What does Christmas mean to you? Does observing Christmas bring you closer to God? Or are "Christmas" traditions obscuring the wonderful truth of Jesus Christ's real message?
What does Christmas mean to you? For many people, it is the most festive time of the year. Families come together to exchange gifts under a Christmas tree, perhaps near a fireplace where a Yule log is burning. Children beg Santa Claus to bring them their most desired presents. All around are traditional decorations—holly wreaths, mistletoe, bright lights and tinsel. From time to time, one may even find a "nativity" scene and a sincere desire to mark the birth of Jesus Christ.
For most retailers in professing Christian nations, the Christmas season is the most profitable time of the year, accounting for up to 40 percent—sometimes more—of annual sales. Christmas-related promotions may begin weeks—even months—before December 25. Santa Claus and his reindeer have been used to sell products ranging from soda to electric razors!
This year, in a time of economic downturn, businesses are concerned that Christmas revenues may be weak. As one reporter noted during "back to school shopping" season last August, "Consumers who feel threatened by the economy may delay their frugality until November and December. Little Jimmy needs notebooks, pencils and clothes for school. He does not need an XBox Kinect for Christmas" (Back-to-school shoppers aren't scrimping—yet," Minneapolis Star-Tribune, August 18, 2011). It remains to be seen whether 2011 will reverse the anemic trends of some recent years.
Of course, for the wealthy, options abound. One famous upscale department store featured in its 2011 Christmas catalogue a life-sized edible gingerbread playhouse for children—at a price of $15,000!
Even for those of more modest means, "Christmas shopping" is one of the central traditions of the season. But the nature of Christmas shopping is changing in the Internet age. Earlier this year, British marketing firm eDigital Research reported that, in 2011, about one-third of consumers will be spending at least half of their Christmas-shopping budget online, while one in four will do up to three-fourths of their shopping on the Internet ("Gains for mobile shopping," eDigital Research, August 24, 2011).
So, is Jesus' message about consumerism? Is it a message of stress for those who rush about trying to stretch tight finances to purchase coveted consumer goods for friends and loved ones? Is it a message of guilt for those who do not spend enough, and a message of greed for those who are eager to receive the generous gifts of those around them?
Many of the millions who exchange gifts this year will assume they are following a tradition established by the Magi—the "wise men" from the East who came to pay their respects to Jesus. But is there more to that story than the common traditions assume?
Scripture describes the arrival of the Magi in Jerusalem as they searched for the prophesied King of the Jews. "Now after Jesus was born in Bethlehem of Judea in the days of Herod the king, behold, wise men from the East came to Jerusalem, saying, 'Where is He who has been born King of the Jews? For we have seen His star in the East and have come to worship Him'" (Matthew 2:1–2).
What happened when they found Him? "And when they had come into the house, they saw the young Child with Mary His mother, and fell down and worshiped Him. And when they had opened their treasures, they presented gifts to Him: gold, frankincense, and myrrh" (v. 11).
Had the Magi come to offer "birthday presents"? No! They had come to "worship" a child they had recognized as King of the Jews! They were offering tribute to a king!
Notice that Jesus was in "the house"—not in a manger—by the time the Magi visited Him! The Magi visited when Jesus was no longer a baby or an infant, but rather when He was a "child." The NIV Study Bible comments about this visit: "Contrary to tradition, the Magi did not visit Jesus at the manger on the night of His birth as did the shepherds. They came some months later and visited Him as a 'child' in his 'house'" (pp. 1442, 1444).
Just how old was Jesus when the Magi came to visit? From Scripture we know an upper limit. An angel warned Joseph and Mary to flee to Egypt to protect Jesus (Matthew 2:13). King Herod was not looking for an infant to kill—he ordered the murder of all male children two years old and younger in the Bethlehem area (v. 16). Jesus had to have been at least several months old when the Magi came to worship Him!
