Is Celebrating the Birth of Messiah, Biblical?!?

Is Celebrating the Birth of Messiah, Biblical?!?

With a title like this, a majority of you reading this are most likely from 1 of 2 “camps:”

  1. Camp 1: I am here looking for proof that there is nothing wrong with celebrating Christmas
  2. Camp 2: I am here to prove that celebrating Christmas is wrong and expose your heresy

Is the 2 camp thesis a fair assessment or is that arrogant of me to make such a broad sweeping statement?

Let me frame it (and this entire post) for you with a true story and teaching from an intelligent and wise Rabbi I once studied under. A young lady asked the Rabbi a question during one of his teachings:

Rabbi, what do you believe regarding ___________?” (I don’t remember the subject)

The Rabbi shot back without hesitation, “Why do you ask?”

The young lady seemed incredulous at the Rabbi’s response and said, “Because I really want to know!”

The Rabbi looked at her soberly and with a measured reply said, “No, you do not . . . “

She was beside herself as her voice raised and said, “Yes I do!” – This is where a very valuable lesson for all of us began – this is where the Rabbi’s teaching began:

The Rabbi looked at her with what I would deem as pity as he began:

No, what you want to know is whether I agree with what you already believe to be true.

If I do, then you can pat yourself on the back and say, ‘even the Rabbi agrees with what I believe.’

If what I say I believe is different than what you believe,

then you can dismiss me as insignificant and ignore what I am teaching you

because it doesn’t line up with what you already believe.

You are not here to learn, you are here to justify what you already think.”

It was a serious teaching that day from the Rabbi and full of wisdom . . . a teaching that is oh-so-applicable to the title of this piece.

Camp 2

I am going to deal with Camp 2” first since it is my experience that those in “Camp 2” rarely read the whole piece – they are just looking for an opening to attack. I am going to do this in love and in the most non-threatening manner that I am capable of so that the the message is not lost or obscured . . . I am going to focus on the “majors” instead of “majoring in the minors.”

If you have followed my posts for any amount of time, you will find that I like to over-exaggerate to make a point. Over-exaggeration tends to unblur the lines when you over-exaggerate it to the point of its logical conclusion. Let’s do that here . . .

I want you to imagine if you will, that you are a shepherd just outside of Beit-Lechem (Bethlehem). I want you to imagine what your daily routine is as a shepherd. I want you to imagine how hard of a life that you would live – scrapping to get by – fighting off wolves and bears and such. Not an easy profession. If you get sick or hurt, you and your family may, and more than likely will, starve to death. You are dirty, smelly, and not so well thought of by society. You live a very tough life and existence!

As you imagine this, I want you to also imagine the following:

I want you to imagine that it is night time. You are in the fields guarding your flock. Listening for every twig break because each crackle, each snap, could be a predator trying to take your sheep or goats – a predator that could hurt your or your family as well. With your heightened sense of awareness and the fact that it is dark, I want you to imagine the absolute terror – the absolute fear that you would feel when an angel of Adonai suddenly appeared to you . . .

We are talking about a supernatural phenomenon occurring right before your eyes. Not something you deal with every day. This is huge! This is totally and unequivocally out of the ordinary! This is Adonai sending a messenger – HIS messenger – to talk to YOU! Not only that, but this messenger – this angel – is surrounded in the Sh’khinah glory of Adonai!!!

I want you to imagine as best that you can what it would mean to you in your fearful and terrified state when this angel surrounded in Adonai’s Sh’khinah glory stated in words that were audible to you:

Don’t be afraid,

because I am here announcing to you Good News

that will bring great joy to all the people.”

Can you imagine that? Can you imagine how you would feel? And what would you think if the angel continued by saying:

This very day,

in the town of David,

there was born for you a Deliverer

who is the Messiah, the Lord.”

Your life is not easy. How much joy would you feel to find out that God does not lie? That He keeps His promises? Can you imagine how much joy would you feel to find out Salvation had just been born? How much joy would you feel to find out that Deliverance had just been born? Would you not want to start dancing in praise just as King David did before the Lord? Can you imagine what you would do and how you would feel if the angel continued speaking and said:

Here is how you will know:

you will find a baby wrapped in cloth and lying in a feeding trough.”

