11 December 2014

Why Iglesia Ni Cristo Does Not Celebrate Christmas




WHOSE BIRTHDAY WAS CHRISTMAS?



“The Iglesia Ni Cristo is not against giving praise and glory to the Lord Jesus Christ, however, Christmas celebrated on December 25 was originally called the ‘Birthday of the Sun’ and the great pagan religious celebration of the Mithras cult celebrated all through the Roman Empire.”
 


THE TWENTY-FIFTH of December was considered by Catholics and Protestants as Christmas day – the “birthday of Christ.” It is the most celebrated holiday of the year throughout the world. Yet amidst all merry making activities of the “yuletide season”, members of the Iglesia Ni Cristo (Church Of Christ) are visibly non-participants in the worldwide commemoration of the alleged birthday of Jesus on December 25.

“Why?” others would surely ask. “Don’t they believe in Jesus as the Christ, our Savior? Are they not happy about the birth of the Savior? Are they not Christians? If they do celebrate their own birthdays, why not Christmas?” These questions readily arise whenever one comes to know the beliefs of the Iglesia Ni Cristo regarding “Christmas.”

However, the non-participation of the Iglesia Ni Cristo in the “December 25 festivities” does not mean that we are against fun and merriment; neither are we anti-social nor against fostering peace and goodwill among men. Neither are we opposed to the idea that the birth of Christ is a day of rejoicing. On the day Christ was born, angels from heaven rejoiced (cf. Luke 2:13-14). We must also make it clear that the Iglesia Ni Cristo are one in the belief that the baby born in Bethlehem who was the son of Mary is Christ, our Savior.

So, why the Iglesia Ni Cristo refrain from participating in celebrating Christmas?



Christmas is Alien to the Gospel

Nowhere in the New Testament is December 25 specified as the birth of Christ. The following is the biblical account of the birth of Jesus in Bethlehem:

 “In those days a decree went out from Caesar Augustus that all the world should be enrolled. This was the first enrollment, when Quirini-us was governor of Syria. And all went to be enrolled, each to his own city. And Joseph also went up from Galilee, from the city of Nazareth, to Judea, to the city of David, which is called Bethlehem, because he was of the house and lineage of David, to be enrolled with Mary, his betrothed, who was with child. And while they were there, the time came for her to be delivered. And she gave birth to her first-born son and wrapped him in swaddling cloths, and laid him in a manger, because there was no place for them in the inn. And in that region there were shepherds out in the field, keeping watch over their flock by night.” (Luke 2:1-8 RSV)
                
Biblical historians know so well this narrative account of the events surrounding the birth of Savior. On this, Catholic Bible scholars have this to say:

“Origin of date –Concerning the date of Christ’s birth the Gospels give no help; indeed, upon their data contradictory arguments are based. The census would have been impossible in winter…Authorities more over differ as to whether shepherds could or would keep flocks exposed during nights of the rainy season.” (The Catholic Encyclopedia, 1913, s.v. “Christmas.”)

It is evident that the Bible is silent regarding the exact date of Christ’s birth. The Gospel narrates that He was born during the period  when Roman census was in progress. Contrary to the December 25 tradition, it is argued that the census would have been impossible in winter. Some authorities pointed out that Shepherds could not or would not keep the flocks exposed during the nights of the rainy season. Furthermore, a secular historian writing about Christmas noted that:

“The most widespread myth in the Christendom is that of Chrismas. Those who take the Bethlehem birth-story as history readily accept the traditional date of Christ’s birthday. But all branches of the Church agree that no data exist for determining the day, month, or year of the event, nor was such festival celebrated in Apostolic or early-Post Apostolic times.” (Paganism to Christianity in the Roman Empire, p. 249)

History attested that Christmas was nor celebrated in the Apostolic and early post-Apostolic times, and that no data exist for determining the day, month, or year of Christ’s birth.  Moreover, it would have been absurd for the inspired writers of the New Testament to miss recording the date of Christ’s birth if it should be commemorated by His disciples. Thus, it is not surpringsing for us to find neither explicit pronouncements nor implicit statements from the Bible effecting the celebration of Christmas more so on December 25, as the “birthday of Christ.”

