2 December 2017

We're celebrating his birth, not his birthday

What have Isaac Newton, Humphrey Bogart, Annie Lennox, Dido and my Mum got in common?

They were all born on 25th December.

Because it's Christmas, you'd think we could have said, ‘they all share a birthday with Jesus'! But they don't, because Jesus wasn't born on 25th December. No one knows the exact day Jesus was born. Best guesses put it sometime in April or May.

Celebrating his birth
So what are we doing on 25th December? We are not celebrating Jesus' birthday, but we are celebrating his birth. It's not such a crazy idea if you are British. The Queen's birthday is on April 21st, but the official celebrations happen on a Saturday in June with the Trooping of the Colour. We're OK with that. And it's not so crazy if you read through the Bible. Several times, God instructs his people to remember and celebrate important events in their history, with festivals like Passover and Pentecost. And it seems to be in keeping with that, to remember and celebrate the birth of the long-awaited Messiah, the Christ. So, in response to the likes of Jehovah's Witnesses, we just want to say that we know it's not Jesus' birthday, but nonetheless it's perfectly legit to celebrate the birth of Jesus Christ.

You may wonder, though, about the wisdom of the early church in choosing 25th December. The original idea was to replace a bunch of seasonal pagan festivals with one festival in honour of the one true God and his Son Jesus Christ. But inevitably, as the population again swallowed false teaching and abandoned faith in Christ Jesus, the pagan customs have staged a come-back. Christmas has become almost entirely about the old pagan customs - gift-giving, merry-making, evergreen trees, lights, Yule logs, cakes etc. We love a good party! but that empty feeling we get after Christmas is because we're no longer celebrating anything in particular.

Reason to celebrate
But the birth of Jesus Christ really is something to celebrate! As the angels said, ‘I bring you good news of great joy that will be for all the people. Today in the town of David a Saviour has been born to you, who is Christ the Lord' Luke 2:10-11.

For well over a thousand years, God had promised through the prophets to send a special person, the Christ, to save people from their sins. Christmas celebrates the day that Saviour, Jesus Christ, was born. Jesus went on, as a grown man, to sacrifice himself by submitting to death on a cross. On that cross he paid off a debt for us, in full, and once for all. It's a debt we owe God for the way each of us has lived and all the wrong we have done. We have ignored him, rebelled against him, lived in his world as though he didn't exist. We’ve trashed the beautiful creation he made, caused untold grief to each other and to him. For this, all of us face his judgment and the penalty of death in hell. Jesus paid off the penalty of death for us, offering in our place his own life, so we can be forgiven by God and receive a new life from him. It is by faith in Jesus and what he has done for us that we can start a new life now, life that will continue forever with God in the new creation he has promised in the future.

In April 2018, there is a festival to celebrate what the death and resurrection of Jesus achieved. But it could not have been achieved unless he had been born in the first place. So, I don't know about you, but I'm going to have a party on 25th December, singing carols in praise of my Saviour, celebrating his birth - the day he entered this broken world to gain victory over sin and death for us.

Why don't you join us?

Simon Smallwood – Pastor