This is a world event! You are part of one of the single most important things to happen in the history of mankind! So dig deeper into your imagination and think about how you would react to the sudden appearance of a “Vast Army” of angels from heaven praising God with the following:

In the highest heaven, glory to God!

And on earth, peace among people of good will!”

Can you imagine that? How many do you imagine “Vast Army” represents? 200,000? 500,000? 1,000,000? Can you imagine? Can you imagine the absolute ecstasy of being in the midst of a “Vast Army” of angels from heaven, surrounded in the Sh’khinah glory of Adonai, worshiping Him in your presence? Can you?
If you can, then I say the following in love but as directly as I know how . . .

Would your really reduce something so momentous and so precious and so joyous as the proclamation and announcement of GOOD NEWS into bad news?

Would you reduce the Creator of all thing’s loving-kindness – His gift – His Chesed (grace) – into nothing more than a calendar date?

If so, if you can, then you do so to your own shame!

This day – a day prophesied about in the Tanakh (Old Testament) in Micah and in Isaiah was important enough to our Lord that he

  • Promised it before it happened (prophecy)
  • Sent angels out to proclaim it
  • Put a star in the heavens to mark the spot
  • Magi thought it was important enough to travel hundreds of miles
  • King Herod thought it was important enough, and a big enough threat to his kingship, that he ordered children to be killed because of it
  • 3 of the 4 gospels tell about the birth of Yeshua (Jesus) – the birth of the prophesied Messiah – the birth of our King! It was that important!

Do you know what word Good News translates in the Greek? εὐαγγελίζω euangelizō. The word we get evangelize from. Angelos is messenger in the Greek. This is more than just a message. It is an announcement – a fulfillment of a promise – a proclamation stating such. When the Creator of all things sent an angel to the shepherds to announce the Good News, He sent and angel to evangelize them!

To turn the personal Good News of our Lord Adonai into its opposite, to turn it into Bad News, by default, also turns His evangelism into its opposite, and to use poetic license with the Greek as some have already done before me with the following word:

a kakangelist – a messenger of “bad” tidings.

That is as far as I am going with Camp 2.

(verses above from the CJB – Complete Jewish Bible by David H Stern)

Camp 1

I realize the if you are in Camp 1, many of you are totally unaware as to why the venerable holiday is attacked so viciously. Some of you may be new believers scratching your heads as you try to understand why a someone would attack the tradition you love so dearly. Some of you may not have yet come to the faith but are searching for answers. It is to your group that I am now writing.

I am going to attempt to deal with the main objection in a simple and straightforward manner to cause as little confusion as possible – it won’t seem like that because there is a lot of history going on that affects all of this.

One of the first arguments about Christmas is regarding birthdays. You may hear about it in the future, or have already heard in the past. It goes something like the following:

Jews didn’t celebrate birthdays . . . the celebration of birthdays is pagan.

There is some truth to this, but there is also one-sided truth because the Jews did celebrate birthdays – just not the way we do now. They kept track of how old people were and the biblical text gives ages of many people. Biblical birth stories were told not only in the biblical text, but in 2nd temple “Greekified” (Hellenistically influenced) texts such as Enoch and Jubilees.

The Jews celebrated the coming of age of their children (a birthday of sorts) and there are many accounts of this in 2nd temple writings. The Jews also celebrated the birth of Roman Emperors. To refuse to do so could mean being crucified.

Birth is discussed in the Hebrew text extensively using the word ‏ָילַד‎ yāladh – phonetically: yaw-lad’

You may be more familiar with it as “beget” as it is used in biblical genealogies. It is used over 600 times in the Tanakh (Old Testament).

Birthday as a celebration on the other hand, or ‏יוֹם‎ yôm ילַד‎ yāladh (the day of being born) with the “day” being the emphasis, is only discussed 2 times in the text – Once in the Old Testament and once in the New Testament:

  1. Old Testament: Genesis 40:20 (CJB)
    20  (Maftir) On the third day, which was Pharaoh’s birthday, he gave a party for all his officials, and he lifted up the head of the chief cupbearer and the head of the chief baker among his officials.
  2. Matthew 14:6-8 (CJB)
    6  However, at Herod’s birthday celebration, Herodias’ daughter danced before the company and pleased Herod so much
    7  that he promised with an oath to give her whatever she asked.
    8  Prompted by her mother, she said, “Give me here on a platter the head of Yochanan the Immerser (John the Baptist).”