As you can see, the true biblical account is quite different from the traditions that inventive men have created around it. The birth of Jesus was the birth of a king. What purpose was revealed to Mary, Jesus' mother, regarding His birth? "Then the angel said to her, 'Do not be afraid, Mary, for you have found favor with God. And behold, you will conceive in your womb and bring forth a Son, and shall call His name Jesus. He will be great, and will be called the Son of the Highest; and the Lord God will give Him the throne of His father David. And He will reign over the house of Jacob forever, and of His kingdom there will be no end'" (Luke 1:30–33).
About 30 years later, Jesus began His full-time ministry. And what was His message? It was a message of a coming Kingdom—a Kingdom of which there will be no end! "Now after John was put in prison, Jesus came to Galilee, preaching the gospel of the kingdom of God, and saying, 'The time is fulfilled, and the kingdom of God is at hand. Repent, and believe in the gospel'" (Mark 1:14–15).
The angel Gabriel announced that Jesus was to rule a Kingdom that would never end. Jesus Himself preached the gospel, the good news, of the coming Kingdom of God! One popular Christmas-time tradition today involves Messiah, the famous oratorio written in 1741 by English composer George Frideric Handel. Many of us have heard, set to Handel's music, the stirring words from the prophet Isaiah, announcing the revelation of the Messiah: "For unto us a Child is born, unto us a Son is given; and the government will be upon His shoulder. And His name will be called Wonderful, Counselor, Mighty God, Everlasting Father, Prince of Peace" (Isaiah 9:6).
Yes, Jesus Christ—the Messiah—is now preparing to return to this earth and to establish world peace. He is the Prince of Peace. But, how will He establish world peace? Notice the next verse: "Of the increase of His government and peace there willbe no end, upon the throne of David and over His kingdom, to order it and establish it with judgment and justice from that time forward, even forever. The zeal of the Lord of hosts will perform this" (Isaiah 9:7).
Can you imagine total world peace? Can you imagine peace and prosperity among all nations? This is what will happen when Christ establishes His Kingdom on earth! The prophet Zechariah wrote of the time when all nations will send representatives to worship in Jerusalem: "And it shall come to pass that everyone who is left of all the nations which came against Jerusalem shall go up from year to year to worship the King, the Lord of hosts, and to keep the Feast of Tabernacles" (Zechariah 14:16).
The New Testament Church of the first century knew the prophecies of Christ's coming, and they knew Christ's message—yet the New Testament Church did not observe Christmas! Rather, it observed the same Holy Days that Jesus Christ observed.
Have you ever observed the day of Pentecost? The New Testament apostles did. You can read the fascinating story in the book of Acts. You can read how thousands were converted on the day of Pentecost. Why were they observing the day of Pentecost? Because it was one of the annual Holy Days commanded in the Bible. As the NIV Study Bible states: "Pentecost is also called the Feast of Weeks (Dt 16:10), the Feast of Harvest (Ex 23:16) and the day of firstfruits (Nu 28:26)" (p. 1645).
The biblical day of Pentecost began the New Testament Christian Church! If you sincerely want to live by the Bible, you will also want to observe this biblical festival every year! Did you know that the annual Holy Days reveal God's plan of salvation for all humanity? Consider another of the annual biblical Holy Days: the Feast of Trumpets. The Feast of Trumpets signifies the return of the Messiah, Jesus Christ. If professing Christians would observe the biblical Holy Days, they would understand the missing message. The seven trumpets blown during the year-long Day of the Lord constitute the seventh seal of Revelation, the last book in your Bible. Here is the great announcement that will shake the governments of every nation on earth! "Then the seventh angel sounded: And there were loud voices in heaven, saying, 'The kingdoms of this world have become the kingdoms of our Lord and of His Christ, and He shall reign forever and ever!'" (Revelation 11:15).
We all look forward to that time, and I urge you, if you are not already following Christ's instructions, to pray "Your Kingdom come!" The only way the world will ever experience lasting peace among nations is by Christ establishing world peace and teaching the nations how to achieve peace. The world must learn the way to peace. Christ and the saints will re-educate the nations, and teach them to love God and to love their neighbors. Notice this inspiring prophecy, "Many people shall come and say, 'Come, and let us go up to the mountain of the Lord, to the house of the God of Jacob; He will teach us His ways, and we shall walk in His paths.' For out of Zion shall go forth the law, and the word of the Lord from Jerusalem" (Isaiah 2:3).
