Christmas: The Unknown god To The Known God

A friend shared one of my blog articles Christmas: Love In Action, in a whats app group discussion and the first question to hit her was the basis for the celebration of Christmas in the Bible. Specifically, she was questioned on the date 25th December which has come to be widely accepted as the day to commemorate the birth of Jesus Christ our saviour.

Now, Christmas, despite its significance, is one of the most attacked celebrations of Christianity. The most common charge against it is its pagan origins but this can be explained as well as the date for the celebration. The question is: "how did we settle on 25th December?"
There are two theories today: one extremely popular, the other less often heard outside scholarly circles (though far more ancient). The most loudly touted theory about the origins of the Christmas date(s) is that it was borrowed from pagan celebrations. The Romans had their mid-winter Saturnalia festival in late December; barbarian peoples of northern and western Europe kept holidays at similar times. To top it off, in 274 C.E., the Roman emperor Aurelian established a feast of the birth of Sol Invictus (the Unconquered Sun), on December 25. Christmas, the argument goes, is really a spin-off from these pagan solar festivals. (biblical archaeology .com)
The pagan origins of Christmas, from the above, is clearly a fact we cannot deny. However, this fact doesn't in anyway dent the significance of the event: The celebration of the birth of Christ-God incarnate. He was born, wasn't he? As believers, Scriptures admonishes us to be prepared to make a defense for what we believe. (1 Peter 3:15-16). To answer the pagan origins debate whenever I get the opportunity, I throw in a Scripture I have come to love. It gives us a very clear picture in the bible of pagan thoughts used as a basis to point people to the true and living God just as Christmas.
...Paul, standing in the midst of the Areopagus, said: “Men of Athens, I perceive that in every way you are very religious. For as I passed along and observed the objects of your worship, I found also an altar with this inscription, ‘To the unknown god.’ What therefore you worship as unknown, this I proclaim to you.The God who made the world and everything in it, being Lord of heaven and earth, does not live in temples made by man. nor is he served by human hands, as though he needed anything, since he himself gives to all mankind life and breath and everything. And he made from one man every nation of mankind to live on all the face of the earth, having determined allotted periods and the boundaries of their dwelling place, that they should seek God, and perhaps feel their way toward him and find him. Yet he is actually not far from each one of us, for “‘ In him we live and move and have our being’;  as even some of your own poets have said, “‘ For we are indeed his offspring.’ (Acts 17:22-28).
In this Scripture, we see Paul engaging His contemporaries on pagan worship. The Athenians--Greeks-- were religious and polytheistic and in their desire to not offend any god they have not yet discovered or created, they mounted an altar dedicated "TO THE UNKNOWN GOD". How pathetic! Worshiping what they do not know, when God, in His creation has revealed Himself plainly to all humanity. Instead of worshipping the Creator, "who made the world and everything in it" the Athenians rather "exchanged the glory of the immortal God for images resembling mortal man and birds and animals and creeping things." (Romans 1:23).  Their pantheon of gods was not enough. They still had space for an "unknown god" "They became  futile in their thinking, and their foolish hearts...darkened" (Romans 1:21).

Now, how does Paul help us here to answer or defend the pagan origins of Christmas and why we must celebrate it? If we revisit Acts 17, picking from the last paragraph of vs 23, we read: "What therefore you worship as unknown, this I proclaim to you." There is no better analogy, in my opinion, to draw from Scriptures in defending the celebration of Christmas than this. Using the very object of pagan worship to proclaim the true living God. Paul used their "unknown god" to point them to "The God who made the heaven and everything in it". Paul turned their attention from their "unknown god", to the true living God. In the same text, there is a statement worth our attention: "In him we live and move and have our being;  as even some of your own poets have said, “‘ For we are indeed his offspring."  Note the words "some of your own poets" This means "In him we live and move and have our being" is a quote from Athenian pagan poets, who are believed to be Aratus and Epiminides. So in today's words, just as we argue the pagan origins of Christmas, we must then say that "In him we live and move and have our being" is unbiblical because it has no links even to the Old Testament Scriptures Paul quoted often.Paul quoted a line from the poem Phaenomena to make a case for the living God.

Whatever we have today as Christmas, as rightly said, is a "spinoff from pagan solar festivals" The question we must however answer for ourselves now is; "Is Christmas still pagan or it now directs us from the "unknown god" to "The God who made the heaven and the earth and everything in it" Was Christ born? Is His birth a historical event? "For God so loved the world, [9] that he gave his only Son, that whoever believes in him should not perish but have eternal life."(John 3:16).

Popular posts from this blog

Faith And Conduct

God's Unwavering Love