Yes, where did Christmas come from? It did not begin at the birth of Christ; it began earlier! The December 25 celebration had nothing to do with His birth. It is an interesting story; one I think you will be interested in.

WHEN WAS JESUS BORN? It is well-know among Biblical scholars that Jesus was not born in December, because the shepherds were never out in the fields with their sheep at that time.

"There were in the same country shepherds abiding in the field, keeping watch over their flock by night." -Luke 2:8.

Shepherds always brought their sheep in from the mountainsides and field and corralled them not later than October 15; to protect them from the cold, rainy, season that followed. (Also read Songs 2:11 and Ezra 10:9, 13.)

"It was an ancient custom among Jews of those days to send out their sheep to the fields and deserts about the Passover [early spring], and bring them home at commencement of the first rain. During the time they were out, the shepherds watched them night and day. As . . the first rain began early in the month of March, which answers to part of our October, we find that the sheep were kept out in the open country during the whole summer.

"And, as these shepherds had not yet brought home their flocks [when Christ was born in Bethlehem], it is a presumptive argument that October had not yet commenced, and that, consequently, our Lord was not born on the 25th of December, when no flocks were out in the fields; nor could He have been born later than September, as the flocks were still in the fields by night. On this very ground the nativity in December should be given up. The feeding of the flocks by night in the fields is a chronological fact. . See the quotations from the Talmudists in Lightfoot:'-Adam Clarke, Commentary, Vol. 5, 370.

The census of Caesar Augustus is mentioned in Luke 2: 1-2, but historians are not certain when it was issued. But it is improbable that he would call for the citizens of the Roman Empire to return to their native homes, to be enrolled in the census in the middle of winter. Even his armies avoided marching during the hazards of winter weather.

Many authorities believe that Christ was born in the spring of the year; but, in the wisdom of God, the date of Christ's birth bas been hidden from us.

Why, then, does all the world celebrate the birth of Christ-not merely in December-but on a certain day in December?

We need to know (1) What is "Christmas?" (2) How did Christmas get into the Christian church? and (3) Why did it enter back in those early days? Here are answers to these questions:

WHAT IS "CHRISTMAS?"The word, "Christmas," means "Mass of Christ," or, as it came to be shortened, "Christ-Mass." It came to the modern world from the Roman Catholic Church. They not get it from the Bible, but from paganism.

" 'Christmas was not among the earliest festivals of the Church. . The first evidence of the feast is from Egypt: 'Pagan customs centering around the January calends [the pagan calendar] gravitated to Christmas: "-Catholic Encyclopedia, 1911 ed., "Christmas."

Origen, an early Christian writer, said this about celebrating birthdays in the Bible:

"In the Scriptures, no one is recorded to have kept the feast or held a great banquet on his [Christ's] birthday. It is only sinners [like Pharaoh or Herod] who make great rejoicings over the day in which they were born into this world." -Catholic Encyclopedia, 11th ed., "Natal Day."

HOW DID CHRISTMAS GET INTO THE CHRISTIAN CHURCH?-In one brief paragraph, the New Schaff-Herzog Encyclopedia of Religious Knowledge tells us how the December 25 holiday entered the Christian church:

"How much the date of the festival depended upon the pagan Brumalia [The December 25 celebration], following the Saturnalia [an eight-day December 17-24 festival preceding it], and celebrating the shortest day of the year and the 'new sun' . . cannot be accurately determined. The pagan Saturnalia and Brumalia were too deeply entrenched in popular custom to be set aside by Christian influence. . 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 and in manner. Christian preachers of the West and the Near East protested against the unseemly frivolity with which Christ's birthday was celebrated, while Christians of Mesopotamia accused their Western brethren of Idolatry and sun worship for adopting as Christian this pagan festival. "-New Schaff-Herzog Encyclopedia of Religious Knowledge, "Christmas." Church leaders adopted a pagan holiday, in spite of the protests of some godly local pastors. It was considered idolatry to do this, since it was nothing more than a heathen day of worship. In addition, the day for this worship had been selected in honor of Mithra, the sun god. December 25 was dedicated to the keeping of his birthday. Therefore sincere Christians considered it to be a form of sun worship. The sun had reached its lowest angle in the sky on December 21 (the winter solstice), and the 25th was the first observable day in which it began rising in the noon sky. So December 25 had, for centuries, been celebrated as the "birth of the sun god."