Today, nations are warring against nations. World War III will envelop the whole world in a conflagration that must be stopped by the King of kings. The nations will gather at Megiddo and prepare to fight Christ at His coming. That battle is commonly referred to as Armageddon, and your Bible describes it as "the battle of that great day of God Almighty" (Revelation 16:14).
The nations will lose that war! Christ will reign triumphantly! Thank God, that Christ was born to be the King over planet Earth. The seventh trumpet will announce to the world that the nations now belong to the King of kings. God's loving plan for all humanity is revealed in the biblical festivals and holy days. Jesus and the apostles set us an example in observing biblical festivals and holy days, not pagan days and traditions with a Christian name. It is no accident that your Bible does not show Jesus or the Apostles observing Christmas—or any day set aside to commemorate Jesus' birth. Yet today, billions every year set aside December 25 as the day to celebrate the birth of Jesus. Why?
You may be wondering whether anyone can even prove that Jesus was born on December 25. Many will be surprised to learn that we can prove He was not born on that date!
Consider what Scripture tells us. Joseph and Mary had traveled back to Bethlehem for the census mandated by Caesar Augustus. The city was crowded, so Joseph and Mary had to find alternative accommodations. Jesus was born in Bethlehem and placed in a manger or a feeding trough. Notice the setting and the time of year. "Now there were in the same country shepherds living out in the fields, keeping watch over their flock by night" (Luke 2:8). Most Bible scholars plainly admit that shepherds were not in the field in December. The cold, rainy season began long before December 25. You can check most reputable Bible commentaries. Jesus was born in late September or early October near the time of an important biblical festival, the Feast of Trumpets.
Who, then, was born on December 25? As you can confirm in any reputable encyclopedia, December 25 was associated with the supposed birth of pre-Christian deities long before anyone tried to claim it as the day of Jesus' birth. Mithra and Sol Invictus are two of the ancient figures for whom a December 25 birthdate is found.
Mankind's false traditions can distract us from the real meaning of Christ's birth and life. We saw that Jesus was born in the autumn of the year, not on December 25. He was born to be the King of a kingdom that would never end. Jesus taught us to pray, "Our Father in heaven, hallowed be Your name. Your kingdom come" (Matthew 6:9–10).
We need the Kingdom of God! We are nearing the end of this age, the end of mankind's historic experiment with carnal societies and governments. The time is growing short, as we see many end-time prophecies coming to pass.
We can look forward to the return of Jesus Christ to this earth as King of kings. We can look forward to the coming Kingdom of God that will bring peace to all nations. Pray for the Kingdom to come! Look forward to His return as King of kings, and Lord of lords, as we read in Revelation 17:14 and Revelation 19:16. Christ and the saints will rule the world for a thousand years, as it states in Revelation 20:4–6. Look forward to a new world of peace and prosperity. All nations will have the opportunity to produce sustainable agriculture: abundant fruits, vegetables, and grains. Christ will stabilize the weather to bring rain in due season. Children will play in the streets in peace (Zechariah 8:5). The nature of animals will become peaceable (Isaiah 11:6). People from all nations will come to Jerusalem to keep the Feast of Tabernacles and to worship the King, Jesus Christ (Zechariah 14:16).
We are moving quickly toward the end of the present troubled age. And we are moving quickly toward the return of Jesus Christ to establish His peaceful millennial reign on planet Earth. Jesus Christ is the Savior of the world (1 John 4:14). He is coming as King of kings, and Lord of lords. Thank God that His Kingdom is coming! That is the missing message!
So, as December 25 approaches, what will you do? Will you go along with the fables that hide the true message of Jesus Christ? Will you become caught up in consumerism, and in "Christian" festivities that were actually co-opted from false gods? Will you look to false traditions—or will you look forward to the soon-coming return of the King of kings, the Savior of the world, Jesus Christ, to establish His Kingdom right here on planet Earth?
Do not let the false "Christmas" tradition distract you from the true message of Jesus Christ!