From a worldly standpoint (non-Holy standpoint), birthdays in the Hellenistic world were about love of self – idolizing and promoting self which is something contrary to the text. Both Pharaoh and Herod were evil men – both of these men were pagans. Both of them has someone killed on their birthday. Both men promoted self and were lovers of self.

You see, Christmas is not (or should not be) the celebration of the birthday of Yeshua (Jesus) . . .

It should be the celebration of the fulfillment of prophecy from our Father in heaven!

It should be a celebration that our heavenly Father keeps his promises and does not lie!

It should be a celebration of God’s Chesed (grace) for sending us Salvation!

It is Adonai’s GOOD NEWS that we are celebrating!!!

The angels in the first part of this post weren’t celebrating in front of the shepherds because it was יוֹם‎ yôm ילַד‎ yāladh (the day of being born) – the birthday of Jesus, . . . they were worshiping God! I have great pity for the people that can’t see this for what it was and get so bitter this time of year! A “Vast Army” of angels from heaven celebrated this event – did they get it wrong?!?

That being said, the birth of Yeshua (Jesus) didn’t become a Christian holiday until about 135AD when Pope Telesphorus proclaimed it such.

This is about 3 years after the Bar Kokhba revolt that resulted in over 500,000 Jews being slaughtered by the Romans, including Rabbi Akiva, who proclaimed Bar Kokhaba was the Christ (Messiah). A year after Pope Telesphorus proclaimed the birth Of Yeshua (Jesus) a Christian holiday, Emperor Hadrian built a pagan temple directly over the site of the 2nd temple and expelled the Jews from Judea and Samaria and forbid them to dwell there. He changed the name of Jerusalem to Aelia Capotolina and renamed the southern part of Israel Palaestina.

History is important here to understanding parts of this because this is where the church changed from Jewish leadership to Gentile leadership. (Gentiles and Jews both at the time were incorporating Hellenism into the worship and practices and this didn’t stop when Gentile leadership took over) As the leadership of the church went from Jew to Gentile – it got ugly fast!.

Things are happening in Rome during all of this and the Ante-Nicene Fathers (the Greek fathers) are starting to make statements in writing such as:

  • 110AD Ignatius – Teaches that those who partake in Passover are partakers of those who killed Jesus
  • 119AD Emperor Hadrian – bans circumcision
  • 120AD Rabbi Tarfon – Advocates burning of the gospels
  • 150AD Justin Martyr – God’s Covenant with Israel no longer valid – Gentiles have replaced the Jews (supersessionism)
  • 167AD Bishop of Sardis – Earliest “known” Jewish deicide (Jews are responsible for death of Jesus)
  • 175AD Irenaeus – Jews disinherited from grace of God
  • 175AD Tertullian – Jews cause death of Christ – permanently rejected by God
  • 177AD Marcus Aurelius starts persecuting the Christians in Lyon
  • 240AD Origen – “the Jews have committed the most abominable of crimes” by conspiring against Christ
  • 248AD Cyprian – Jews have followed Idols and departed from the Lord

Within 300 years of the death of Yeshua (Jesus), 1/4th of the Roman Empire is Christian or about 15 million people.

The dates are approximate, but as you can see, there is a power struggle and politics going on. The Gentiles have no intention on letting Jews ever be in leadership again and its gets worse from here in spite of the following from the text:

Ephesians 2:11-12 (CJB)
11  Therefore, remember your former state:

you Gentiles by birth — called the Uncircumcised by those who,

merely because of an operation on their flesh,

are called the Circumcised —
12  at that time had no Messiah.

You were estranged from the national life of Isra’el.

You were foreigners to the covenants embodying God’s promise.

You were in this world without hope and without God.

You see, the Messiah’s death had a purpose in conjunction with saving us . . . It was also to break down the barrier wall between Jew and Gentile! Notice the following in context to the above:

Ephesians 2:13-16 (CJB)
13  But now, you who were once far off

have been brought near through the shedding of the Messiah’s blood.
14  For he himself is our shalom — he has made us both one

and has broken down the m’chitzah (barrier wall) which divided us
15  by destroying in his own body the enmity

occasioned by the Torah,

with its commands set forth in the form of ordinances.

He did this in order to create in union with himself

from the two groups

a single new humanity

and thus make shalom (peace),
16  and in order to reconcile to God both in a single body

by being executed on a stake as a criminal

and thus in himself killing that enmity.