Indeed, there was no verse in the Bible that says that Jesus was born on December 25, that “Christmas” was celebrated by the early Christians, and that the birth of Christ is to be commemorated. Thus, Christ has nothing to do with the December 25 celebration though He is supposed to be the center of the festivities.



The First “Christmas”

There has never been a single statement from Jesus nor from the disciples commanding the commemoration of His birth. Instead, we find extra-biblical sources for the celebration traceable to pagan festivities of which the Catholic Church is fond of adopting as its own. More so, these appeared only centuries after the establishment of the Church of the New Testament.

“How old is Christmas Day?...One would naturally think that the anniversary of so great an event as the birth of the Son of God would have been a day of religious joy from the earliest years of the Church; but it is clear that this was not the case. There is no mention of it in any of the oldest lists of the Church festivals…In the part of the Church  which follows the Latin rite the celebration of Christmas on the twenty-fifth of December was begun probably about the middle of the fourth century. An ancient tradition assigned that day as the probable date of the great mystery of the Nativity…” (The external s of the Catholic Church, p. 204)

Christmas was not celebrated, nor known in the Apostolic and early post-Apostolic times. The Catholic book quoted above attested that there is no mention of Christmas in any of the oldest lists of the festivals of the Catholic Church, and that the celebration Roman Catholic Church (the Church which follows the Latin rite) of Christmas in December 25 was begun probably about the middle of the fourth century. The first mention of Christmas celebrated on December 25 was in 336 AD only.

“The First mention of Christmas as a festival of the Church on 25 December, goes back to AD 336. It comes in the Philocalian Catalogue (354), a civil and religious calendar compiled at Rome.” (the History of Christianity, p. 147)

Thus, history attested that the “first Christmas” would have been held only on the fourth century AD, or more than three centuries after the birth of Christ in Bethlehem. Certainly, however, Christ had nothing to do with the dated for He had ascended into heaven in the first century. Obviously, His apostles could not be the source of the selection of the date of the Nativity in the fourth century since they all died even before the second century. Surely, the celebration of Christmas emerged not because it was commanded by the Lord Jesus or His Apostles, but by other reasons.



The Origin of the Celebration

What was the origin of the celebration of Christmas? Who was responsible for the initiation of the christmas celebration?

“Pentecost and Ephipany were the next feasts added to the calendar; the latter on January 6, coincided with the pagan festivals celebrating the birth of the new year. Christmas originated in the fourth century, when Constantine joined it with a pagan feast celebrating the birthday of the sun on December 25.” (A Concise History of the Catholic Church, p. 56)

This Catholic book admitted that Christmas originated in the fourth century when Constantine joined it with a pagan feast. Any diligent student of Church history can easily discern why this is so. The influence of paganism to the Catholic Church began overtly when Constantine the Great ascended to the throne as the first “Christian emperor” of the Roman Empire. However, at first, the celebration of Christmas was done on January 6, coinciding with the pagan festivals celebrating the birth of the new year.



The Origin of the Date

At first, the celebration of Christmas was held on January 6. However, who was responsible for the initiation of the December 15 celebration? What were the reasons for choosing that particular date from among the 365 days of the year?

“Some early Fathers and writers claimed that December 25 was the actual date of Christ’s birth, and that the authorities in Rome established this fact from the official records of the Roman census that had been taken at the time of the Saviour’s birth. Saint John Chrysostom held this opinion and used it to argue for the introduction of the Roman date in the Eastern Church. He was mistaken, however, for nobody in Rome ever claimed that the records of the census of Cyrinus were extant there in the fourth century, and much less that Christ’s birthday was registered in the lists. In fact, it was expressly stated in Rome that the actual date of the Saviour’s birth was unknown and that different traditions prevailed in different parts of the world.” (Handbook of Christian Feasts and Customs, p. 59)

Catholic authorities admitted that that the actual date of the birth of Jesus was unknown. If any biblical verse would be cited to support their claim, we would have found it in their writings on Christmas. But again, nowhere could we find substantial presentation of biblical evidences but  rather their admission of the absence of any evidence at all. Christmas originated in the fourth century when Constantine joined it with a pagan feast. But, at first, the celebration of Christmas was done on January 6, coinciding with the pagan festivals celebrating the birth of the new year. January 6? How the date of the celebration of Christmas became December 25?

