Christmas is Celebrated in Heaven and on Earth
By Robert Clanton
Part 1: God, Shepherds, Angels, and Wise Men, Celebrated Christ's Birth.
For the last 150 years many Sabbatarians have been loudly proclaiming, Christ's birthday is never celebrated in Scripture. You are now going to find that not only is Christ Birthday celebrated! It is celebrated both in Heaven and on earth.
Shepherds celebrate the birth of Christ.
Luke records that God sent his angels to proclaim this
message to the Shepherds:
The Very Day of Christ birth is declared to be a day of "good tidings and great joy" in Scripture. And it is God Almighty that sends the Angel to declare it! Notice the words that the angel of the Lord was sent to them to proclaim, "Good tidings of GREAT JOY, WHICH SHALL BE TO ALL PEOPLE" Unto you is born THIS DAY, in the city of David a Saviour, which is Christ the Lord".
Christ's Birth is a prophecy of Great Joy to All People.
What annoys the heck out of many Sabbatarians is that Christ's birthday causes every people on every continent of the world to sing "Glory to God in the Highest" and "Christ our Saviour is born". But thus, the scripture is fulfilled as promised, "GREAT JOY SHALL BE TO ALL PEOPLE".
They wonder why God couldn't just leave Christ for some exclusive Jewish Christian group, and why did He have to make Christ to be "Great Joy to ALL PEOPLE" of all the nations!
The GREAT JOY is for ALL people, on the day of Christ's birth. That is why Christians celebrate the Great Joy along with all people, which is the birth of Christ the Lord. But not only was it to be "Good tidings of Great Joy FOR ALL PEOPLE", but the Angels also rejoiced "praising God.
Angels rejoice at the birth of Christ.
But the Heavenly Host of Angels also rejoiced "that day" as it is written, Luke 2:13 "And suddenly there was with the angel a multitude of the heavenly host praising God, and saying, 14Glory to God in the highest, and on earth peace, good will toward men."
Instead rejoicing with the Angels and "all people", on "THIS DAY" some have decided to rather make up excuses why Christ birth shouldn't be celebrated, though scripture says quite the contrary.
To respond to those who will say that Dec.25th is a pagan day, I answer that Christ is the creator of "all things" all the days of the week are created by him and He sustains all things. Christ owns 7 days a week 365 days a year. Col.1:16 says, "For by him were all things created, that are in heaven, and that are in earth." All days of the week are named after pagan gods. Are Sabbatarian worshipping a pagan god when they go to church on Saturday? Saturday is named in honor of the Roman god Saturn. In Latin, Saturday was called dies Saturni.
The Sabbatarians say God would never let Christ be born on a day Pagans celebrated. It is not the Pagans, which own the days; it is Christ who owns "all the days". The Pagans only misused the days. Christ returned the days, which were abused, back to the RIGHTFUL OWNER, GOD HIMSELF. God has done this with many things both past and present. He takes pagans and TRANSFORMS them to Christians.
The Hebrew worship in the Old Testament is full of similarities with that of the pagans which does not make December 25 Pagan!
The pagans had a temple, Israel had a Temple.
The pagans had a priesthood, Israelites had a priesthood.
The pagan priests had vestments, the Levitical priesthood has vestments.
The pagans used incense in worship, the Israelites used incense in worship.
The pagans offered animal sacrifices, the Israelites offered animal sacrifices.
The pagans, had spring and fall harvest feasts, God gives Israel spring and fall harvest feasts.
The pagans had water cleansing, so did Israel.
The list is endless. The Puritanism you can't do this and you can't do that because the pagans had a similarity is not found in scripture. It is a doctrine of fanatics, like Hislop who wrote The Two Babylons. Hislop taught that a steeple on a church was a phallic symbol, when the truth was that when the Architects built steeples on the Church it was because Christ said, "If I be LIFTED UP, I will draw ALL MEN unto me." So, the Architects of the Churches lifted the cross high so that all men would see it and come unto Christ.
