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Curtain Call
In Defense of the Faith
Tuesday, December 22, 2015
Wendy Wippel

Many Christians condemn celebrating Christmas because 1) Christmas traditions are largely based on pagan holidays that preceded Christ and 2) we don’t know when Jesus was actually born.

Objection #1?  Romans 12:21: Do not be overcome by evil, but overcome evil with good.

Objection #2?  Remember: man-made holidays don’t foreshadow Christ. But God’s do.

Most of us have probably heard that the holiday we celebrate as an anniversary of Christ’s birth was actually, originally, a pagan festival celebrated in Rome at the end of December. A festival called Saturnalia, that worshiped the Roman God, Saturn.

It is true that Saturnalia consisted of 7 days of festivities which concluded on December 25. And it is true that, similar to Christian tradition, Saturnalia included feasting and gift-giving.

More to the point, it is also true that when Constantine, Emperor of Rome in the 4th century, recognized Christianity as an official Roman State Religion and then married the pagan Roman religion with the church, many of the pagan festivals and rituals just took Christian names. According to Encyclopedia Americana, in the 5th century  (the era in which Rome fell). The Christ-Mass was officially to be celebrated at the winter solstice (the  same day that the Old Roman feast celebrated the birth of the Sun).

So yes, Virginia, elements of Christmas had shady origins.  But in my view, celebrating the moment in which God Himself came to live with man and using the formerly pagan elements to do so is, in fact, obeying our directive to overcome Evil with Good. December 25, a day which was devoted  to worship demons posing as gods, now unabashedly worships the God who became flesh and dwelt among us—Jesus.  And at Christmas, we celebrate His birth.

Was he born on December 25?  Probably not.  Even the early church was pretty clueless as to the actual date.

So is there any way to know?

Well… there are clues, one of which is Leviticus 23:1, A verse that tells us that the feasts that God commanded that the Jews celebrate were “holy convocations” and that these “holy convocations" were required to be performed at very specific times.

Why God explicitly demanded that they be performed at very specific times is also in the verse, but you have to kind of dig for it.  Like buried treasure.  Here’s the treasure, The word translated “holy convocations” essentially means “rehearsals.”

What God is saying is that the holidays must be observed at very specific times because they are rehearsals (i.e. forshadowings) of events to come. Events that will also happen on God’s pre-ordained schedule.

So. Does looking at God’s schedule of holidays in the Bible give us any insight?  Does it tell us anything about when Jesus may have been born?

As a matter of fact, it does.

First of all, we know that God sent Gabriel to tell Mary that she was chosen to bear the Messiah when her aunt Elizabeth was six months pregnant with a boy child.

That boy child (John the Baptist) would eventually baptize the Messiah Mary was to carry.

From that we also know that it had been six months since John’s father Zechariah, a priest, had been struck dumb (literally) while performing his duties at the news that he would have a son. And we also know, from the book of Chronicles (Chapters 24 and 28) exactly when Zechariah’s assigned periods of temple duty were. As a priest assigned to the Abijah rotation, Zechariah would have served during late May/ earlyJune, and again late September/early October.

You do the math. That means Jesus would have been conceived either right around Christmas or sometime in early March.

We’re closing in.

Interestingly, however according to the Messianic “One for Israel” ministry, there existed in Jewish culture a belief that Messiah would be conceived at Hannukah and be born at Sukkot, the final feast in the Jewish Calendar established by God and laid out in the Old Testament.

Sukkot, a holiday also known as the feast of tabernacles, which specifically anticipates the time at which Adam’s curse is finally revoked and God again comes to live among his people.

Sukkot, a festival that begins with a blast of the Shofar.  And the blast of tthe Shofar in ancient Israel, routinely accompanied, the coronation of the King.  

On that silent night, so long ago in Bethlehem, Mary’s long travail in the company of livestock through that silent night in Bethlehem were finally rewarded by the first wailing cry of her newborn son. No doubt Mary and Joseph rejoiced, wept, and gazed in wonder at this new life.

I think it’s safe to say that the rest of the nation, and the world were oblivious.

But in Jerusalem, the priests would have been preparing for a God-ordained rehearsal. Specifically, Sukkot, the one that rehearses the time when God comes to “tabernacle" with man.

One that begins with a blast of the shofar, announcing the arrival of a king. The trumpet blast.

A rehearsal that itself is only a dress rehearsal for a still future moment when another trumpet will announce that that king, born in Bethlehem so long ago, is coming to take His rightful place on the throne of David.

Finally. 

And the curtain still rises on the kingdom long promised, in which He will tabernacle with His people forever.

Amen. And Merry Christmas.

About Wendy Wippel

Last week: Double Vision



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