“Formerly Christmas was celebrated on January 6, but Pope Julius I, at the beginning of the fourth century, changed the day to December 25, since the date is unknown.” (The Handbook of the Catholic Practices, p. p. 176)

Readers might have noticed that Julius I changed the date of Christmas from January 6 to December 25. From then on, Christmas was celebrated in the West on December 25, but in the East, it was continuously celebrated on January 6:

“After the triumph of Constantine, the Church at Rome assigned December 25 as the date for the celebration of the feast, possibly about AD 320 or 353. By the end of the fourth century the whole Christian world was celebrating Christmas on that day, with the exception of the Eastern churches which celebrated it on on January 6.” (Collier’s Encyclopedia, vol. VI, p. 403, s.v. “Cristmas”)

Thus, it is a fact that only a Roman Pope by the name of Julius I was responsible for assigning December 25 as the date of the celebration of Christmas.



Whose Birthday was “Christmas”?

First celebrated on January 6 (coinciding with the pagan celebration of the birth of New Year), the Church at Rome changed it to December 25. Obviously, Julius I not only erred in assigning the date of Christ’s birth per se but was even indecisive in moving the date from January 6 to December 25. Whose birthday was “December 25”?

“…December 25 was called the ‘Birthday of the Sun,’ and great pagan religious celebrations of the Mithras cult were held all through the empire....” (The Externals of the Catholic Church, p. 276)

The feast celebrated on december 25 was originally a pagan feasts, a great pagan religious celebration pf the Mithras cult. It was originally called the “Birthday of the Sun” – Sol Invictus. Thus, Pope Julius I officially declared December 25 as the birthday of Jesus when in fact it is the supposed birthday of a pagan God called “Sol Invictus.”



Mithras Cult over the Roman Catholic Church

What made Julius I, the “head” of the Roman Catholic Church, subscribe to pagan festivals and practices? Why the choice of December 25 that coincide with the celebration of the Mithras cult of the “birthday of the Sun” – their god, Sol Invictus?

“The pagan Saturnalia and Brumalia were too deeply entrenched in popular custom to be set aside by Christian influence. The recognition of Sunday (the day of Phoebus and Mithras as well as the Lord’s Day) by the emperor Constantine as a legal holiday, along with the influence of Manicheism, which identified the Son of God with the physical sun, may have led Christians of the fourth century to feel the appropriateness of making the birthday of the Son of God coincide with that of the physical sun. The pagan festival with its riot and merrymaking was so popular that Christians were glad of an excuse to continue its celebration with little change in spirit or in manner.” (The New Shaff-Herzog Encyclopedia of Religious Knowledge, p. 48)

The pagan festival called Saturnalia (the Birthday of the Sun – Sol Invictus) was deeply entrenched in popular customs to be set aside by Catholic Church. This festival was so popular that it was celebrated all throughout the Roman Empire. Obviously, this led the Catholic Church in the fourth century “to feel the appropriateness of making the birthday of the Son of God coincide with that of the physical sun.”A Catholic book has this to say:

“…the choice of December 25 was influenced by the fact that the Romans, from the time of Emperor Aurelian (275), had celebrated the feast of the sun god, (Sol Invictus: the Unconquered Sun) on that day. December 25 was called the ‘Birthday of the Sun,’ and great pagan religious celebrations of the Mithras cult were held all through the empire. What was more natural than that Christians celebrate the birth of Him Who was the ‘Light of the World’ and the true ‘Son of Justice’ on this very day?...” (The Externals of the Catholic Church, p. 276)

Noted catholic theologian, John F. Sullivan, admitted that “…the choice of December 25 was influenced by the fact that the Romans, from the time of Emperor Aurelian (275), had celebrated the feast of the sun god, (Sol Invictus: the Unconquered Sun) on that day.” He added, “What was more natural than that Christians celebrate the birth of Him Who was the ‘Light of the World’ and the true ‘Son of Justice’ on this very day?”

