Devoted to the Propagation and Defense of New Testament Christianity
December 20, 1951

Christmas -- How It Started

H. Osby Weaver, Greenville, Texas

The word "Christmas" comes to us from two words—"Christ" plus "mass," hence the "mass of Christ" or festival of Christ. It is supposed to be a celebration of the nativity or birth of Christ.

As to the time of His birth we do not know either the year, month, or day. Tradition, chronology, astronomy, and even the weatherman have been called in to bear witness to one theory or another relative to the date of the Lord's birth, but it can only be said that the 25th of December is the date agreed upon for the "Festival of the Savior's birth" rather than its authentic anniversary. "St. John Chrysostom, writing in 386, relates that St. Cyril at the request of Julius (Bishop or Pope of Rome from 337 to 352) made a strict inquiry as to the exact date. Cyril reported that the Western Churches have always held it to be December 25. It is true that other communities of Christians preferred other dates. In many Eastern Churches, the 6th of January had been fixed on as the anniversary not only of the birth of Christ, but of his manifestation to the Gentiles. April 20, May 20, March 29 and September 29 were respectively accepted by small minorities. In short, as St. Clement says, "the matter was very uncertain." (Curiosities of Popular Customs, by William S. Walsh) The Syrian and Armenian churches cling to January 6 as Christmas day, a day which once coincided with the winter solstice under the old Julian calendar. As recently as 1752 when the last alteration was made to correct the faults of the calendar, confusion as to the date of Christmas existed. For a few years December 25 was "New Christmas" and January 5 was "Old Christmas."

By this one can see that not only is there no evidence as to the exact time of the birth of Christ, but even after the day was set by tradition or custom there was disagreement as to the day custom decreed would be Christmas. Now does it not seem reasonable to suppose that Christ would have given us the time of His birth and the manner of celebrating it if He had intended that any such thing be done? The Jews were taught the time and manner of keeping the feast of the Passover. Christians are taught the time and manner of eating the Lord's Supper in remembrance of His death, but there has been nothing said with reference to keeping the date of His birth as a religious ordinance or as an act of worship. The silence of the scriptures on this one point is so loud that we can hear them saying, "do not celebrate my birthday as a religious ordinance or as acts of worship."


Edgar Furr, Box 187, Natalia, Texas, Dec. 10: "We closed a good meeting Sunday night in which two were baptized. Brother F. B. Shepherd did the preaching. Brother Shepherd is now in the Canal Zone for 30 days work. If there are those in service or workers you would like for him to contact write him at once, air mail, Box 3003, Balboa, Canal Zone. The work in Natalia is making substantial development. I will have time for two more meetings in the summer, if needed."


J. D. Taylor, Hydro, Oklahoma, Dec. 10: "Nine more people were added to our working forces here this week; three were baptized into Christ last night. We give God the glory and take courage."