Q. I feel disgusted for having been deceived for all my life about Christmas. Jesus was not born in December. December 25 is the birthday of Tammuz. Am I being a Pharisee?
A. The Bible did not say when Jesus was born, and no one knows for certain. Dec. 25 was chosen in the fourth century. The Romans at that time celebrated Saturnalia, in honor of Saturn, the end of the autumn planting season (satus means sowing). It was around the winter solstice, the shortest day of the year, after which the day would lengthen again and there will be more sunlight. It was therefore also the festival of Sol Invictus, the “invincible sun”. The Christians wanted to honor the Son rather than the sun, and therefore replaced the pagan festival with celebration of the birth of Jesus.
The name Tammuz appears only once in the Bible:
• Ezk 8:14 Then He brought me to the entrance of the gate of the LORD’S house which was toward the north; and behold, women were sitting there weeping for Tammuz.
Tammuz was the Babylonian sun-god, born on the winter solstice according to legend. Hence the association to Sol Invictus, Saturnalia and Christmas.
You are disgusted about the origin of Christmas being traced to Tammuz, but you really need not be. Paul taught:
• Rom 14:5-6 One person regards one day above another, another regards every day alike. Each person must be fully convinced in his own mind. He who observes the day, observes it for the Lord, and he who eats, does so for the Lord, for he gives thanks to God; and he who eats not, for the Lord he does not eat, and gives thanks to God.
• Gal 4:9-11 But now that you have come to know God, or rather to be known by God, how is it that you turn back again to the weak and worthless elemental things, to which you desire to be enslaved all over again? You observe days and months and seasons and years. I fear for you, that perhaps I have labored over you in vain.
• Col 2:16 Therefore no one is to act as your judge in regard to food or drink or in respect to a festival or a new moon or a Sabbath day—
In other words, the actual day itself is not important. They are elemental things. Legalistic people are very scrupulous about observing a festival on the exact day. Others consider every day as a gift from God, to be equally received with thanksgiving. No one should judge another person about how he observes or does not observe a festival, for we will all stand before the judgment seat of God (Rom 14:10).
For myself, I am actually glad that the early Christians were able to take over a pagan festival and convert it into a celebration of our Lord’s birth. They were able to impact society and redeem culture in a way we are unable to do now. Over the last two decades Christmas has been secularized and Christians can’t hold back the tide. So to the extent that the early Church was able to and it lasted for nearly seventeen centuries it’s a good thing.
Are you being a Pharisee? You can judge for yourself. Always go for grace, not law, and you will not go wrong.