The kind of Pharisaical Puritanism that exists upon some of the Sabbatarian groups has blinded them from the plain evidence in scripture that Christ's birth was not only to be celebrated ON EARTH, but in Heaven ALSO. According to their Puritanism, the Holy Spirit would never have referred to Christ as "the sun of righteousness". Mal 4 2But for you who revere my name, the sun of righteousness will rise with healing in its wings. And you will go out and leap like calves released from the stall. Nor would God ever let the Holy Spirit say in Ps. 84, "11For the LORD God is a SUN and shield".
According to the extremist view, The Holy Spirit would
never call Christ, ""the light of the world" Because, everyone knows that the
Sun is what gives the earth light! But, that kind of fanaticism is not from God.
It is from the same Pharisaical mind that existed in Christ's day by the
self-righteous Pharisees who prided themselves in keeping the law to the nth
degree, while they were inwardly, unrighteous.
Nevertheless, the Sabbatarians that teach that it is wrong to celebrate the birth of Christ are wrong. They are not Christians! Not all Sabbatarians teach that it is wrong to celebrate Christmas, e.g. SDAs.
The whole world rejoices and sings, "Oh little town of Bethlehem" and "Christ the new born King is born". There is no excuse for not celebrating Christ's birth.
John Chrysostom, (c. 347-407), A noted advocate of the December 25th date, a humble and caring man, perhaps best known for his writings on the Bible and the Christian faith. He was also an eloquent preacher in the city of Constantinople, where his sermons became a stronger attraction for people than the shows of the amphitheater. Through his ministry many souls came to Christ from among heretics, pagans, and Jews. He was not without his enemies, however, and suffered times of persecution, including his church being burned down. Illegitimately, the Emperor Arcadius ordered his banishment to an inhospitable region, the desert of Pityos. But while being taken there, Chrysostom died in his 60th year. It is reported that with his last words he was praising the Lord!
Chrysostom claimed the December 25th date was supported by the actual census/tax records of the Holy Family when they registered in Bethlehem. We have no way to prove if those records were still in existence, or were authentic, but Chrysostom was not the only one who referred to them.
Justin Martyr (100-165), in his noted Apology, a detailed explanation of the Christian faith addressed to the Emperor Marcus Aurelius-stated that Jesus was born at Bethlehem ''as you can ascertain also from the registers of the taxing" (Apol. I, 34).
Tertullian (160-250) spoke of "the census of Augustus-that most faithful witness of the Lord's nativity, kept in the archives of Rome" (Against Marcion, Bk. 4, 7). When Cyril of Jerusalem (348- 386) asked Julius to assign the true date of Christ's birth "from census documents brought by Titus to Rome," Julius assigned December 25th.
Chrysostom taught that it was on the Day of Atonement that Zacharias received the angelic announcement that he would have a son. This would place the conception of John in late September, and so the conception of Christ (which was six months later) in March, leading to a December birth!
According to rabbinical tradition, when the temple was destroyed in 70 A.D., the priestly course of Jehoiarib was serving. If the order of priestly service was unbroken through all those 70 years, it has been calculated that the course of Abijah, to which Zacharias belonged, would have been serving during the first week of October. This would be only slightly later than Chrysostom's position, but one which would still allow for Christ's conception to have been in March and his birth in December.
It should be carefully noted, however, that numerous arguments have been based on when Zacharias served. None are conclusive, since all must assume certain things:
Did the priestly courses start at the beginning of each year, or did they function as a continuous week by week cycle? Was this cycle interrupted during the annual feasts? Did all priests serve then, with the order of courses continuing thereafter? When the Jews added a month, every three years or so (to bring their lunar calendar into alignment with the solar year), how did this affect the timing of the courses? Did they always follow a totally uniform and unchanging policy from generation to generation, or were there variables? Our purpose here is not to argue for one date over another, so we need not get hung up on details.
THE CHRIST FROM BIRTH
There was a sect, the Gnostics, who believed Jesus of Nazareth became the "Christ" at his baptism, that this was when God was "manifested" in the flesh. Eventually, through the influence of Valentinus, January 6 was set aside to honor this event, called "Epiphany" (from the Greek epiphaneia, meaning manifestation).