But earnest believers recognized that Christians dare not accept pagan practices or pagan holidays. Those heathen customs could not be found in the Bible, so they ought to be shunned by conscientious Christians.

The Roman world was essentially pagan and many converts to Christianity had come to enjoy those festivities, and did not want to forsake them after baptism into the Christian church. When these half, converted church members rose to leadership positions, they made policy changes in agreement with contemporary heathen customs. And that is how we got Christmas.

"A feast was established in memory of this event [Christ's birth] in the fourth century. In the fifth century the Western Church ordered it to be celebrated forever on the day of the old Roman feast of the birth of Sol [the Latin word for 'sun'], as no certain knowledge of the day of Christ's birth existed."-Encyclopedia Americana (1944 edition), "Christmas. "

If the Bible contained no certain knowledge of when Christ was born, then we should not select a definite day on which to worship Him. Instead, we should remain with the only weekly worship day God ever gave us, the seventhday Sabbath (Genesis 2:1-3; Exodus 20:8-11). Sol, which means "sun" in Latin, was another name for Mithra, the sun god. A strong controversy arose in the Christian church over this latest apostasy by Western church leaders:

"Certain Latins, as early as [A.D.] 354, may have transferred the birthday from January 6th to December 25, which was then a Mithraic feast. . or birthday of the unconquered sun. . The Syrians and Armenians accused the Romans of sun worship and idolatry." -Encyclopedia Britannica, (1946 ed.).

It was clearly understood by many that this pagan holiday should not be adopted as the memorial day of the birth of Christ.

HOW DID MITHRA WORSHIP BRING THESE THINGS INTO THE CHRISTIAN CHURCH? In order to understand how and why Christmas came into the Christian church back in those early centuries, we need to understand the tremendous influence of pagan Mithraism in the first few centuries after the time of Christ and how Christian leaders decided to adopt the customs of paganism in order to win the battle against it.

The following information is vital, and comes from an earlier study by the present writer:

THE PLANETARY WEEK The various days of the week were in ancient times called the first day, and second day, etc., for these were their Biblical names. But about the time of Christ they were given new names. The non-Christians began calling them the Day of the Sun, the Day of the Moon, etc., in honor of different heavenly bodies. This was known as the "planetary week. "

Each day was ruled over by a different god, but the most important of all gods was given the rule of the first day of the week, with the idea in mind that the first is always more important than that which follows it. The most important of all gods was given the rule over the first of the seven days. It was his day, the day of the Sun; and all the worship of the week centered on his day. Now, although these names for the days of the week were new, the Sun god's wasn't, forms worship came from a devotion to that most powerful of natural objects. It was one of the most ancient forms of worship and is represented by solar-disk images found on nearly every continent of our world.

"Sun worship was the earliest idolatry." Fausset, Bible Dictionary, page 666.

The Arabians appear to have worshiped it directly without using any statue or symbol (Job 31 :26-27). Abraham was called out of all this when he went to the promised land. Ra was the Sun god in Egypt, and On (Heliopolis) was the city of Sun worship (see the Hebrew of Jer. 43:13). Entering Canaan under Joshua, the Hebrews again met Sun worship. Baal of the Phoenicians, Molech or Milcom of the Ammonites, Hadad of the Syrians, and later the Persian Mitras or Mithra. Shemesh was an especially important Sun god in the Middle East; and, later, in Egypt, Aton was the god of the Sun Disk. The temple at Baalbek was dedicated to Sun worship.

By associating with Sun worshipers, the Israelites frequently practiced it themselves (Lev. 26:30; Isa. 17:8). King Manasseh practiced direct Sun worship (2 Kgs. 21:3, 5). Josiah destroyed the chariots that were dedicated to the Sun and worship processions (2 Kgs. 23:5, 1112). Sun altars and incense were burned on the housetops for the sun (Zeph. 1:5). And Ezekiel beheld the "greatest abomination": direct Sun worship at the entry way to the temple of the true God. This was done by facing eastward to the rising sun (Ezek. 8:16-17).

MITHRA AND THE DAY OF THE SUN All this time there was no particular day that was used for his heathen worship. But then, about the time of Christ, or a little before, the various days of the week were dedicated to specific pagan celestial gods-dies Solis, the day of the Sun, dies Lunae, the day of the Moon, and so on.

The sacred day of the Jews and Christians was the memorial of Creation, the true Sabbath, the seventh-day, the only Sabbath given in the Bible. The sacred day of paganism was the memorial of the Sun god, the first day of the week. His day was called. "the Venerable Day of the Sun."