Hence, the December 25 tradition with its practices is a “Christianized” pagan festival. The riot and merry making is dedicated no longer to Sol Invictus but now to Christ Jesus! What were once dedicated to a pagan god are now dedicated to Christ as birthday presents. What insult can be greater than this?

Yet Catholic authorities neither mind nor prohibit lay Catholics from participating in pagan festivals. Why? Again, John F. Sullivan, a noted Catholic theologian, has this to say:

“It is interesting to note how often our Church has availed herself of practices which were in common use among pagans, and which owed their origin to their appropriateness for expressing something spiritual by material means…she has oftenfound that it was well to take what was praiseworthy in other forms of worship and adapt it to her own purposes, for the sanctification of her children. Thus, it is truein a certain sense, that some Catholic rites and ceremonies are a production of those pagan creeds; but they are the taking of what was best from paganism, the keeping of symbolical practices which express the religious instinct that is common to all races and times.” (Ibid., p. 226)

Catholic authorities admit their interest in adopting customs and traditions from pagan rites and ceremonies in their worship allegedly for the sanctification of their members. Thus, an indirect admission of that Mithras cult overcoming the Roman Catholic Church.



What’s Wrong With Paganism?

The meaning of the term pagan gives us reasons to rerject anything pagans do and practice.Webster’s New International Dictionary states:

“Pagan…the opposite of Christian…a person who is not a Christian…not a Christian.”

It is interesting to note that even the etymology of the term pagan would show the incompatibility of Christianity and paganism. Any good book in church history would contain the origin of the term.

“Churches were first established in the cities. The people in the country continued to be heathen when the people in the citieshad already become Christians. The Latin word for country people was pagani. So the name pagani of Pagans became equivalent to heathen. Fron the cities Christianity spread among the heathens or pagans, in the country.” (The Church in History, p. 19)

How do true Christians view pagans and their practices? In Ephesians4:17-18, 20, Apostle Paul states:

“In particular, I want to urge you in the name of the Lord, not to go on living the aimless kind of life that pagans live. Intelectuallythey are in the dark, and they are estranged from the life of God, without knowledge because they have shut their hearts to it.
“Now that it is hardly the way you have learned from Christ, unless you failed to hear him properly when you were taught what the truth is in Jesus.” (Jerusalem Bible)

Apostle Paul attested to the fact that pagans live an aimless life, being estranged from the life of God. Living the way as they do is hardly the way of Christ  and Apostle Paul urged all Christians not to go on living as pagans do. The supposed celebrant of Christmas has this to say:

“And he said to them, ‘How ingeniously you get around the commandments of God in order to preserve your own tradition.” (Mark 7:9. Jerusalem Bible)

To the Catholic claim that pagan forms of worship could sanctify her children, the Bible said:

“This people honors me with their lips, but their heart is far from me; in vain do they worship me, teaching as doctrines the precepts of men.'" (Matthew 15:8-9 RSV(

Thus, although the primary purpose of the Iglesia Ni Cristo is to praise and glorify the Lord Jesus Christ, but we never ignore the pronouncements of the Bible. We praise and glorify Him in accordance with the teachings of the Bible, the reason why we don’t participate in Christmas celebration. The Christmas celebration is pagan and anything pagan is abhorrent to Christ. To make this an activity honoring Him on His birthday is not only erroneous and unscriptural but a great insult to Him as well. How can one, in his mind, offer a person something which the latter abhors?





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