There were others who began to observe Epiphany on this date also, but they believed (correctly) that Jesus was the Christ from his birth. However, since Jesus' baptism occurred on or near the anniversary of his birth (Lk. 3:23), it seemed more fitting for them to observe January 6th in honor of his birth. This may have even served to counter the false teaching of the Gnostics, emphasizing by this observance, that he had an actual birth as the Christ. If so, setting aside a day to honor his birth did not stem from some ulterior motive. The Armenian Church still observes January 6th.
Was there a feasible basis for January 6th as the date of Christ's birth, and subsequent baptism 30 years later on this date? Was this based on some then-extant records? I don't know. Centuries ago there were disputes as to whether January 6th or December 25th was the correct date, with large groups of people favoring one or the other. But in either case, these two dates only a few days apart are both in winter!
Would winter be a feasible time for the baptism of Jesus? I know of no reason why not at least the winter weather would not have interfered. The very low elevation of the Jordan where Jesus was baptized-near the Dead Sea, which is the lowest spot on earth-enjoys a very mild winter climate.
What about travel for Joseph and Mary from Nazareth to Bethlehem in winter? It is very possible they would have chosen the route through the Jordan Valley. If so, a large percentage of the trip would have been below sea level, thus providing protection from cold weather, even in December. (The Jordan Valley runs between the Sea of Galilee at 689 feet below sea level, to the Dead Sea at 1,306 feet below sea level.)
Would winter have been the time for people like Joseph and Mary to be taxed/census? It must have been in winter, for only then was field labor suspended!
Was shepherds in the field at winter? Yes. It has been often stated that shepherds in that, part of the world did not abide in the field during the middle of winter, that by October 15th they would have brought their flocks home thus ruling out December as the time of Christ's birth. But this is far from conclusive. There may have been exceptions. That some shepherds did face cold weather may be seen in Jacob's complaint to Laban, that he had suffered from frost by night (Gen. 31:40).
In his highly regarded and scholarly volumes, The Life and Times of Jesus the Messiah, Alfred Edersheim says about December 25th: "There is no adequate reason for questioning the historical accuracy of this date. The objections generally made rest on grounds, which seem to me historically untenable." Though various writers have quoted Lightfoot about flocks not lying out during the winter months, this was not true of all flocks. He cites ancient Jewish sources to the effect that there are flocks that "remain in the open alike in the hottest days and in the rainy season i.e. all the year round" (The Life and Times of Jesus the Messiah, Bk.2, p.186).
When Luke mentioned shepherds abiding in the field, did he seek to convey what time of year it was, was not or might these words suggest something different: that these shepherds were very poor, living in the field with their flock? They may have been without shelter for their flock or houses for themselves regardless of what season it was.
It is very possible they were this poor. If so, there is a beautiful contrast between the shepherds and the wise men who were, apparently, very rich. Both groups came to worship Jesus while he was an infant, a lovely example of how the message of Christ is for all people, rich or poor. ("Christmas reconsidered" by Ralph Woodrow pg 35-39).
Some Sabbatarians are desperate to say that Christ was born during the Feast of Tabernacles. But the scripture is entirely opposed to that idea. They constantly are looking for reasons Christ could not have been born around Dec.25th so they fabricate the story that Mary and Joseph were on they way to the Jewish "feast of Tabernacles" when Christ was born. They say that the Feast of Tabernacles pictured "Christ tabernacling among us". And based on this single assumption go to the scriptures to "prove" Christ was born during the Feast of Tabernacles.
But Notice Luke 2:1And it came to pass in those days, that there went out a decree from Caesar Augustus, that all the world should be taxed/census. 2(And this taxing was first made when Cyrenius was governor of Syria.) 3And all went to be taxed, every one into his own city. 4And Joseph also went up from Galilee, out of the city of Nazareth, into Judaea, unto the city of David, which is called Bethlehem; (because he was of the house and lineage of David:) 5To be taxed/census with Mary his espoused wife, being great with child. 6And so it was, that, while they were there, the days were accomplished that she should be delivered. 7And she brought forth her firstborn son, and wrapped him in swaddling clothes, and laid him in a manger; because there was no room for them in the inn. "
From the scripture above we know this:
1) Joseph and Mary were not on the way to the "Feast of Tabernacles" because the Feast was celebrated at Jerusalem not Bethlehem.
