Category Archives: faiTh

Jesus Christ Birthday: When is it celebrated?

In Luke 2: 1-11, we read the account of Jesus’ birth. It’s a popular verse; in fact Linus reads the scripture as the true meaning of Christmas in the television special “A Charlie Brown Christmas.” But, where do we read that Jesus was born on December 25? We know that his birthday was during the census, but we aren’t given a specific date for the census. We know that Mary and Joseph were pledged to be married, but we don’t actually know the date for their marriage to backtrack and know when Christ was born. We know that the shepherds were tending their sheep in a field, but we aren’t certain as to when they arrived in Bethlehem to praise their savior.

If no one knows the actual date that Jesus was born, why do we celebrate Christmas on December 25? There are two theories, both of which have faults, one of which is more popular among theologians.

The earliest record of Christ’s birth being observed on December 25 is from the middle of the fourth century (354) on a document that listed various martyr’s feasts for the year. For the church’s first three centuries, Christmas wasn’t even on the calendar. Some church leaders were opposed to the idea of celebrating Christ’s birthday because birthdays were for pagan gods and kings. They believed it would be wrong to honor the Messiah in the same way others were honored. Other church leaders started to speculate the date of his birth because they wanted to celebrate, but soon discovered that actual records of his birth were lost, so various dates on the calendar were mentioned as days of celebrating Christ’s birth.

Jesus Christ Birthday First Theory

In the second century, the Church of Rome chose December 25 as the date of Christ’s birth to deliberately turn people away from pagan feasts being observed at the same time. Natalis solis invicti, which means the “birth of the unconquered sun” and the birthday of Mithras, the Iranian “sun of righteousness,” were both pagan feasts celebrated on what was believed to be the winter solstice. Christ was the true son and should be worshiped over all other gods. The first direct suggestion that Jesus’ birth celebration was determined to outshine pagan traditions wasn’t made until the 12th century, however there were references mentioned in various sermon accounts in the fourth and fifth centuries.

Many question this theory because Christians during the first and second century were not borrowing heavily from pagan traditions like we do today because Christians believed in a strong calling as God’s holy people. After Constantine converted to Christianity in the mid-fourth century, Christians adapted pagan festivals according to his rule.

Jesus Christ Birthday Second Theory

It is believed that the dates of Jesus’ death and his conception are linked. The connection between death and conception is an ancient and medieval understanding that salvation is bound to not only death, but also conception. The conception of Jesus binds the promise of salvation through his birth. The idea that creation and redemption are tied together is also reflected in ancient Jewish tradition.

Though, much of the New Testament provides little detail on Christ’s birth, it does provide detailed information on Jesus’ ministry, miracles, death and resurrection. March 25 is the recognized date of Christ’s crucifixion. If the date of His crucifixion and the date of his conception are indeed linked, then according to the natural cycle of birth, nine months after March 25 would be when Mary would have given birth to our savior.

Are you more concerned with actual documentation tying Jesus’ birth to December 25, are you allowing today’s “pagan” traditions to pull you away from the miracle of Christ’s birth or do you connect his birth to his death and resurrection? Christmas, whenever celebrated, is a date that marks the foundation of Christianity and Jesus deserves your honor and praise.

Are You a Be’er or a Do’er?

When it comes to serving God, are you a “Be-er” or a “Do-er?” Do-ers focus more on what and how much they are getting to do for the Kingdom of God, while Be-ers tend to focus on having a right heart, whatever God may have them doing. Do-ers want to know that what they are doing matters. Be-ers want to know that their hearts are right before God while serving, whatever the results. When importance is placed on either being or doing, clashes can come between Be-ers and Do-ers as they work together. When arguments arise:

Do-ers love: “Do not merely listen to the word, and so deceive yourselves. Do what it says.” (James 1:22)

Be-ers love: “If I give all I possess to the poor and give over my body to hardship that I may boast, but do not have love, I gain nothing.” (1 Corinthians 13:3)

Not Enough Be/Too Much Do

Obviously one can “be” in a very bad state of mind and heart and still “do” outwardly for God. An extreme example is in Matthew 7:22 where we read, “Lord, Lord, didn’t we prophesy in Your name…” Some will do great things, but with wrong intentions, thus the motive is not for the Lord.

For a less extreme example, when our church once formed an “evangelism team,” we were given squeegees, windshield wiper water and cards from the church that read something like, “It was a pleasure serving you. If we can do anything else to help you, please don’t hesitate to call us at…” We went to the parking lot of a rather busy mall and washed windshields and placed the card under the wiper on the driver’s side while shoppers were inside shopping.

The do-ers in the group felt that this wasn’t really evangelism, while the be-ers were more content with the event. The do-ers really felt that very little to nothing was done by way of evangelism. The be-ers, while agreeing that it wasn’t really “evangelism” in word, that the action of love could be a door opener for future opportunities to tell the gospel to these individuals. Action would be useless in God’s eyes if us do-ers were doing so without God’s love, joy, peace and etc. As a do-er, our focus on doing could make us miss what was actually accomplished.

Too Much Be/Not Enough Do

Conversely, anyone who focuses solely on “being” for God may hesitate when something should be “done.” An extreme example would be the parable of the nobleman who returns to find out what investments his servants had gained for him. (Luke 19:12-27)

A more day-to-day example would be whenever we’ve hesitated to enter into someone’s painful situation simply because we didn’t feel “prayed up” or “centered on God.” A do-er is more likely to do something anyway, just from seeing the need and responding. Be-ers can miss the opportunity to bless because we don’t feel that we have anything to offer. In the end, it would be God’s word and encouragement that would have been offered anyway.

Being Both

In practice, the be-er needs to be just as ready to “do” or else miss opportunities to serve, while the doer needs to “be” right in heart, lest their so called “ministry” fails to move forward (1 Corinthians 3:13-15). Praise the Lord, that His Holy Spirit doesn’t let us become trapped as only a be-er or a do-er. The be-ers won’t just be satisfied while doing nothing; nor will the do-ers find continual satisfaction in traipsing through God’s church; trampling over His children, just to “get things done” for Jesus.

Our American culture is very “doing” centric; we are driven by accomplishments, tasks and busyness. But if God were to move us into another culture that is less time and performance oriented, the skill of “being” would be much more emphasized and accepted. In order to grow into the fullest self that God desires for us, we must acknowledge and encourage the good of those who are opposite of our natural ability and challenge ourselves to hold accountable those who fall in the same place as us along the spectrum.

Jesus is both a be-er and a do-er. With Jesus the two in ministry are one. We need to ask God to change us, if we fall too far into one or the other category. If we’re in Christ, then whether we’re a “do-er” or a “be-er,” He is going to keep working out of each of us and work into us both of these qualities.