of the traditions that surround the Christmas season.
We are going to attempt to determine which are Biblical and which are traditional.
Most of them are of little consequence in the grand scheme of life, but as you will see, when we come to the final portion where I expound upon our two opening texts, what is true about Christmas is starting to be left out and being replaced with new man-made traditions.
Tradition #1 The Year of Jesus Birth
Was Jesus born on December 25th, 0000? No.
Throughout history, calendars have been dated according to important historical events. Our calendar is dated in relation to the birth of Jesus. “B.C.” = ‘Before Christ’. “A.D.” = “Anno Domini’ = ‘in the year of our Lord’.
How did they come up with this year? Is this really 2005 years after the birth of Jesus?
Actually our calendar is based on the birth of Jesus, but it is off by a few years. If you look in your Bible, the birth of Jesus is dated at 4 or 5 B.C.
How do we know this? We look to history. Jesus was born when Herod was King. He reigned for 37 years. Josephus (a Jewish historian) says that there was a lunar eclipse shortly before Herod’s death. History tells us that Herod died 7 days before the eclipse. Scientists have dated the elipse in March of 4 B.C.
Mary & Joseph’s flight into Egypt occurred BEFORE the death of Herod. The Bible tells us that Herod died while they were in Egypt, thus Jesus was born Sometime before 4 B.C., meaning our calendars are at least 4 years off!
Tradition #2 The Date of Jesus Birth
Was Jesus born on December 25th? We don’t know, but most unanimously agree that He was not.
In 180 A.D., Clement of Alexandria wrote that the birth of Jesus was thought to be on April 21 … or April 22 … or May 20 … depending on who you asked. Most believed that it was around the Passover time. This is when the shepherds would be out in their fields … not in the winter.
The Eastern Orthodox Church celebrated Christmas on January 6th for centuries. Since the FIRST Adam was “born” on the 6th day of creation … and Jesus is the SECOND Adam … they celebrated the birth of Jesus on January 6th. The Armenian Church still celebrates Christmas on January 6th.
In the 336 AD, the Western Church set the date as December 25th. WHY? There was a pagan holiday on that date, and so to diminish and obscure the importance of the pagan holiday, they decided to celebrate the birth of Jesus on that date.
NOTE: If God would have wanted us to know the exact date … if it was that important … He would have told us. The IMPORTANT thing is … to celebrate the birth of Jesus … no matter what date you choose.
Tradition #3 The Rude Inn-Keeper
Our Christmas plays always picture a mean Inn-keeper who looked upon a woman and her husband and turned them away to His stable.
But there is absolutely no mention on one in the Bible. It is just assumed. I have heard people say, “Well that Inn-keeper should have allowed Mary in, being that she was pregnant and all.” I always say, “What Inn-Keeper?” (Ha-ha) Read Luke 10:33-35 and you will find no mention of any Inn-Keeper. Not that this matters so much, but it shows how our traditions get interwoven into a story, not many people realize that the Bible doesn’t ever mention an Inn-keeper.
Tradition #4 The Story of the Wise men
At Christmas we always see the manger scene depicted with Baby Jesus, Mary, Joseph, Shepherds and 3 wise men. But is this scene from Scripture or tradition?
QUESTION 1: How many were there?
Here is the funny part: As far as numbers go, we have no clue how many actually came to see Jesus! We don’t know for sure … BUT … there was more than one … Wise “MEN”. There is no actual basis for this, as Scripture is again silent. TRADITION says “3” because of the 3 gifts. They were even given names… Caspar, Melchoir, Balthazar because of this tradition.
QUESTION 2: When did they arrive?
They probably arrived a few months after the birth of Jesus, Matthew 2:8, 11. Jesus is called a “young child”, and they lived in a “house”. After the birth of Jesus, they probably went into Bethlehem, after the crowds had left, and found a family to take them into their home. We don’t know for sure when they came but we know that it was within two years. This is why Herod ordered the killing of all babies “two years and younger” after speaking with the Wise men.