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Insight Archive

Tuesday, December 23, 2014

The True Origins of Christmas

"And behold, he shall be born of Mary, at Jerusalem which is the land of our forefathers, she being a virgin, a precious and chosen vessel, who shall be overshadowed and conceive by the power of the Holy Ghost, and bring forth a son, yea, even the Son of God. And he shall go forth, suffering pains and afflictions and temptations of every kind; and this that the word might be fulfilled which saith he will take upon him the pains and the sicknesses of his people. And he will take upon him death, that he may loose the bands of death which bind his people; and he will take upon him their infirmities, that his bowels may be filled with mercy, according to the flesh, that he may know according to the flesh how to succor his people according to their infirmities. Now the Spirit knoweth all things; nevertheless the Son of God suffereth according to the flesh that he might take upon him the sins of his people, that he might blot out their transgressions according to the power of his deliverance; and now behold, this is the testimony which is in me." (Alma 7: 10-13)

Luke 2:6–7, The virgin Mary with baby Jesus
"the Lord himself shall give you a sign; Behold, a virgin shall conceive,
 and bear a son, and shall call his name Immanuel." (Isaiah 7: 14)

During this Christmas season, we remember the birth of our Savior. We read, "And it came to pass in those days, that there went out a decree from Cæsar Augustus, that all the world should be taxed... And all went to be taxed, every one into his own city. And Joseph also went up from Galilee, out of the city of Nazareth, into Judæa, unto the city of David, which is called Bethlehem; (because he was of the house and lineage of David:) To be taxed with Mary his espoused wife, being great with child. And so it was, that, while they were there, the days were accomplished that she should be delivered. And she brought forth her firstborn son, and wrapped him in swaddling clothes, and laid him in a manger; because there was no room for them in the inn. 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. And the angel said unto them, 'Fear not: for, behold, I bring 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 Saviour, 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.'" (Luke 2:1, 3-14; punctuation modernized)
Tradition holds to the belief that Christ was born on the day of Christmas, December 25th. However, widespread this tradition is, the Lord has revealed differently. Elder David A. Bednar stated, "We know by revelation that [April 6th] is the actual and accurate date of the Savior's birth..." In the Doctrine and Covenants, the Lord states, "The rise of the Church of Christ in these last days, being one thousand eight hundred and thirty years since the coming of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ in the flesh... in the fourth month, and on the sixth day of the month which is called April." (D&C 20: 1) With this fact in mind, I desire to answer this question: "When did the celebration of Christmas and the actual date of the Savior's birth change?"

Believe it or not, the early Christian community never celebrated the birth of the Messiah. Many years ago, prior to the popularity of Christianity, the Norse people had a tradition which began spreading throughout all of Europe. During the winter months, every year, they would get together and have a huge feast celebrating that year's harvest. They would also be very liberal with their dosages on their wine and beer. They would also do some of the things we still do today. They would chop down trees and bring them in to decorate them, make wreaths, hang mistletoe, etc... With the rise of Catholicism, the church didn't want their members participating in such "barbaric" customs, but the members continued. No matter the amount of preaching against this winter celebration, it continued to spread. After many years of trying to fight it, the Catholic church changed their mindset. They really took on the mindset of, "If you can't beat 'em, join 'em." They began having a very special Mass when that Holiday came around, and named it after the Savior to remind people of Him: Christ's Mass. Eventually, it turned into Christmas, and they have succeeded in helping us remember the birth of Jesus Christ during a time of year people would generally forget.

When my companion and I cheerfully say, "Merry Christmas!" I have met many who say, "Since I found out that it is a pagan tradition, I refuse to celebrate it. I don't want to risk my salvation. [Bah-Humbug!]" So, with the paganistic origin of Christmas, is it bad to celebrate Christmas? I want to liken the development of Christmas to each of us in our development. We have intentionally done wrong, and had bad beginnings, much like the winter holiday created by the non-christian people of Europe. Yet when we add Christ into our lives, He sanctifies us and changes our very being and makes holy the purpose of our existence. This is much like the addition of Christ into that winter holiday to make it Christmas. When the Catholic Church implemented "Christ's Mass," It was successful in the reminding of people Who they worship, insomuch that the name "Christmas" was its permanent brand. The God of all looks upon the intents of men's hearts. If the intent this Christmas season was to get the latest video game, stay at home and drink, and/or gain the favor of friends with gifts, I can see why god-loving people would not want to celebrate it. With a mindset like that, Christmas is not about CHRIST. Yet, if we look to the original intent of the creation of "Christ's Mass," (as God would look upon our hearts) to remember and worship Christ as our Savior and Redeemer, The God of Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob, "Wonderful, Counsellor, The mighty God, The everlasting Father, The Prince of Peace" (Isaiah 9: 6); I cannot see why any God-loving person would not want to celebrate this time of year. Christ asks us to follow him, keep His commandments, and apply His doctrine. What harm is in having another reminder? He is the reason for the season. He is the Gift. "For God so loved the world that he gave his only begotten son, that whosoever would believeth on him shall not perish, but have everlasting life." (John 3: 16)

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