“Mary’s Little Boy Child”
Typical Nativity scene
In 1956 Jester Hairston penned the now classic Christmas song, “Mary’s Little Boy Child”. It first came to prominence when Harry Belafopnte released it as a song on his Album entitled, “An Evening With Belafonte”, and subsequently as a single the following year in 1957 when it became an immediate success across the world. Later, in 1978, the song became an even bigger hit when a cover version was released by the German disco-group Boney M.
The first verse contains the lines:
long time ago in Bethlehem
so the holy bible say
Mary’s boy child Jesus Christ
was born on Christmas day
hark now hear the angels sing
a new king born today
and man will live forevermore
because of Christmas day
As with so many popular songs (and hymns for that matter) the melody sticks in the mind and, consequently, people sing it without thinking about the words.
Does the Holy Bible actually say that, “Mary’s boy child Jesus Christ was born on Christmas Day?” Also, is it a fact that, “Man will live forever more because of Christmas Day”?
Christmas, as a feast, was set by the Papacy, mainly because of the efforts of the 4th Century Archbishop of Constantinople, John Chrysostom. As a feast it has had a chequered history because of it’s being seen either as an excuse for drunkenness and debauchery, or because of its links to the Papacy (many Protestant and Puritan leaders rejected it, and in England it was banned during the period of the Commonwealth under Cromwell). In England it was reinstated as a Public Holiday in 1686!
Christmas as we know it today (a family oriented feast marked out by a spirit of generosity and goodwill to everyone) is down to one man–Charles Dickens. The seasonal greeting of “Merry Christmas” was Dickens’s own invention being featured in his famous book, “A Christmas Carol”! Neither the book nor the manner of celebration have anything to do with the Feast of Christmas persé. There is little, if any, mention of the Nativity of Christ at all, which is what the original feast was about. Many Christians complain that the “True meaning of Christmas is lost” under so much materialism and commercialism. Well, we have Mr. Dickens to thank for this!
Was Jesus Christ born on Christmas Day?
Well, frankly, NO! The date of December 25th was a Roman Feast day dedicated to the Sun, “Dies Natalis Solis Invicti means “the birthday of the unconquered sun”. Also, at this time, the Romans celebrated a festival to the god Saturn called Saturnalia– a time of feasting, role reversals, free speech, gift-giving and revelry. Saturn was the Roman god of time of generation, dissolution, plenty, wealth, agriculture, periodical renewal and liberation. He was considered the god of the Capitol and his temple housed the National Treasury. In time the Christians of Rome identified Christ with the “Invincible Sun” and soon the feasts “Sol Invictus” and “Saturnalia” were combined into the 12 days of Christmas.
So, does the Bible give us any indication as to the time of Jesus’s birth? In Luke chapter 1 we read concerning the conception of John the Baptist as coming soon after John’s father had finished his course in the temple:
There was in the days of Herod, the king of Judaea, a certain priest named Zacharias, of the course of Abia…….And it came to pass, that while he executed the priest’s office before God in the order of his course…And after those days his wife Elisabeth conceived…
The course of Abia (Abijah) was the 8th course of the priestly courses (times of service). This would correspond to the 10th week of the year during the month of Sivan or May/June. Placing the birth of John 40 weeks later somewhere around 15th Nissan (Passover).
We are told, in Luke chapter 1 that:
in the sixth month the angel Gabriel was sent from God….To a virgin espoused to a man whose name was Joseph, of the house of David; and the virgin’s name was Mary….
This being the sixth month of Elizabeth’s pregnancy, the month of Kislev (somewhere around the feast of Chanukkah) when Mary would conceive. Nine months later Mary would give birth to her firstborn son, Jesus, during the month of Tishri (September/October) during the feast of Sukkot (The feast of Tabernacles).
(For a more in depth look into this see a very informative article by John J. Parsons:
Will Man Live For Ever More Because of Christmas Day?
Frankly, NO he won’t!
The Bible is quite clear that salvation became open to man on account of Christ’s work of atonement and reconciliation. The Apostle Paul declares that: we were reconciled to God by the death of his Son (Romans 5:10)
And more specifically: having made peace through the blood of his cross, by him to reconcile all things unto himself; by him, I say, whether they be things in earth, or things in heaven……yet now hath he reconciled In the body of his flesh through death, to present you holy and unblameable and unreproveable in his sight.. (Colossians chapter 1)
Man will live for ever more because of Crucifixion day and, more precisely: God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, which according to his abundant mercy hath begotten us again unto a lively hope by the resurrection of Jesus Christ from the dead, To an inheritance incorruptible, and undefiled, and that fadeth not away, reserved in heaven for you, Who are kept by the power of God through faith unto salvation ready to be revealed in the last time. (1 Peter 1:3-5)
Thus man will live for ever more because of the days of the crucifixion and resurrection of Jesus Christ at Passover!
We, as a group of believers, have not kept Christmas for a number of years now. We concur with the Puritans, and with history, that Christmas has little or nothing to do with the Bible and more to do with religious observances prescribed by the Roman Catholic Church. Being Bible-based, and not being Roman Catholics, we see no president for Christmas. Is it the teaching and practice of Jesus and His Apostles as contained in the New Testament scriptures? No it is not.
The world around us does celebrate Christmas and even though we do not we still continue to preach the message of the Gospel which revolves around the whole point of Jesus’s coming into the world–to be the atonement for sin and to redeem a world of lost sinners by the shedding of His own blood!