why do we celebrate the birth of christ in december
Answer/Brother First let us review how we know the Savior was born in April. As directed by revelation, the Church was organized on April 6, 1830 (a Tuesday), which was Áeighteen hundred and thirty years since the coming of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ in the flesh. Á (. ) Thus we schedule general conference sessions on April 6 each year; we are not only marking the anniversary of the ChurchÁs organization, but we are commemorating the LordÁs birth as well. The Book of Mormon bears a similar testimony. The Nephites dated their calendars from the time of ChristÁs birth. (See. ) Then, the sign of ChristÁs crucifixion was given Áin the thirty and fourth year, in the first month, on the fourth day of the month. Á (
) This meant that Jesus ChristÁs mortal life lasted almost exactly 33 years, and therefore his birth and crucifixion occurred in about the same season of the year. This would have been early spring because the New Testament indicates that Christ was crucified at Passover time, which falls in that part of the year. Bible scholars generally agree that Jesus was not born in the winter. ÁIt could not Á have fallen in January or December, since at this time of the year the flocks are not found in open fields during the night. Á Moreover, a census which made traveling necessary, would not have been ordered at this season. Á Well, then, why do we celebrate Christmas in December? The answer lies in the early centuries when missionaries first carried Christianity to the peoples of northern Europe.
Pope Gregory ( A. D. 590Á604) instructed these missionaries: ÁRemember not to interfere with any traditional belief or religious observance that can be harmonized with Christianity. Á Such instructions opened the door to many pagan ideas and practices being introduced into Christianity. The observance of Christmas provides several examples. December 25 was at the heart of the northern European mid-winter festival. There was a fearful superstition that as autumn days became shorter and shorter the sun might sometime completely disappear below the southern horizon and never return. Each year the coming of the winter solstice dispelled this fear, and the people rejoiced that the sun would again come back to warm their northern lands. Early Christian missionaries chose to link this important pagan celebration with the birth of Christ. ÁThe Christmas tree was a substitute for the sacred oaks and other trees used in pagan rights Á interpreting the evergreen as the symbol of the everlasting Christ, in place of the leaf dropping trees of paganism. The green, gold and red lights which the pagan used in their trees to coax the sun-god to return, were re-interpreted to represent the frankincense, gold, and myrrh which the wise men brought to Jesus. Á Thus, as the Encyclopedia Britannica concludes, the observance of Christmas Áis attended with secular customs often drawn from pagan sources. Á Some might ask if we are wrong in celebrating Christmas in December.
Actually we should think about the Lord and his mission throughout the entire yearÁincluding December 25. Perhaps our greater concern ought to be how rather than when we commemorate the SaviorÁs birth. In a Christmas message the First Presidency counseled us: ÁÁá may the true Christmas spirit rest upon each of us this season. May we help reverse the trend toward the gross commercialization of Christmas by gathering our families about us and reading and reflecting on the beautiful story of His birth. May we demonstrate our love for others not only with thoughtful gifts and messages, but also with expressions of love and kindness. May we demonstrate our love for God by worshiping Him in spirit and truth and by obeying His commandments. Á Members of our family have tried to more adequately remember Christ and share the true spirit of Christmas with others by acting out the events surrounding JesusÁ birth as described in the opening chapters of Matthew and Luke. We have also enjoyed a special home evening reading the Christmas story in the Bible and singing carols. Roger A. Hendrix, a member of the Palos Verdes East Ward, Palos Verdes California Stake, is serving as president of the Chile Santiago South Mission. The simple answer to the question is that, regardless of whether or not April 6 is ChristÁs birthdate, there is no compelling reason for Church members to go against a well-established holiday unless the Lord requires it of us. And there are at least three good reasons why we can feel comfortable observing the traditional date.
First, apparently approved of the growing religious significance of the December 25 holiday. Despite Puritan attempts to ban Christmas celebrations in early New England, Christmas in Joseph SmithÁs day continued to evolve from a time of Áfolksy convivialityÁ into a religious event. Although Nauvoo school records indicate that Latter-day Saint children there in the early 1840s went to school on December 25, by midcentury Christmas in America and in Europe had taken on a deeper meaning. For example, on 25 December 1843, the Prophet recorded that he had been awakened about 1:00 A. M. by carolers. The serenade of Áheavenly musicÁ caused him Áa thrill of pleasure,Á and he thanked God for the visit and Áblessed them in the name of the Lord. Á That evening, the Prophet enjoyed other festivities as well. His favorable response to Christmas celebrations suggests that he saw nothing objectionable about the holiday taking on religious significance. Second, Latter-day Saints have not been inclined to take extreme positions on matters not essential to the message of the Restoration. Of great importance is oneÁs testimony of the SaviorÁs divine birth and mission and oneÁs decision toward a dedicated discipleship. In view of that emphasis, it is not surprising that as Christmas became more of a religious holiday after the Civil War, Church leaders felt no need to counter it by promoting the rival date of April 6. Third, it is not uncommon for historical events to be celebrated on a day other than when they occurred.
For example, few people care that the signing of the Declaration of Independence is celebrated in the United States on July 4 instead of on July 2, the actual date of the signing. The governing principle in such situations is one of intent. The thought is what counts most, not necessarily the precise date or the traditional trappings surrounding it. A precedent is found in, where the Lord says that it does not matter what we use for sacramental emblemsÁas long as we Ádo it with an eye single to my gloryÁremembering Á my body Á and my blood. Á It is not unreasonable to suppose that the Lord would make a similar allowance in celebrating his birth. Elder Bruce R. McConkie amplified that idea: ÁApparently Christ was born on the day corresponding to April 6 ( ), but the saints nevertheless join in the wholesome portions of the Christmas celebration. Christmas becomes to them an ideal opportunity to renew their search for the true spirit of Christ and to center their attentions again on the true doctrine of his birth as the Son of an Immortal Father. Á What really matters, then, is that we celebrate the birth of the Savior and that our devotion is clear. If revelation were to tell us that intent must be matched with the right date, we would gladly do it. Until that occurs, however, it appears that celebrating the traditional Christian Christmas is acceptable to the Lord. The Nativity, by Robert T. Barrett
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