Sunday keeping never occurred in the Old or New Testaments, nor was it commanded. In the time of Christ and the Apostles, the official religion of the Roman government did not have a sacred day, but gradually Sunday keeping began to become common among the non-Christian people of the empire.

The planetary week, each day named after a different planet in the sky, played a very important part in the worship of the sun. By the time of Christ, Sun worship was most powerfully represented in Mithraism. Now, Mithra (also called Mithras) was originally an ancient god of Iran, and had been worshiped as the god of strength and war by the descendants of the Persians. But, by the first century A.D., Mithra had been transformed, oddly enough, into the leading Sun god and the foremost pagan god of any kind, of the western civilized world. The Romans often called him by a new name, Sol Invictus, "the Invincible Sun." During the early centuries of the Christian Era, Mithra was the greatest pagan rival of Christianity.

And this was not without a carefully developed plan; for Satan had arranged that Mithraism would closely approximate, in several ways, the only true religion in the world Christianity. It had such features as a dying-rising Saviour, special religious suppers, a special holy day out of the weekly seven, the Sun Day, initial baptism of its converts (in the blood of a slaughtered bull), and other similarities. It counterfeited the religion of the true God more cleverly than any other religion up to that time in history.

Gradually, large numbers of non-Christians began observing Sunday as a holy day in honor of Mithra. He was especially liked by the Roman soldiers, for his worship included athletic feats of skill and "warlike manliness."

Gradually, the worship of the Invincible Sun became even more popular and widespread among the Roman Empire. Emperor Aurelian (A.D. 270-275), whose mother was a priestess of the Sun, made this solar cult the official religion of the empire. His biographer, Flavius Vopiscus, says that the priests of the Temple of the Sun at Rome were called pontiffs. They were priests of their dying-rising Saviour, Mithra, and vicegerents in religious matters next to him.

By this time, the middle of the second century, worldly Christians apparently, from the records in Alexandria and Rome more than anywhere else, in order to be better accepted by their pagan neighbors, began keeping Sunday. In order to excuse their practice, since it was not Scriptural, they called Sunday "the Lord's Day," even though it was obvious to all that Revelation 1:10 said nothing about Sunday. "Lord Mithra" was a favorite name given him by his worshipers.

Sun worship continued to be the official religion of the empire until Constantine I defeated Licinius in 323, after which it was replaced by Romanized Christianity.

In every case that the present writer can locate, the few Christian leaders advocating Sunday keeping prior to A.D. 400 were the Christian philosophers at Alexandria and the Christian bishops in the city of Rome.

Along about this time, a youngster was growing up that was destined to powerfully affect the Christian world for all time to come-a boy named Constantine.

CONSTANTINE AND A STATE CHURCH On the retirement of Emperor Diocletian in AD. 305, it was an uphill fight among several men for the coveted title of Emperor. Fighting continued on and off, from 305 till 323. But out of it, Constantine emerged as the sole ruler of the vast Roman Empire. The crucial battle occurred just north of Rome in October of 312. Just afterward, by the Edict of Milan, Constantine gave Christianity full legal equality with every other religion in the empire. More favors to the church soon followed.

Then, on March 7, 321, was issued the first national Sunday Law in history. This was the first "blue law" to be issued by a civil government. Here is the text of Constantine's Sunday Law Decree:

"Let all judges and townspeople and occupations of all trades rest on the Venerable Day of the Sun [Sunday]; nevertheless, let those who are situated in the rural districts freely and with full liberty attend to the cultivation of the fields, because it frequently happens that no other day may be so fitting for ploughing grains or trenching vineyards, lest at the time the advantage of the moment granted by the provision of heaven be lost. Given on the Nones [seventh] of March, Crispus and Constantine being consuls, each of them, for the second time."-The Code of Justinian, Book 111, title 12, law 3.

Five additional Sunday Laws were to be issued by Constantine, within a very few years, to strengthen this, his basic one.

It is to be observed that Constantine's Sunday Law was just that, a Sunday Law-and nothing more. It was a Sunday law that both Mithraists and compromising Christians could easily accept. In that law, Christianity is never mentioned. The day is called "the Venerable Day of the Sun" (venarabili die solis). This was the mystical name for the Day of the Sun god. Both the heathen and the Christians well knew this. It is a historical fact that, when Constantine issued that first imperial Sunday edict of 321, enforcing the observance of Sunday by the people of the Roman Empire, he was still a worshiper of Sol Invictus, "the Invincible Sun," as well as being the Pontifix Maximus (supreme pagan pontiff or priest) of Roman heathen worship as the state religion.