2) Joseph and Mary's destination was Bethlehem, not Jerusalem because the scripture says specifically, ". 4And Joseph also went up from Galilee, out of the city of Nazareth, into Judaea, unto the city of David, which is called Bethlehem; (because he was of the house and lineage of David:) " Jerusalem is where the Feast of Tabernacles is celebrated not Bethlehem. Joseph being of the lineage of David was commanded by the king to go to "Bethlehem" not Jerusalem for taxation. Luke is very careful to note that Mary and Joseph walking in according to the law of Moses. For example, Luke records 2:21 immediately records the circumcision of Christ 8 days after his birth as commanded in the law of Moses. The Next FEW VERSES record Joseph and Mary offering the sacrifice as commanded by the law of Moses in the temple at Jerusalem (22-24). Yet Luke does not remotely signal or mention anything in regard to any Feast of Tabernacles.
3) They had already arrived in Bethlehem and had been there for some time because it says, "while they were there" not as they were passing through.
4) The reason that there was no "room at the inn" was because ALL "the house and lineage of David:" was told to go to Bethlehem for the purpose of TAXATION/CENSUS not any Jewish Feast.
5) There isn't the slightest hint in scripture that anyone anywhere was celebrating the Feast of Tabernacles (at that season/time/Dec 25). It is purely a fabrication outside scripture.
6) It is also foolish to think that while Luke makes mention of taxation/census as the very purpose for the travel, he would overlook the Feast of Tabernacles.
7) Taxation would have been nearly impossible at the time of Feast of Tabernacles because all the men went to Jerusalem not Bethlehem.
8) No requirement was necessary for a woman with child to go to Jerusalem for the Feast. And no feast of Tabernacles was held at Bethlehem.
9) The scripture specifically says "everyone went TO HIS OWN CITY " Luke 1:3 Not to Jerusalem. Utter chaos would have developed if Augustus had made the Jews make a choice between going to the Feast of Tabernacles in Jerusalem as commanded in the law or going "to his own city" which was outside of Jerusalem.
10) Anyone who has looked at a map of where Nazareth is on a map and then where Jerusalem and Bethlehem is knows that Nazareth is far north of Jerusalem and Bethlehem is SOUTH of Jerusalem. Mary and Joseph could not have been "on their way to Jerusalem" for the Feast of Tabernacles because Bethlehem is SOUTH of Jerusalem. They would have had to go through and PAST Jerusalem to get to Bethlehem. Mary and Joseph weren't on their way to Jerusalem. Their destination was Bethlehem NOT Jerusalem. They had reached their destination where "the lineage of David" was to go for the purpose of taxation. The city was full because all of the "house and lineage" of David was there to be TAXED/CENSUS, not to celebrate any feast day. Bethlehem is not "on the way" IT'S "OUT OF THE WAY".
11) Bethlehem is 6 miles south of Jerusalem. At a good pace of 2-3 miles per/hour it would take 3-4 hours to get to Jerusalem to worship and then 3-4 hours to return to Bethlehem. That is 7-8 of travel BY FOOT on the Sabbath or Holy Day. There is no way this could be considered a feasible on the Sabbath. Jewish law forbids any such travel on a feast day or weekly Sabbath. Josephus in Antiquities of the Jews Book 13, Chapter 8, paragraph 4., also declares that the Jews were not allowed to travel on any Jewish Festival. That would forbid any Jew from staying in Bethlehem and trying to travel to the Feast of Tabernacles in Jerusalem.
It may well be also said, that the fact that the Jews were to make "booths of palms" also have never allowed Jews to attempt to stay at a "inn" since it was forbidden. The Jews were to stay in their huts of palms just as the Israelites stayed in them while they were in the wilderness. That was the lesson of the feast of tabernacles.
Merry Christmas to one and all!