The choice of 25 December

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One theory to explain the choice of 25 December for the celebration of the birth of Jesus is that the purpose was to Christianize the pagan festival in Rome of the Dies Natalis Solis Invicti, meaning “the birthday of the Unconquered Sun”, a festival inaugurated by the Roman emperor Aurelian (270–275) to celebrate the sun god and celebrated at the winter solstice, 25 December. According to this theory, during the reign of the emperor Constantine, Christian writers assimilated this feast as the birthday of Jesus, associating him with the “sun of righteousness” mentioned in Malachi 4:2 (Sol Iustitiae).

An explicit expression of this theory appears in an annotation of uncertain date added to a manuscript of a work by 12th-century Syrian bishop Jacob Bar-Salibi. The scribe who added it wrote: “It was a custom of the Pagans to celebrate on the same 25 December the birthday of the Sun, at which they kindled lights in token of festivity. In these solemnities and revelries, the Christians also took part. Accordingly, when the doctors of the Church perceived that the Christians had a leaning to this festival, they took counsel and resolved that the true Nativity should be solemnized on that day.”  This idea became popular especially in the 18th and 19th centuries.

Christmas was promoted in the Christian East as part of the revival of Catholicism following the death of the pro-Arian Emperor Valens at the Battle of Adrianople in 378. The feast was introduced to Constantinople in 379, and to Antioch in about 380. The feast disappeared after Gregory of Nazianzus resigned as bishop in 381, although it was reintroduced by John Chrysostom in about 400.

The New Testament Gospel of Luke may indirectly give the date as December for the birth of Jesus, with the sixth month of Elizabeth’s pregnancy with John the Baptist cited by John Chrysostom (c. 386) as a date for the Annunciation. Tertullian (d. 220) did not mention Christmas as a major feast day in the Church of Roman Africa. In Chronographai, a reference work published in 221, Sextus Julius Africanus suggested that Jesus was conceived on the spring equinox. The equinox was March 25 on the Roman calendar, so this implied a birth in December.

The belief that God came into the world in the form of man to atone for the sins of humanity, rather than the exact birth date, is considered to be the primary purpose in celebrating Christmas.

In the early 18th century, some scholars proposed alternative explanations. Isaac Newton argued that the date of Christmas, celebrating the birth of him whom Christians consider to be the “Sun of righteousness” prophesied in Malachi 4:2, was selected to correspond with the southern solstice, which the Romans called bruma, celebrated on December 25. In 1743, German Protestant Paul Ernst Jablonski argued Christmas was placed on December 25 to correspond with the Roman solar holiday Dies Natalis Solis Invicti and was, therefore, a “paganization” that debased the true church. It has been argued that, on the contrary, Emperor Aurelian, who in 274 instituted the holiday of the Dies Natalis Solis Invicti, did so partly as an attempt to give a pagan significance to a date already important for Christians in Rome. In 1889, Louis Duchesne proposed that the date of Christmas was calculated as nine months after the Annunciation, the traditional date of the conception of Jesus.

No matter where you place the birth of Christ, us at The Symposium of Liberal Christian Unitarian And Progressive Christian Baptist Fellowship Working as a Non-Denominational Christian Chaplaincy (or simply Unitarian Baptist) under the names of our Directors: Lyle, Joyce, Marie and myself Eric, wishing you a holiday season that’s merry and bright with the light of Christ’s Love and for the New Year Meditation: God has given you a life to live for His glory and your good. Life is too short to wander, to be filled with regret or to pass by opportunities God puts in front of you. Don’t let what you have slipped away. Don’t waste your life and join us for the new year.

By The House of Bishops and The Board of Elders

(Source: text on December 25th is from wikipedia.org)

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