It couldn’t be more clear! And yet, that barrier wall was built up on both sides just as fast as they could lay the bricks to do it. You are going to see that in the following if you haven’t already:

  • 306AD Synod of Elvira – bans intermarriage between Christians and Jews
  • 312AD Emperor Constantine converts to Christianity
  • 313AD Emperor Constantine ends the persecution of Christians (Edict of Milan)
  • 315AD Emperor Constantine implements the Code of Constantine (rights of non-Christians are limited: no owning Christian slaves – circumcising slaves – converting Christians to Judaism)
  • 321AD Emperor Constantine declares Sunday state day of rest (This effectually ends worship on Sabbath)
  • 325AD Nicaea Ecumenical Council (Where we get the Nicene Creed) – Easter calculation date separated from Jewish Passover, Jews murdered Jesus, Jews are not guided by sound reason – they are depraved. Conversation and fellowship with Jews is forbidden
  • 363AD Council of Laodicea – Keeping Jewish Sabbath Outlawed . . .

These things can not be ignored because they are part of, and have shaped the church for 2000 years – the same church that celebrates Christmas in its present form. And yes, as you saw, some things got real UGLY real fast! Birthdays, supersessionsim, doing away with Sabbath etc . . . are all parts contributing to that.

You may be saying, interesting stuff Bill, but what does this really have to do with Christmas?

EVERYTHING!

You have to strip all of this stuff away – all of these traditions and go back to the “heart of worship. . .”

Maybe you know the story to that song and how it came about? Simple version:

The pastor of Matt’s church was a guy named Mike Pilavachi. The pastor noticed that his flock was doing worship as a “consumer” instead of a worshiper so he got rid of the worship band and the sound system for a season.

Once people got away from the rote consumerism that they had been practicing in the church for an entire season and started worshiping, he brought the worship team and the sound back. Matt wrote the following song as a result of being part of that:

“The Heart Of Worship”

When the music fades

and all is stripped away

and I simply come.

Longing just to bring

something that’s of worth

that will bless Your heart.

I’ll bring You more than a song,

for a song in itself

is not what You have required.

You search much deeper within,

through the way things appear,

You’re looking into my heart.

I’m coming back to the heart of worship

and it’s all about You, it’s all about You, Jesus.

I’m sorry, Lord, for the thing I’ve made it

when it’s all about You, it’s all about You, Jesus.

You see, we could say the same thing about Christmas. Christmas trees, Christmas lights, Santa Claus, Egg Nog, Mistletoe, presents, spending money and going broke, parties, eating large meals, sales, stores open to midnight, competition, etc (the list is very long here)

– pure and simple consumerism.

Let me ask a more pointed question . . . Be as honest with yourself as you are able . . .

Would it be Christmas without these things?

You see, none of these things is what the “Vast Army” of angels from heaven celebrated. NONE of it! What they were celebrating was the GOOD NEWS of Yeshua HaMashiach (Jesus the Christ) – the lamb that takes away the sins of the world!

When we get back to the heart of worship and strip everything away – all of the consumerism, all we have left is Him! That was all it was ever about! Everything else that is added competes with that leaving us with a very sobering question to meditate on and pray about:

Is the GOOD NEWS – in and of itself . . . enough?

I would like you to pause a minute and think about that before reading the closing of this post.

You see, if you get back to the heart of worship, if you make it ALL about the Good News, then the other stuff with take care of itself and as you search for Him, He will draw you closer to Him. When you strip all of that stuff away, you understand that it is not a birthday that we celebrate – it is the Good News! When you strip all of it away, you understand the chorus of Matt Redman’s song:

I’m coming back to the heart of worship

and it’s all about You, it’s all about You, Jesus.

I’m sorry, Lord, for the thing I’ve made it

when it’s all about You, it’s all about You, Jesus.

Be blessed my brothers and sisters and make a joyful noise unto the Lord just as the Vast Army of angels from heaven did!

In the highest heaven, glory to God!

And on earth, peace among people of good will!”

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About Even If Ministries

Dani'el 3:17-18 (CJB) 17 Your majesty, if our God, whom we serve, is able to save us, he will save us from the blazing hot furnace and from your power. 18 But even if he doesn’t, we want you to know, your majesty, that we will neither serve your gods nor worship the gold statue which you have set up.”
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