Sunday, April 12, 2009

Celebrating the Birth, Life, Death and Resurrection of Christ

Historical accounts widely accept that it is very unlikely that Christ was born on December 25. There is much discussion and writings into why this is, which I'm not going to include here. At this point, I'm relying on teachings that I have learned aurally in the past.

From what I was taught, Christmas was placed on December 25 in an attempt by the leaders of the early Christian religion to eclipse the pagan holiday celebrations of the Winter Solstice. This is evidenced by the many pagan traditions that have become part of the Christian celebration of the holiday. But when scholars have looked to corroborate the date of Christ's birth, they find that it was randomly placed there. Historical records from the time point to other times of the year. The one that I have learned about with most certainty would be in early Spring time as it coincides with the time of year when Galilee was taxed (remember that the reason why Mary and Joseph were traveling was because law decreed that they must go and be taxed). Also from what I've learned, the solar eclipse that was reported around the time of his birth occurred in Spring rather than midwinter.

Most modern Christian churches recognize that Christmas is not truly Christ's birthday, and continue to believe that they cannot know the true date of his birth without it being revealed by God, which in their belief will not occur until after death and being reunited with God. I have heard my Protestant Christian friends say its one of their questions on their list to ask God when they get there--meaning to his presence. Contrast that belief to teachings of the LDS Church which teach that the answer to that unknowable question has been revealed through revelation to modern-day prophets.

The scriptural citation to evidence the actual day of Christ's birthday can be found in Doctrine and Covenants 20:1
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, it being regularly organized and established agreeable to the laws of our country, by the will and commandments of God, in the fourth month, and on the sixth day of the month which is called April—

That verse teaches that the LDS Church was officially organized on April 6, 1830 and that day happened to correspond to the birth of Jesus Christ. Later a prophet of the early restored church stated:
"As to the season of the year in which Christ was born, there is among the learned as great a diversity of opinion as that relating to the year itself. It is claimed by many Biblical scholars that December 25th, the day celebrated in Christendom as Christmas, cannot be the correct date. We believe April 6th to be the birthday of Jesus Christ as indicated in a revelation of the present dispensation already cited in which that day is made without qualification the completion of the one thousand eight hundred and thirtieth year since the coming of the Lord in the flesh. This acceptance is admittedly based on faith in modern revelation, and in no wise is set forth as the result of chronological research or analysis. We believe that Jesus Christ was born in Bethlehem of Judea, April 6, 1 B.C." 7 Online source

Even though this is believed to be true by LDS people, that date offers some inconveniences for celebrations. It is the day of the organization of the Church, every few years coincides with the semiannual General Conference of the church, sometimes Easter or the celebrations of his death and resurrection. Its certainly easier to celebrate his birth on a different day than the "true" one. And while LDS people strive to be a "peculiar people" they don't aim to be so peculiar as to move their Christmas celebrations to April.

Except maybe me.

I'm still undecided but I feel very odd celebrating Christmas in December knowing all the pagentry is a sham. The intent and heartfelt devotion may be genuine so much to the point that it doesn't matter when the holiday is celebrated, but I find it feels hallow to me.

This year on April 6, my two year old heard me mention to my husband that day was Jesus's birthday. The toddler's next request was to watch a video of Jesus. That was the first time he had requested that, but he knows all about watching videos of cars and animals, so why not about Jesus? Thankfully we did have videos produced by the Church in our video library. The one I could find easiest was called The Nativity which depicts the events surrounding Christ's birth. I was very excited to be able to share the story of Christ's birth with my young child on Christ's birthday.

That is how we celebrated April 6 this year, and maybe it will be a family tradition. I think that I would certainly like it.