But though Constantine meant the law to unite all contending religions into one giant compromising conglomerate, Christian leaders in Rome saw it as a great victory.

CHURCH ENFORCEMENT -Eusebius, bishop of Caesarea (270-338), generally considered to be Constantine's outstanding flatterer in the church, made this remarkable statement:

"All things whatsoever it was duty to do on the [seventh day] Sabbath, these we [the church] have transferred to the Lord's day [Sunday]."Commentary on the Psalms, in Migne, Patrologia Graeca, Vol. 23, Col. 1171.

Commenting on this heaven-daring statement, one historical writer made this comment: "Not a single testimony of the Scriptures was produced in proof of the new doctrine. Eusebius himself unwittingly acknowledges its falsity, and points to the real authors of change. 'All things,' he says, 'whatever that it was duty to do on the Sabbath, these we have transferred to the Lord's day.' But the Sunday argument, groundless as it was, served to embolden men in trampling upon the Sabbath of the Lord. All who desired to be honored by the world accepted the popular festival."-Great Controversy, 574.

This was the beginning of something new and ominous within the Christian church. Rome, itself, the capital of the mammoth empire, was more licentious, dissipated, and political than any other city. The influence of it all had reached to the local Christian church there, and a concern to meet the world's standard, as well as a fascination with power-politics had gripped it. From there, the apostasy spread outward to other Christian churches. In A.D. 325 the Councll of Nicaea met, at which time the church leaders decreed that all must honor the resurrection of Christ by keeping the pagan Easter festival-and only on a certain Sunday of each year. Immediately, following this ruling, Constantine issued an imperial order commanding all Christians everywhere to obey the decrees of that council. Church and State had united; and, whenever in history this has happened, persecution of religious dissenters has generally followed. Trouble was ahead for the people of God.

PERSECUTION BEGINS-From A.D. 350, onward, the persecution of Christians by their fellow Christians began.

In order to placate church and government authorities, there were those who attempted to keep both days-Sabbath as well as Sunday holy-thus endeavoring to obey God as well as man, for religious persecution against non-observance of Sunday was growing stronger.

For this reason, Sozomen, a church historian of that time, tells us that "[Many Christians] were assembling together on the Sabbath as well as on the first day of the week, which custom is never observed at Rome or at Alexandria. .. -Sozomen, Ecclesiastical History, book 7, chapter 19, in A Select Library of Nicene and Post-Nicene Fathers, second series, Vol. 2 [Luke 16:13, Acts 5:39].

Even at this late date, Rome and Alexandria continued to be the only bulwarks of strict Sunday keeping. The keeping of both days might seem a practical solution, but it wasn't. The seventh-day Sabbath was the divinely ordained day for the worship of the Creator. God had never changed it. The Sun day was a man-made institution of worship in honor of a pagan god. To obey both was impossible (Matt. 6:24).

This was exactly the problem the three Hebrew worthies faced at Dura (Read Daniel 3.) Those three men were not, at that time, forbidden to worship the true God. They need only bow down, that day, with others in an appearance of worship to the false. But, of course, to do so would signify an acceptance of heathen worship.

And this they could not do. They would rather die first. They would rather die than lose something that many in our day consider to be of little value The Sabbath of the Fourth Commandment given by the God of Heaven Himself.

Thus it was that Christmas the birthday of the sun god,-and Sunday sacredness both came into the Christian church; because early church leaders in Rome and Alexandria, working with government leaders, wanted to unite Christianity with Mithraism-by requiring Mithraic practices in the worship of Christ.

Gradually, in the centuries that followed, more and more Sabbathkeepers were hunted down and slain until by the 11th century, there were only a few people left who kept the Bible Sabbath on the seventh day of the week.

But there is even more information available from major historians, about the true facts about Christmas.

"When the Israelites first settled in Canaan they acknowledged the principles of the theocracy, and the nation prospered under the rule of Joshua. But increase of population and intercourse with other nations brought a change. The people adopted many of the customs of their heathen neighbors and thus sacrificed to a great degree their own peculiar, holy character. Gradually they lost their reverence for God and ceased to prize the honor of being His chosen people."-Patriarchs and Prophets, 603