I used to think Christmas was sort of a pointless holiday. I considered it just a completely artificial, commercialized holiday whose only purpose was to get people to spend money on things they didn’t need. And of course, I would also frequently hear the charge that Christmas was actually just a pagan holiday, and that Christians merely co-opted the date to try to make their religion more user-friendly for the masses. Hence, it seemed that we were basically celebrating a pagan holiday with an artificial Christmas message getting people to waste money while listening to annoying secular Christmas songs that monopolize the radio.
That said, I still think the commercialization aspect is pretty crummy. Consider the whole gift-giving thing, for example. Chances are, if you get me a gift, I will not get you one back. What is the point of getting a gift if you just have to give one back?
But I digress. The main point of this post is to demonstrate that commercialization aside, Christmas is probably not an artificial holiday. Specificially, Christmas is not merely a Christianized pagan celebration. Rather, Glenn Chatfield has specifically uncovered proof from the Bible that Jesus was indeed probably born sometime in December:
In Luke 1:5 and Luke 1:8, we are told that Zacharias was a priest of the course of Abia and that he fulfilled his priestly duties in the order of his course. To understand the importance of the course of Abia and its bearing on the date of John the Baptist’s conception, it is necessary to turn to I Chronicles 24:1-10. This passage describes how a thousand years before Christ, King David established the courses for priestly service in the coming temple. Twenty-four courses were established and numbered by drawing lots – twelve courses for sanctuary service and twelve for the government of the house of God.
Members of each course would serve during a month starting with the Hebrew month of Nisan. (Because of the way the Hebrew calendar fluctuates, the month Nisan can start anytime between early March and early April.) The sons of Abijah (the Old Testament spelling for Abia) were in the eighth course. Priests of Abia like Zacharias would, therefore, have ministered for a time during the eighth month which in some years corresponds to our month of October. Zacharias would have returned home when his days of service were accomplished and John the Baptist would have been conceived sometime between October 10th and the end of the month.
After conception the scripture says that Elizabeth hid herself for five months. Then in the sixth month of her pregnancy (which depending on the year could have been between March 10 and April 10) the angel announced to the Virgin Mary that the Lord Jesus would be conceived in her womb by the Holy Ghost. If this took place on or about April 1 a “normal” gestation period of 270 days would have then had the Lord Jesus due on December 25.
So anyway, I thought that was interesting. Christmas still isn’t really my favorite holiday or anything, and I still think the excess gift-giving is economically inefficient. But I figure if we can have holidays based off the birthdays of people like Martin Luther King Jr., we certainly may as well have one for Jesus, too. Altogether, Merry Christmas, and long live the king!