It was 1965 when “Charlie Brown Christmas” aired for the first time. Since then, it has been a yearly tradition in many Christian homes to recount the biblical narration as told by Linus Van Pelt.
Charlie Brown: Isn’t there anyone who knows what Christmas is all about?
Linus Van Pelt: Sure, Charlie Brown, I can tell you what Christmas is all about. Lights please. ‘And there were in the same country shepherds abiding in the field keeping watch over their flock by night. And lo, the angel of the Lord came upon them and the Glory of the Lord shone round about them and they were sore afraid. (Linus Continued)
And the angel said unto them, ‘Fear not: for behold, I bring unto you good tidings of great joy, which shall be to all people. For unto you is born this day in the City of David a Savior, which is Christ the Lord. And this shall be a sign unto you; Ye shall find the babe wrapped in swaddling clothes, lying in a manger.’ And suddenly there was with the angel a multitude of the heavenly host, praising God, and saying, ‘Glory to God in the highest, and on earth peace, good will toward men.’” That’s what Christmas is all about, Charlie Brown.
With Linus quoting from Luke 2:8-14 (KJV), many Christians feel secure identifying the birth of Jesus as the reason for the season, but is that really what the Bible says about Christmas? Not exactly.
Here are three important things the Bible says about Christmas every Christian should know.
1. Jesus was (probably) not born on December 25th
There are several biblical reasons to conclude Jesus’ birthday did not coincide with modern day Christmas. None are as telling as the historical account of the Christian holiday. Christmas originated in 273 AD. The date was selected to counteract other non-Christian holidays. Some of the holidays the with the same (or similar) dates include:
- Jewish Chanukah
- Pagan Winter Solstice
- Germanic Yule
- Roman Dies Natalis Solis Invicti (Birth of the Unconquered Sun)
Other biblical evidence supports a non-December birthday of Jesus. In the birth narrative of Jesus shared by Linus in Luke 2, the shepherds were watching their flocks by night. Night time in Judea in December was likely too cold for shepherds. Similarly, it would not make sense for the census surrounding Jesus’ birth to happen in winter months. The biblical evidence of a summer/fall birth of Jesus is further developed when contrasting conception and birth timelines of Elizabeth (Mary’s cousin) and John the Baptist who was known to be born 6 months prior to Jesus. Therefore, Jesus was (probably) not born on Christmas.
2. Christmas has more to do with death than life
The word Christmas was coined by the Catholic church. Etymologically, Christmas conjoined two Latin words, Christes and Maesse which literally means ‘The Mass of Christ’. Mass, according to catholicstraightanswers.com, took on special meaning surrounding Eucharist; the remembrance commanded by Jesus in Luke 22:19, and Paul in 1 Cor 11:24, perpetuates the Holy Mass for time eternal; “The Mass therefore is a memorial.” Viewing the original language against what the Bible says about Christmas reveals that the Mass of Christ invokes the connotation of death: the coming death of the Messiah as payment for sin and the commissioning of the apostles putting to death their life as fishermen to become fishers of men—the same death we are called unto. Biblically, Christmas is more about death than life.
3. Points 1 and 2 do not matter
One man considers one day more sacred than another (e.g. Christmas); another man considers every day alike. Each one should be fully convinced in his own mind. He who regards one day as special, does so to the Lord. (Romans 14:5-6)
The Bible may not specifically speak to a 3rd century concept like “Christmas.” But the Bible gives plenty of indication that Jesus is worth celebrating. Jesus’ death was easily the greatest sacrifice ever made, but it was not the only sacrifice to be remembered. Just as Jesus laid down his life on the Cross, he laid down his divinity at his birth. Biblically, he “took on flesh” (Phil 2:7, Heb 2:14, John 1:14). He did so that we might know him (Eph 1:17, Phil 3:8, John 3:16-17).
What does the Bible say about Christmas? Literally, it says nothing at all. Contextually, however, it says a great deal. No matter how complicated society tries to make Christmas, from dismissing the historical origins or identifying etymological inconsistencies, its simplicity remains. Biblically speaking, Christmas is a time to remember (Mass) the Messiah (Christ, Jesus) and the example he set. Whether you do that through family and gifts and eggnog, or serving the homeless a warm meal, whatever tradition you call Christmas, may it be a time of celebration, family, and above all praising to the name of Jesus.
It’s been over 50 years since Charlie Brown Christmas aired for the first time, and it’s still Linus Van Pelt that truly knows what Christmas is all about. It’s all about Jesus.
Merry Christmas friends.